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Is there anyway I can pick my peppers and tomatoes now and freeze them immediately for later use to make hot sauces and tomato sauces? I am trying to find the most efficient way to process my pepper and tomato harvest.

The pepper stems and seeds would be removed, the tomatoes would be halved and cores removed before freezing in vacuum bags. Once I have enough peppers and tomatoes, I would thaw them and make hot sauce and tomato sauce respectively. Furthermore, I want to smoke my peppers to make chipotles (for chipotle hot sauce), however it is not really efficient to smoke 2 pounds of peppers every couple of days. I would like to smoke all 20+ pounds of peppers all at once. Its just that 20+ pounds of peppers don't ripen all at once.

I have several pepper varieties I use to make hot sauce and I have a couple different paste tomato varieties to make tomato sauce. I do not have enough peppers and tomatoes to pick right now, but over the next 3-4 weeks I will have over 100 pounds of tomatoes and over 20 pounds of peppers to harvest.

I know the peppers and tomatoes will be soft when thawed, I am worried that the tomatoes may taste sour due to the freeze. I am not sure how the peppers will take the smoke flavor when soft. I was considering dehydrating the ripe peppers as I pick them over the next few weeks. But when I want to smoke them, the dehydrated peppers might not take the smoke flavor. If I had to rehydrate the peppers before smoking, the "waterlogged" peppers might not take the smoke flavor.

I understand the flavor will not be the same as making sauce with fresh produce. It just doesn't make sense to make small sauce batches every 3 days for the next 3-4 weeks.

Let me know if you have any suggestions or how I should tackle this feat in a different way that I may not have even considered. There has to be an easier way to accomplish this. If I must freeze the produce, I would greatly prefer to freeze them the same day I harvest versus picking everyday for a week then a big freeze on the weekend. Those peppers I picked on Monday might start to soften by the weekend.

All sauces will be canned and spend 30 minutes in a boiling water bath.

  • Please consider breaking this question down into two, one about peppers, one about tomatoes. – Stephie Jul 29 at 5:51
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We've been freezing both vegetables for years, with no loss of flavor.

Tomatoes

Unless your tomatoes have very thin skins, I recommend that you skin them prior to freezing. If you don't remove the skins first, you may wind up with the leathery skins floating in your sauce, which isn't really appetizing. To easily skin a tomato, press the back of a sharp knife onto the tomato, press gently, then rub the fruit to loosen the peel. Next, just make a small cut and start peeling with the sharp side of the knife. We also remove all seeds at that time. Alternatively, use a food mill (not a food processor) to process the tomatoes.

We freeze the tomatoes in roughly one-quart amounts, which is what we generally use at any one time.

Peppers

As you noted, you'll cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds, but we've found with experience that the frozen peppers, when thawed, turn mushy; we get around this by using the peppers as soon as we remove them from the freezer. They even retain a little crunch!

We freeze our peppers by cutting them into edible-sized slices (after removing the seeds), laying them out on a cookie sheet, and then putting the entire sheet into the freezer for a couple/three hours. This helps the slices to freeze faster (which we assume helps keep them move flavorful, but that's an assumption only); it also keeps them from sticking together after we bag them. When the slices are frozen, we bag them. We then use only the number of slices we need for a dish, cutting them up immediately upon removal from the freezer bag and adding to the dish mostly frozen to avoid the yucky mushiness.

Given that thawed peppers are really not appetizing, I don't know if you'll like the end results after smoking them. They will definitely NOT hold any kind of crunch and may even somewhat disintegrate in your sauces. Well worth a try to do it, though, especially if you do only a small test batch first.

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Freezing your peppers and tomatoes after harvest as you describe should work just fine!

Since the peppers will be used in sauces/ for cooking, the peppers becoming less crunchy or noncrunchy from freezing will be ok, & the flavour should remain very well: just maybe place them somewhat flat when freezing so they will thaw more rapidly and evenly. And smaller amounts per packet can also be excellent & convenient for unthawing and directly cooking with them in smaller amounts. Peppers freeze quite well, and freezing different pepper varieties separately is convenient. Your frozen peppers should take in and blend flavours much better than rehydrated ones would.

Your tomatoes should freeze just fine as well! Freezing them in flattish packets rather than in deeper shapes will help them freeze more rapidly, and also help them to thaw more rapidly and evenly. Freezing the tomato sections solidly without space between them works very well. The sweetness and flavour of your tomatoes should remain just fine!

Wiping moisture from the packets, then allowing the packets to freeze separately, and then stacking the packets after they are frozen, can help avoid having packets freezing all stuck together. And the thinner the packets, the more rapidly they freeze and thaw.

Your resulting sauces could have great blends of flavours & be just as delicious as if preparing them directly from fresh!

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    Thank you for your input. I am going to place the frozen peppers on the smoker racks (still frozen). The smoker should be able to evaporate the moisture that sweats off of the thawing peppers. – giuseppe Jul 28 at 17:51
  • You are very welcome! thank you for your message; that's an excellent idea(considering the peppers won't fall off etc), it saves handling all the peppers once or twice more, and should transition them immediately from being frozen to smoking! (& maybe important that they mightn't somehow stick to the racks because of condensing moisture on them); also, the freezing of the peppers may actually open up their flavours before having to be cooked as long. And maybe check that the peppers don't drip away juices much rather than only have moisture evaporate from them & so retaining all their flavours – M H Jul 28 at 18:04
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How about drying the peppers before smoking them? This question (Smoking dried peppers?) on Cooking SE covers a couple of methods. It seems the flavor is not quite as good as with fresh peppers, but still worthwhile. At least it sounds better than trying to smoke defrosted peppers.

Hot peppers are easy to dry. Use a long piece of string to tie the stems, leaving some room between peppers for air flow. Hang the strings of peppers up someplace with good airflow for a few weeks.

As each batch of peppers ripens, start them out on the drying process. By the time you have enough peppers to be worth smoking, you will have some fully dry peppers, some partially dry peppers, and some fresh peppers. Smoke them all at the same time, and you will get a range of different results. You may need to remove the different peppers at different times. One person on the question I linked used a hot smoking method on a grill, and they managed to almost burn their dry peppers while their fresh peppers didn't get fully done before they had to put the grill out for the night. Another person used a cool smoking method and seemed happier with that.

(If you try it, please let us know what method you use and if you liked the results. It would be particularly interesting to know how they compare to smoked frozen peppers.)

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