If you had told me when I was twenty-one I would someday horde peppers for the winter months, I would have declared you a blasphemer. It would have taken a feeding tube to get me to eat something as simple and mild as a green bell pepper.
Well, things do change and taste in foods is certainly one of them. Today my wife and I love fresh sweet peppers along with the occasional hot pepper. At twenty-one I had never heard of Wilber L. Scoville. Today I almost have his chart of pepper power memorized. The Scoville Scale assigns a heat index in excess of 16 million for pure capsaicin (that’s the stuff that makes pepper spray so affective) while the garden variety bell pepper rates a zero. The jalapeño may come in around 9,000 while the famous habanero can reach 325,000.
Over the years, as my love of peppers developed, so has my tolerance for heat. I’ll probably never be one of those who pops whole habanero peppers into their mouth but I will cook with some of the hotter chilies usually removing the seeds and membranes where the bulk of the heat is found.
The problem with being a pepper lover is the cost of purchasing fresh peppers out of season. For the past several years we have bought them at farmer’s markets and/or had a local Mennonite grow several varieties for us. Normally I’ve simply been cleaning them, removing the seeds, cutting them into thin slices, freezing them on cookie sheets and storing bags of peppers in the freezer for use during the winter.
While there is nothing wrong with this and we have prepared several bags for later use, this year I decided to trying freezing roasted peppers. Normally I roast peppers in the summer as the recipe calls for them. But, this year I decided to roast them before freezing. A few minutes research provided several suggested techniques.
As normal, wash the veggies and let them dry. Set your grill on high heat and arrange the peppers evenly on the grill. Come back about every 5-10 minutes to check and rotate them so they char on all sides. Once mostly charred place them in a covered container to force sweating as they cool.
After reaching room temperature and leaving the char on, lay them out on cookie sheets and place in freezer for a couple of hours. Then, sort them by type, label with the correct name and the date of processing, put in freezer bags, and store in freezer until its chili soup or pasta sauce season.
As I’m finishing up this article I’m enjoying a Nathan’s all-beef hot dog topped with some freshly roasted banana and jalapeño peppers, chopped onion and a good brown mustard. A small reward for the morning’s work and a sample of what lies ahead as the snow blows.