We love bell peppers in our house … so much so that we use them in at least a third of the meals we prepare at home. They’re one of our favorite savory vegetables. In season, they’re often inexpensive–especially since we almost always buy them at Cash & Carry (aka: Smart and Final), our local restaurant supply store, where they sell them for far below normal retail–but, in the off season, they can be very, very expensive … so much so that I’m often looking for ways to preserve them when they’re cheap … to use later, at times when fresh peppers are … shall we say, more dear
This week at one of my favorite local groceries–Roger’s Market Place, which reminds me of the old IGA in the small town where my grandmother lived–they had bell peppers priced 4 for $0.96 … which is CHEAP! I already had plenty fire-roasted and canned, so it was time to do some dehydration this time.
I bought 24 peppers, and decided that I wanted to dehydrate them in two different formats: chunks for stew and small diced for seasoning. I cut the first in roughly 3/4-1 by 3/4-1 inch chunks, and I cut the second in much smaller pieces, nothing bigger than about 1/2 inch long, and then cross-cut smaller from there, some paper thin. The thicker pieces I placed in a single layer on the open-weave trays, and the tiny pieces–so small they’d drop through the open-weave trays–went on the trays I lined with circles I cut out of those thin, disposable plastic (3 for $3.89) cutting boards … which you’ll see in a moment.
I lust after them on occasion … but I don’t have one of the fancy dehydrators, the ones with adjustable temperature, timer, etc. I do have a couple of dehydrators–including a huge homemade one that I’m currently trying to recondition to use–but my favorite is the simple one: seven round stacking plastic trays atop a heated base, one that’s either on or off … depending on whether or not you have it plugged in. It’s low-tech, but it works for me
As you can see, the smaller peppers dried quick and easy! A couple of larger pieces fell through from above as they dried, but they were really easy to pick back out as I started to package everything up.
The larger pepper pieces took a little longer to dry out completely. Once they were mostly dry, I basically went through and checked each piece. If they broke easily and cleanly when I tried to snap them in half, they were done. If they bent … they went back in the dehydrator.
Here’s what they looked like once they were dry
Aren’t they pretty?
For long-term storage, I packaged the peppers in wide-mouth 1/2 pint jars–my favorite dehydrator goodie size … they stack so nicely on a shelf–and then sealed them using a BWB. That way, they’ll stay fresh and moisture-free until I’m ready to use them. That roughly one-cup serving of the larger-cut peppers will reconstitute into approx. three cups of tasty pepper chunks: enough peppers for approx. two meals or a smallish canning project. On the smaller-cut peppers, the one-cup size will fill my seasoning jar approx. three times, where they’ll live poised above my stove … waiting to be added by pinches to this or that