Q. I tried to make Chile Oil. I tried two ways. First I cut up the chile and put it in good olive oil. The chile formed a fungus so I strained it and tried putting in a whole chile. The same thing happened. Can you suggest a better method please?
A. You really should use dried chiles. Contrary to what your intuition might say, oil does not inhibit the growth of mold or bacteria. There has been a bit of publicity in this country about the danger of home-made garlic oils producing botulism food poisoning if not handled correctly. Commercially produced garlic oils must contain "specific levels of microbial inhibitors, usually acidifying agents such as phosphoric or citric acid." Because these inhibitors are not generally available in home kitchens, the US Food & Drug Administration suggests that such oils be made in small quantity and refrigerated.
We have seen commercially produced chile oils with a pretty little fresh pepper in the middle of each bottle, but our guess is that the oil was treated to prevent the growth of fungus and other critters. Among the recipes we have found for chile oils (and flavored oils in general), virtually all want you to use dried chiles and herbs. (It goes without saying that the bottle you use is scrupulously clean.)
One recipe we’ve come across for chile oil asks you to put 2 cups of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of crushed red pepper flakes in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook for 15 minutes, being careful not to let it reach the simmer or boil. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature before straining the oil through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth into a glass jar. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 7 to 10 days before using. A cold infusion method calls for the a larger amount of peppers — 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup — in a couple cups of olive oil sealed in a bottle and allowed to steep in the refrigerator for a month before straining. Either version can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a month.
Use for meat, salads and vegetables.
1 quart small red ripe chiles, finely chopped
1 quart 5% acidity vinegar
1 Tablespoon salt
Put chiles into a sterilized glass jar, then add salt and vinegar. Seal the jar. Let stand for 7 days in indirect sunlight, turning upside down daily. Strain and bottle in sterilized jars. Add clean whole chiles, if desired.
From Gourmet, April 2007
Generations of southerners have tucked fresh hot chiles into vinegar for a pungent homemade hot sauce that sits right next to the salt and pepper on the table. Drizzled over gumbo, red beans and rice, or anything fried, it both balances out and punches up any other flavors it's paired with. The adventurous should feel free to pluck a pepper out of the jar and eat it alongside the meal — it's fine southern form. Doctored with a little sugar and red pepper flakes, it's amazing on the cheddar rice fritters.
Makes about 1/2 cup.
For chile vinegar
5 ounces small (2- to 3-inch) fresh hot red or green chiles such
as serrano or Thai (about 20), rinsed and patted dry
1 1/3 cups distilled white vinegar
To make dipping sauce
6 Tablespoons water
4 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon d ried hot red-pepper flakes (optional)
Special equipment: a 1-pt canning jar with lid and screw band;
an instant-read thermometer
Sterilize jar and lid:
To make chile vinegar:
Carefully remove jar and lid with tongs, then drain jar upside down on a clean kitchen towel and dry lid.
Pack chiles into jar. Bring vinegar to a boil in small saucepan, then remove from heat and pour over chiles. Cool to room temperature. Wipe off rim of jar with a dampened clean kitchen towel, then top with lid and firmly screw on screw band.
Chill sealed jar 2 weeks.
To make dipping sauce:
Bring water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then stir in red-pepper flakes (if using), 2 tablespoons chile vinegar, and salt to taste. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
• Instead of making your own chile vinegar, you can use the vinegar
from bottled pickled jalapeños.
Source: Gourmet, April 2007