Friday, August 1, 2014

Red Hot Chili Peppers

For some of us, that blog title causes us to immediately start singing some song from our high school days....

But I digress.

The first year we were CSA shareholders with the Colvins, I remember getting bags of random hot peppers and chilies that would then linger in my fridge.... We like hot peppers, but I was more tied to recipe books then and so few of my recipes actually called for one jalapeño or one Anaheim or....

Now, however, four years later, we are not as stymied. Hence, when Isaac asked if we wanted a few extra this week, I said, "sure." That same day, a neighbor gave me some more jalapeños and a few habaneros. What are we going to do with all of these? Oh, the myriad possibilities!

How Hot Are They?

First, though, it's worth knowing just how hot some of those peppers and chilies are. You can print off this handy chart if you need help remembering, but the Anaheim and jalapeño peppers we get frequently are not terribly hot. In fact, if you only use one or two, you may not even notice much heat in the final dish. Also, for peppers such as jalapeños and cayenne that can be eaten green or red, the green ones are not as spicy as the riper red ones. Those of you who know chili peppers will see that I have some green habaneros and one orange--that orange one will be HOT!

Ideas for Using Them Up

Here are some ideas for using up your miscellaneous hot peppers (and be forewarned--if you ever decide to grow your own, you do not--I repeat, do NOT--need four jalapeño bushes for a family of 5. Don't ask me how I know this; just know that every single one of my extended family members that year got a nice jar of hot pepper jelly, there were bags and bags of peppers in the freezer, and I let a lot just rot on the vine...).

  • Salsa! You can make your own salsa with whatever heat level you like, or, if your kids like mild salsa, you can add extra peppers to your own serving.
  • Fajitas! Use more or less depending on how hot you like your fajitas and the type of chili peppers you have; just throw some in with your bell peppers next time you're having Mexican food for dinner. 
  • Eggs! We love sautéed bell peppers, hot peppers, and onions topped with a fried egg (or two) in the mornings for breakfast. By "we," I mean the grown-ups.
  • Jelly! Make up some hot pepper jelly. Mmmm.... That stuff is delicious!
  • Salad! If you like a bit of heat, throw in a finely minced hot pepper into your salad dressing next time. Use cautiously because raw peppers are spicier than cooked.
  • Stir Fry! Slice them up and include them in your next stir fry. Lots of Asian stir fries (especially Thai) are super hot. Where do you think that heat comes from? For a smaller amount of heat, you can include the entire pepper in the stir fry mix and then pull out the whole pepper before serving. A small amount of residual heat will linger. You can also cut a pepper in half, deseed it, and do this same process. This is a good option for the super hot peppers that you're not brave enough to actually eat.
  • Curries! Like other Asian food, many Indian curry dishes are fiery hot. If you like heat, add a few hot peppers to your next curry dish. 
  • Mexi-corn and Ro-Tel tomatoes and Canned Green Chilies: All of those have hot peppers in them. Chop some of your hot peppers and add them to Mexican dishes, a side of corn, mix in cornbread, add to chili--anywhere you might use one of those products. 
  • Pickle Them! My husband adds pickled jalapeños to everything. There are LOTS of recipes online; here's an allrecipes version.
  • Make Your Own Hot Sauce! This is something we've been wanting to try, and we have more than enough hot peppers now to attempt it. Again, allrecipes has a Jalapeño Hot Sauce recipe that says you can use other peppers, too.
  • Freeze them until you decide! Yes--not only are hot peppers freezer-friendly, but they are EASY to freeze. Here's how: throw the whole thing in the freezer and shut the door. End of process. I promise. I've even taken the entire bag from my CSA box and thrown the whole thing in the freezer. Let the pepper thaw on the counter a bit when you start your chosen recipe down the road, and soon you'll be able to cut it up and cook it like normal.

Storage and Preparation Tips

Unless you are familiar with hot peppers, WEAR GLOVES. For you lazy ones out there like myself who eschew this handy precaution, WASH YOUR HANDS--and make sure you get under your fingernails. I don't know how many times I've gotten an eyelash or something out from the corner of my eye some evening after having cut up jalapeños for dinner.... Ouch!

Seeds and white inner veins carry most of the heat. Keep if you like extra heat and remove if you don't!

Keep in the fridge in a loose plastic bag for up to a week. If you're going to have them around much longer, you may want to just toss them in the freezer.

One final note: the heat "builds" the more peppers you are cutting up. If you don't wear gloves for chopping one or two peppers (like me), but you're planning to chop a lot--go ahead and get the gloves out. Trust me on this one.

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