After a slow start our chilli plants are finally on a hot streak, regularly pumping out their fiery horned fruit. But with the frosts not far away it’s time to harvest and use them as quickly as possible. We have two types of chilli growing – the curiously shaped Scotch bonnet and the curiously coloured purple gusto – and we’re reeling them in whatever their size and colour.
So, with a blazing booty building up, here are three suggestions for preserving the heat.
1. Hot and dry
If you’re unable to string you chillies up and dry them in the sunshine then a warm interior is required. Best bets… a greenhouse, airing cupboard or oven on a low heat with the door open (they like a bit of air with the warmth). Before drying rinse them in salt water (it helps fight bacteria) and lay them out on kitchen towel. When dried pack in airtight containers.
2. Hot and salty
A quick and easy pickle is a hot tip to preserve your chillies for an extra month, and they’ll be great for adding to cooked dishes and salads. You can pickle whole or chopped, but if the former then prick small holes in them first to allow the salty vinegar to penetrate inside the fruit. Pack 100g chillies into a sterlised jar, heat 200ml vinegar and 2 teaspoons of salt, pour over the chillies and seal.
3. Hot and sticky
This year I’ve gone for chilli jam (or sweet chilli sauce if it doesn’t set) which goes well with cheese, cold meats and greasy snacks. It can also be stirred into the cooking pot for sweet and sour dishes. Most recipes state using red chillies, but this is only for visual appeal – I’ve got a multicoloured line up of firepower in my jars.
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 in an extra spicy mood. Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar, chop the 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. Should see you in sweet, sticky heat for three months.
*Sugar that contains pectin to make it set.