Wednesday, November 04, 2009

A question on Peppers

A friend asked Mary about handling hot peppers.

I've got a recipe that calls for ancho chili powder. Have you ever used this/seen this? It says if you can't find it, to buy a poblano pepper and grind it up and then dry it. I haven't had experience doing that---you?
Both Mary and I responded:

Mary's response:
Hi ....
The chili man is at Wed school currently, but I figure, peppers are peppers. Some are fruitier or plummier or pepperier, etc. But within each variety, the hotness varies so much from year to year and various growing locations that I just kind of make stuff up. Joe always has about 15 varieties around here. Sometimes I ask him for advice, sometimes I just go for it.

Once I have my chili variety decided upon, I either put some in the mortar and pestle, soak in boiling water and use juice, or snip with scissors and then either soak or just add or whatever.

Sooooo, do whatever feels right. They're very forgiving [except the hot ones in the eye or nose]. There are always those times when I just sprinkle on cayenne or chili pepper or paprika or use whatever hot sauce is easiest.

Probably there is some flavor aspect that is innate to ancho chilis. But I've got Inge feeling sorry for herself and trying to push all my keys while I do this, so you'll have to do your own research if you want to know more.

Took me a pretty long time to say I don't really know anything, huh?

My response:
Dear ......
Anchos are medium hot, less than tobasco, less than jalapeno. Pablanos can be hotter than anchos. The ancho has a plum like flavor with some heat. A similar pepper would be the New Mexico pod. You can get both dried and whole in bags at Walmart or Hugos. I'm not sure about the stores in Bemidji, but I bet the bigger grocery stores have both. The pablano doesn't have the same complex flavor as the Ancho or the New Mexico. If you're looking for the less hot, use the New Mexico.

As for grinding, I use my electric coffee grinder on dried peppers. If you are sensitive to pepper dust, wear a face mask or MOPP gear.mopp gear

If you get the powder or juice of hot peppers on your fingers put a teaspoon of bleach and a bit of dish soap in a cup of water and scrub your hands well. The bleach is the quickest way to denature the capsaicin oil. Then wash the bleach off. Rubbing your eyes with pepper dust or oil really can ruin your day. Hence, the MOPP equipment.

If you don't have a spare coffee grinder, you can use a stone mortar and pestle, but that tends to make more dust and flecks. A food processor is ok, but harder to clean. How soon do you want the peppers. I got lots. I could even grind some for you if you don't want to buy a CWPDS.

Me, I don't care if I get it in my eyes or if I end up sneezing a long time. But be careful also when frying peppers in hot oil, or when boiling hot peppers. The smoke or steam can irritate the nose and lungs. I've forced my family out of the house a few times because I fried up some jalapenos, or because I made jam with habaneros.

We mean what we say, even when we have to type it with one hand holding a baby.

The information continues....
A note from a friend next to the Mexican boarder

Subject: Peppers


Just saw your blurb about peppers and such. Interestingly, I have in the oven this morning - chiltepin peppers. Am drying them out and then crush them in a molcajete. Not sure if that is the way that i'm supposed to make them, but hey, sprinkle some on your home-made chili and it heats things up. (We always have a chili-fest down here at church in Dec - being the mean pastor I am, I like to add some to my chili and see the expressions on some of the people's faces. I do warn them however.)

To make a long story longer - a former member of mine who lives in Mexico has these chiltepin peppers growing in their yard and they graciously give me a bunch when they ripen. Would you be interested in having a bag of chiltepin peppers? I am not sure if I could mail up the ripe ones, but I could mail up some that I am drying in the oven this minute.

Let me know when you get a chance. I'm sure it would help keep you warm this winter up in MN!

I love Tepins (Chiltepins) and we can't get them around here very often. Of course I'm interested. I love NAFTA (in this case). Once dried, they hardly cost anything to ship. Let me know. I'll pay the shipping.

And on drying methods, for those who don't know how.
Method 1. This works for thin, light meat peppers. Put some thread on a needle. Drive the needle through the stem part and keep stringing until you have a foot or so of tightly packed peppers. This is called, i think, a ristra.

Method 2. Put medium sized peppers (jalapeno, serano) on a drying rack and place the rack in your van or car in the sun with the windows cracked open for a few days. It dries the peppers and gives the car a nice smell.

Method 3. For meaty peppers, slice and dry in a food dryer or place on a drying rack an put in the oven at 170 deg F over night.

Next, smoking peppers: put on a drying/cooking rack, set in a wood smoke environment, like my home made smoker (a small steel trashcan with wood chips in the bottom. Let sit until they're done to your taste. It takes some experimenting. It's great.

1 comment:

A Stafford said...

Thanks for your advice, chili man! Fortunately I was able to find Ancho powder in Bemidji in the bulk spice section so I didn't have to buy any haz-mat gear, at least this time.