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How To Safely Handle Jalapenos: My Experience…and What I Learned
By Jennifer Spears
The memories came flooding back as I checked my Facebook page. It’s awesome that they remind you of what you were doing in years past. Unless, of course, the memories are bad! I had actually forgot all about my experience a few years ago with jalapenos. I burned my hands processing them. It was awful, so I thought I would share my story and what I learned about how to handle jalapenos safely. Maybe hearing about what I went through, and learned in the process, can help someone else.
We like hot food! Actually…we love hot food! Many of our meals…breakfast, lunch and dinner…revolve around heat. So it’s no surprise that jalapenos are among our favorite peppers.
A few years ago, shortly after moving to our homestead, I couldn’t pass up a great deal on jalapenos at the local farmers market.
My plan was to slice and freeze them, so we could take out a handful at a time to add to our meals.
This was my first time processing so many jalapenos at a time, but since I had used them in the past, it never even occurred to me that I should take some precautions.
Like the happy homesteader that I am…I went about seeding and slicing the entire batch of jalapenos. If I remember right, I ended up with about 3 gallon freezer bags full of glorious flavor for our Winter food. We’re a very large family, so to me, that didn’t even seem like a lot.
After I finished, I washed my hands and started to clean up the kitchen…
…and my hands lit up like an out of control bonfire!
My palms…between my fingers…under my nails…the burning seemed to intensify with each passing minute.
I tried washing them again. I tried aloe vera…milk…leaving them in cold water…nothing helped.
And yes…I did resort to begging for some miracle solution on Facebook. My friends suggested everything that I had already tried…plus some other things…like sour cream…that didn’t work either.
The pain was unbearable. My mother even called the emergency room to see if they had any suggestions.
They didn’t. They said that the best thing to do was wait it out, and use a product like solarcaine…which of course, I didn’t have. Thankfully, my dear mother rushed to my aide, picking some up on her way.
The burn spray helped some, but I had to keep applying it, and by evening, had run out completely.
I couldn’t sleep. The only relief that I had overnight was rotating partially frozen towels between my hands and the freezer.
By morning, a couple of my fingers and part of my left palm had actually started to blister!
Handling jalapenos is no joke! Seriously!
About 24 hours after I placed my beloved jalapenos in the freezer, the burning on my hands started to lessen. By evening the next day, I only had some burning under my nails. My hands were still very sore though, and it took a few days for them to feel completely back to normal.
I had certainly learned my lesson…and would learn how to safely handle jalapenos before ever touching another one!
What I Did Wrong
I didn’t wear gloves.
When I was finished, I washed my hands in hot water.
I let my area get way too “juicy” from the jalapenos…creating more of a mess to clean up, and giving the jalapeno juice more time to soak onto my hands.
How To Safely Handle Jalapenos
Wear gloves! Powder free rubber gloves are cheap and readily available. Plan on having a few pairs, so you can change them if they get too wet, or if you need to take them off for some reason before you are finished.
*An added note on gloves: Since I burned my hands, we still eat a lot of jalapenos, and even grow them ourselves now. Jalapenos straight from the garden are especially potent, so I recommend that gloves be worn during harvesting as well.
Keep your area as clean as possible, and your cutting surface as dry as possible. I choose to use paper towels as I work now, so I can throw them away immediately. The last thing I want is jalapeno juice on a dish towel in the laundry.
While you are processing your jalapenos, avoid touching your face.
When you are finished, wash your hands in COLD water with original blue Dawn. It removes oils. This was a tip that I found online after my experience, and although I refuse to handle jalapenos without gloves to test it, it sounded like good advice, so I began doing it.
DO NOT use hot water, as it will open your pores, allowing more of the oils to get into your skin.
I Still Love Jalapenos…
…how could I not! They are delicious, nutritious…and fun and easy to grow. I just have a very healthy respect for how to process them these days.
We still cook with them almost weekly, and plan to grow even more in our garden next year.
One of our favorite recipes is Smoked Armadillo Eggs…no eggs involved, I promise!
I can laugh a little at my experience now, but in all honesty, it was painful and scary. Please take precautions when cutting any hot pepper!