Packin’ Heat

October 21, 2011

Red Fire Peppers

My success with growing jalapeños led me to try a crop of mixed pepper varietals. I set up my AeroGarden to grow two each of three varieties: more jalapeños, purple super hots and red fires. Unfortunately, during the week I was away in Chicago, one of the red fire plants took over and wiped out the competition in a bloodless coup that left me with one huge plant and a five withered stalks. Fortunately, that plant has been very prolific, which allowed me to harvest three dozen peppers.

I considered freezing them, but instead I opted to dry them out. Rather than put them in my newly-acquired dehydrator, I decided to go low-tech and use a method I had seen in my grandmother’s kitchen: I strung them together so they can air dry.

I have the string tacked to the side of a kitchen cabinet where I’ll see them when I cook. I’ll be much more likely to remember to use them than if they were buried in the Deep Storage Facility. Another batch of two dozen will be ripe in about two weeks, so I’ll add another string.

I did use the dehydrator for another batch of peppers, some purple poblanos I found at the farmer’s market.

I cut long slits on either side of each pepper, then gave them a four-hour dose of cold smoke.

After three days in the dehydrator at 125 °F, I wound up with a batch of ancho chiles.

Now that I know the technique works, I plan on making a much larger batch and turning some of it into chile powder, a custom blend that includes some of the dried red fires. Why settle for the pre-made stuff when you can fine-tune your own?

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