Hot pepper oil is a popular condiment in many world cuisines. Habanero peppers -- Capsicum chinense and its cultivars -- are among the hottest edible peppers, with Scoville ratings between 200,000 and 350,000. The Red Savina habanero -- Capsicum chinense Jacquin -- is rated even higher, at 350,000 to 580,000 Scoville units. Because these peppers are so pungent, a few drops of habanero-infused oil will flavour a large amount of food. While it is not difficult to make habanero-infused oil, you must take extensive safety precautions to prevent serious burns from the peppers.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- 1 qt. olive oil or other mild, good quality vegetable oil
- 6 to 8 fresh habanero peppers
- 2 pint-sized glass canning jars or 4 half-pint glass canning jars with lids
- Rubber gloves (thick rubber, not surgical gloves)
Wearing gloves, wash the peppers well. Remove all dirt, and check in the creases for insects.
Place the peppers in the saucepan with just enough water to cover them, and bring to a boil. Allow them to boil for 2 to 3 minutes, just long enough to soften them slightly.
Wearing gloves, drain the peppers and dry them, removing all traces of water.
Using the side of a sharp knife, slightly crush the peppers. Be sure that you wear gloves, so that the peppers' hot oils do not come into contact with your skin.
Put the olive oil into the glass jars and add the peppers, dividing the oil and peppers evenly among the pints or half-pints.
Seal the jars and store in a cool, dry place, away from light, for two months. Or, if you wish to preserve the peppers in the oil, use a hot-pack canning method to seal the jars before placing in storage.
Strain the pepper oil well, and use sparingly as a condiment or seasoning. Continue to store it in a cool, dry, dark place, as light and heat will destroy the volatile compounds that provide the habanero oil's flavour and heat.
Tips and warnings
- If you wish to use the oil to preserve the peppers -- which will allow you to use the peppers to season other dishes -- you should heat the oil to bubbling, pour into hot jars, and process using a hot pack canning method. This process destroys harmful microorganisms.
- Because of the pungency of habanero oil and the tendency of preserved peppers to spoil or lose their flavour when exposed to oxygen, it is better to process peppers into smaller containers than making one large container of oil.
- According to "Larousse Gastronomique," overly hot peppers can be made more mild by soaking them in cold, salted water. You can also adjust the heat by adjusting the amount of seeds and membrane used to make your habanero oil, as the seeds and white membranes contain the highest concentrations of capsaicin.
- The capsaicin in mature peppers can cause serious burns, so be sure to wear rubber gloves -- not the thin surgical type -- at all times when handling peppers. The oils and juice that remain on cutting surfaces can also cause burns, so continue to wear your gloves until you are completely finished with processing and cleanup. Should you get the pepper juice or oil onto your skin, use a rinse of rubbing alcohol, as water alone will not remove the oil from your skin, according to Barbara Ciletti, author of "The Pepper Harvest Cookbook."
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