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How to Pick a Pepper, Roast It Yourself

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Handling hot peppers is not hard. It starts with picking the right peppers and carries over into storing them for future use.

Picking that Peppa’

The procedures that follow are generally true for choosing most any fresh chile. Choose one that is shiny and firm, heavy in relation to its size, mature and healthy in appearance. If you are going to roast and peel your own green Anaheim or Hatch green chiles, look for ones that have smooth sides rather than deep indentations or twists and turns. It will make it lots easier to peel.

Roasting and peeling

It’s great that stores now sell chiles already roasted and peeled. Go for it. Buy enough to put in the freezer.

But what if you’re A) a sucker for punishment; B) want to do your own because you’re just that kind of person; C) want to do your own because you want it a little crisper or a prettier color green than the mass-produced roasted chiles?

All of the above are good reasons. So, start off by protecting your hands and eyes. Plastic food-handling gloves should work. I have never had this happen to me, but some people are so sensitive to the burn of chile peppers that they can break out in what actually looks like a burn and experience terrible pain.

Even if you don’t protect your hands, be careful to not touch your eyes or other sensitive parts of your anatomy with your chile-hot hands. Don’t stick your fingers in anyone else’s eye, either. Wash well, some say with sugar, some say vinegar, some say copious amounts of soap and water. We say just wash.

There are several methods of roasting chiles: the oven or broiler, an outdoor grill or the top of your stove. We know people who plunge jalape├▒os, poblanos, Anaheims or whatever, in a deep fryer. Usually, these are guys who work in kitchens where a deep fryer is at the right temperature, carefully watched and the cooks are generally trained to use it. I wouldn’t suggest trying this at home, though it does quickly blister the skin (of the chile, we hope) making it slide off smoothly.

I like to roast chiles over a burner on a gas stove, with or without a grid or screen over the burner. You lay the chiles across the metal racking above the flame, turn the burner on and let the chiles blister. You can use a pair of tongs to turn them, sometimes several times, until the skin is mostly blackened. Remove and wrape the chiles in a wet paper towel. Let them steam awhile and cool some before you start peeling off the skin. This is basically the same method you use over an outdoor charcoal-fired grill.

You also can put the chiles on a cookie sheet or broiler pan, and put them in a hot (400-degree) oven. It will take 6-10 minutes. Take them out when the skins are well blistered.

Packing and storing

Some people like to pack the chiles unpeeled in plastic bags and freeze. The skins will peel off a bit easier after freezing. I like to get the work over with so that when I’m in a big fat hurry to get dinner on the stove, I can just the peeled chiles out of the freezer and put them in the refrigerator to thaw in the morning. Voila, they are ready to use at dinnertime.

The College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences New Mexico State University is credited with some of this information. The NMSU has a good chile website at www.chilepepperinstitute.org.

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2 Responses to “How to Pick a Pepper, Roast It Yourself”

  1. mlw says:

    This was helpful, in that chiles can be blistered in either kind of stove, gas or electric – right?
    it’s a bit frustrating to want fresh chiles, and have an electric stove. Is that all that’s needed, or is there anything special to do if you have an electric stove?

    • Hi MLW, Yes, you can do it on an electric burner, but the information I have (I’ve never done it because I’ve always had gas stoves) is to put a sheet “heavy wire mesh” over the burner. This is from the College of Agriculture, New Mexico State University. So, if you don’t have any heavy mesh wire around, maybe you could use a metal (cast iron) trivet with holes in it. Or, pick up a stray metal grid from a gas stove in a thrift store or used appliances place – then put over your electric burner when you want to roast chiles. Or, get a Hibachi and just do it outside. That way it will be more fun! ­čÖé
      Good luck!
      Bonnie

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