One might argue that saving chilli seeds from the current crop (to grow on in coming years) is the sort of pleasant gardening job that one might well conduct indoors during mid-winter. Yet the pungent fumes given off when bulk-handling chillies makes this just as much an outdoor job.
So I compromise and wait for a sunny winter’s day to get the job done, ducking in and out of the house as needed.
The cook’s hanging about too, hopeful at this chance to make some sweet chilli sauce from the remnants of the gardener’s efforts. So I proceed with caution, ensuring that my muddy boots are well away from a possible crime scene and that I clean up kitchen surfaces as I go along.
Because chillies come in all sorts of weird shapes there is no single ‘right-way’ to get them open and the seeds out. So a small sharp knife is essential, as are a few dishes for storing different varieties, and latex gloves to avoid the agony that follows touching one’s face for about a month after working with chillies and bare hands.
Some chillies – especially small one – would drive me crazy trying to cut the seeds out. So these are best processed whole by adding them to a food blender or Thermomix, adding a few cups of water, then blasting them apart.
Only the seeds that sink to the bottom are of interest to me. I suspect their increased density means that they are more fully formed than those that float to the top.
Then I sieve and wash these remnants a few times, pick out any remaining pieces of stem and flesh and place the seeds in small glass jars to dry. I will stir these regularly over the coming week to separate them before they go to the storage tins.
Long thin chillies are more easily handled dry; I cut them open and separate the seed-bearing ribs from the outer wall with the sharp knife and let the whole lot dry out in still air out of direct sunlight. The seeds come away later with some gentle rubbing.