Homemade Jalapeño-Infused Salt
We both love spice and I regularly employ all sorts of hot peppers in the kitchen, but jalapeño receives the lion’s share of our attention. Never keen on letting fresh ingredients go to waste (nor exercising self-restraint in the garden or at the market when produce is in season + the price is right), I set off on an adventure to save the latest collection of chillies.
Two ingredients + a simple, mostly hands-off preparation, the result of my experimentation is jalapeño-infused salt — a faintly green, flavor-packed seasoning that will wake up your tastebuds and make you think twice about the knee-jerk reaction of blithely salting foods. Pretty lovely, for all the senses! Don’t you think?
(Prefer tame food? I offer suggestions to enjoy the fruity taste with less heat in my HGN Notes below.)
What’s in it for me?
Jalapeño peppers are low in calories, but high in other health-promoting nutrients, particularly vitamin C. So rich a source of vitamin C are they that a 1/4-teaspoon serving provides 1% of your DV — impressive given that the only other nutrient to register in the nutrition calculations is the sodium!
Capsaicin, a bio-active compound and the ingredient that gives chilli peppers their characteristic “heat,” stimulates release of endorphins to naturally fight stress + pain. Some research even indicates that (high amounts of) capsaicin may help curb appetite + slightly boost metabolism.
The American Heart Association recommends an upper limit of (no more than) 2,300 milligrams sodium a day for most adults. Additionally, the AHA recommends 1,500 mg sodium per day as an “ideal limit” for everyone, but specifically for anyone who is African American, age 51 years or older, or has high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic disease. The average American, however, consumes more than 3,000 mg daily. Clearly we could benefit from a decrease, and flavored salts like mine infused with jalapeños — or fresh basil or Herbes de Provence — may help facilitate the reduction given you don’t need to use quite as much as you might with regular table salt.
As for cost comparison with the outrageously priced artisanal salts on the market, regular kosher salt costs about 4 cents per ounce, whereas the artisanal versions can be well over 1 dollar per ounce. Even if you purchase fresh jalapeños from the market instead of using jalapeño grown in your own garden (both of which are already relatively inexpensive), this homemade infused salt is far cheaper!
Great as a seasoning for proteins + veg destined for the grill, oven or skillet, my jalapeño-infused salt is best as a finishing salt — seasoning after cooking, just before serving. Sprinkle a tiny bit over morning eggs or savory porridge; add zing to salads or greens, beans or lentils, sandwiches or soups, pastas or grains; give a kick to hot stovetop popcorn; be daring and use it to rim a margarita or green bloody mary glass!
Tell me… Which chilli pepper do you like best?
- 3 to 4 medium green jalapeños, stemmed (see HGN Notes) -- we like it fiery and usually use 4
- 1 to 2 cups kosher salt, depending on heat preference (see HGN Notes) -- we usually use 1 cup
- Preheat the oven to its lowest temperature (that's 170º F for us) with a rack in the middle position. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper; set aside.
- Make lengthwise slices of the peppers, discarding the bulk of the seed-core, leaving most of the ribs and a few lingering seeds attached. Arrange the pepper slices on the prepared tray in a single layer, cut side up.
- Transfer the tray to the center rack of the preheated oven, and use the end of a long-handled wooden spoon to prop the door open a bit, allowing air to circulate through. The total amount of time will vary depending on size, skin-thickness, freshness and type of pepper, but set a timer for 2 or 3 hours and begin checking after 1 hour. (Really the peppers need only "dehydrate" partially at this point, as they will continue with the salt in the next step.)
- Once the peppers are fairly dehydrated, and have shrunk and shriveled some, remove to a bowl; keep the oven on. Add the salt to the bowl and toss to combine. Transfer the mixture back onto your parchment lined tray, and spread out evenly.
- Bake 15 minutes with the door closed. Remove the tray from the oven, and carefully use a spatula or flat-ended wooden spoon to stir the mixture around and break up clumps that have formed. Return to the oven and bake another 15 minutes.
- Allow the mixture to cool several minutes, then use the parchment paper as a sling to transfer the peppers and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to chop the pepper slices into small pieces, then run until the mixture is as finely ground as you prefer. (Be warned that this may create a fiery dust cloud. Step back when removing the lid!) For a finer-grained salt, especially good for use on popcorn, run the pepper-salt mixture through a spice grinder, in batches as needed. Store in an airtight container on your counter or in the pantry up to 2 months.
When slicing any type of hot pepper your fingers come into contact with the ribs and seeds, which are the hottest parts. If you inadvertently touch your eyes during prep -- even after a good handwashing or two -- you risk mild to severe burning of the eye and on the delicate skin surrounding it. For extra precaution, try wearing a pair of disposable gloves while handling peppers. (Buy a box cheaply at drugstores and dollar stores.)
For the faint of heat, there are several options:
1. Make sure all of the ribs and seeds are removed before drying.
2. Either scale down the peppers (use 2 or 3, instead of 4), or scale up the salt (use 2 cups, instead of 1 cup).
3. Rinse the pepper slices under water for a minute to calm the heat (never tried this personally, but heard it works).
+ Substitute another milder peppers, such as anaheim, banana/wax, cascabel, cherry, hatch, shisito or poblano. Do a mixture, or stick with one type.
+ Feeling fiery? Kick it up a notch with hotter chillies, like serrano, Thai bird, fresno, cayenne or habañero. Definitely wear those gloves with these!
+ Brighten up the flavor by adding a few sprigs of fresh dill, chives, oregano, basil or mint AND/OR the zest from 1/2 orange or 1/2 to 1 whole lemon during the dehydrating process (keep in to be ground).
An HGN original recipe.
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