Maybe it’s not quite time for those special summer treats to come out of the garden, but it’s never too soon to practice how to prolong the harvest! But bell peppers (red, yellow, orange or green) are so expensive out of season! And what if a recipe only calls for a portion of a bell pepper? Then what do you do? Throw the rest away? No. But freezing them turns them to mush (and sometimes can make the freezer smell a little peppered). The answer is to dehydrate them. It is so easy and takes almost no time at all.
Although I like bell peppers just fine , they can become overpowering, so even when they are in season, I tend to use only about 1/4-1/2 of what ‘s called for in a recipe. Leaving me again with a surplus of these easy to grow summer veggies.
But out-of-season produce is always far too rich for my blood. So….
Enter my ‘out-of-season-go-to plan’ for most produce. When produce is in the grocer and it is not the season for harvest in your area, it’s getting trucked in and was picked “a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away”. This is one of the reasons you pay a premium price on produce out of season. But if you look for the pre-cut items that are marked down from their usually higher price tag (this one pictured usually runs $3.48 for the half pint) you can save a step and a buck or two at the same time.
Since these are already sliced, like most packaged produce, in uniform widths, they are primed and ready to dehydrate with ease.
I let them drain for just a few minutes while pulling out my Excalibur 9 Tray Economy Dehydrator. I have to admit – that this one appliance has not only paid for itself by putting back items from the garden, but has helped me by prolonging the life of produce that was on sale and keep from throwing out food that has been in the refrigerator a while.
Bounce of any clinging water from the colander and pour out on to the dehydrator tray. There may be a need for multiple trays depending upon how big of a stash you were able to snag at the grocer when they were marked down. Just spread these beauties out equally and give them some breathing room!
Now, if you want them to remain a LIVE food…dehydrate them below 115 degrees F. The enzymes will stay live (not the bacteria but the enzymes that help with digestion) and just keep drying until desired dryness is achieved. This may take up to 24hrs.
However, if you’re going to put these into recipes later, or chop up little bits for meatloaf or sauces…crank them on up to 130 and you’ll be done faster! Likely you’ll have dry peppers ready for storage wtihin 8 hours. So it’s an ideal over night project.
Remember the Excalibur 9 Tray Economy Dehydrator costs about 1 penny per hour (often less) of electricity to use. So either choice you make for drying purposes does not really cost you that much more to prolong the produce you dry.
As soon as they are dry to your liking (hint: they dryer they feel the longer they will last) let them cool to room temperature and place in a jar or other air tight container. They must be cooled to avoid sweating, but also cannot be left out too long to pick up any moisture from the air. Inside the container place a desiccant packet. Especially if you’re going to use these over the next few months, the desiccant packet will be fine enough. There is no need for an oxygen absorber unless you plan to ignore this food indefinitely. If you have a food-saver you can remove air with the jar sealer attachment to remove more air in between the times you open and close the jar to use your pretty little peppers (or whatever produce you’ve dehydrated). The desiccant packet removes any moisture thus keeping the food dryer longer. Just be SURE when you purchase or use desiccant packets that they are marked clearly for Food Grade Use like the ones we have selected as examples below.
I hope that you’ll use some of these tips on more than just the bell pepper and try to prolong produce of many kinds. Until next time, keep playing with your food and enJOY the journey!
Best Blessings, Donna
In full disclosure, yes we do make our living from the sale of items (which we also use personally and can in good faith recommend) such as these desiccant packets and the Excalibur Dehydrator. If you like what we share with you, please consider purchasing your needs with us at Millers Grain House. We promise to treat you like family. (:
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