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Using fresh chilies

May 12, 2004

Chili connoisseur Dave DeWitt gives the following tips for using fresh chilies:

  • n Remove the tough outer skin of certain large fresh chilies, including New Mexico green (Anaheim) and poblano chilies, by applying heat to the chili so that the skin blisters and pulls away from the pepper's meat. DeWitt recommends using a stove-top grill, but the broiler or stove burner also will work. After the chilies are well-blistered, place them in a large bowl and cover with a damp towel, or in a plastic bag, for at least half an hour. This "steaming" step will make peeling easier. Finally, start at either end to peel off the charred skin.

  • Roasted New Mexico chilies freeze well, either whole or chopped. Freeze chopped chilies in ice cube trays, pop the frozen chili cubes into freezer bags, and use the cubes for soups and other dishes.

  • Freeze smaller chili varieties - including habaneros, serranos and jalapenos - whole. Just wash the chilies and allow them to dry before freezing on a cookie sheet or other flat surface. Then transfer the frozen chilies to freezer bags.

  • To process and preserve large quantities of small chili pods quickly, create "Frozen Chile Mash." Simply place washed, seeded and stemmed jalapeno, habanero or other small chilies in a food processor or blender, add a little water, and process to a medium-thin puree. Pour the puree into plastic ice cube trays, and freeze solid, before popping them into labeled freezer bags. Defrost and use the hot pepper mash in recipes calling for minced or chopped small chilies. Estimate 2 to 3 pods per cube.

  • To rehydrate chilies that have dried out in the freezer, soak them in water while defrosting.

  • Wear gloves when working with chili peppers. In case of capsaicin-burned skin - called Hunan hand - coat your hands in vegetable oil.

  • For burning taste buds, consume sour cream, yogurt or another dairy product.
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