Let's talk about chili peppers. This year is looking to be a bumper crop, and I would love to hear your imput as to when to harvest, and what you do to preserve your peppers.
For about a month every year, the grocery store has these tiny, red chili peppers for sale in the fresh food section. I don't know what type they are, as each grocery store chain has their own name for them, most of them call these peppers 'chili'. They come in a packet of about 15 to 20 peppers, and they are in my opinion the most delicious pepper that ever existed.
I usually buy what I imagine is twice what I can eat in a year, dry the extra peppers, then run out of peppers about 6 months before the next batch comes ready in the store. These aren't the most expensive peppers in the world, but my inner miser feels that $6 for a dozen peppers is a bit much. My inner gardener says "Oh wow! LOOK! There are seeds! Let's plant them. What? Nonsense, I can plant them whatever time of year I feel like it."
For the last thirteen years, I've diligently planted seeds saved from these delicious chilis, I grow them in a warm corner of the garden, and a couple of times, I've even harvested chilis off them. Although our summers are fairly warm and long, I suspect we don't have the weather these peppers need to thrive. This spring, I ran out of space in the garden so I put my four pathetic pepper plants in the greenhouse. Since the highest these peppers ever grew in the garden was six inches, I figured that they might grow 10 given the extra heat. Wow oh wow was I mistaken. These peppers are darn near five foot tall! Each plant has about a hundred peppers. Some of them have even turned red.
Now that I have peppers, lots of peppers, I'm curious what people usually do with theirs.
Do other people pick the immature peppers that haven't turned red yet, and call them green peppers? In years past, to harvest any sort of a crop, I usually pick the peppers green just before the frost. It works well for me, but I wonder if it's usual.
When do you harvest the peppers, just as they turn red or after they are fully red? Why?
How do you process your seeds? I read that some people ferment their pepper seeds.
Any thoughts on what sort of pepper these are?
What do you do with all your chili peppers? Recipes anyone?
For each 1/2 cup of dried chilis
1 clove of garlic and
1 Tbs of salt
Roughly chop up the chilis, or not.
Peal the garlic and roughly chop it up or not
Combine salt, garlic and chili in a small jar. Add water to cover.
Use something to press down on the chili mix so that every part of it is submerged. I cut out a circle out of plastic container and then filled a small mason jar with water to use as a weight.
Leave on the counter for at least a week... I um, forgot about it and it was there for over a month. If anything, I think the longer ferment was good for it. Check it every couple of days (or not if you forget) to make certain everything is submerged and to scrape off any mould that forms. If the mould is black, toss the whole thing, otherwise, it should be fine. The spices, garlic and salt are strong enough to kill just about anything bad, but if it develops an off smell, don't eat it.
When it's time, place the chilis, garlic and brine into the blender or blitzer. Blend or blitz till it's a lovely puree. You may want to add a pinch of sugar or a few drops or honey. A few drops of apple cider (or other natural) vinegar also go good in this.
You can strain the seeds out after blitzing it, to make a sauce more like Spicy Cock Sauce (can't remember what it is actually called. It's hot and has a picture of a cockerel), or keep it chunky if you like.
Looks like chili de arbol (tree chili) to me, which is a common ingredient in Mexican cooking. The dried whole pods are often added to soups and sauces for extra kick. Maybe give them a light squeeze to break the skin but leave the pod mostly intact. When used this way they aren't meant to be eaten. Maybe use one or two in place of each 1/4 tsp of crushed red pepper in your favorite cajun, Mexican, or Thai recipes.
They are fully mature when red. The green ones will be a bit less spicy and a bit more sweet.
Today I will do what others won't, so tomorrow I can do what others can't.
Tree chilis - yummy. Sounds like it could be it. These chilis don't lose their colour when dry, only starting to fade after two years.
Here's another question for you all. The chilis I got the seed from were reasonably spicy, however the ones that grew are extremely spicy. One quarter of these new chilis equals one or two of the old ones (when fresh). Is there something in the way they were grown that made them more spicy? I thought maybe F2 generation but the plants I grew showed no variation.
R Ranson wrote:
Any recipe ideas on how to preserve this chili? I have a few dozen hanging to dry, but what else can I do with them?
You could try pickling them, or add a few to your favorite salsa or pasta sauce canning recipes. Perhaps packing them halved and seeded in olive oil like they do with sun-dried tomatoes could work as well. Never tried it, personally, but I've seen it done for ornamental purposes with whole chilies.
Today I will do what others won't, so tomorrow I can do what others can't.
Another year, another chili harvest! This year it's mostly Big Jim and Cayenne peppers. The Cayenne's okay, but a bit difficult for me to cook with. It starts off mild, but as it cooks, it gets really intense.
The plan for future years is to grow 6 plants of Thai chili, maybe four plants of Big Jim and one of Cayenne. That should satisfy my peppery needs.
Pickling peppers worked well, but they are still in the cupboard from last year. I haven't a clue what to use them in and I still have so many dry peppers from last year (and now this year).
The Cayenne have been really good for drying, making powder and hot chili flakes.
I like to store most of the dry peppers whole, as they seem to keep their flavour better. I keep a small jar of ground peppers on hand for quick access. Although now I've learned how to smoke chilis, I mostly use that.
This year I dried my chilies by stringing them with a needle and thread. I started with strings that were about 4 feet long, but as they dried, they shrunk down and I would push them toward the bottom of the string. Now the dried strings are about 2.5 feet long. This year I grew mostly serranos but some chile de arbol and a few pasillas. Where we live, I just trim them back a bit when they get too leggy, and they'll come back strong next spring. For most chili plants, I can get 2 or 3 years out of them before they crap out.
I hung them on a shade structure on the south side of the house where they got full sun all day long. They dried in about 3 weeks -- no mold and the birds don't touch them. The strings of dried chilies look very cool -- both while they are drying, and now as a kind of decorative strung spice rack. Once dry, if you don't want to keep them on the string, they keep well in a zip lock bag or look cool in an old green-glass mason jar on the shelf.
The OP asked about the difference between red and green. Most green chilis will eventually turn red, as they get more sugar in the outer skin and they come to full maturity. I think that the flavor of a fresh green chili is better, but for drying, they seem to dry better when you let them go red.
If you try to dry a green chili, they tend to dry a funky yellow color --- not very attractive.
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