Preserving Peppers: Sambal Olek

This topic has been sitting on the back burner for a couple weeks. As you may have noticed, the Demo Garden had a bumper crop of peppers this year, including more hot peppers than anyone would know what to do with. (Well, unless you really like very spicy food.)

What are the options for preserving hot peppers?

  • Dry them and use them whole for flavoring
  • Dry them and grind them into pepper flakes/powder
  • Chop them and freeze them
  • Make LOTS of salsa or hot pepper jelly
  • Make pepper paste/sauce in some form or another

My husband and I really like Asian food, and for the past couple years, we’ve been using a chile paste called Sambal Olek for flavoring foods that need some heat. We also had tons of hot peppers from our community garden plot, so my husband found a simple recipe for Sambal Olek that only called for the peppers, salt, and vinegar.

The first step – preparing the peppers. We just cut the stems off, although the recipe called for seeding them as well. We didn’t mind having some extra heat (although in retrospect, removing some seeds would have been a good idea).The recipe also called for red serrano peppers, but we just used a mixture of cayennes, serranos, Thai and Japanese chilis, and whatever else we had on hand.

From there, the peppers get finely chopped in a food processor, and add a little water if necessary, to get it more to a paste-like consistency. (This is the second batch, where we used more green peppers.) Then the whole mess goes into a saucepan with the salt and vinegar to get cooked down.

Because we weren’t using a recipe that was tested for canning, we opted to freeze the paste to use later. From 2 lbs of hot peppers, we ended up with 2 cups of red Sambal Olek and 2 cups of Green Sambal Olek. It is VERY spicy, which means we probably won’t need to grow hot peppers for a couple years (not that that will actually stop us….)!

Here’s the link to the recipe we used: Homemade Sambal Olek

About Rebecca

I'm a Horticulture Educator with Sedgwick County Extension, a branch of K-State Research and Extension, located in Wichita, KS. I teach about fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Posted on November 1, 2011, in Harvesting & Eating and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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