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What to do with ripe, red hot peppers? Not being a fan of hot foods, these little fiery spices have no use to me. Yet I can’t resist plucking these siling labuyo off the many bushes that grow wild around the house. At the most, my dad mixes them in bagoong, toyo or suka, but on the whole, it dries up without being used in any of the dishes we’d prepare.
My brilliant idea (born out of boredom) was to dry the chilies and pound it to flakes. Though I often opt to keep my food on the opposite side of hot, I don’t mind adding a dash of it to my pizza every once in a while. Hence, the brilliant idea. Given that the weather the past few days had always been warm, bright and sunny, it wouldn’t take long for my small harvest to dry.
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Every day I’d pick a handful of chilies, and add it to my growing pile on the bilao. I’d place it on top of the kalan’s roof, away from chickens who would feast on it. A few days later, the batch is dry and crumbly. I remove the stalks, and use a mortar and pestle to turn them into flakes (A process which takes a while). Watching a movie or reading a book helps pass the time, while the action of pounding the chilies helps relieve stress.
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My efforts were rewarded when later I had a nice amount of chili flakes, enough to fill a standard sized McCormick spice bottle. It smelled pretty good, and packed a pretty nice punch. Mama used it for the kilawin we had for our beach picnic lunch the next day, and while it wasn’t that hot to make me cry, it was enough to add a little kick in the flavor.
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Better than the dried pepper flakes you get at the market. The color is so much better too, and it didn’t cost me a centavo. I love it.