Chili powder is probably one of the most common spices used in culinary. All different kinds of cuisines all over the world - Texan, Mexican, Thai, American, India, Chinese - use chili powder in various recipes. Chili powder is even used to garnish salads. Chili powder is available in different food and grocery stores. However, some people prefer to make chili powder at home. The main advantage of this is that you can store it under proper conditions and retain the flavor and aroma of the powder. Also you can be sure of the quality of chilies that are going to be used to make the chili powder. Making chili powder yourself also lets you choose which different types of chili peppers you want to use to make the chili powder - only a single type, or two or more different types. However, creating chili powder at home requires you to bear in mind a few things, which one may tend to miss out on.
Buying Good Chilies
The most important thing you need to do to is to buy good quality dried red chilies from the market. Look for big, dark red chilies. The chilies should be completely dry. If you are buying packaged dried red chilies, look for the manufacturing date. You also need to ensure the packet has not caught moisture by any chance. A good way to do that would be to hold the packet of red chilies in your hand and shake it gently - does it rattle? Then it is a packet of nicely dried red chilies. If you are buying fresh dried red chilies, there are other things you need to do to check the quality. Hold a few red chilies in the palm of your hand and try to feel the weight by tossing them in your hands. Good quality dried red chilies are very light in weight and bounce easily on your palm. Also make sure they are absolutely dry and have not caught moisture from the air.
- If you choose to use a mixer grinder, break the chilies in half before you add them to the grinder. Sometimes if you do not stir the powder intermittently, a few of the long chili pods may remain unground.
- Check intermittently. Mix the powder if necessary.
- Depending on how coarse or fine you like your chili powder to be, stop grinding once the desired consistency is achieved.
- If you want a coarse chili powder - more-or-less like chili flakes - you can use a mortar and pestle to manually grind the chilies. However, make sure you break the chilies into small pieces before grinding them in a mortar.
A Little Extra
A lot of people like to add certain chili powder additives to their home-made chili powders. These include various ingredients like salt, oregano, garlic powder or even cumin powder. To add salt to your chili powder, it is always better to grind the chilies separately and then add salt to the powder. It is best to add dry oregano to chili powder - it mixes well with the powder. You can add the dried herb as you get it in the market, or you can further grind it into a fine powder and then mix it with your chili powder. Cumin seeds too need to be ground separately and then mixed with the chili powder.
A Word of Caution
Now the following tips may sound downright ridiculous and silly - but they come out of experience!
- Wear comfortable clothes.
- Wear eye protection - specs, goggles, anything.
- Wear a mask or cover your nose with a scarf or handkerchief.
- Wear plastic gloves on your hands.
- Tie your hair properly in a rubber-band.
Make sure you use an air-tight container to store your chili powder. Air-tight containers help lock the aroma in and the moisture out of the chili powder. Store the container in a cool dry place. Make two small containers - one for daily use, the other to store away bulk of the chili powder. This way, even if you chili powder spoils, only the chili powder from the container in daily use will spoil. Also the flavor of the chili powder will not be lost.
Chili powder sure is a lot more convenient to use than dried chilies and hence preferred by a lot of home-makers. If you are also fond of gardening, you can grow your own chilies, dry them and then use them to make chili powder! That way, you can always be sure of the quality. Hope you make a yummy, fiery spicy chili recipe tonight! Happy cooking!