Handling Fresh Chili Peppers

Handling Fresh Chili Peppers

There are well over 200 varieties of chilies. These fruits of various members of the capsicum family are best known for being fiery hot, but many chilies are quite mild and have deep and rich flavors.

  • To choose fresh chili peppers - look for chilies with vibrant color and taut skin. Avoid those with blemishes or soft spots.

  • To store - keep fresh chilies in the refrigerator.

  • Handling fresh chilies - avoid touching when handling if possible. You might not feel the heat of a jalapeno or other fresh chili peppers on your fingertips, but it will sear if it comes in contact with any of your mucous membranes, such as your lips, nostrils or worst, your eyes. To avoid the problem, you can wear plastic gloves or use a plastic bag when handling chilies. Hold the chili in place with a pair of chopsticks or tweezers while slicing and cleaning out the seeds and veins. Better yet, seed and de-vein by holding the chili by its stem. Slice about 1/8" from the tip of the chili. Still holding on to the stem, set the pepper upright on its flattened tip. Slice downward from stem to tip, slicing the sides off of the core. Discard the core with its stem, seeds and veins.

  • To seed when halved lengthwise - hold the chili by its stem and use a toothed grapefruit spoon or melon baller to scrape out the seeds and veins.

  • To reduce the heat - scrape out the veins that line the inside of the chili flesh. This is where capsaicin, the heat source in a chili pepper is concentrated. There is no capsaicin in the seeds, but they are often quite hot because of their proximity to the veins, so remove those too if you like a milder chili. The tip of the chili pepper will always be the mildest because it is farthest from the veins. You can also reduce the heat by soaking chilies in heavily salted water for several hours.

  • To soothe hands irritated by handling hot chilies - make a paste of baking soda and water. Rub over your hands and rinse with cold water.

  • To preserve fresh chilies - Rinse well and put in a glass jar filled with vinegar. They will keep a long time in the refrigerator.

  • Roasting fresh chili peppers - cook them directly over a flame, until bubbly and blackened all over, turning occasionally with a pair of tongs. You can also roast chilies with a blowtorch. Or spread them on a baking sheet and roast under a broiler. Seal roasted chilies in a paper bag until cool enough to handle, about 5 minutes. Wearing plastic gloves, remove and discard the core and seeds, then peel and discard the skin.

  • To put out the fire in your mouth - reach for a dairy product such as milk, yoghurt, or ice cream. Dairy fat will intervene between the pain receptors in your mouth and the chili's hot capsaicin.

  • To cool down a dish that's too chili pepper hot - add a dairy product or add some sugar to help cut the heat. You can also throw in chunks of raw potato to help absorb some of the chili's capsaicin. If the dish is so hot that none of these options work, make a second batch (minus the chilies) and combine it with the first batch to dilute the heat.

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