Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Preserving Fail ... and Do-over

The big success in the garden this summer has been the Tunisian baklouti peppers I grew from seed, under grow lights way back in cold winter. Not so successful was my first attempt at drying them. I thought with the 100 degree heat we were having that I could sun-dry them. I placed them in a cardboard box, placed a screen atop that to keep out birds and other critters, and placed the box on top of some baskets so there would be air flow. It was working okay, but then with a chance of rain I began moving the peppers inside and out. The humidity inside and outside probably doomed them. Now they look like this, a total bust:
I could probably salvage some of these, but I prefer to not take any chances with fungi. Luckily, I already had a whole new batch picked--and my second attempt, this time oven drying, was a total success. I had been afraid of oven drying because of the heat and the risk of causing massive coughing attacks, but neither was an issue. I sliced and mostly deseeded them first, then put them in the over for about 4-5 hours at about 200 degrees (the most precise setting my Montgomery Ward gas oven has).
I did not have gloves to wear while slicing the peppers as I should have, but I scrubbed my hands really well with soap and the rough side of a kitchen sponge, and that prevented any unpleasant burning.
I just watched them until they were at the point of "crispiness" while still retaining some flexibility. The color changes dramatically also. Now they look like this, ready for making harissa!
Harissa is a spicy North African sauce that is perfect for stirring into stews or anything else you'd use a hot sauce for. I highly recommend Deborah Madison's recipe from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, which you can grab using Google Books. I am going to replace the New Mexico and guijillo peppers with the traditional baklouti--just for kicks, as the other peppers make a fantastic harissa.
With more on the way, I'll be well stocked with hot peppers for quite a while.

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