Buying & Storing Chilis
Fresh Chilis - Green or Red
- These should be crisp and bright when purchased and have no spots that
might be going bad.
- Leave them out on a counter for a couple of hours to make sure they don't
have excess surface water, then bag loosly in plastic (the bag should be
able to breath) or paper. Store in the refrigerator.
- Bell peppers I bag separately in small bags open at the top. This keeps
them well and isolates any one that goes to rot.
- Stored as above, green bells should keep at least two weeks in a good
refrigerator, some hot green chilis for three to four weeks. Red ripe chilis
will generally not keep as long as green ones.
Dried Red Chilis
Working with Chilis
- These should be bright red to black red depending on type and should be
shiny on the surface. A dull surface indicates excessive age.
- If you see the surface become dull or red color fading to orange,
discard and buy new ones.
- Store in a sealed container in a cool place away from light and they
should keep a year or so.
Chilis are used unripe (green), red ripe, and dried red. Dried green
bell peppers are used as a flavoring additive in the food industry. There
is little difference between the hotness of a green chili and its red ripe
form, but some hotness is lost in drying.
- Caution: After working with hot chilis, especially
fresh ones, immediately wash your hands, tools and work surfaces with
strong detergent, soap or cleanser. Until then do not touch your eyes or
genital areas - or anyone else's, if you know what's good for you.
If you accidentally do, the sting goes away in 10 to 20 minutes and will
do no actual harm.
- Chilis are Safe: Cookbooks telling you hot chilis
will severely burn or blister you hands (so wear rubber gloves) are either
blowing smoke or have extrordinarily tender hands. Chili hotness is a nerve
receptor thing and does no physical damage. Being a guy who works hard, my
hands are too tough to have ever felt chili sting, but some society ladies
or fashion models might have hands that tender (but wouldn't be chopping
- Cleanup: The hotness in chilis is oil soluble
and not water soluble. Just rinsing won't get rid of it, you have to use
detergents, cleansers or other potions you'd use to clean oily things.
- Where the heat is: The hotness of a chili
resides in oil droplets clinging to the internal membranes that hold the
seeds, not in the seeds as many cookbooks tell you. If your chili is too
hot you can cool it by carefully removing these membranes. In a dried chili,
or one that has been abused, the hotness has been smeared onto the seeds
- Chopping Fresh Chilis: Cut the cap off,
then cut it in half lengthwise, squish each half flat, cut side down, and
slice lengthwise into very thin strips. Finally, arrange the strips into a
bundle and slice crosswise very thin. No further chopping is required in
- Chopping Dried Chilis: This can be a problem. They
are tough and don't grind in a mortar and if you try to chop them the pieces
jump all over the place. If I don't want them too small I use a pair of
scissors and cut them into thin slices. A couple of presses with a knife
blade through the stack of slices is probably all the chopping you will
need. Most of the time, though, I just run them to powder in a whirling
blade coffee/spice grinder (be careful not to breath the dust).