AVAILABILITY, SELECTION, AND STORAGE ---
Chili peppers are available year round and in the United States they are grown in California, New Mexico and Texas. When selecting chilies, look for firm, glossy chilies with taut, unwrinkled skin and fresh green stems. Dried hot peppers should be glossy yet unbroken.
Chilies should be stored unwashed and wrapped in paper towels in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. Dried chilies should be stored in airtight containers at room temperature for a maximum of four months. To keep dried chilies for more than four months, store them in the refrigerator.
It is very important not to touch your nose, eyes or mouth after handling or eating hot peppers. If you do, flush with water immediately. The capsaicin in the peppers can be extremely painful to your eyes and can even burn or irritate your skin (especially if you have cuts on your hands). If possible, wear thin rubber gloves while preparing chili peppers. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water when done working with chilies. If the bite is too strong when you eat a chili, chew on bread or another starchy food; water only makes the bite worse as it spreads it.
To decrease the heat intensity of chilies, wash them, cut them open and remove the seeds and veins. Also, soaking cut up chilies in salt water for at least an hour will help cool them off. To add a mild pepper flavor to your dish, poke holes in the chili of your choice with a toothpick (or cut slits in it) and add it to a food that is already cooking. When cooking is complete, remove the chili from the dish.
Chilies can also be roasted whole over a gas stove, broiler, or on a grill. Use a cooking fork to hold each pepper over flame. Turn frequently until the chili’s skin is blackened. After cooking is complete, place chilies in a paper or plastic bag for 15 minutes. Scrape off skin, cut off stem and pull out core. Scrape any remaining seeds.
PREPARING DRIED HOT PEPPERS ---
Use a damp cloth to wipe peppers. Grind chilies in a food processor for use as chili powder. To soften their texture and make their flavor more mild, soak chili peppers in water prior to using.
The seeds are NOT the hottest part of peppers. It is at the point where the seed is attached to the white membrane inside the pepper that the highest concentration of capsaicin (the compound giving peppers their pungent flavor) is found.