How many times have you had to play Russian Roulette with the little bits of red and green vegetable in your meal wondering if the next one is going to blow your head off? Is it a bit of chilli or a harmless bit of runner bean or sweet pepper? Sometimes eating a seemingly harmless vegetable balti can turn into a battle for survival but now, at last, we can save ourselves from imminent destruction by preserving our chillies in a sauce rather than using them in small pieces like tiny hand grenades.
Please feel free to nominate me for the Nobel peace prize for cookery, but an instructibles T-shirt will do fine! The question really is: 'Why would anybody want to preserve chilies whole when they could easily be made into a much more user friendly sauce or paste instead?' Strangely, there is a Russian Roulette game that people play with home made chocolates - Eleven of the chocolates in the box are nice tasting pralines but the Twelfth is a 'blow your head off' chilli bomb!
This sauce, or paste, is designed to be used by the teaspoon full in curries, casseroles, cakes etc. and it's too hot to spread on cheese on toast unless, of course, your mouth is lined with a generous coating of Teflon. However, if you ever find yourself attacked by flesh eating Zombies, smear your whole body with this stuff and the Zombies will never want to eat you?
Following on from Growing Hot Chillies in a Cold Climate It's now time to harvest my lovely chillies and preserve them for future use.
|Hazards:||..........||Clostridium botulinum poisoning|
Step 1: Food Safety
Food poisoning is often caused by bacteria, most of which are killed at temperatures of 100 degrees C.
100ºC= 212ºF and is the temperature at which water boils at sea level.
However, some of the bacteria spores are only killed with either boiling acid such as vinegar or pressurised water at between 116ºC and 121ºC (240ºF to 250ºF).
The most dangerous bacteria is Clostridium botulinum which creates a neuro-toxin that may be fatal. The spores of this bacteria can be killed by boiling the vegetable/meat in vinegar of pH 4.6 or less for a certain amount of time which is dependant on the size of the item. For example, a large whole beetroot would require a lot longer than thin kale leaves. Another thing to be aware of is that if the bacteria spores become coated in oil, they are then more resistant to high temperatures. If this is beginning to sound complicated, then yes, you are correct - food safety is well researched by qualified professionals and commercial food producers go to great lengths to ensure that their food is safe.
Unless we can guarantee the pH of our food, the safest way is to use a pressure canner and follow the canner instructions very carefully. In this case, the food does not need to be acidic (no vinegar is required) but needs to be processed at the right pressure for the right amount of time. Also, altitude above sea level needs to be taken into account as this affects temperatures and pressures within the canning cooker.
General food hygiene should also be employed, for which there are many online courses available.
Step 2: Harvesting the Chillies
Most of my chillies are the 'Hot Cayenne' variety but I have a few 'Red Habaneros' and some 'Orange Habaneros'. I am expecting them all to turn red or yellow as appropriate, but the only fool proof way of telling if they are ready is by twisting the chilli slightly on it's stalk and seeing if it detaches from the stalk easily or not. Harvesting the chillies too early is not the end of the world although it will result in lower heat, but give extra vigour to the plant and any remaining chillies on the plant. Another way to check that the chillies are ripe is to harvest one chilli, cut it open and check that the seeds inside are fully developed.
Keep the different varieties separate and process them into separate jars as I found that the 'Hot Cayenne' variety had a much better flavour and was slightly spoilt by mixing with habaneros, which I did not like so much.
Step 3: Equipment Required
Hazardous chemical suit
1 litre domestic blender
Hose pipe or shower
- Chopping board and knife
Step 4: Seed Saving
Select some of the chillies from your best plants, cut them open and carefully separate the seeds from the pods. Dry the seeds on a piece of paper, seal them in a paper envelope, label them and store them away from children.
To retain a pure chilli type eg 'Red Habanero', the seeds need to be from plants that are isolated from other chilli plants or you will get mongrel plants produced.
Step 5: Ingredients
Since I am using a 1 litre blender to process my chillies, I have calculated that I need at least 125 g of chillies to get the machine to work properly, otherwise it will just chuck the mixture up the side of the jar and the blade will spin around like a crazy Mexican devil - believe me that this is true as I tried it! 125g is the absolute minimum quantity in a 1 litre blender.
This recipe is incredibly simple, look there are only 4 ingredients:
- 125g of hot chillies
- 75ml of sunflower oil
- 50g of beetroot
- 75ml of Vinegar
Why, you may ask, is there no garlic, pepper, paprika, salt, herbs and all the nice little extras that make a sauce so special? The reason is that all these things can be put into the main recipe that the sauce is being added to. This sauce is not designed to be used on it's own as, for one, it is incredibly strong in heat. I am not trying to make a pretentious sauce - I'm trying to preserve my chillies and stop playing Russian Roulette with my vegetable fragments!
Blending these simple ingredients will make a nice creamy sauce with a deep red colour given by the addition of beetroot, which also seems to work as an emulsifier so please don't leave it out. Don't worry if you don't like the taste of beetroot as the chillies will overpower it by about a factor of 1,000,000 to 1. You will NOT taste the beetroot! Extra beetroot can be added to get an even deeper red colour if required.
PS. If you don't use the beetroot, your sauce will look like the contents of the photo above. Also, NEVER add salt to this recipe as the salt will try to 'break the emulsion' and the oil may separate. Olive oil could be used, but it could get too thick when cold.
Step 6: Procedure
- Put on disposable gloves, hazardous chemical suit, respirator and goggles. This is to protect yourself against very hot chillies such as the Carolina Reaper, which have a heat value of over 2,000,000 Scovilles.
- Heat up the oil to 160ºC (320ºF) or until the oil starts to smoke. This will kill bacteria spores in the oil. Allow to cool below 100ºC (212ºF) before use in step 5.
- Chop up the beetroot, chop up the chillies, put them in a saucepan, cover them in vinegar and simmer for 5 minutes. Vinegar is 5% to 8% acetic acid in water, with a pH of about 2.4, which is well below the 4.6 required to kill any clostridium botulini spores. Low pH is good.
- Sterilise and clean your blender with boiling water.
- Now throw the chopped chillies, vinegar, chopped beetroot and oil into the blender and whizz up the mixture until it is nice and creamy and no particles can be observed. An ultra-thick sauce can be made by continuing to add chillies until the very point of destruction of the blender - it will start to overheat, emit smoke and smell of burning electrics - this is how you know your sauce is thick enough.
- Pour into a small saucepan and gently simmer (This is for final sterilisation / pasteurisation).
- Sterilise and clean your jars with boiling water and add the mixture.
- If you are lucky enough to own a *Pressure canner / cooker, place the jars with their lids on in the cooker and heat under pressure to above 116 degrees C (240 degrees F) (See canner instructions).
- Carefully clean all your kitchen equipment before removing your personnel protection clothing.
- Step into a shower or get someone to wash you down with a hose pipe before removing your gear.
*Obviously I could really do with having a Pressure canner!
An intelligent question that people might ask is 'Why can't I make the sauce hotter by turning up the power on my cooker?' ........ The answer is that if the sauce contains a large amount of water, all that will happen is that it will boil faster but remain at 100ºC until most of the water is gone. You will also waste a lot of electricity. The science behind this was developed by a guy called Robert Boyle back in 1662 and Boyle's law sates that:
Step 7: Tasting
It's always better to ask somebody else to taste the sauce first, just in case it really is too hot. In any case, second opinions are invaluable.
Step 8: Labelling and Bottling
It's important that nobody mistakes your sauce for something else - so please do use an appropriate label!
And, as the label says, keep out of reach of children.
The produce should store indefinitely at room temperature because the contents are sterile. However, once opened, store in the fridge.
Unless you use an enormous amount of hot chilli sauce in everything you eat, bottle the sauce in small bottles eg 100ml or otherwise the sauce stored in the fridge will go mouldy. If the sauce has Carolina Reapers in it and is mega, mega hot go for 50ml bottles.
Have fun with your hot chillies!
If you absolutely MUST use 1lb (500ml) jars then fill the jar to 3/4 full and top up with vegetable oil. The oil will protect the produce underneath from mould as oil always floats on water, even when a spoonful of chilli sauce is removed every now and again - just allow the oil to fall off the spoon.
More Chilli related Instructables can be found here: