Freezing Fire: An Easy Way to Preserve a Huge Harvest
It is indeed possible to freeze a cube of fire...and save your sanity while preserving a huge summer harvest. We're not practicing sorcery over here -- simply roasting and freezing hot peppers for quick recipe starters. In my own garden patch, I'm outdone with just how many jalapeño, serrano, Lemon Drop, and spicy bell peppers I have picked this week. Our August issue comes to the rescue with test kitchen recommendations for using this colorful assortment of hot and sweet peppers grown in the Cooking Light garden. Countless recipes are appreciated, as I've come to relish the heat and flavors of many hot peppers now that I grow my own. (I couldn't stomach a simple jalapeño before!) I make tons of hot sauce, hot salsa, sambal oelek, spicy pizza sauce...you name it.
This year, I'm adding a cool trick to my preserving options and freezing what I don't have time to cook and can. Enter cool tools that help: silicone ice cube trays with nifty lids. This new design from Oxo (oxo.com, $9.99) protects from spills and is easily stashed in a freezer filled to the gills. Ball, the brand behind the iconic canning jars, introduced BPA-free silicone trays that yield compact cubes in three-tablespoon size (freshpreservingstore.com, $15.95 for 2). The lids on these trays are perfect for preserving herbs and roasted peppers at the end of the summer season, as they seal and protect from freezer odors and spills.
Here's a quick tip for "freezing fire": wash and dry several pounds of peppers. With the oven broiler pre-heating, you may choose to cut them in half and remove the seeds. A shortcut, since I like the extra heat and seeds, is to roast them whole. Place on a sheet pan in a single layer under the broiler, roasting quickly on both sides until skins are blistered and blackened. Stems pop off much easier after roasting. Throw the blistered peppers in a deep bowl to cool, then blur quickly into a paste with a handheld stick blender. Using a spoon (and not your unprotected fingers!), put the chopped peppers into cube trays, cover, and freeze. (The cubes in the tray I tested are 3 tablespoons in size, so I filled two-thirds full, or the equivalent of three jalapeño peppers for recipes.) Pop out and put into vacuum-sealed freezer bags or freezer-quality zipped bags for long-term storage. When the mood for spicy roasted salsa strikes, I simply defrost these with a block of my frozen roasted tomatoes, add garlic, onion, cilantro, lime and cumin. This also works well with de-seeded sweet peppers, frozen with a light layer of olive oil.