Working with Peppers

 

Peppers come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and colors, and they range in flavor from sweet to spicy. If you're looking for a certain flavor for a dish, research (and taste) different varieties of peppers to find one that works perfectly for you.

Most of the heat in peppers comes from the white ribs running down the insides, so if you want to mellow your peppers a bit, just cut or pull out that part before adding your peppers to a dish.

Do you like a little hot sauce every now and then? How about fire in your mouth? Before you drench your enchiladas with a bottle of hot sauce, check out the ingredients. Here's how some common peppers used in sauces rank from mildest to hottest:

  • El Paso (Mildest)
  • Anaheim
  • Jalapeno
  • Hidalgo
  • Serrano
  • Cayenne
  • Tabasco
  • Red Chile
  • Chiltecpin
  • Tabiche
  • Bahamian
  • Kumataka
  • Habanero (Hottest)

When you're handling fresh peppers, always wear rubber gloves. Oils in the peppers can irritate and burn your skin and will certainly sting your eyes, so don't touch your eyes while working with peppers, even if you are using gloves.

To peel fresh chili and sweet peppers, first roast them on a grill, under the oven broiler, or on a long fork over a gas flame. Turn the peppers often until the skin is charred all over, then immediately seal them in a plastic bag or brown paper sack for fifteen minutes. The skin will then peel off easily.

When bell peppers are in season, you'll find them very inexpensive in stores. If you want to buy your peppers in bulk, you can chop and prepare them as if you were doing so for a meal right when you get them home. Place the pieces you aren't going to use right away in a zipper bag and pop them in the freezer. This will help you save money and time when it comes to making the stew or soup that needs the peppers later. (If you're using the peppers for a cooked meal, there is no need to defrost—just add the desired amount straight from the freezer.)

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