How to Preserve Hot Peppers in Oil

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Few preservation methods cultivate flavor as well as oil preservation. The compounds responsible for flavor in hot peppers, as well as those found in herbs and spices, are soluble in oil. The addition of vinegar -- a necessary preservation medium -- works with the oil to extract flavors, resulting in an effective marinade that strengthens the longer the peppers age.

Tip

Fire-Roasting First

Fire-roasting, foremost, kills enzymes that contribute to long-term deterioration of the peppers. Secondarily, it softens and sweetens the peppers, making them more receptive to the flavors of the aromatics and spices you preserve them with. You can use the barbecue or oven broiler to char the peppers.

Select Aromatics Second

You can go anywhere with herbs, spices and pungent ingredients when preserving peppers, but they are optional. For a classic combination, use 1 cup of sliced onions, 4 to 5 garlic cloves and a few peppercorns for every 2 pounds of peppers. If adding herbs, use hardy varieties, such as rosemary, thyme, sage and tarragon. Rinse the herbs before adding them to the jars.

The Technique

Things You'll Need

  • 2 pounds hot peppers, stems removed
  • 1 1/2 cups of vinegar (5 percent)
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Aromatics and spices (optional)
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil or vegetable oil

Step 1: Prep the peppers.

Remove the stems by slicing off the tops of the peppers or by carefully using the point of a knife to cut between the stem and the shoulder, then popping the stem off. Broil or grill the peppers until the skins char, turning them every few minutes, for about 15 minutes. Keep an eye on the peppers and don't let them burn beyond the skins.

Step 2: Remove the skins.

Place the peppers in a paper bag and fold it closed. Let the peppers steam for about 20 minutes, then peel or rub off the skins by hand. It's OK if you leave little bits of flavorful skin in place.

Step 3: Pack the peppers.

Pack the whole peppers in half-pint or pint jars to 1 inch of the rim. Add aromatics, herbs and spices, if using. Pour 2 tablespoons of oil in each half-pint jar; if using one-pint jars, add 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) of oil.

Step 4: Finishing the peppers.

Add the vinegar to a saucepan. Add kosher salt to taste. Bring the vinegar to a boil and pour it over the peppers in the jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace at the top. Secure the jars with the lids and let the peppers cool to room temperature. Store the peppers in the refrigerator for at least 2 weeks before serving.

A Note on Canning

Oil-preserved peppers last about one year in the refrigerator (in an airtight container) and last indefinitely when canned. However, they soften as they age.

To can oil-packed peppers, pack them into half-pint or pint jars and process them in a boiling-water canner for:

  • 15 minutes if you live between 0 and 1,000 feet
  • 20 minutes if you live between 1,001 and 6,000 feet 
  • and 25 minutes if you live above 6,000 feet. 

Warning

  • Follow the above ingredient quantities. Although rare, deviations in the acid-to-oil ratio can cause botulism.

References

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