Monday, August 10, 2009

Pepper Powder

Making salsa is one of the priorities during Canning Season, which requires a careful blending of tomatoes, onions, herbs, and of course, SPICES!

For some reason the peppers in my garden always seem to ripen before the tomatoes do, so I've discovered that making my own Pepper Powder is the best way to preserve the peppers. That way, when I'm making salsa, I just add a small bit to the salsa mix. Also, the roasting process seems to enhance the flavor of the peppers and bring out all the delicious nuances of heat and pain.
A couple of notes to heed before you begin:
* WEAR GLOVES when handling any peppers. Do NOT touch your face or eyes with your hands or gloves unless you like the teary-eyed hemorrhoidal pain look.
* DON'T inhale any powder, and try to avoid breathing in the vicinity of the peppers once they're cut up. I don't really have asthma, but I've noticed that if I breathe too deeply too closely to the cut up peppers, I start hacking and gasping. If you're really worried about it, cover your nose and mouth with a bandanna. It'll add to your mystique in the kitchen. If you're really chic you'll top that with an eye patch and masquerade as the Pandering Pepper Pirate. That really brings out the flavors in the pepper powder!

Collect all the peppers from your garden. Wash them carefully in cool water, and place them whole, seeds and all (but stems removed) in a food processor.

Once the peppers are nicely chopped up, quickly dump them onto a foil covered greased cookie sheet and spread until it's about a 1/4 inch thick at most . (Remember, don't breathe in the fumes from the peppers!)
Pretty, huh?

Quick time out for a story here: The last time I made homemade Pepper Powder, I neglected to cover the pan with a sheet of foil, and just figured that a good scrubbing would get the pan sufficiently clean. It seemed to work until I made the next batch of chocolate chip cookies. Not being a cookie fan I hadn't tasted any before handing some to Handyman. Handyman promptly plopped a whole cookie into his mouth, and then promptly had a semi-heart attack from the flame thrower chocolate chip cookies. I suppose the oils from the peppers had seeped into the pan, and remained there even after I'd washed the sheet with soap and water. When I baked the cookies, the oils transferred themselves to Handyman's cookies, ending up all over his Midwestern spice-phobic taste buds.

(Now every time I bake cookies for him he carefully licks the bottom of the cookies to ensure they're not "poisoned").

Back to our homemade Pepper Powder. Put the sheet in the oven, and bake at 300 degrees until the peppers are nicely dried and toasted but NOT burned. The cooking time varies according to the amount of peppers, but I found an hour to two hours was about right.
Again, a reminder to be careful when handling such potent stuff. Use a spatula to scrape up the flakes, and put them in a coffee grinder. Grind up all the stuff until it's nice and fine, and remember to be careful when you open the grinder; some of the powder could still be airborne.
Place the Pepper Powder in the container of your choice, and immediately wash all dishes and surfaces that might have had contact with the powder. To wash out your coffee grinder, put a piece of bread into the grinder and grind that up until it's crumbs. The bread absorbs all the oils from the peppers making it safe to use for coffee again.
Now you can use it for whatever; salsas, Mexican dishes, or chocolate chip cookies!

(Note: the heat of the powder is determined by the peppers you use to start with, but I've found that an 1/8 tsp. of Jalapenos is quite spicy enough to heat up two pints of medium heat salsa. A little goes a loooooong way.)


debi's place said...

Thanks, interesting.

Love the choc chip cookie part.

All Natural Mama said...

Thanks so much! I hadn't realized you processed them first, now I understand why the cooking time is quicker than I thought. Thanks for the warning about the foil, before I read that part I was thinking I'd skip the foil and just use the pan! :-)

Flipfloppingmamma said...

ya know when you go to the STORE and BUY your pie dough??? You can also purchase Mrs. Wages salsa mix. Dump in tomatoes, dump in seasonings and cook! ha!

TuttleTime said... eyes are watering just looking at this..