Growing your own food is a great strategy for off-grid living or starting your journey to becoming self-sufficient. The problem with growing your own food is how to store the excess long term for future use. Each crop will have its own best methods of preservation, and today we are going to be talking about how to store your excess chillies!
The Importance of Chillies in Your Diet
Chillies are a healthy addition to your diet. They contain up to seven times the vitamin C level of an orange. Chillies are also a good source of vitamin A, E, Beta-carotene, potassium and folic acid. Some of the health benefits of chillies include relief from sinus congestion, improving digestion, relief of muscle pain as well as joint and nerve pain. Some people have even reported that chillies help to relieve migraines!
Besides the nutritional value of chillies, they are also tasty and can be used to add a new dimension of flavour and heat to a variety of dishes!
Chillies are seasonal growers, so in order to have chillies all year round, you need to preserve your excess chillies for out of season use.
How To Preserve Your Excess Chillies
Preserving food is a skill that most of our forefathers knew how to do and it was part of the daily routine. Refrigerators and electricity were not an option! Most modern day people have lost this skill and will need to acquire this skill for off-grid living or homesteading!
When it comes to chillies, there are a number of ways in which to preserve them for later use, some being more complicated or time consuming than others.
Here are 6 basic methods of preserving your chillies!
- Drying or dehydrating (various methods)
- Pickling chillies
- Freeze your chillies. This only works if you have the means to freeze!
- Fermented chillies
- Preserved in oil
- Salted chillies
Drying Your Chillies
Drying is a great way to preserve excess chillies and there are a number of ways to do it. The fleshier chili varieties such as Habaneros and Bishops Crown chillies are not well suited to the drying method. The additional moisture in the fleshy parts makes them hard to dry out before they become mouldy unless you have a dehydrator.
The chillies with a waxy coating such as Birds Eye Chillies are better candidates for the drying method.
The easiest method to dry out the chillies would be to lay them out in the sun to dry on a surface that allows ventilation both top and bottom. This method is the most basic, but may not be possible in cooler or high humidity climates. In these instances you may need a dehydrator.
To dry out your chillies, you would need to maintain an optimum temperature of about 25C (77F). If your temperature is lower than this, you run the risk of developing mould and losing the batch. If the temperature is too high, the dried chillies become brittle, and this is ok if you want to make chili flakes or powdered chili.
Other drying methods you can try are as follows:
- Oven drying
- Using a dehydrator
- Air drying in a ristra – tied together with string
Take a look at our post on 4 Ways To Dry Chillies for more details on these methods.
If you enjoy the tart taste of pickled foods, then this is a great way to preserve chillies for future use. Pickled chillies can be enjoyed on their own, added to a salad to spice up the flavour, or added to stews and curries.
They make a great relish for serving with steak or cold meats, or used as an additional pizza topping!
Read our post How to Pickle Chillies for a detailed recipe for this method.
Obviously, this method is dependent on having a freezer and electricity to power the freezer! If your homestead has neither, then one of the other preservation methods will have to suffice.
Chillies handle freezing pretty well. They will retain their flavour and heat. The freezing method of preserving excess chillies is best used on the fleshier chili varieties such as Bishops Hat or Habaneros.
The method for freezing whole chillies is quite simple.
- spread them out on a baking tray so they are not touching (prevents them becoming a solid lump)
- freeze then on the baking tray
- Once frozen, place them in a sealed container for storage
Another freezing method is to process the chillies first.
- Cut off the stalks
- Remove the seeds (if you don’t want too much heat)
- Freeze in a sealed container or bag, preferably in single portion size quantities.
You can take the processing a step further and chop the chillies finely, place the chopped chillies in an ice cube tray and freeze.
You may want to have an ice tray dedicated to this purpose, as anything you freeze in the ice tray after this will be chili flavoured!
Once frozen, place the chili cubes into a container of bag to store in your freezer.
Fermented foods have been in the diet of many cultures, both ancient and modern. Not only is fermentation a useful method of preserving food, but it has health benefits to. You can read about these benefits in our post 5 Reasons Fermented Foods Are Good For You.
Preserving Chillies in Oil
Preserving chillies in oil is a method that not only preserves the chillies, but is a very versatile ingredient to have in your kitchen. Olive oil is the best oil to use for this method of preservation.
The chili infused oil can be used in any number of applications from salad dressings to dipping sauces. The preserved chillies can be used in an equally numerous variety of ways.
Read our post on Preserving Chillies In Oil for details on this method and how to use the preserved chillies!
The salt method is one of the easiest ways to preserve your excess chillies. The indgredients are very basic, in fact, you only need 2. Salt and of course, your chillies.
This recipe is to preserve 250g (0.5 lbs) of fresh chillies. Scale up, or down the salt quantity proportionately depending on the amount of your chillies.
For the 250g of chillies you will need 40g (1.4 ounces) salt. I prefer to use Himilayan pink salt, but you can also use a good quality sea salt. It is better to use coarse salt rather than finely ground salt.
The method is as easy as the ingredients!
- Wash your chillies and pat them dry
- Cut off the tops and roughly chop the chillies, leaving the seeds in
- Mix the chopped chillies with 30g (1 ounce) of the salt
- Place the salt and chopped chili mixture in a sterilised glass jar
- Cover the surface of the chillies with remaining salt
- Seal the jar and store in a cool, dry place for a couple of weeks before refrigerating
That’s it! You can add the salted chillies to any dish to add some extra heat and chili flavour!
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