Bell peppers are commonly used in recipes to add flavor, color and a healthy dose of antioxidants. They range in color from green, red and yellow to purple and are generally available year round in the supermarket but are freshest, cheapest and most abundant in August and September. Although they can be canned or dried, the best way to store bell peppers is to keep them in the freezer.
The first step is buying peppers. Farmers markets are a great way to get fresh from the farm produce. Supermarkets also deeply discount produce when it is in season. Look for peppers that are richly colored with firm flesh. Avoid any peppers that are wrinkled or split. Before beginning, wash your peppers thoroughly in cool water, with a small amount of vinegar added, to help remove any pesticides that may remain.
When planning to keep bell peppers in the freezer, give some thought to the type of recipes in which the peppers will be used. Some recipes call for peppers to be julienned, which means to cut into long, thin strips, such as in stir-fries. Peppers can be kept whole with just the tops, seeds and fleshy membrane removed as for stuffed peppers. The most versatile way to store peppers is to chop them into small pieces which can later be used in a variety of recipes.
To chop bell peppers, use a large knife and turn the pepper on its side. Slice off the top half inch or so of the pepper, completely removing the stem. Discard the stem but save the round of pepper that is surrounding it. This part is best used finely chopped.
Next, remove the seeds and membrane. Turn the pepper upside down so it rests evenly on the sliced top edge. Now cut it in half. Lay the halves on their sides and cut each half into thin strips. If desired, chop the strips into smaller pieces.
Now that the peppers have been prepared, there are two ways to freeze them. The first and simplest way is to place the chopped or whole peppers in a single layer on a cookie sheet and put them in the freezer for 2-3 hours or until they are frozen. At this point, they can be put into plastic freezer bags or containers and labeled.
The other way is to blanch them. Blanching kills bacteria and enzymes that will cause the peppers to deteriorate more quickly. To blanch, boil a large pot of water and submerge the prepared peppers for two minutes. Immediately afterward, plunge them into ice water to stop the process and continue as with peppers that were not blanched.
Finally, look forward to enjoying the peppers that you keep in the freezer all winter long.