Aji Amarillo & Aji Colorado
Bolivian & Peruvian cooking use a lot of powdered Aji Amarillo (baccatum) & Colorado in recopies. These tasty peppers can (and have) been used fresh but I generally dry the bulk & use mostly the Rocotos fresh.
Drying Aji Amarillo & Aji Colorado
- Wear latex gloves. Warn your family of what you are about to do so they can stay clear of the kitchen.
- Pick the peppers when they are very ripe. I try to batch the drying process as much as possible so I usually wait till late in the season. I may pick the ripest peppers early and use them fresh to delay the harvest until I have the maximum number of ripe peppers.
- Cut the stem and a small amount of the crown off the pepper with sharp scissors. Slit the pepper from top to bottom on one side so that you can clearly see the seed vein running along the inside of the pepper. I leave the seeds & pod in place.
- I use a 5 level electric dehydrator to dry my peppers. Get one with adjustable height shelves if you can. Wash the peppers first, dry with a paper towel, then arrange on the dehydrator. If the dehydrator has a vent on top, open it. Air temperature in my dehydrator reaches 118. You would think this would harm the seeds but I get excellent an germination % out of seeds dried this way. Also, the drying peppers give off a potent aroma so plan for an appropriate location.
- Remove peppers when they are crispy but still bright orange. Do not let the peppers get too dark. Allow them to cool completely before grinding.
Aji Amarillo Powder
- My method for powdering the peppers is to use an electric Braun coffee bean grinder. It doesn’t exactly powder the peppers but it works
- I store the Aji en polvo in glass jars in my freezer. I leave a pouch of silica in the jar to keep the stuff dry.
Rocotos (aka Locoto in Bolivia)
Rocotos are plumb sized fleshy peppers from South America This lovely pepper is usually enjoyed fresh in salsas or stuffed. Rocotos can be preserved by freezing, drying, or pickling. Since fresh is best with this pepper, I usually will leave them on the bush as long as possible always picking the ripest peppers. When I find that I have too many ripe peppers, I pick a bunch and either freeze them or dry them.
These are usually the first peppers I use in the kitchen when the last of my crop is gone (sometimes as late as December).
Use this same Rocoto preparation technique for drying and freezing.
- Wear latex gloves.
- Pick the peppers when they are very ripe. The ripest Rocotos have a light crackle pattern on the skin. Mushy peppers are too ripe.
- Wash and dry.
- Use a sharp knife to cut the crown of the pepper. Try to do it far down enough so that when you pull the stem/crown loose, it will take the seed pod with it. Set the seed pods aside. The seed pods can be dried in the dehydrator or set in a warm place to dry naturally.
- You should have a nice little pepper cup that can be stuffed or used creatively in recipes.
- Flash freeze the peppers on a cookie sheet on wax paper for 6+ hours.
- Transfer the peppers to zip lock bags or other suitable storage. Frozen Rocotos are almost as good as fresh.
Use the same preparation method for drying as for freezing. When you have a Rocoto cup…
- The cleaned Rocoto can either be dried in the dehydrator whole or cut in half for faster drying. I have also dried Rocotos whole (with seeds) but it takes longer and they turn out a little darker.
- Rocotos will get pretty dark when dry; be sure to check them often so you don’t over cook them.
- I store the dry Rocotos in glass jars with a packet of silica gel.
- To dehydrate, soak in water for several hours until soft.
The traditional pickling method for Rocotos is the “Escabeche de Verduras” (vegetable escabeche). The ingredients for this Bolivian escabeche are:
- As many ripe Rocotos as you want. (washed, whole)
- Several peeled and sliced carrots. Cut to either chunky strips, wheels, or use a mandoline for a fancy cut.
- Small brussel sprouts. (washed, whole)
- Small shallots (washed, whole or cut in half)
- Cauliflower (cut sized similar to the brussel sprouts)
- Pickling spices (peppercorn, dry parsley, oregano, rosemary)
- Red wine vinegar & plain white vinegar
- Prepare all the vegetables.
- Fill a screw lid jar full of the escabeche goodies.
- Sprinkle some of the pickling spices as you fill the jar with the veggies.
- Fill the jar to the brim with a mixture of 33% red wine vinegar, 33% white vinegar, & 33% water.
- Close up the jar and store in the refrigerator. The escabeche should last a few months so make multiple batches during the season.
- The escabeche should be ready to eat in about a week.
Preserving Peppers In Oil
A nice container of pretty peppers on the window sill with light streaming through just looks good. Others preserve peppers in oil to infuse the oil with taste & heat. Care should be taken when preserving for consumption as there is risk of Botulism.
Preserving for decorative use
Start with good straight red thin walled peppers. Thin walled peppers dry translucent and give the arrangement a nice glow when lit from behind. I prefer Aji De Arbol or Thai Dragon. Pick the peppers when they are good and ripe (before the skin wrinkles). Clip the stem close to the pepper & wash well. Dry in a dehydrator and remove before individual peppers get crispy or darken excessively. The drying will take careful monitoring because peppers will try at different rates depending on size and where they are are placed in the dehydrator.
Wash and dry a clear decorative bottle or jar. Drop your dried peppers in one at a time until you are pleased with the appearance. Fill the container 80% full with a light colored oil. For decorative use, I recommend peanut, light vegetable, or a light olive oil. Add a hand full of multicolored peppercorns to complete the arrangement.
Preserving for consumption
Usually this technique is employed to flavor the oil. I have never eaten the peppers after they have soaked in oil for an extended period of time. The above method of preserving for decorative use is the basically the same as when preparing for consumption. However, since it is the oil that will be used, make sure that you choose a high quality oil. Spicy extra virgin olive oil is great substitute for regular olive oil. I use it on Bruschetta, Focaccia, & salads. Chile infused peanut oil is great for cooking stir fry.
Do not use fresh peppers when making spicy oil. Use only dehydrated completely dry peppers. as this will reduce the chance of Botulism. Also, do not use any herbs or spices that contain moisture. Use only dry or dehydrated herbs. Also, take note that olive oil is perishable and will go rancid so don’t make too much or it will be come strictly decorative.
Preserving in Alcohol
Try substituting Vodka for the oil in the above instructions (no peppercorns or spices). Don’t let the peppers sit too long or the Vodka will be too spicy!