Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Everybody say HOT! HOT! HOT!

An assortment of hot peppers from here at the Farm.
Starting clockwise at 12 o'clock, we have: Chocolate Chiles, Serrano Chiles, Red and Green Jalapenos, Ancho and Poblano Chiles, Habaneros and the bright ones in the center are Hot Banana peppers.

"The exploration of the chemistry of capsaicin dates to 1816 when P.A. Bucholtz found that the pungent principle of peppers could be extracted from the pods using organic solvents, according to the newsmagazine. In 1846, L.T. Thresh reported in a published paper that the main chemical component of peppers could be removed in a crystalline state and he named this chemical capsaicin.

The most well known lab work on the chemical was done by Wilbur Scoville, who in 1912 convened a panel of tasters, who rated the heat of different peppers, C&EN reports. And today the Scoville scale of units is the "rule of tongue" for rating pepper heat. For pepper lovers, the hottest rating at 300,000-500,000 goes to haba¤ero peppers, compared to a mere 2,500 for the fabled jalapeƱo. Despite the high reading of 500,000, capsaicin in peppers is not likely to hurt anyone. The reading for pure capsaicin in the Scoville scale is 16 million.

In addition to pleasing many peoples' palates, chili peppers are a good source of vitamins A, C and E, rich in folic acid and potassium, low in calories and sodium, and contain no carbohydrates, C&EN says.

Another scientific fact imparted by the newsmagazine that capsaicin breaks down in fats is good news for dessert lovers who may need to turn down the pepper heat. That is, something cold, sweet and flavored with chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry certainly can help put out that fire."
Excerpt taken from an article at

While I am not much of a connoisseur of foods that make your nose run and your eyes water, I do appreciate the fact that there are those of you who do. I actually love the taste of wasabi and horseradish but their heat is more of a flash fire, hot for a few seconds and then everything is back to normal, as opposed to the smoldering ember and/or raging inferno of capsaisin, which to me seems to be interminable. The Farmer loves hot foot and so I am trying to learn to tolerate the heat of peppers, with some success, having become addicted to all things chipotle this summer.

Exploring different culinary possibilities, I decided that I would like to try my hand at making my own green chili powder. I couldn't find a recipe per se, so I just took several different kinds of chile peppers, roasted them and then dried them. Once they were well blackened and completely dried, I put my assortment into a spice grinder and let 'er rip! I only removed the stems, so the seeds, where the heat is the strongest, were included. I discovered that finely ground dried chiles have the same effect as black pepper and after sneezing about 20 times, I put on a dust mask, the kind they sell for use with household sanding projects and that helped alot. The end result was worth the little bit of discomfort I experienced because the flavor was amazing. You can actually taste the peppers, not just the heat.