One of the foods that I like to cook with quite frequently is peppers. Usually this is either red bell peppers or jalapenos, but it can vary depending on the recipe. To me, the frustrating part has always been that peppers of any kind don’t have a very long shelf life. This is especially a struggle during farmer’s market season. Usually jalapenos are sold in larger quantities at the market, and I always end up throwing some out because they get shriveled and mushy before I can go through them all. While food waste is always irritating to me, it never became a huge issue until a couple of months ago when the pandemic led me to making much less frequent trips to the grocery store. I had two choices, either avoid any recipes that had peppers in them, or find a way to preserve them.
In the past, I have occasionally substituted roasted red peppers from a jar, or canned jalapenos, but this always changes the flavor and texture of the dish, so I began researching. It quickly became apparent that the technique I was looking for to properly preserve my peppers was called flash freezing. This technique allows you to prep your peppers ahead of time, freeze them, and take them out when you want them. While it means more prep work after arriving home from the grocery store or farmer’s market, I can easily see the perks of doing this in bulk amounts before next school year. By doing the prep work ahead of time I will be able to have individually bagged portions of diced peppers saved in my freezer and ready to take out when I need them in a dish. This is sure to be a time saver on busy school nights.
Depending on the space you have in your freezer and the quantity of peppers you want to flash freeze, you are either going to use a plate or a small cookie sheet for this process. You’ll see from my pictures that I decided to use a plate. I usually have my freezer stocked pretty full, so it would be difficult for me to fit a cookie sheet into it. It really doesn’t make a difference which one you use as long as you have enough room on it to spread out all your diced peppers in one single layer. You do not want stacks to happen.
Before dicing your pepper, you are going to de-seed it. Here’s a neat little trick about bell peppers I learned during my one summer I spent working at Subway. Start by lopping off the top and stem of the pepper. Get as close to the top as possible in order to avoid food waste.
Next, cut the pepper in half. Loop your thumb underneath the main clump of seeds that is hanging down.
Once that is ripped out you should be able to flip the pepper over and slap it into your cupped hand. The remaining loose seeds should jostle themselves out from the force of the slap. It’s such a simple technique, and it beats trying to scrape out each of the small seeds.
The next step is obviously to dice your pepper into whatever sized pieces you are going to want. I usually try to get my pieces into about ¼ inch squares for red bell peppers, and as small of pieces as I can get without cutting myself for jalapeno peppers.
After your pepper is diced into the appropriate sized pieces you are going to spread them in a single layer across the surface of the plate or pan, It’s okay if they touch each other, but this works better if there are some spaces between each of the pieces. You are not going to cover the plate or pan with anything. Pop the plate in the freezer and set a timer for one hour. Do not leave the plate in the freezer for more than an hour or the peppers will start freezing directly to it and they will be very hard to remove without letting them thaw, and that defeats the entire purpose of flash freezing.
Once the hour is up, take the plate out and scrape your peppers free. Portion them out into whatever sizes you think you are going to need. In this example, I’ve put all the pieces into one freezer bag, thus having one who pepper in one bag, but I can also see the usefulness of measuring them out into half cup portions. I hope this trick saves you some trips to the store in the future!