What to do with a lot of naga jolokia chili peppers
October 31, 2010 9:45 AM   Subscribe

Our CSA gave us 2 1/2 pounds of extremely hot peppers, mostly naga jolokia. I'd like to make a hot sauce that I can give away at Christmastime. What do I need to know to make a sauce that will keep unrefrigerated? I'm open to other applications as well.

With this amount of heat, I'd expect that whatever I make will be used very slowly, like a drop or two at a time. So it's important that it will keep. I'd also like to be able to ship it. I don't have a grill, drier, or equipment for fermenting or canning. We keep our regular store-bought hot sauce on the shelf after we open it, but recipes for homemade hot sauce usually say to keep it in the fridge.
posted by hydrophonic to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Might not be what you want, but I made sherry peppers last Christmas. Stab the peppers with a sharp knife, put them in a jar or bottle, pour sherry over the top, press the peppers down to force out the air, top up any extra space with sherry. The sherry will turn into a hot sauce, while preserving the peppers at the same time. It's great for adding to soups, Caribbean food and also Chinese (I guess you could even make an oriental version with slices of ginger and rice wine instead of the sherry).

Anyway, this keeps. I've had a jar on the go for 10 months just in the cupboard.
posted by howfar at 10:00 AM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

Although I DO refrigerate and freeze the sauce I make (see http://ask.metafilter.com/99216/Cooking-with-fresh-cayenne-peppers ) I've had batches keep for years. I'd feel comfortable keeping it out of the fridge in a sealed container though - it only goes in the fridge because that's our habit, not because its necessary.
posted by blaneyphoto at 10:21 AM on October 31, 2010

Sorry if this is a dumb question but it seems worth asking: are you sure they're actually naga jolokia? It seems weird to me that a CSA would send a couple pounds of that specific pepper to general CSA members, and there are similar looking peppers that aren't nearly as hot.
posted by wondermouse at 10:42 AM on October 31, 2010

Yeah, it seems very odd to me a CSA would send that many really, really hot peppers to you (unless this is like eight deliveries worth). Have you tasted them?

That said, hot sauce and put in jars. With enough vinegar, it seems like it should keep.

Also, drying peppers isn't hard at all -- I did it accidentally with some finger chiles a while back just by leaving them out for a few weeks, but just laying them out and putting them somewhere not too wet would probably do it. A high shelf would probably do it. Or hang a platform. Or do it the traditional way and put them on strings and hang up high. People didn't always have equipment or special-purpose driers after all!

Dried peppers are super easy to use -- either shred up fine and put in onions, etc. while making something that you want hot or you can re-hydrate in warm water and puree with mortar & pestle or with a food processor.
posted by R343L at 11:02 AM on October 31, 2010

Response by poster: Yep, I'm sure. I showed up at the end of the day on the last pickup of the season, and our farmer had a bushel of them that she was eager to unload. I could have gotten at least five more pounds. Also, I ate three of them.*

howfar, I'm happy to get any suggestions on how to preserve these, so your idea is most welcome.

blaneyphoto, is it the vinegar in your recipe that preserves the sauce? If I add fruit or carrots, will that make a difference?

I'm not ruling out buying pickling supplies if that's what I need to do to be safe.

*Just kidding! But I could definitely sense the heat when I had them laid out on the counter for my photo.
posted by hydrophonic at 11:05 AM on October 31, 2010

My approach is far from scientific, so I can only guess that its the vinegar. I've never tried adding other stuff like fruit so I can't help with that unfortunately!
posted by blaneyphoto at 11:11 AM on October 31, 2010

Just don't put them in oil, unless you pressure-can them. Friends of ours gave us unrefrigerated hot peppers in oil, and the gas produced was obvious evidence of their contamination. Botulism spores are common in the garden and the home, and they love to grow in any low-acid, low-oxygen situation, such as peppers or garlic in oil.

Vinegar provides enough acid to prevent the growth of botulism, unless it's too dilute. It's safest to follow a recipe from a reputable source such as a county extension service (in the US). Here's a link to recipes for Making Pickled Peppers at Home, from the Colorado State University Extension Service. Never adjust recipes like this by reducing the ratio of vinegar to other ingredients.
posted by Ery at 11:14 AM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

I chop my peppers up, toss them into a mason jar with olive oil and vinegar and leave it untouched for a few months, refreshing with vinegar or olive oil if needed. The longer you can age it, the better (my best batch was aged for a year). Then, a few days before I intend to make the hot sauce, I toss some garlic in.

I then take this mash and cook it on the stove, letting it boil for a few minutes, adding a pinch or two of sugar for taste. Also, I may add some more vinegar if it tastes like it needs it.

I let it cool, pour it into a blender and puree. Then I funnel it into a squeeze bottle.
posted by vivzan at 11:17 AM on October 31, 2010

Just about any vinegar-based hot sauce (like blaneyphoto's) will keep forever unopened in the bottle, and then just about forever once you open it (and yes, it should probably be in the fridge rather than on the counter). The vinegar will keep the peppers from rotting, unlike fresh salsas which won't keep for long.

You can add fruit or carrots, but that'll up the sugar in the recipe, which will make it spoil faster (think months in the fridge rather than forever). You can always substitute citrus acids like lemon or lime juice for some of the vinegar, though. There are a lot of good recipes here -- they'll give you an idea of what proportions to use.
posted by vorfeed at 11:18 AM on October 31, 2010

You can also make pepper jam. I would cut it with sweet peppers but the combination of heat and sweet has great potential.

You also have the option of preservation by smoking the peppers. Now, be careful of the fumes.

With that much pepper I would be inclined to make jars of Vietnamese style chili sauce. Here is a site with not just Vietnamese but also your own Sriracha sauce. Here.

I would go with chili garlic paste because it serves as the potential base of yes, BBQ sauce. Delightful sauce. Soul selling sauce.
posted by jadepearl at 12:18 PM on October 31, 2010

Other applications: Candied hot peppers

You've probably had the candied orange peel, it's sweet on sugar on orange. The candied hot pepper is sweet and then ooh it is spicy, but, the candying process takes out a lot of the heat and makes them more palatable. They can be improved still by, of course, dipping them in chocolate.

Any generic candied orange peel recipe will work. It's pretty easy but can take a little finesse at the beginning, to get the sugar temperatures right. Or, use this as an excuse to buy one of the bad-ass infrared candy thermometers for yourself.
posted by whatzit at 12:37 PM on October 31, 2010

Best answer: *pulls up chair and sits down*

Okay. A basic point about preserving things without refrigeration first. Unless you have a pressure canner, you're going to be limited to an extent; if a food is high in acid, then you can easily can it on your stovetop using the "water bath" method (this is dead easy -- get mason jars, the kind with the two-part lid, put the food in, put the lid on the jar, and then boil the jar for a certain period of time). If a food is low in acid, then the temperature you get by water bath canning simply isn't high enough to kill microorganisms in the food.

However, the fact that you want to make hot SAUCE means you're in some luck. Because hot sauces use vinegar, usually, and vinegar is an acid -- bingo.

This recipe, on the Ball canning product site, is a recipe for Thai hot sauce; it calls for red pepper flakes rather than red peppers, but it's good to look at to see the process. Here's even more canning recipes, and some are for hot sauce or "things to do with hot peppers".

I would NOT "adapt" any recipes you see, if you're new to canning -- the recipes are pretty strictly formulated in terms of acid level of the foods involved, and unless you want to run a pH test on your brew, you won't know whether what you've made has the same acid content as the already-proven recipe before you. The most I would do is halve or double a recipe.

Pickling the peppers may also be a way to go (there are some such recipes on the second link I just gave you); you can water-bath can the pickled whatevers as well, the same way. Or, heck, if you only have enough peppers for one or two jars, just do the pickling process (which usually consists of "pack the peppers into a jar, boil the vinegar and your chosen spices together and then pour it into the jar to cover the peppers"), and then let it cool and leave it in your fridge. The cold and the vinegar will keep things from spoiling a good while (I have some pickled peppers in my fridge from last year and they still look fine).

A third option is: chile pepper jelly. I just made this this year; it includes apples and vinegar, both of which are high acid and also balance out the heat a bit. Here's the recipe:

4 pounds green apples
4 ounces hot chiles
1 red bell pepper
1 sliced lemon
3 cups white vinegar
3 cups water
About 3 cups sugar
Optional (for color) - 1 cup sliced plums, 1 cup cranberries, or a handful of red onion skins

Roughly chop the bell pepper and the chili peppers. Cut the apples into eighths - remove stems, but not the cores. Dump the apples, peppers, and lemon (and the plums/cranberries/onion skins if you're using) into a big pot then add the water and the vinegar. Bring to a boil, and boil about 20 to 30 minutes until the apple peels have separated from the apple pulp.

Line a colander with a couple layers of cheesecloth, set it over a bowl and dump in the apples/peppers mix. Let the juice drain into the bowl for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Measure the juice -- you should have about 4 cups. If you don't yet -- by a lot, as in "I only have 2 cups" -- stir a little water into the pulp and let it drain a little more. (If you're pnly a little shy of 4 cups, then that's okay.)

Measure the juice one more time. Pour it all back into a pot and add 3/4 cup of sugar for every cup of juice. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook, stirring now and then, until it reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer. (Jelly-makers' trick -- things that reach this temperature will definitely jell.)

Now you just ladle it into your jelly jars -- about 4 half-pint jars -- and process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Let cool for an hour, then check the seals.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:43 PM on October 31, 2010 [12 favorites]

I make a ghost chili tequila that's pretty fantastic. Slice three open and put them in a bottle of tequila, let it sit for 24-48 hours. Strain it and enjoy.
posted by Jawn at 3:04 PM on October 31, 2010

In my fridge is a jar of red bell pepper/strawberry/ghost pepper jelly that a friend made.

It is possibly the best thing ever.
posted by nenequesadilla at 4:25 PM on October 31, 2010

If you want a way to use up a bit of what you have in a different way, what about Harissa [one recipe of many]. Keeps for a month in the fridge under a little oil, and is the best rub/marinade for grilled poultry I've ever had. Might make a change after a month of sweet chilli pickles.

Incidentally if those are proper jolokias or habaneros you've got enough to give yourself a reasonable chemical burn doing the prep by hand. Get a pair of nitrile food gloves from Sam's, and watch the blender is properly sealed if you're using one. I've seen someone get a squirt of liquidized habanero in the eye from a sauce bottle: not nice.
posted by cromagnon at 4:39 PM on October 31, 2010

I'm a new gardener and this cayenne pepper plant I bought went batshit. (Do they all produce so well?) I decided to make hot sauce based on a recipe in that other Ask Me thread: chopped peppers boiled with vinegar and salt, leave to sit for weeks or months, then strain and bottle for holiday gifts. (I got an artist friend to make me a cool label and everything.)

The one thing I learned is about the fumes of hot peppers boiled in vinegar: not is it like something from WWI, the poison fog hangs out in your house for days and days. So when I did a second (and then third) batch, I boiled them outside on the grill.
posted by CunningLinguist at 4:44 PM on October 31, 2010

I just did this last week!


2 tips that are very important:

1. sterilize the jar
2. pressure-cook (or boil in something that is large enough to cover the jar in water) to seal

if you don't do 1 and 2, you get to have your own botulism party later. learned this the fun way with canning garlic once.
posted by SeƱor Pantalones at 5:02 PM on October 31, 2010

Re-iterating senor pantalones advice above vis: pressure-cooking or boiling to seal the jars; this is what I was getting at. But re-iterating my own advice about acid in the recipe being the determining factor between whether you have to pressure-cook the jar or you can just get away with the water bath.

If you're using a specific canning recipe (several exist), it should tell you which method you'll need to use in that recipe. If you're using a recipe of your own devising, maybe try checking with a local university about how to test your recipe and see what the pH level is.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:32 PM on October 31, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! I took the plunge into canning. Quite an adventure! By the time I got my supplies, figured out my recipes, and found the time, the naga jolokias, which were already a little beat up when I got them, had started to go off. Even with a fan out the back door and a bandanna over my face and nose, seeding the peppers and trimming out the bad parts was quite the ordeal. Unfortunately, over half the pulp went into the trash. But I've got a string of various chilies strung up to dry, seven pints of pineapple-habanero-naga jolokia hot sauce (this recipe, slightly modified and tested with ph strips), five pints of EmpressCallipygos' jelly, and two bags of chilies in the freezer ready to go.
posted by hydrophonic at 9:46 PM on November 22, 2010

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