Saturday, March 26, 2011

Aji Amarillo (Yellow Chili Pepper)

This has to be one of the most essential ingredients in Peruvian cooking.
It’s used in popular dishes like papa a la huancayina, ocopa, tamales verdes, oyuco, aji de huacatay, causa rellena and ceviche.
It’s not really a very hot pepper, but it’s packed full of flavor.
This pepper can be stored dry and reconstituted before use (although this method will limit the number of dishes in which it can be used). According to, aji amarillo is a chili pepper like aji panca.
Amarillo is “yellow” in English, although it turns a bright orange when it’s ripened.
I’m adding this post because several of the dishes I’ll share on this blog use aji amarillo.
I have yet to find aji amarillo at any of my local grocery stores here in Tulsa, but both Amazon and ebay sell them. I recently purchased an aji amarillo plant through Amazon. I’m really excited about growing this in my own backyard, and I’ll let you know in a few months if it’s still alive.

Update (2011-09-05):

Baby Aji Amarillo Pepper
I planted my aji amarillo peppers back on the 26th of April. I was very discouraged when no peppers appeared on my plants, although they appeared healthy in every way. I theorize that the heat we experienced this summer, with average daily temperatures above 100 degrees, prevented the flowers from setting fruit. I did notice during the past few months that the flowers would turn brown within a few days of appearing. I had almost given up on harvesting this year when suddenly, yesterday, I noticed about 15 or 20 small peppers. This has been the first week since June that average daily temperatures are below 100 degrees. In fact, our average daily temperatures for the last week have been around 85 degrees.
I now believe that temperature, more than soil conditions, has affected my plants. I’m happy to finally see small peppers, but I’m afraid it may be too late in the season for them to fully mature. I’ll post more updates in the following weeks.

Update (2011-11-12):
Last week during a freeze warning I harvested most of my Aji Amarillos. I left a few on the plant and covered them with plastic. It was all for nothing since we did not get a freeze. But now I’m left with a bunch of green, yellow, and orange peppers in various ripeness stages.

I left enough peppers on the plant, as seen below, and I’m hoping they’ll have enough time to ripen on the plant itself before the next freeze.

For the last week, I’ve used the green peppers in various dishes and was pleasantly surprised to find that they were, indeed, HOT and full of flavor. So tomorrow I’m going to try several ways to preserve them. I plan to take all the green peppers, seed them and then blanch them before putting them in a food processor along with salt and olive oil, and turning it into a puree of sorts that I can then freeze. The orange and yellow peppers I’ll cut in half, seed and blanch, and freeze just like they are. I’ll post an update with my results.

Update (2011-11-14):
Like I mentioned in my last update (2011-11-12), I finally got around to preserving my peppers. I harvested any peppers that were still left on the plants that were over an inch in length. In the end, I decided to just process all the peppers in the food processor.  This actually worked out pretty well, and I got a good blend of flavors from the peppers at various stages of ripeness.  I took all the seeds from the orange (fully ripened) peppers and set them aside to dry for next year’s crop. I did however leave a bunch of peppers with the seeds in them, I’ll find out later whether this decision will prove to be a mistake or not.

After cutting and seeding all the peppers, I quickly blanched them in hot water and set them aside in a colander to cool a bit before adding them to the food processor.

I added salt and oil to the food processor, and when I got the consistency I wanted, I placed the sauce in 5 jars and 2 small ice cube trays, similar to the way I did with the pesto.

These ice cube trays are small, about 1/2 inch square, the perfect size for adding to a bowl of soup, or a pot of stew.  All in all, I think I processed somewhere between 150 to 200 peppers (keep in mind all these came from only two plants).

I ended up with 2 small ice cube trays and 5 jars of the sauce, which hopefully will last a few months until next year’s growing season. I’m already planning for 6 plants next year.
This is turning out to be an unusually warm fall season. During most years, by this date we have already had many days of sub-freezing temperatures. Heck, even the leaves on most of my trees are still green. I know this wonderful weather can’t last much longer, so since I still have quite a few peppers on the plants, I may process the rest next weekend.

Photographs by Michael Findley


Post a Comment