Habanero? Ouch!
June 21, 2014 4:10 PM   Subscribe

How can I get the most out of fresh habanero peppers?

Just came into some habaneros, which I haven't used before. They're hot hot hot, of course -- too hot to use more than a thimbleful in most dishes I cook. Which is fine, but that means a) not much flavor and b) they'll mostly go bad before I use them up.

I know the usual methods to tame heat: balance with sweet, use less, serve w carbs, etc. But I'm not going to cook that much in the next days. So 2 questions:
1. Any suggestions on using them without tearing off the top of my head?
2. How can I keep them for a while? Roast, dry, pickle? Any other ideas?
posted by LonnieK to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Dried habaneros keep their heat very well. You don't "balance" habaneros. In Cuba, habaneros balance you!
posted by telstar at 4:13 PM on June 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

They'll keep if you turn them into a harissa-like paste and freeze it in small portions, but cooking them may also result in turning the very air of your kitchen into a fiery lip- and eye-burning substance. I did it once and the result was delicious but it also nearly killed all of us in the house. So be very wary of sauteing them.
posted by something something at 4:15 PM on June 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian has a really easy recipe for chile garlic paste that I've been using a lot lately. It really showcases the flavor of the peppers well. The recipe uses dried peppers, so I'm not sure how well it would work with fresh, but it's probably possible since you end up adding water anyway. To make it, you just combine 1 cup dried peppers (experiment with the amount of fresh), 1/4 cup chopped garlic, 1/4 cup vinegar, 2 tsp sugar, and 1 tsp salt to a food processor with 1/4 cup hot water. Then, you just puree until it has a good consistency and add more hot water as needed. According to the book, it lasts for three months in the fridge, but your YMMV with the fresh peppers.
posted by PlasticSupernova at 4:19 PM on June 21, 2014

Try this recipe for Hot Pepper Jelly - but use habanero peppers in place of the 'red and green'. This recipe is the most delightful mix of hot and sweet and it's SO GOOD on almost anything you would ever want to eat (bonus: great gift because everyone loves it.) (Oops, just saw that you're not planning to do much cooking - but if you change your mind this is well-worth the effort.)
posted by VioletU at 4:30 PM on June 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've made a lot, and this is the best habanero hot sauce I've made. I also asked a question about this not so long ago that might be of help to you.
posted by smoke at 4:31 PM on June 21, 2014

I really like the Trinidadian Pepper Sauce recipe in this Chowhound thread. Uses up a bunch of habaneros, and it's kept well in the fridge for a month or so every time I've made it (the poster in this thread says it'll keep up to a year, but I use it up pretty quickly!).
posted by DingoMutt at 4:32 PM on June 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Love all these. Here's what I did tonight:
Used a thimbleful in a chile verde.
Used another thimbleful with honey & lime juice for a dipping sauce.

I'll make my way thru these suggestions tomorrow. Thx!
posted by LonnieK at 6:26 PM on June 21, 2014

I'm just spitballing here, but if you're interested in experimenting, here goes. Yesterday some friends and I were talking about making variations on limoncello and someone suggested chiles. The foodiest of us said Noooo because it's been tried, and booze only draws out heat, not flavor. That suggests that capsaicin is alcohol-soluble, while the other flavors in there are oil-soluble (possibly water-soluble, but I'm inclined to think oil). So maybe you could give your chiles a booze-soak to cool them down? You can start by removing the heat centers, namely the pith, the pithy skin inside the flesh, and the seeds. Then slice and soak it up. Dispose of the alcohol afterwards in a manner suitable for chemical weapons. Then taste experimentally, consider soaking in oil, with or without roasting first.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:59 PM on June 21, 2014

I sling them into the freezer. No special prep, just bag them and freeze them. Sure, they come out squishy when they defrost, but as I normally mince them up fine anyway to add to a stew, I don't see that as a problem.
posted by ninazer0 at 12:25 AM on June 22, 2014

I dry them and then grind them to powder. You can add small amounts of this habanero powder to anything you like. Blend with other dried peppers as well.

To dry: cut them in half, trim off the stems and seeds, and air-dry on a cookie sheet. Direct sun or the oven (brief!) will speed this up if need be. For grinding use an electric mill.
posted by lathrop at 3:15 AM on June 22, 2014

Inner beauty hot sauce is a no-cook, delicious (I cut the peppers by about half), essential summer condiment and keeps for several months.
posted by poodelina at 4:53 AM on June 22, 2014

I pickled some jalapenos. I see no reason why your habaneros wouldn't pickle well. Bonus, use the pickling liquid when you use up the peppers to flavor stuff too.
posted by kathrynm at 7:22 AM on June 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

TRUST ME, wear latex gloves when handling, and if not, scrub the shit out of your hands after handling/before going to the loo or engaging in sexytimes.

Don't ask me how I know this. Worst day of my life.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:39 AM on June 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

Chop one or two in half. Drop into a mason jar of vodka. Let sit for a week. Voila! High-octane Bloody Mary juice.

And, yes, use gloves.
posted by zyxwvut at 8:20 AM on June 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Adding to FFFM's list: blowing your nose. Contact lens removal. Just no.

Also an easy test to see if you can use your hands again is to suck on your fingertips for a few seconds.

If you do any large amount of chile processing it would not be overkill to maximize ventilation to your kitchen, close off other rooms of the home, and wear respirators and/or goggles in addition to gloves.

I'd make a fermented hot sauce. You just basically grind up the chilies and some kosher salt and let sit at room temp for a few days, then top off with vinegar (ideally the kind with living cultures), and let it get infused and tangy. You can strain off the solids to make more of a sauce, or leave it a harissa/sambal esque sauce. Pretty low effort, and preserves the floral fruity flavors of the chilies.
posted by fontophilic at 9:12 AM on June 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I like to make a habanero sauce with some carrots for sweetness.

Sauté/sweat an onion, some garlic, and a few peeled carrots until soft. Add some habanero and cook another minute or two, just to toast it a bit. Cool, blend well, and add salt and vinegar (quite a bit of both). You can add some honey too to balance things out.
posted by rossination at 10:39 AM on June 22, 2014

If you add plenty of vinegar and salt, that sauce keeps for at least a few weeks in the fridge.
posted by rossination at 10:40 AM on June 22, 2014

I agree with kathrynm - pickle them! Pickled habs are delicious on tacos!

Also: infuse some tequila! Habanero margaritas are delicious. Just slice one or two habs, remove the seeds, and dump the slices into some silver tequila. Leave for however long you like, but probably not more than 12 hours. I usually leave it sit for three or four hours, then taste the tequila every hour until I've got the heat where I want it.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 4:05 PM on June 22, 2014

Peach or Apricot Habanero Jam.

4 C peaches or apricots (should be slightly underripe). Peel the peaches, chop the meat.
3 C sugar
Juice of a lemon
1 seeded minced habanero
liquid pectin (especially if the fruit is ripe)

Into a non-reactive pot, bring the fruit, sugar, lemon jiuce and pepper to a strong simmer. Skim off the foam. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, add 1/2 - 2/3 of the pectin. Stir well, return to a simmer. Kill the heat and put into sterilized canning jars, filling up to 1/4 of the rim. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. See here for more processing details.

If you don't want to process it, freeze it.

It makes a great glaze for poultry and I would totally use it for baked brie.
posted by plinth at 4:58 PM on June 22, 2014

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