Round up those backyard peppers

If you've been growing sweet bell peppers this year, then right about now those prolific plants are taunting you: I'm still producing — what are you gonna do about that?

I say roast 'em, then freeze 'em! That's the solution to taming an abundant pepper population.

Recipe Box

Find another way with fall's sweet peppers in our online Recipe Box. Jan Roberts-Dominguez's Romesco Sauce, a Spanish classic, can be located by entering "romesco" in the recipe title field of the searchable database at

Besides, I love the smell of roasting peppers, whether on a baking sheet in my oven, pierced with a fork and suspended over a gas burner on my stove or dangling above glowing, mesquite coals on a grill. Whatever method, the result should always be the same: a lovely layer of bubbled and charred skin.

Once they've achieved that blackened state, just leave them until they're cool enough to handle and then simply scrape away the paper-thin, charred exterior, giving not a second thought to the few stubborn bits of blackened skin still clinging to the flesh, which actually provides the subtle note of authenticity to the process.

This is the point when I cut into them and remove the seeds and stem. If you have a lot of sweet bell peppers to roast, then when you've done so, simply lay them flat on a parchment-lined baking sheet and place them in the freezer until frozen. Once firm, they can be placed in resealable, freezer bags and put back in the freezer for months and months and months.

With roasted peppers in the freezer, you can make so many wonderful sauces, spreads and soups through the entire autumn, winter and spring. Until you run out, of course.

Roasting and freezing sweet bell peppers:

One method would be piercing each pepper in several places with a sharp knife to avoid bursting, then placing them on a baking sheet. Place the pepper under oven broiler and broil, turning several times, until each one has blackened over most of its surface.

Alternatively, you could blacken peppers over a gas flame on your stovetop by spearing each pepper with a fork (pierce each pepper in several places with a sharp knife to avoid bursting) and rotating the pepper as it blackens. This method is somewhat time-consuming, so I don't recommend it if you are roasting very many peppers.

Another method is simply placing pierced peppers on your grill over hot coals and roast, turning as they char, until thoroughly blackened. This method adds a nice bit of smokiness to the flavor.

Once peppers have been roasted, let cool, then peel away blackened skin. Slice the peppers open and remove the stem and seeds. Don't worry if some skin is too stubborn to slip away from the fleshy portion. As long as you get the majority of the skin, it's fine.

To freeze, arrange peeled peppers on a parchment-lined baking sheet and place them in the freezer until firm. Place the individually frozen peppers in resealable, freezer bags and keep frozen for up to nine months or longer (but quality may suffer a bit if your freezer doesn't get below zero).

To use your frozen cache of peppers, simply remove the desired number of them for a given recipe and thaw at room temperature until soft. They will release a bit of juice during the thawing process, so thaw them on a dish or plate so you don't lose that delicious juice!

Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, artist and author of "Oregon Hazelnut Country, the Food, the Drink, the Spirit" and four other cookbooks. Readers can contact her by email at or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at

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