Behind the apple harvest, the annual chilli harvest is one of our most eagerly anticipated, allotment-based events. After a slightly slow start, our home-grown chilli plants have been on a hot streak over the past few weeks, busily pumping out fiery horned fruit in large quantities and it will soon be time to pick them before the frosts come and spoil everything. Our Fuegos are looking fantastic, the Scotch Bonnets bountiful. Even the Purple gustos are growing with, er, gusto. But what to do with our bonus bunch of blazing bounty? And how? Take a look at our top tips on how to preserve and utilise your home-grown chillies below….
1. How to Dry Chillies
When faced with a glut, you’ll want to store some of your fiery friends for later and the simplest way to preserve chillies is to dry them out. Whilst stringing up chillies and drying them in the sunshine isn’t always an option, a warm interior will do the trick. Best bets are a greenhouse or airing cupboard, but failing that, shove them in the oven on a low heat with the door open (they like a bit of air with the warmth). To prepare your chillies for drying, rinse them in salt water to help fight off bacteria and dry them carefully with a kitchen towel. When dry, pack chilies in airtight containers and store them somewhere cool.
2. How to Pickle Chillies
To preserve your freshly picked chillies for an extra month or two, you can make a quick and easy chilli pickle, perfect for spicing up cooked dishes and salads. You can pickle whole or chopped chillies, but if you plump for the former, prick small holes in them first to allow the salty vinegar to penetrate inside the fruit. Pack 100g chillies into a sterilized jar, heat 200 ml vinegar and 2 teaspoons of salt, pour over the chillies and seal.
3. How to Make Chilli Jam
Chilli jam (or sweet chilli sauce if it doesn’t set) goes well with cheese, cold meats and a whole manner of savoury snacks. It can also be stirred into your cooking experiments for a sweet and spicy hit. Most recipes state using red chillies, but this is only for visual appeal – there’s nothing wrong with using all kinds of hues in your jammy experiments. For every 100g of chillies use 100g of normal red, green or yellow bell peppers, 200ml cider vinegar and 500g jam sugar. You could also add a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger if you’re feeling fancy. Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar, chop the home-grown chillies and peppers into tiny pieces (or blast into bits in a blender) and add to the pan. Boil hard with the lid off for ten minutes, then jar it up.
4. How to Make Chilli Powder
Pound your home-grown chillies into a potent powder for sprinkling into dishes. A basic peppery powder is easy to make. First off, remove the stems and slice the chillies in half. Remove the chilli seeds if you want a gentler spice. Spread the chillies on a baking tray and bake them in an oven at 170°C until they look nicely toasted. Shake the tray occasionally during cooking to give them an even bake. Bung your toasted peppers into a blender and mix until you’ve reduced them to tiny pieces. To achieve a fine powder, you might want to transfer your chilli bits to a mortar and pestle and give them a good grind. Sort through your spice rack, empty any spices that have passed their sell-by-date (if it’s anything like our spice rack, there will be many candidates) and refill with your homemade chilli powder.
5. How to Make Chilli Sauce
Arguably the pinnacle of chilli-based condiments. Making homemade chilli sauce is a bit more involved than the chilli-wrangling methods we have mentioned above, but it’s well worth the effort (and inevitable tears as the potent cooking fumes engulf your kitchen). It’s the kind of recipe you’ll want to tweak and amend to your own taste preference, but here’s a basic chilli sauce recipe to get you started…
- Grab a fistful of home-grown chillies and lob them in a blender. Destalk them first, and remove the seeds if you want a milder sauce.
- Throw in 2 red onions, 4 peeled cloves of garlic and a pinch or two of salt and blend until you’ve got a coarse mixture.
- Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to a frying pan, heat then add the chilli mixture and fry for 10 minutes. Be careful not to burn the garlic.
- Add a tablespoon of sugar, a tin of tomatoes, a decent glug of cider vinegar plus 150 ml of water. Give it a stir, turn down to a low heat and simmer for a further 15 minutes. Whilst cooking, add extra water if it looks like it needs it.
- Once cooked, give it another whizz in a blender before bottling.
What else do you make with your chillies? Do you have a favourite chilli variety you like to grow? Let us know about your chilli recipes in the comments below.