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.

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