new mexican hatch chili peppers on a board

What to Do with Excess Chili Peppers (New Mexican)

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We love using every bit of produce we grow in the garden. Sometimes there is a lot of produce to figure out what to do with so we came up with these ideas for what to do with excess chili peppers from the garden.

what to do with excess chili peppers, new mexican

I love to grow New Mexican chili peppers to cook with and dry. They are one of my favorite hot peppers to grow. But when you get too many hot peppers, it’s sometimes hard to know what to do with all that heat! The most popular chili they grow in New Mexico is hatch chilies. They are sometimes called Anaheim or Poblano peppers when grown in other places.

But there are a lot of varieties of New Mexican chilies and differing opinions on what a chili pepper is. Generally, any spicy pepper is considered a chili. But we are focusing on New Mexican chili peppers such as hatch in this article.

Health benefits of chili peppers

Chili peppers are a great flavor ingredient that has a lot of health benefits. Capsaicin, the main bioactive plant compound in chili peppers, has some unique properties. It binds with pain receptors, which are nerve endings that sense pain. This induces a burning sensation but does not cause any real burning injuries.

Obesity is a serious health condition that increases your risk of many chronic illnesses, such as heart disease and diabetes. Some evidence suggests that capsaicin can promote weight loss by reducing appetite and increasing fat burning.

Types of chili peppers

Chili pepper pods are technically berries. When used fresh, they are most often prepared and eaten like a vegetable. Whole pods can be dried and then crushed or ground into chili powder that is used as a spice or seasoning.

Chilies can be dried to prolong their shelf life. Chili peppers can also be preserved by brining, immersing the pods in oil, or by pickling.

New Mexican chili peppers are a popular type of chili pepper primarily grown in the state of New Mexico, USA. These peppers are known for their unique flavor and are an essential ingredient in traditional New Mexican cuisine.

There are several varieties of New Mexican chili peppers, each with its own distinct characteristics. Some of the most common varieties include:

hatch chilies roasted and cut up in a bowl
  1. Anaheim: This is a mild chili pepper with a slightly sweet and tangy flavor. It is often used in salsas, sauces, and for stuffing.
  2. Big Jim: This variety is larger and spicier than the Anaheim pepper. It has a mild to medium heat level and is commonly used in chili rellenos.
  3. Sandia: The Sandia pepper is a medium to hot variety. It has a fruity flavor and is often used in traditional New Mexican dishes like green chile stew and enchiladas.
  4. Chimayó: The Chimayó chili pepper is a small, medium-hot variety. It has a smoky and earthy flavor and is often ground into a powder and used as a seasoning.
  5. Hatch: Hatch chiles are arguably the most famous type of New Mexican chili peppers. They are grown in the Hatch Valley region of New Mexico and are known for their medium to hot heat level and rich, robust flavor. Hatch chiles are often roasted and used in a variety of dishes, including salsas, stews, and burgers.

New Mexican chili peppers are highly versatile and can be used in both fresh and dried forms. They are integral to New Mexican cuisine and are a key component of dishes such as green chile sauce, posole, and tamales. These peppers are also popular outside of New Mexico, and their unique flavor and heat have made them sought after by chili pepper enthusiasts and chefs around the world.

These are just a few examples, and there are many more chili pepper varieties out there, each with its own unique characteristics. The heat levels mentioned are approximate and can vary depending on factors like growing conditions and individual sensitivity.

Fresh chili peppers

Fresh chili peppers can be used in various ways to add heat and flavor to your dishes. Here are some common methods for using fresh excess chili peppers:

  • Slicing or Dicing: Slice or dice the chili peppers and add them directly to your dishes. They can be added to stir-fries, sautés, soups, stews, or salads. Adjust the amount based on your desired level of heat.
  • Salsas and Dips: Finely chop or blend the chili peppers with other ingredients like tomatoes, onions, garlic, cilantro, and lime juice to create a spicy salsa or dip. This can be enjoyed with tortilla chips, tacos, grilled meats, or as a condiment.

Remember to start with smaller amounts of chili peppers and gradually increase the quantity based on your desired level of spiciness. It’s always a good idea to taste and adjust as you go to find the right balance of heat for your palate.

What to do with chili peppers

Chili peppers are incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of ways. Here are some popular suggestions on what you can do with excess chili peppers:

  • Cooking: Chili peppers are a staple in many cuisines around the world. You can add them to salsas, stews, soups, stir-fries, curries, and sauces to add heat and flavor. The level of spiciness varies between different types of chili peppers, so make sure to taste and adjust accordingly.
  • Stuffing: Some chili pepper varieties like jalapeños or poblanos can be stuffed with various fillings. Popular options include cheese, meat, seafood, or a combination of ingredients. After stuffing, they can be baked, grilled, or fried until the pepper is tender and the filling is cooked.
  • Roasting: Roasting chili peppers brings out their flavors and adds a smoky element. Place the whole peppers directly over an open flame, grill, or under a broiler until the skin is charred and blistered. Once roasted, remove the skin, stem, and seeds, and use the flesh in salsas, sauces, or as a topping for dishes.
  • Pickling: Pickling chili peppers is a popular method to preserve them and enhance their flavor. You can create your own pickling brine using vinegar, water, salt, and spices like garlic or peppercorns. Place the chili peppers in sterilized jars, pour the brine over them, seal the jars, and store them in the refrigerator for a few weeks before using. Pickled chili peppers can be enjoyed on sandwiches, burgers, salads, or as a condiment.
  • Infusing oils and vinegars: You can create flavorful chili-infused oils or vinegars by adding whole or dried chili peppers to a bottle of oil or vinegar. Let the mixture sit for a few weeks to allow the flavors to develop. These infused oils or vinegars can be used in dressings, marinades, or as a drizzle over dishes for a spicy kick.
  • Freezing: If you don’t have time to process your chili peppers immediately, you can freeze them for later use. Wash and dry the peppers, remove the stems and seeds if desired, then place them in a sealed freezer bag or container. Freezing helps retain their flavor, and you can use them directly in recipes without thawing.

Remember, when handling chili peppers, it’s a good idea to wear gloves to protect your hands and avoid touching your face or eyes, as they can cause irritation or a burning sensation.

How to store chili peppers

Fresh chili peppers can be stored in the refrigerator to help prolong their shelf life. Place them in a perforated plastic bag or a paper towel to absorb excess moisture. This helps prevent mold and extends their freshness. Avoid washing the peppers until you are ready to use them, as moisture can accelerate spoilage.

How to preserve chili peppers

Preserving excess chili peppers allows you to enjoy their heat and flavor long after the harvest season. Here are a few methods for preserving chili peppers:

  • Drying: Air drying or using a food dehydrator is a popular method for preserving chili peppers.
  • Freezing: Freezing chili peppers helps retain their flavor and heat. Wash and dry the peppers, then remove the stems and seeds if desired. You can choose to leave them whole, slice them, or dice them. Place the prepared peppers in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze them for a few hours until firm. Transfer the frozen peppers to airtight freezer bags or containers, removing as much air as possible. Label them with the date and store them in the freezer. Frozen chili peppers can be used directly in cooked dishes without thawing.
  • Pickling: Pickling chili peppers is a great way to preserve them and add tangy flavor. Slice the peppers or leave them whole, and place them in sterilized jars. In a saucepan, heat a mixture of vinegar, water, salt, sugar, and any desired spices or herbs. Bring the liquid to a boil and then pour it over the chili peppers in the jars. Ensure the peppers are fully submerged in the liquid. Let the jars cool to room temperature, then seal them tightly and refrigerate. Allow a few days for the flavors to develop before consuming. Pickled chili peppers can be used as a condiment or added to various dishes.
  • Infused Oil or Vinegar: Infusing chili peppers into oil or vinegar adds flavor and heat. Slice the chili peppers or leave them whole, and place them in a sterilized jar or bottle. Fill the jar or bottle with your chosen oil or vinegar, ensuring the peppers are fully submerged. Seal the jar tightly and let it sit for a few days or weeks to allow the flavors to infuse. Strain the oil or vinegar to remove the chili peppers before using. Infused oil or vinegar can be used in dressings, marinades, or as a drizzle over dishes.
dried new mexican chili peppers

How to dry chili peppers

Drying excess chili peppers is a popular method of preservation that concentrates their flavors and allows you to enjoy them for an extended period. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to dry chili peppers:

Pick ripe chili peppers from the plant, making sure they are clean and free from any blemishes or signs of decay. Rinse them gently under cold water and pat them dry with a clean towel.

Choose a drying method for your excess chili peppers. There are a few different methods you can use to dry chili peppers:

  • Air drying: This method requires a well-ventilated space. Create a string or thread loop and pierce the stem of each pepper with it. Space the peppers out, ensuring good airflow between them. Hang them in a dry and well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight. You can use a well-ventilated room, a porch, or even a dehydrator with a low or no heat setting.
  • Oven drying: Preheat your oven to its lowest temperature setting (ideally around 120-140°F or 50-60°C). Place the peppers on a baking sheet in a single layer, ensuring they are not touching each other. Leave the oven door slightly ajar to allow moisture to escape. Let the peppers dry in the oven for several hours, checking periodically for desired dryness.
  • Food dehydrator: If you have a food dehydrator, it’s an efficient and controlled way to dry chili peppers. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for drying times and temperatures.

The drying time will vary depending on the size and moisture content of the chili peppers, as well as the drying method you choose. It can take several days to a few weeks for the peppers to fully dry. Rotate or turn the peppers occasionally to ensure even drying and prevent mold formation.

Chili peppers are considered dry when they feel brittle, and the skin is shriveled and crisp. Break a pepper in half; it should snap easily. If there’s any flexibility or moisture remaining, the peppers need more time to dry.

Once the chili peppers are completely dry, remove them from the drying area or device. You can leave them whole or grind them into flakes or powder using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Store the dried peppers in airtight containers in a cool, dark place. Whole dried chili peppers will maintain their quality for several months to a year, while ground flakes or powder may lose their potency over time.

Dried chili peppers can be used in various recipes to add flavor and heat. Remember to label the containers with the pepper variety and the date of drying for future reference.

Cooking with chili peppers

Cooking with chili peppers can add a delightful heat and depth of flavor to your dishes. Here are some ideas for using chili peppers in your cooking:

  • Curries and Stews: Chili peppers are commonly used in curries and stews to infuse them with heat and flavor. Add whole or chopped chili peppers to simmering sauces, curries, or stews during cooking. Remember to remove them before serving if you prefer milder heat.
  • Marinades and Rubs: Create spicy marinades or rubs for meats or vegetables by combining chili peppers with herbs, spices, citrus juice, and oil. Let the ingredients marinate for a while to allow the flavors to meld before grilling, roasting, or baking.

Remember to taste your dishes as you go and adjust the amount of chili peppers according to your desired level of spiciness. The heat intensity can vary among chili pepper varieties, so be mindful of your personal preferences and those of your guests.

Chili peppers recipes

Check out these recipes that use excess Chili peppers to make them taste amazing:

For more recipes that use hot peppers, check these out.

For more ideas on what to do with excess produce, check these out:

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