Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Hot for the cold

Preserving food for winter has been essential for thousands of years. Nowadays the food industry takes this task out of our hands. It's comfortable and cheap to buy various preserved vegetables and fruits or meat and fish. And why not?

But there are two unbeatable reasons for making your own freezed, pickled, canned, bottled, etc., food: It's fun and it's delicious!

We are lucky having the chance to grow our own food. At least the little bit our small balcony allows. But more about these possibilities some other time.

some fruits from our balcony

Today we want to focus on one plant, respectively its fruits, we learned to love and which we plant in lots of different kinds for years now. The chili pepper (Capsicum).

Unfortunately we had a very wet summer this year and with it came a very meagre yield. But it seems to us it made our chilis hotter all the more. And no, we aren't sissies – when we say hot, we mean really hot ;-)

NuMex Twilight chili peppers on our balcony

The uses of these fruits in kitchen are manifold, as it can enhance many various dishes. But as the introduction of this article suggests, we are not writing about recipes now, but about the methods of preserving chili peppers for some months.

We want to mention four possibilities – of course there are more – and show more detailed the one we tried out this year.
  1. To freeze chilis is a very easy way to preserve them for up to six months. Simply put them into freezing bags or durable tupperware and store them in your deep freezer. A good tip is to cut them in half or even smaller pieces before. Then you can take the right dose out without the risk of unfreezing more than you want.

  2. Drying might be the oldest and most used technique for chili preservation. You can tie the fruits on a string like you surely have already seen somewhere. They should hang at a warm, dry and well ventilated place. Unfortunately this makes it impossible for us to use drying, because we live in a relatively humid and cool part of Vienna.

  3. If you want to use the hot taste only and don't mind not having the texture of the whole fruit you can easily make a sauce like e.g. “Sambal”. Traditionally the peppers are crushed using pestle and mortar. But you can also use your kitchen blender. For preserving the paste you can salt it or boil and can it.

  4. This year we decided to pickle a great deal of our harvest in vinegar. The peppers keep their taste and you also receive a well spiced vinegar for dressings or cooking. First you should pickle the fruits in brine overnight. Next day you bring a 50:50 mixture of water and vinegar (should be a sour vinegar with at least 5% acid) to boil and add some mustard seeds, a bit of allspice (pimenta) and a couple of bay leaves. Then you take the chili peppers out of the brine, wash and dry them, cut in the fruits a little bit and put them into jars (boil the jars and the lids out for at least 10 minutes). Pour in the vinegar mixture hot, or if you want to have the peppers more crisp, let the liquid cool down a little bit before. Cap the jars, let them cool and store them dark.
pickled chili peppers

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Thursday, 11 September 2014

Of autumn, woods and blackberries

Autumn silently arrives. Well, to be true, here in Middle-Europe it's not so silently, as the rain crackled against the window glasses for most of the summer. But it arrives. And with it the most various food selection of the year.

Not only the farmers reap their harvests of vegetables and fruits. Also forests burst with nuts, seeds, berries and mushrooms. Squirrels begin to fill their lairs and so could we. If only these delicacies wouldn't be too tasty to store!
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