Making hot chile oil

Since the database appears to be fixed, once more unto the breach.

Emboldened by my success in making garlic oil by bringing one liter of olive oil and 40 cloves of garlic just to a simmer, letting it cool overnight, and filtering it, I’ve decided to branch out.

I have a pound of fresh red serrano peppers. Instinctively I thought to just cut off the stems, throw a bunch of whole peppers, skin, seeds, and all into the oil and treat it just like the garlic. Then I figured someone here must have made infusions before and would know better. Should I cut up the peppers first? Do I need to take the seeds out? God help me, do I need to peel all of these serranos before I boil them in oil?

If you do peel serranos, gloves are in order, especially if you are a contact lens wearer. Trust me on this.

I’m not worried about the strength, if I go overboard on the chiles I can always dilute to suit, but I don’t want it to be bitter because I didn’t do it properly.

I cut the stems off, slit the peppers lengthwise (these were my own homegrown serranos and jalapenos) and then simmered them in oil until they were limp and their skins began to fall off. Then I poured the peppers and oil into an empty jar, closed the lid, and put it in the fridge near the vent. Once the oil had solidified and the vacuum button dropped down, I popped it in the freezer. Later that winter I dropped the jar in a pot of warm water about a half-hour before dinner. I was able to pour off some oil rather quickly (for simmering meats) and by the time I was done cooking a few peppers had come loose; I used these as garnish.

I’ve also had success bottling whole serranos in an empty sauce-size bottle refilled with vodka or whiskey. The alcohol preserves the peppers and takes on their heat, and is a great way to add spiciness to a dish without otherwise altering the flavor too much. I added some sugar to the bottom of the bottle to ferment the peppers, and it worked (last time I opened the bottle it “burped”) but I have not tried doing anything with those peppers yet.

The way I learned to make it in my Chinese cooking class is to heat up some peanut oil just to the smoke point and then toss in a bunch of crushed red chiles. Cool it down and stick it in a jar. You can just store it in a cupboard without refrigeration.