No matter whether you like your meals spiced mildly or for maximum heat, here is a simple way to capture the delightful tastes of heirloom chili peppers. This ten minute process will allow you to keep some summer heat long after production stops, or for those of us with come and go chili seasons, it captures the bounty until it returns.
When I returned from the Ozarks, there was a wide array waiting for me to select from. I decided to make a nice hot version with the sun ripened fresh chilis. You can make a mild oil by using mild green chilis, then up the heat with ripe ones. The olive oil diffuses the flavor in a way very different from hot sauce. I like to start with a couple handfuls of peppers fresh from the plants. I cut off the stem end, and reserve the cuttings for my fire-breathing flock of hens. Cayenne tends to be the top poultry pleaser. They often get into a scuffle over the pepper bits. I have read that it is healthy for them, just like chilis are for us.
Then simply drop the trimmed peppers into the food processor container that is fitted with the chopping blade. Be careful not to breathe in the crushed chili fumes, as it will irritate your lungs. Some people prefer to use safety glasses and gloves as well. This process allows the food processor to do most of the chopping, instead of you, but use caution regardless.
Pulse them to a fine chop, and add a bit of olive oil at the end, so to make the mixture easy to pour. Garlic lovers: peel and add a couple of cloves to the container and pulse them right along with the chilis.
With a rubber spatula, scrape the sides of the container as you pour the chili mix into a clean 1/2 pint or pint jar. I make this by the pint, because I use it in so many things. It adds a refined chili infusion rather than over the top heat. Top off the jar with more good quality organic olive oil. Place on the lid, and shake lightly. I will leave this jar on the counter overnight for the flavor to set, then invert the jar onto a plate, and place in the refrigerator.
As the oil is refrigerated, it will solidify. Turning the jar every couple of hours, or at least once before it is solidified, will make the chilis more evenly dispersed. When I use up the top 1/2 of the jar, I often add more oil and mix it in with the glut of chilis that sunk to the bottom of the jar.
I like to take a heaping spoonful, and use it as you would use olive oil in any recipe. I use it mixed with basil, garlic, and rosemary to marinate my pumpkin slices on the grill. It is lovely mixed into stir fry, with greens, spaghetti sauce, and mixed into plain rice. The olive oil will return to liquid at room temperature, so spoon out what you need, and return the jar to the fridge for storage. Try dragging a piece of toasted garlic bread through it, or drizzling over pizza instead of pepper flakes. The uses are endless, and it will make a well seasoned meal in minutes. This oil should last a couple of months in the refrigerator. Mine rarely lasts, simply because it is a part of so much of my cooking. Enjoy this little bit from pepper paradise!