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Candied Capsicum: Preserving Chiles the Sweet Way, By Harald Zoschke


Recipes:

  • Candying Chiles

  • Bold Banana Bread

  • Belligerent Butter Scotch

  • Blistering Blue Lagoon Cocktail

Many chile gardeners know harvest time as "too many chiles", and we already showed you various ways to use and preserve the plenty of pods, for example by drying, pickling, juicing, or making hot sauce. Now here's a new way to keep the pods for enjoying all year long: Candied Chiles! The ways you can use the sweet peppers are almost limitless, and the same is true for a byproduct of the process, spicy syrup.

An Ancient Tradition

Candying is one of the most ancient forms of preserving the harvest -  the ancient Egyptians preserved nuts and fruits with honey. Like spice, candied fruit like wild oranges, melons and apricots, were brought to Europe by traders from the Middle East and China in the Early Middle Ages. Until sugar was introduced during the Crusades, honey and palm syrup were used, later replaced mostly by sugar-based syrup. The technique is the same, though - by placing fruit in syrup with gradually increased sugar content, their cell liquid is getting replaced by sugar. This migration through semi-permeable cell walls is called osmosis, not to be confused with Ozzmosis, the great '95 album by Ozzy Osbourne. For an in-depth explanation of osmosis, see Wikipedia here. Typically, 70 to 75 percent of the extracted cell liquid, mostly water, will be replaced by sugar, while shape, color and a good portion of the flavor will be preserved. That way, candied fruit will keep almost indefinitely.

Since its introduction to Europe in the Middle Ages, the technique was getting refined to perfection especially in France and Italy. In fact, these countries have true artists even today. At a confectioner's store in Biarritz, France, we discovered these beautiful candied fruits - oranges, pears, melons, even whole pineapple.


Candied Fruit

More Candied Fruit

Candied fruit at a confectioner's
store in Biarritz, France

At the Peperoncino Festival 2006 in Southern Italy (see our report), we discovered a great dark chocolate from Tuscany that was nicely spiced with bits of candied habanero peppers!

"Habanero Candito"  
from Tuscany, Italy:  
Dark chocolate with   
pieces of  candied   
habanero chiles.  


Commercial Dark Chocolate with Candied Habaneros

This was the ultimate motivation to try candying ourselves - chiles, of course. We heard from other chileheads who already had successfully candied chiles, so we rolled up our sleeves (so they wouldn't get sticky.)

As you can see below, our efforts were not in vain. In fact, the chiles look and taste just great, and we've already found many uses for them.

Assorted Candied Chiles



Home-made Candied Chiles:
Serrano, Jalapeno (strip, green), Caribbean Red, Thai Hot, Fatalii (yellow), Orange Habanero, Cherry Bomb, Hot Paper Lantern, Jalapeno (strips, red), Chile De Arbol


Be warned, though - candying chiles is not for the impatient. The process spreads over six days, taking about 30 minutes every day, not counting cleanup of sticky utensils and pots. While the sophisticated approach of French confectioners aims for soft fruit, we're aiming for crunchy chiles with a transparent, almost glass-like appearance, so we can take a simpler approach. Let's get started!

Required Equipment

  • Medium sized saucepan

  • Wooden spoon

  • Mason Jar (1 quart/1 liter) or similar glass container with lid

  • Small glass bowl that just fits into the opening of the jar, to hold down the
    peppers in the liquid

  • one or two clean marmalade jars, lids

  • Heat resistant strainer

  • 1/2 quart (1/2 liter) jars (for example jam jars) to keep excess syrup

  • Cookie cooling rack

  • Baking oven or electric dehydrator

  • Old newspapers to put under pots and jars

Ingredients

  • About 1/2 to 3/4 lb. (250 to 340 grams) of fresh chile pods,
    rinsed and cut in half or strips (see note below)

  • 2.6 lbs.(1,2 kilograms) regular white sugar

  • 1 Quart (1 liter) water


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