Tuesday, February 19, 2013

3 Quick Tips for Storing Chili Peppers

Fresh, dried or roasted, chili peppers are a staple in my kitchen -- and if you enjoy cooking and eating zesty foods, and especially if you grow your own peppers, they're probably a staple in your kitchen, too.

There's an optimal way to store chile peppers in each of their "states" (i.e., fresh, dried and roasted) to ensure that they retain the fullest, richest flavor (and maintain their heat intensity, for hot varieties). Here's what I recommend:

Best way to store fresh chili peppers, whole: Select the freshest peppers possible, with shiny, unblemished skins and no signs of being past their prime, e.g., no mushy or off-color spots that are the tell-tale signs of spoilage. Assuming you're storing whole and not cut peppers, store them in your refrigerator in paper bags rather than plastic because plastic can trap moisture or condensation that would hasten spoilage, while paper bags will "breathe." If the peppers came in a plastic clamshell with holes or slots that let air in, you can refrigerate them that way. But if the chilies are in plastic bags, wrapped in plastic or on a tray covered with plastic wrap, transfer the peppers to paper bags to ensure freshness for up to a week.

Buy Dried Jolokia Chiles
In contrast, the best way to store sliced or chopped fresh chiles is in your refrigerator in airtight resealable containers such as small plastic tubs or baggies. Cut chilies should be used within a couple of days. Freezing fresh peppers may be practical if you have a bounty of fresh peppers from your garden or farmer's market and plan to use them cooked -- chop or slice and freeze pre-measured portions in sealed freezer bags with all the air squeezed out or in vacuum-sealed bags. Just be aware that upon thawing the chopped peppers will have lost their crunchy texture and the color may not be as bright -- which is why freezing is not recommended if you intend to use the chilies in stir-fry recipes or other recipes where crispness is desired. They'll last for several months in your freezer, but don't forget to label them with dates (and with portion size if not readily apparent).

Best way to store dried chilies: Especially if stored in airtight containers or bags, dried chili peppers can last up to a year in a cool, dry and preferably dark place such as a pantry or cabinet that's not next to or above your stove or oven. After several months, the flavor and heat intensity may begin to fade gradually but the dried chiles will remain safe to eat. It's crucial that the dried peppers not be exposed to any moisture, which is why you don't want to store them near your stove or oven because the heat and changes in air temperature could result in condensation in the storage containers.

Italian Roasted Red Peppers
Buy Italian Roasted Peppers
Best way to store roasted peppers: If you roast your own peppers or buy roasted peppers in "deli" or clamshell containers (as opposed to in jars or cans), freeze the roasted chilies in plastic bags with all the air squeezed out or in vacuum-sealed bags. Be sure to allow freshly-roasted peppers to cool before placing them in the bag. There's no need to peel the roasted peppers before freezing because the skins will peel off quite easily after you thaw the frozen peppers.

Do you have a different way to store peppers? If so, please tell us in a comment below.

Zestfully yours,
Carolina Sauce Company

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