For an indication of just how terminally domesticated I’ve become, I find myself talking proudly to people about some of the foods I’ve grown and preserved this year. My most recent creation was very simple and yet effective way of preserving this year’s chilli pepper crop.
From about a dozen chilli plants, I’ve harvested something like half a kilo of fruits of different sizes and varieties. Rather than just freezing them like I have in previous years (and still haven’t come close to using them up), I thought I’d try my hand at drying them. I knew the process worked as one that I’d left on my monitor at work for a couple of months has dried out wonderfully and made a festive decoration.
I’ve come across many different stories and methods for drying fruit, they all distilled down to a dry and warm (above room temperature) environment where air could circulate freely around the fruit. I’m lucky to have a cooker with two ovens, so I laid my chillis out on a shelf in the one that we don’t use often. The heat from the rest of the cooker was enough to keep it warm but not hot.
After a week, the chillis had lost all their moisture so I could store them in an air-tight, light proof container. Compared to other people’s dried chillis, mine were much dryer, so much so they were completely brittle. At least I didn’t have to worry about how much effort it would be to grind up, gently squeezing one was enough to make it shatter into many pieces.
I wanted the finished product to be more flavoursome than blow-yer-head-orf hot, so I took most of the seeds out. This was much easier to do with the dried fruit, simply pinch the end off and pour the seeds out straight into a container. No mess, no fuss.
After that it was a simple matter of breaking out my best marble pestle and mortar and make with the grinding. It didn’t take more than about a minute for each batch of half a dozen chillis to be reduced to a useable powder
I found the final colour to be nicely balanced, it’s still surprisingly red given how many green and purple chillis went into the mix but still gives the professionally produced powders a run for their money.
I’ve not yet found an excuse to use the finished product yet, other than to put it into an attractive glass jar with a cork in the top. It does smell nice, it’s warming but not too vicious so I’m thinking it’s more useful for pizza sauce, or marinating meat than for adding to curries.
Just don’t rub your nose after handling the powder without washing your hands first. Now that was warming..