I grow certain things so that I can make tinctures for medicinal
purposes ... such as echinacea, calendula, yarrow and peppermint.
Last fall I was eyeballing what remained of a bumper crop of cayenne and
wondering what to do. I looked at the oil recipes, the vinaigrettes ...
but none of those recipes called for a large number of peppers.
I wanted to capture the active ingredients, heat and flavour with a
safe, easy, and compact method of preservation. I wondered what would
happen if I made a tincture of cayenne. Would it be good for both
medicinal and culinary purposes?
The answer has turned out to be a resounding yes! I've added it in small
quantities to digestive herbal drinks, and in larger amounts to dishes
that need an extra bit of bite in a hurry. Another plus is that it can
be added at any stage in the cooking process (vodka evaporates), or to
cold things (vodka doesn't evaporate), and you can immediately guage the
amount of heat that you have.
In case anyone is interested, here's how you can make your own hot
* Wash peppers and remove stems, blemishes, soft bits etc
Mince fine as many as you want to use, seeds, veins and all
* Put minced pepper in a preserving jar and add vodka to within half an
inch of the top. The more pepper you put in the jar, the stronger the
tincture will be, and the more colourful.
Pull double layer of stretch wrap cross the lip of the jar and screw
on plastic lid (such as Bernardin Storage Lids. I avoid metal for making
tinctures.) The plastic wrap keeps the tincture from sloshing out when
you're agitatating it.
* Mark the date on the lid so you'll know when you made it
Put in a cool dark place where you will not forget about it
* Agitate for 30 seconds every day (turning the bottle completely upside
down/right side up/upside down etc). It's OK if you forget to do it now
and again ... the process just takes longer.
* The tincture is ready when the pepper bits have lost all their colour.
At this point you have extracted all the good stuff.
Strain off pepper bits and add to compost. Store finished tincture in
an airtight bottle, preferably brown.
*Lasts forever unrefrigerated, but store in a cool dark place ... or
fridge if you prefer.
I recently used it in a creamy curried cauliflower soup. Just before I
was about to puree the cooked ingredients, I decided that it wasn't
nippy enough, so I added a tablespoon of the cayenne tincture. It was
instantly nippy enough!