How To Revive the Heat in Your…Kitchen


Like my father, I’m a strong believer in not wasting food. But while he will eat 3-week-old lox, I’ll refuse to even eat a tomato that’s been refrigerated.

Along those lines, DAD GANSIE and I also never throw shit out. I feel so guilty about throwing out food that even if I know I won’t eat the leftovers, I let them sit in my fridge for 2 weeks instead of tossing them on the spot. It’s a habit I’ve been meaning to break (and one that 80 is really hoping dies soon.)

I do think, though, he’d be proud of my latest food-rescuing invention, which also uses up plenty of my cabinet inhabitants.

Okay, so at my local 6-aisle grocery store serrano chilies come in packages of 18 or so for under $2. I try to stick them in everything I eat, but after so many meals with my mouth on fire I let the chilies hide in the back of my fridge until gray hair starts growing over their skin. And then they find a home in the trash.

It was different this time. I remembered a trick my friend Tim told me about how he prolongs the lives of chilies: he’ll buy jarred chilies and when the chilies run out, he’ll buy the non-jarred package and stick them in that same salty solution.

Of course, I wanted to do one better and make my own preserving liquid.

Saving Serrano Sauce

In an old, glass salad dressing bottle I stuffed all of the serranos that would fit, and then 2 more. (Yes, of course, I would save an old salad dressing bottle for some mysterious future usage. Luckily—I found one!) In no particular order or proportion I added: soy sauce, white wine vinegar, rice vinegar, chili oil, fish sauce, sriracha , sesame oil and multi-colored peppercorns.

I shook it around and just let it sit my in fridge.

And now last-minute peanut-soy noodles take seconds (also toss in garlic and ginger). And I can marinate anything by only opening one container. And I’ve saved plenty of serranos from dying in my ice box.

Whenever I use some of the sauce, I just add more of the concoction back in. When I finally use all of the serranos, I can buy 18 more and not feel guilty.

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  • chris September 2, 2009  

    Chiles last for a long time in the freezer. I bought one of those huge packages of finger chilies at BestWay and have been using them for a while. Its not the best solution if you are going to use them whole since they get a bit mushy, but if you are going to chop them up, they work great!

  • Jeb September 2, 2009  

    Gansie- We did this with Pickles. We had TONS of cucumbers growing in our garden and couldn’t eat them fast enough. So we cut them up and stuck them in our pickle jar that already had the salty liquid. We’ve also created our own picked cucumbers which were spicier and sweeter.

  • gansie September 2, 2009  

    the only thing im nervous about is the lack of sterilization.
    i wont get sick, right?
    how long can i keep this going?

  • Yvo September 2, 2009  

    When you figure out the magic cure to make you stop ignoring leftovers, let me know so I can perform it on BF. Although I must say a year of living apart and being without my homecooking has made him willing – almost desperate – for any way to eat my cooking 🙂

  • Nee Nee September 2, 2009  

    Gansie – I think as long as you keep everything refrigerated and don’t accidentally drop a piece of raw meat in there, you should be fine. The smell test will tell you everything. If you try to seal your jar by canning it, then you can not guarantee that the acid level of the reused juice is high enough to prevent botulism. Otherwise, keep it cold and throw it away if it starts smelling or tastes funky.

  • Jeb September 3, 2009  

    Ok so I had to look up what “botulism” was…scary stuff but only 110 cases a year in the US.

  • Maids September 3, 2009  

    I think you should go ahead and tag this post “Science Class” given the comments….

  • erica October 4, 2011  

    ok, if it has oil/butter in it it’s not safe to can in a hot water bath. however, sounds like you have enough salt and vinegar in there for it to last at least a couple months in the fridge (if not longer) despite not sterilizing the jar first. i agree with other commenters… just smell it. i just finished up a jar of fermented black bean paste that has honestly been open in my fridge for probably five years. i’m not dead yet! (i recently discovered 101 uses for that stuff, gotta go get more.)

    when i have a bunch of chiles i can’t use i just pickle them (hot water bath canning) in equal parts water and vinegar, then add about a tbspn salt for every three cups of liquid. that’s just how i like it 🙂 i finally just used the last two jalapenos out of last year’s jar, and i threw about 1/4 cup of the jalapeno infused pickle juice into a batch of salsa verde on sunday. BOOM! that’s how you use your leftovers 🙂

  • erica October 4, 2011  

    ps – i believe for fridge pickles just pouring boiling water on your equipment is sufficient. i did this with a batch of homemade cider last month and there was no wild yeast contamination, so i’m inclined to believe it did the job.

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