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Hot Peppers

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Home Canner’s Column

By SHELLY BARNES, MS, CFLESpecial to The Wilson Post

Peppers--some like ‘em hot!!! And we don’t need a scientific study on the changing tastes of Americans to tell us that more people are eating hot peppers.

In the past few years questions on preserving hot peppers have increased. Every year, somewhere in the U.S., we hear of a botulism (an illness caused by Clostridium botulinum bacteria) outbreak caused by home canned hot peppers. Obviously, our information on preserving them safely hasn’t reached everyone, yet.

One problem to overcome is that the scientific information goes a bit against our “common sense.” Common sense tells us that no bacteria could possibly live in a food so hot it requires an iron stomach just to eat it. A substance in peppers called, “capsaicin,” determines how hot they are. They can range from the sweet bell pepper to the very hot habanero.

Despite the fact that peppers are hot, they are a low-acid food. Harmful bacteria will grow in low-acid foods. To prevent bacterial growth and food spoilage, low-acid foods must be processed in a pressure canner. However, you can add acid, usually vinegar, to peppers and process them in a water-bath canner.

Volatile oils in peppers can cause skin irritation. Always wear gloves when working with hot peppers. Be careful not to touch your eyes until gloves are removed and hands are washed with soap and water.

Always start with quality produce when canning, freezing or drying foods. Choose peppers that are firm, fresh and free from bruising. Can, freeze or dry them as soon as possible after harvesting. Figure on about 9 pounds of peppers for nine pint jars.

Home Canner’s Questions

Q. How are jalapeno peppers canned?

A. Jalapeno peppers are low-acid and must be pressure canned. Follow a recipe for canning green peppers. For pickled jalapenos, use a recipe for pickled green peppers.

Q. Can I substitute a different type of pepper than the one specified in a recipe? A. Yes, you can substitute one type of pepper for another, but do not substitute more than the total amount of peppers in the recipe.

Q. What is a good way to peel peppers?

A. Make 2 to 4 slits in the skin and place them under the broiler until the skins split from the flesh. Cool peppers for several minutes in a bowl covered with a damp cloth. Skins should slip off easily.

Q. Is it necessary to peel peppers?

A. Hot peppers, such as jalapeno, do not have to be peeled. However, the seeds are often removed.

Q. Is canning the only way to preserve peppers? A. No, peppers can be frozen. They will lose their texture when thawed so they are best used in cooked dishes. In addition to freezing, peppers can be dried.

If you have Food Preservation questions you’d like addressed in the “Home Canner’s Column,” call 444-9584 or email at sbarnes@utk.edu.

Editor’s Note: Shelly Barnes is the Extension Agent with Family & Consumer Sciences, Wilson County Extension Office, 925 E. Baddour Pkwy., Suite 100, Lebanon, TN 37087.

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