Saturday, 15 January 2011


Sorry Twihards, this post has absolutely nothing to do with that dismal phenomenon. Although we did find plant-pots that sparkled in the sun; I found that funny. This post is about our very successful harvest of Numex Twilight chillies, which has just come to an end.

Twilight is a pretty new cultivar, as far as I can tell, and it is variously described as "medium hot", "very hot", "the hot, hot chilli", "to 45cm", "60cm" and "to 1m tall". Which I think indicates fairly clearly that your mileage may vary if you decide to have a go with these.

Certainly the ones we grew were at the outside edge of our heat tolerance, and ultimately stood 140cm tall. They packed a heck of a punch.

We grew them from seed, starting in late February. They took a very long time to germinate - which should have indicated what we were up against, as hot chillies take longer to germinate than milder ones.

The USP for Twilight is that you have this prolific crop of fruit, with red, yellow and purple glossy, upright chillies all appearing at the same time. In fact, they seem to ripen from the middle of the bush outwards, so you have a flush of red in the middle, shading up through orange and yellow to purple on the outer edges. So it looks like a sunset. Twilight. Sunset. Very nifty.

Paul's fertilising regime, of Chilli Focus, Tomorite and super-phosphate led to a lot of fruit. Early on in the season we wanted to thin it out a bit, so I picked 300g of the purple chillies to make a sort of Tabasco-esque sauce. Sadly it lost the lovely colour, while retaining the heat, so we ended up with an innocuous-looking creamy yellow sauce that contains the fires of hell. Deceptive.

The problem with these chillies was our ability to consume them. When you have hundreds on a bush and adding a single chilli to a pot of curry makes your eyes water and your mouth tingle, you really have to look around for ways to use them.

I took bags of fresh chillies in to work.

I made pots of delicious savoury Thai chilli jam, which I have then used in egg sambals, nasi goreng and as a base for soup.

I made pots of sweet and spicy apple and chilli jam, which will make its way into quesadillas and onto cheese-boards.

And finally, at the end of the season, I developed an amazingly good chilli sauce recipe. I think this is a really good model for a chilli sauce - you get a good texture and body with the proportions, and it isn't too sweet. If you use a different variety of chilli, you will get a different flavour sauce. Nice and adaptable.

Chilli Sauce

250g chillies
300g fresh tomatoes, chopped
3tbs golden caster sugar
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
250ml white wine vinegar
2tbs coarse sea-salt

Roughly chop the chillies and place in a stainless steel saucepan with the tomatoes garlic, sugar and vinegar. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then place in a food processor or blender with the salt and process until smooth-ish. The seeds won't break down, but they are going to be strained out anyway.

Push through a conical sieve into a sterilised pyrex jug, and then fill sterilised bottles and seal. Makes about 500ml.

I made a couple of batches of this, and the most successful variation was with smoked chillies. I spread the chillies out in a single layer in a steamer, and placed it in the bottom of my smoker, next to a pile of beechwood smoking dust. I positioned the vent over the chillies, to encourage a good flow of smoke up from the dust and over the fruit. After about 15 minutes I closed the vent and let them just sit in the smoke, for a total of an hour.

The smoked version came out a slightly darker colour, and has a rich but subtle smokey flavour. I took one bottle into work, where it is disappearing at an incredible rate. I know exactly where this year's chilli crop is going to go.


Kavey said...

How fabulous!
Do you know whether they are a hybrid seed or open pollinated? (Hybrid ones often have F1 in the name on the seed packet)
The reason I ask is that I'm wondering if you happen to have kept any seed from a few of the chillis that you might be willing to share, as I'd love to grow one of these plants.
But I have recently started reading more about seed saving and apparently, the hybrid varieties aren't stable, if you harvest seed from the fruits what you get when planting it the following season it often not the same.
But with open pollinated varieties, they are stable.
If I've understood it right!

Simona said...

Wow! I love all the photos: the colors are just beautiful. I like this sentence: "we ended up with an innocuous-looking creamy yellow sauce that contains the fires of hell." Any casualties yet?

Alicia Foodycat said...

Kavey - I will email you! They aren't an F1 hybrid (F1 hybrids are often sterile and don't breed true to the second generation, they revert back to one of the parental types) but they are a hybrid.

Simona - I am far too kind to let anyone be deceived! Although one guy at work thought I was 0verstating it when I said the sauce was hot. He learned.

Rachel said...

What a beautiful and productive plant. I love all the condiments you made with your rainbow of peppers.

Heather S-G said...

Oh, the fires of hell!! Nice. Definitely deceptive w/ that color...and the smoked one sounds out of this world!! I love the looks like it's stuck with christmas lights! I want one!!

Deb in Hawaii said...

What? No vampires?! ;-) Just kidding. Those are the prettiest little chilies I have ever seen and what a crop of them too. Love that smoked chili sauce but since I am wimpy I would probably be able to only use a little.

Alicia Foodycat said...

Rachel - I do love a bit of preserving!

Heather - it is SO pretty! It really does look like it is covered in candles.

Deb - we only add the tiniest amount and it gives a lovely heat.

kat said...

Next year I'm totally doing chili sauce we get some many peppers at the end of the season. Did you know you can also freeze then easily? We seed & chop them & just throw them in ziplocs to freeze. Its prefect from throwing a few in a chile or curry all winter.

hungryandfrozen said...

Aren't they beautiful! Yes, chilli aren't exactly something you can use up easily in the same way as say, berries or stone fruit, (since most people can't absent mindedly eat a handful) but I love the sound of that chilli sauce, especially the balance of salty and sweet in it.

Haha "dismal phenomenon"

Alicia Foodycat said...

Kat - I know they freeze, but we hand HUNDREDS!

Laura - it is a dismal phenomenon!

Anonymous said...

No lovelier plant than a pepper. Cheers!

azélias kitchen said...

gorgeous...i love the purple colour!

Alicia Foodycat said...

HPD - so true!

Azalea - all of the colours are just amazing.

Swedish Mike said...

This looks really good.

I really must get my arse in gear and get some chilis grown next season.

Would be stupid not to use the smoker for that too. ;)

Many thanks for the inspiration!

// Mike

Dilaura said...

Can I please bother you for your chili jam recipe?!

Alicia Foodycat said...

@Dilaura - I use Rachel Allen's sweet chilli jam recipe with double the amount of chilli to make it hot, rather than sweet.


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