Fiery and hot says the stallholder’s sign in Palermo’s Ballaro’ market. So, be warned!
When I flung some chili pepper seeds on my small patch of herb garden way back in April, I had no idea that I’d have such a successful crop. Around 10 plants grew up nice and strong and managed to survive the cat; she loves new seed beds, for obvious reasons! Covered to stop her advances and that of searing summer heat, the chilis grew beyond belief. Finally, in autumn, they fruited. And what a crop too.
Chilis do find their way into a lot of our dishes, surreptitiously sliced in when J isn’t looking. These babies were quite hot though and needed to come with that market stallholder’s warning on them; so much for my trying to hide them in the sauces, they refused to be masked – subtly hot they are not. As my seed packet was a left over from previous years, and I’d ripped off the bit saying what variety they were, I had no idea they were so ardente.
The questions remains then what to do with my chilis, which as we move into later autumn, are still budding up. One way to deal with them is to open freeze them and then bag up. I find this works very well so long as you split, de-seed and slice up the chili straight from the freezer otherwise it will turn to mush. With a massive amount already frozen, I needed to do something with the new arrivals on my plants. Make my own chili-infused olive oil, that’s the answer.
I can’t remember the times I’ve seen chili and other herb-infused oil on shelves in artisan delis. Beautiful as they as in tall, narrow bottles, it really is worth making your own as a cheaper, handy chili olive oil. Use wide-necked jars – even jam jars will do – as you’ll need to remove the chilis, or other herbs if you add bay or rosemary, within two to three weeks so they don’t go mouldy. Narrow oil bottles are a real pain to try to extract chilis from, so ignore the aesthetics.
Chili works better in small batches so make up in 250ml amounts of olive oil. It won’t be your everyday oil anyway as you’ll be using it only for salads, flat breads, focaccie or the odd spoonful to start a pasta sauce or as a marinade or herby-spicy rub for meat or fish. Actually, that’s quite a list of uses. Make up several small jars, place on a shelf and feel righteous about making a preserve. Ideal Christmas gifts too, if you use those awkward but tempting and elegant narrow-necked bottles and add a snazzy label.
copyright all images Liz Ayling 2013.
- 250ml regular olive oil
- 6 chilis, red or green
- black peppercorns (optional)
- jam jars with lids – washed in hot water thoroughly (no need to sterilise)
- Wash and pat dry the chilis. Score them lengthways with the point of a sharp paring knife.
- Place chilis in the jar, pour in the oil to cover. Seal on lid.
- Leave chilis to infuse for 2-3 weeks then remove and discard (or use immediately if you happen to be cooking something that needs them).
- For a double whammy of heat, I added whole black peppercorns but you can leave out or add herbs like bay or rosemary as well if you like, particularly if giving as gifts – put fewer chilis if adding other ingredients.
I came across your blog on foodgawker. Was attracted by the big jar of chiles 🙂 Love chiles and chile oil. I’ve made chile oil with dried chiles but not fresh. Going to pick up some fresh chiles at the farmers’ market and give this a try.
Red Bistro says
Thanks for dropping by, and yes, the chili shoot proved a great one colour and theme wise! A real pop of vibrancy in our somewhat greyer, damper weather here in Malta. Foodgawker gives me plenty to be humble about as a lot of great photos and recipe ideas there. Hope I can entire you to stop by here again soon! Thanks…
Hi! I was looking to find out how long the chillis last in olive oil. I’m wondering if they rot and don’t last as long as dried ones. Could you please share with us what you have discovered from personal experience? Thank you. Sarah
Not fresh chilis won’t last as long as dried in the oil so I suggest macerating no more than 2 weeks, depending on how warm the room is that you keep the oil in and how ripe the chilis are to start with. There is inevitable moisture in a fresh chili which can cause problems with mould and even if covered completely with oil.
Thanks for the recipe. Have you tried cooking your bacon in chillie oil? Superb!
Gennie, yes, that would be a wonderful boost and addition to the flavour. A real kick! I love chili! Thanks for your suggestion.
Joseph Xuereb says
Fabulous and a very attractive addition to our larder
If I store in the fridge will the rosemary & chili last longer Sp pretty to give as a gift with the peppers & rosemary in it
A fridge would slow down the maceration process and also make the oil very viscous. I think if you wish to have a pretty gift, then use dried chillis which can remain in the oil.
Not sure if anyone is still on this link, but hopefully as I have a problem.
I made this exact same recipe a couple of weeks ago.
Fresh chilli’s and olive oil in one.
The other the same plus garlic and ginger.
Both have gone bad.
Bubbles are coming slowly from the chilli’s and obviously it’s smelling bad.
Any ideas what could have gone wrong ?
Fresh chilis and other things like garlic will have moisture in them so mould and funghi can form within the oil even if the vegetable matter is completely covered with oil and therefore seems airtight. I would chuck this out and start again using less ripe chilis and pricking them before macerating. Then, keep them no longer than 5-7 days in a regular room temperature. Remove after that. If in any doubt, swap to dried chillis which can remain in the oil.