Thursday, January 26, 2012

In Which I Turn My Kitchen Into a Hazmat Site

We grew 18 pepper plants in 2011. One of those was a cayenne pepper and it was a bit of an impulse buy. Hubby Dear and I were looking at the pepper transplants for sale at a big box store in the next county and it caught our eye. We had never used fresh cayenne peppers before, but we felt that surely we could find something to do with them.

The collection of dried cayenne pepper pods

The plant did really well and produced hundreds of slender green fruits that ripened to a dark red. We decided that the best use of the cayennes would be to turn them into either crushed red pepper flakes or ground red pepper, so we laid them out in a corner of the kitchen to dry.

They have been dry for several months now, waiting for me to get off my tuchus and get around to grinding them. Yesterday was the fateful day.

Although you may wonder after you read about the rest of my misadventure, I'm not entirely clueless when it comes to chile peppers. I knew I should wear gloves while I was working with the cayennes so I didn't get any of the oils on me.  I put on a pair of gloves and began pulling off the stems of the peppers. After the stems were removed, it was a simple matter to shake out the seeds and then pop pieces of dried pepper into my spice grinder. Easy peasy, right?

When grinder was full of pepper pieces, I put the lid on and let it rip. It didn't take much grinding before I noticed pepper dust sprinkling my counter. Hmm, I guess the lid isn't exactly airtight. No matter. I proceeded on.

Then I started sneezing. Huge, messy, half-choking sneezes. Ever heard an elephant sneeze? Me neither, but I imagine that's what I sounded like.

Hubby Dear helpfully hinted that perhaps one of those N-95 masks I have stored would be useful at a moment like this. Since my gloved hands were covered in cayenne dust, he ventured out from living room, held his breath and hurriedly put the mask over my nose and mouth. He retreated quickly to watch his basketball game and thanked his lucky stars that he had an excuse for missing the kitchen shenanigans.  

In his haste to exit the premises, the Hubster hadn't properly situated the mask on my face. My exhalations were somehow getting channeled up towards my eyes. The moist air (keep in mind that the amount of cayenne pepper dust I had already inhaled had me breathing like Darth Vader) fogged my glasses. I'm not sure exactly what I did or how it happened, but the culminating event was a puff of cayenne launched into my eyeball.

To his credit, Hubby Dear did use the DVR to pause the game and check on me while I frantically washed my eye out with cold water. He sympathized with my irritated lungs during TV timeouts. Thanks, honey. I'm glad to know that I rank only slightly lower than our alma mater's basketball team. ;)

Nearly 1/2 c. of very potent ground red pepper

I only made it through half of our dried pepper pods before the above-described disaster. That yielded me nearly 1/2 a cup of ground red pepper, plenty for the next few months. It is much brighter in color than the cayenne I buy at the local grocery store. Hubby Dear says it smells really good, too. I can't say I've tried it yet. After the Unfortunate Incident and the following Hazmat-style cleanup, my lungs seize up if I even think about cayenne!

This may be my most painful exercise in self-sufficiency yet.

Postscript: Our 2012 garden plan includes more cayenne peppers. I guess some people will never learn!


  1. maybe outside next time? I love cayenne and use it more than black pepper. Yours will be so freah you'll only need a tiny shake. So, do you think you know what it's like to be pepper-sprayed now? I have contacts and HATE getting it in my eyes.

  2. Mama4x - Yes, outside would definitely be better! It was like a mini pepper spray scenario but I think it was worth it. I used some of it last night in a batch of sloppy joe's and it was excellent.

  3. Oh no!!! Perhaps that is one activity that should be relegated to outside! LOL. I have yet to get a pepper plant to grow good in our climate. Even sweet green, red, and yellow peppers never seem to develop properly.

    Your peppers look beautiful!