Monday, November 2, 2009

Storing Chillis - Part 2 Pickling

The first part of these articles dealt with freezing which is probably the simplest way to store your chillis. However, eventually you are likely to run out of space in the freezer (for some reason things such as vegetables and meat take precedence) and you will need to look at other ways of storing and preserving them. In this article we look at pickling. This does require more work than freezing or drying (coming later) but does allow the fruit to be stored in more convenient locations.




Pickling chillis requires care and attention to cleanliness as with any similar process. We have tried three ways of pickling, the first result was not as good as we thought that it would be although it was cheap. The pickling liquid was simply salt and sugar dissolved in water, about 2 teaspoons of each to each half pint of water, method as below. The result was a little sour and salty but the essence (i.e. heat and quality of fruit) was preserved. In fact, if anything, the heat of the chillis was enhanced.

The second attempt used 1 teaspoonful of salt and one of sugar to each half pint of brown malt pickling vinegar (Sarsons) as well as about 4 tablespoons of olive oil. This time the result was more aceptable although the vinegar taste was a little overwhelming and we do not think that the oil contributed anything to the result.

The next attempt used white vinegar instead of brown, diluted 50% with water, no oil, one teaspoonful of salt and one of sugar to each half pint of diluted vinegar. This seems to have worked well and will form the basis of future experiments.

The method used was to clean the chillis by washing in cold water, patting them dry with kitchen paper and then packing them as tightly as possible into the jar. We used a clean second hand Hellemanns mayonnaise jar as it has a wide mouth and will hold plenty of fruit. The liquid mix was heated in a saucepan until it was simmering nicely and then poured into the jar leaving a small gap at the top.

The whole jar was then placed in a microwave oven and heated at 25% power (800w oven) for 10 minutes. This process was carefully monitored and paused at intervals to prevent the liquid boiling over and we also topped up the liquid to maintain about a 1/4" (0.6 cm) air gap at the top as the air was expelled from the mixture.

When complete, the lid was placed loosely over the jar until it had cooled just sufficently to be handled (with care, still hot) and then the lid was tightened down. As the jar cooled to room temperature the "safety dimple" popped down leaving the contents safe.

Drying, Pastes and Chutneys - we will report back on this soon as we are still experimenting!

For more free recipes, hints and food related items, click here!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Storing Chillis - Part 1 Freezing

This year we have had a bumper crop of Jalapeno chillis. From around 12 plants we have had a crop of about 2Kg (that is about 4.5lb in English!) It is now mid-October and the crop is not finished, we are still picking about 5 to 10 a day.

Jalapeno chillis, originating in Mexico, are a medium strength variety with a typically conical shape, about 2 inches (5cm) long. The ripe red ones are very sweet and can (almost) be used as a salad pepper. The green unripe fruit has a pleasant sharp flavour which can make it seem hotter than the fully developed red fruit. They are used widely in Mexican, Tex-Mex and other similar cuisines. They are also suitable for use in curries and other oriental dishes if a milder heat is required.

We use both red and green fruit in cooking and in salads. As we only use about 4 or 5 a week, we needed to study and develop ways of storing green and red fruit for future use.

The methods that we have looked at include:
  • Freezing
  • Drying
  • Pickling
  • Making pastes and chutneys
Freezing is easy and from past experience with other chilli varieties works well. The crop just needs to be washed gently in cold water, patted dry with kitchen paper, put into labelled plastic freezer bags, then frozen. There does not appear to be any need to blanch. We use medium sized bags with about 40 chillis in each bag. Keep green and red fruit separate.

In the past we have successfully saved cayenne and types similar to Jalapeno for 3 or 4 years provided that they do not get de-frosted duirng freezer cleaning.

One advantage of freezing is that it makes chopping them finely very easy - just smash them hard with a heavy object whilst frozen!

We would not reccommend using de-frosted frozen chillis raw.

Drying, Pickling,  Pastes and Chutneys will follow soon.

For more free recipes, hints and food related items, click here!