Why Store Habanero Peppers?
Habanero peppers thrive in hot weather, and produce fruit throughout the year in tropical climates. In colder climates, they are annual plants that produce fruit only once a year. Their distinct fruity, citrus-like flavor, floral aroma and intense heat make them a favorite when cooking Southwestern or Mexican cuisine. Storing habanero peppers is not difficult, but you need to store them properly as their taste can spoil quickly.
Did you know that this member of the Capsicum family is one of the fieriest of all chilies? Chemical compounds called capsaicinoids and capsaicin, which are concentrated in the interior ribs near the seed heart, are responsible for the pungency of the habanero pepper. These peppers score very high on the Scoville scale, and are considered to be the second-hottest pepper available. Their capsaicin content measures in the range of 100,000 to 300,000 Scoville. To be on the safe side, remember to wear thin rubber gloves or surgical gloves while processing and storing habanero peppers, as your eyes and skin can become very irritated when handling them.
Habanero peppers are green in color when unripe, but as they mature, they commonly change color to orange or red. An interesting research study published in the journal Food Chemistry suggested that the content of capsaicinoids, responsible for the pungency of chilli peppers, varied between 41.8 and 65.9 mg/g of dry fruit. The orange cultivars are around 55.0 mg/g, while red cultivars had on an average 45.0 mg of capsaicinoid content per gram of dry fruit, indicating that the first ones are more pungent.
Storing Fresh and Dry Habanero Peppers
Storing Fresh Habanero Peppers
When selecting fresh peppers for storing, select ones that have glossy, firm skins, with no cracks near the stem end. Wrap the fresh peppers in a tissue paper and store them in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator. The peppers should keep fresh for a week or so. Do not wash the peppers before storing and never store them in the plastic bags. The moisture from washing or the vapor that accumulates in the plastic bag can cause the peppers to spoil rapidly.
Storing Dry Habanero Peppers
Dry peppers have a long shelf life and they retain their taste and flavor for up to a few months if stored properly. Dry the habanero peppers in the sun by stringing them together using a needle and thread, and hanging them in a sunny location. Leave space between the peppers for proper airflow. If the weather is right, the peppers can take up to two weeks to dry properly. Once the peppers are completely dry, store them in an airtight container away from sunlight.
You can also dry habanero peppers using a food dehydrator. Cut the peppers in half or leave them whole. Arrange the habanero peppers in a single layer on the dehydrator tray. Set the dehydrator temperature to 135 - 145 degrees and dry the habanero peppers for eight to twelve hours. Store them in airtight containers.
Once dry, you can grind dry peppers to make habanero chili powder. Be careful while grinding because the dust from grinding dried peppers can irritate the throat and eyes. Use a dust mask and eye shade for protection.
Freezing and Canning Habanero Peppers for Storing
Freezing Habanero Pepper for Storing
Freezing is a simple, easy and effective way of storing habanero peppers. If not frozen quickly, however, the moisture in the peppers tends to frost, leaving you with leaky, mushy peppers. Make sure that there is no moisture on the peppers and wrap in tin foil before placing in the freezer.
A quick to freeze the peppers requires using dry ice. Use kitchen tongs to place a layer of dry ice at the bottom of an ice chest. Puncture the peppers to ensure that they do not explode during the freezing process. Portion out the peppers into quality freezer bags, and place a layer of these bags onto the dry ice. Repeat the process layering dry ice and then the bags of pepper. Cover the ice chest with the lid. Leave it for about 30-45 minutes. Carefully remove the frozen peppers from the dry ice and transfer the bags to the freezer. Frozen chilies stay good for months but only if you use quality freezer bags.
Canning Habanero Peppers for Storing
Canning habanero peppers gives them a long shelf life. Select firm peppers, and cut them in half. Remove the seeds. Place the peppers on a baking sheet, and heat in a 400-degree F oven for 6 to 8 minutes. Allow them to cool before removing the peel from each pepper. Place them in the canning jars, and add fresh boiling water leaving one inch of headspace. Add one-half teaspoon of canning salt to each pint jar. Adjust lids and process them for 35 minutes in a pressure canner. You can store these for up to a few years.
Wow your friends with habanero sauce and salsa. Happy storing!
- Pino J., Gonzalez M., Ceballos L., Centurion-Yah A.R., Trujillo-Aguirre J., Latournerie-Moreno L., Sauri-Duch E. Characterization of total capsaicinoids, colour and volatile compounds of Habanero chilli pepper (Capsicum chinense Jack.) cultivars grown in Yucatan (2007) Food Chemistry, 104 (4), pp. 1682-1686.