How to Can Bell Peppers

Our garden ALWAYS includes red bell peppers. Eating them fresh as a snack or as a side dish with dip, cut up into salads, or sauteed in a stir fry, is there any other veggie so versatile? Of course, to preserve them, you could freeze or dehydrate them for later use, but my favorite preservation method is to can peppers. I love to can peppers!

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They are so useful for adding to sauces, or to pastas. You can chop them up and add them to salads, and top pizza. Talk about versatile! They do take a bit of work, but I believe the effort is worth it! I’ll give you my step-by-step guide below…

Can You Can Bell Peppers Using a Water Bath Method?

No. Bell peppers are a low-acid food and must be canned using a pressure canner for safety. Using a water bath canner or any water bath canning methodology is not safe! Pressure can only, or skip them.

Supplies and Materials

You don’t need a whole lot to successfully can bell peppers yourself at home besides a typical pressure canning setup and a few common items that you should have in your kitchen already.

Bell Peppers: selecting the right bell peppers will increase the likelihood of success and improve the quality of the finished product. You can use any variety of bell peppers you want, including red, yellow, orange, and green. Make sure you select firm peppers that show no signs of disease, injury, or other defects because they are far more prone to failure.

Pressure Canner: you of course need a pressure canner, and if you purchase a kit it should come with almost everything that you need.

New and vintage pressure canners will work fine for this process with a few minor modifications, and you can use one with a dial gauge or a weighted gauge as long as you’re familiar with its operation. I will be walking you through the process below for both, but make sure you read the manual for yours if it came with one since they are all a little different.

Water: water is needed to operate the pressure canner and also for boiling to pack the jars with the peppers.

Pot: get a pot that will hold a couple of quarts of water that you can boil on the stove to fill your jars. One with pour spouts on it will be helpful.

Salt (Optional): salt is optional, but can increase the flavor of your canned peppers. You’ll sprinkle this directly into the jars on top of the peppers prior to packing them with boiling water.

Jars, Pint or Half-Pint Size: any canning jars of your choice will work for this operation as long as they’re compatible with a pressure canner. However, they must be pint or half-pint size, not quarts, because bell peppers are too dense to be safely canned in quart jars; packing them in quart jars means that they might not be heated to the appropriate temperature long enough for safety.

Jar Lids: typical canning jar lids are all you will need for use with your jars assuming they don’t have fixed or reusable lids. As always, only use brand-new lids for the process. Never, ever given to the temptation to reuse lids because they are very prone to failure.

Bands: canning jar bands to secure the lids in place. Unlike lids, above, bands are reusable as long as they aren’t damaged and are still in good shape. Check them over for any rust, dents, cracks, or other faults.

Funnel: a canning jar funnel is a great aid when it is time to fill the jars with peppers and then water. You might be able to do this easily enough without it, but the funnel will also help protect the rim and threads from contamination which can interfere with a good lid seal.

Jar Tongs: jar tongs are a specialized tool that will safely and securely grip a jar around its body and neck without disturbing the lid. They are hugely beneficial when loading a canner without tilting the jars and without you getting burned. These probably came with a complete pressure canning kit, but if they didn’t come up make sure you grab a pair.

Baking Sheet: any common baking sheet will do the job for this recipe because you need to roast the peppers in the oven prior to packing them.

Kitchen Knife: a kitchen knife or paring knife is required for prepping and cutting your peppers.

Cutting Board: any cutting board will do here as long as it is completely clean and large enough to let you process the peppers in an efficient way. It’s also a good idea to get an extra one, also very clean, so you have something safe to set the hot jars on when they come out of the canner.

Bowl: for holding and processing pepper pieces prior to packing.

Paper Towels: paper towels are ever important for cleaning up messes that arise, and also for wiping off your jar rims immediately prior to packing.

Timer: timing is everything when canning, and you’ll need to precisely time the roasting of your peppers and also the processing of the jars themselves in the counter once it has reached the prescribed temperature. You can use the clock on your stovetop, an app on your phone or even a mechanical kitchen timer as long as it is accurate and reliable.

And that is all you need for the canning process. Keep reading and we will get right to the steps.

Canning Bell Peppers with a Pressure Canner, Step by Step

The following steps will walk you through pressure canning bell peppers easily and safely at home. Several of these steps are time-sensitive or happen concurrently, so read over all of them to familiarize yourself before you begin.

Step 1: sanitize equipment, inspect pressure canner. Before you do anything else, you must sanitize all of your equipment that will come into contact with the peppers at all phases of the process. Jars, cutting boards, funnel, knife, etc. Give them a thorough clean with hot soapy water or run them through the dishwasher if they are dishwasher safe.

Also, you must take the time to inspect your canner for proper operation. Make sure the lid and gaskets, if it has one, are clean. Look it over for mineralization and inspect events and piping to make sure they are clear. If it has been a year since you used your pressure canner with a dial gauge, check the gauge for accuracy before you continue. Consult the manufacturer’s manual for more information on pre-use inspection and maintenance. 

Step 2: clean peppers. Give your peppers a good wash under cool water. Shake off the excess moisture and then blot them dry with a paper towel.

Step 3: prep and roast peppers. Cut the tops off of your peppers, remove the stem, the cores and all of the seeds; discard. Cut larger peppers into quarters, then cut two to four slits in each quarter depending on the size of the piece.

Place the peppers on a baking sheet, flesh side down, broilBake for 5-8 minutes, until you see the skin blister. Remove from oven, place pieces in bowl and cover loosely with a dampened paper towel. Or place in a large bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside for now to cool.

Step 4: add water to canner and pot. Fill your canner and the pot with water. Consult the manual for your canner to see how much water it requires and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If it isn’t specified or you don’t know, add 3 inches of water to the canner. Position the canner over a burner and turn on the heat, bringing the water temperature to 180°F.

Fill your pot with at least 2 quarts of water.

Step 5: remove skins. Back to the peppers. Once the peppers are cool enough to handle, the skins will slide right off. Remove the skins, seeds, and stems and feed to the chickens or compost. If they are stubborn, gently scrape them with a clean knife. 

Place the skinned pepper pieces back in the bowl.

Step 6: boil water in pot. Bring the water in your pot to a rolling boil.

Step 7: pack peppers, add salt if using. Using your jar funnel, start loosely packing the pepper pieces into each pint or half-pint jar. Do not mash them together. Add a half teaspoon of salt to each jar if desired. Remember, you don’t want to use quarts for peppers, as they are too dense to can safely in quarts.

Step 8: cover peppers with boiling water, attach lids. Once each jar is packed, cover with boiling water, leaving 1 inch headspace. Working quickly, wipe off each jar rim with a damp paper towel and then place a lid and band on each, tightening down the band until it is hand-tight.

Do not over tighten the bands!

Step 9: load jars into canner. If it took you a while to get to this step since the canner has been heating, check the water level to make sure it hasn’t gone down from evaporation. If it’s okay, load the jars into the canner placing them on the rack using your jar tongs.

Ensure that the jars stay perfectly upright and level, because you don’t want the peppers or the water inside to slosh against the lid! This can ruin the seal.

Step 10: attach pressure canner lid, secure. With all of the jars loaded into the counter, fasten the canner’s lid according to the instructions for your model, but make sure to leave the weight off of the vent pipe or the petcock open for venting at this time.

Step 11: turn on heat, exhaust canner for 10 minutes. Turn up the heat on your burner to its highest position and heat the canner until the water inside starts to boil and steam is gusting out of the vent pipe. Once steam is really roaring out, set your timer and continue this exhaust process for 10 minutes to remove all air from the canner.

Step 12: pressurize, watch gauge/weight. Once the previous step is complete, close the petcock or add the weighted gauge or counterweight to the vent pipe depending on your model. Your counter will take anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes to pressurize. 

Keep a close eye on it during this time, watching for it to reach the recommended pressure in the next step.

Step 13: processing begun, start timer. Watch the weighted gauge or dial gauge depending on your model of canner. 

If you are using a weighted gauge: the pressure should be at 10 pounds if you are below 1,000 feet in elevation or 15 pounds if you are above a thousand feet in elevation. Process for 35 minutes once the gauge has started to jiggle or rock depending on your model.

If you’re using a dial gauge: the pressure should be at 11 pounds if you are below 2,000 feet in elevation or 12 pounds if you are between 2,001 and 4,000 ft in elevation. 

Once your pressure canner has reached the required pressure, only then do you start your timer for 35 minutes. That is the processing time required for either type and any elevation so long as the pressure is correct.

Step 14: regulate heat. Don’t walk away. Regulate the heat applied to the canner to keep the pressure at the prescribed level or ever so slightly above it, but never below. Keep a close eye on your gauge whatever kind it is

If at any time the pressure dips below the required level, restart the timer beginning at 35 minutes once it has reattained the correct pressure. This is critical for food safety!

Step 15: processing complete, cut heat. Assuming that the peppers have stayed at the required pressure for the entire time, cut the heat once the timer goes off. If you can do so safely without tilting it, take the canner off of the burner but otherwise just leave it where it is.

Step 16: allow canner to cool and depressurize. Let the canner cool down completely and depressurize. Under no circumstances should you try to cool down the canner quicker using water, or force the lid off until it is safe. 

New canners have automatic safety latching systems that will release once the counter is at a relatively safe temperature and at a safe pressure. Older canners that lack these systems should be given 45 minutes to cool down and depressurize. Again, it pays to familiarize yourself with the intricacies of your specific model of pressure canner.

Step 17: unlock and remove lid cautiously. Once you are sure that the canner has cooled down enough and unlocked, if applicable, cautiously remove the weight or gauge from the vent pipe and open the petcock if it has one. 

Wait 10 more minutes, and then carefully remove the lid, holding it as a shield to protect yourself from any steam that will come rushing out.

Step 18: remove jars carefully. Using your jar tongs, carefully lift out each jar making sure to keep it perfectly upright and level as before to avoid sloshing. Place them on a cutting board or folded towel to protect your countertop.

Step 19: cool jars. Give the jars at least 12 hours to cool down, and they might need as long as 18 to 24 hours to fully cool. Do not disturb them in any way at this time.

Also, make sure that you place the jars in a spot that is protected from cool drafts and do not place them directly on stone or metal surfaces because the temperature shock can cause them to break.

Step 20: test lids for proper seal. Once the jars are totally cooled, it’s time to check the lids for a proper seal. Press on the lid with a finger. It should not move or wiggle in any way and should feel completely solved.

If that test is passed, remove the band and then carefully pick up the jar just by the edges of the lid. If you hear a hiss or bubbling, or if you see or feel any movement in the lid whatsoever, the seal is no good. Refrigerate any that have failed. See the section following these steps for what to do about it.

Step 21: wipe down. For the jars that passed the lid test, take a damp paper towel and wipe them down entirely to remove residues from the canning process and from handling.

Step 22: store. Place your jars in a cool, dark area that is protected from freezing and other temperature extremes. Your peppers should last about a year in storage.

Step 23: clean and maintain canner, if done. After storing your jars, disassemble and dry all components of your pressure canner, paying particular attention to the lid, gaskets and any removable valves, gauges and petcocks. If necessary, clean them and perform other preventative maintenance before putting it away.

Step 24: finished! And you are all done! Your scrumptious peppers are ready to use in recipes and as toppings.

A Lid Failed! Now What?

If a lid fails during testing above, don’t panic because your peppers aren’t wasted. You’ve got two choices, though. The first and easiest is simply to pop them in the refrigerator and eat them within a couple of days. This is usually what I do if I only have one bad jar, or maybe two.

Ultimately, you can reprocess them safely if you are running other batches through the canner. Simply decant the affected jar into a new, sterilized jar and use a brand-new lid. Reprocess as you would normally according to the instructions above. If the jar then passes the test, they are good to go, store them normally.

However, reprocessing them will typically give those peppers more of a cooked texture, so keep that in mind. If you are particularly picky about the flavor and texture of your canned goods, consider skipping reprocessing and just eat them instead.

Have you tried to can peppers before? What is your favorite way to use them? Be sure to pin this to your favorite board for later!

6 thoughts on “How to Can Bell Peppers”

  1. Rebecca | LettersFromSunnybrook

    That sounds like a perfet solutio for canning our peppers, which should be redy to start picking in a week or two … I freeze them as well, but I like the idea of roasting them even better!

    1. Rebecca | LettersFromSunnybrook

      ugh, my keys keep sticking! That should have read: “perfect solution for canning our peppers, which should be ready”

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