Tag Archives: peppers

Tips and Hints Surrounding the Chile

It’s that time of the research process where I list all of the best information I can find in regard to purchasing the good, better and best chiles when in your local market.

  • Chiles, although available nearly year round, are best in the late summer.
  • The best chiles are the firm ones with the shiny skins.
  • The better chiles will smell more “fresh and peppery” than those of lesser quality.
  • If choosing between two chiles of equal length and width, choose the heavier one. It will have more flesh.
  • If you wish to retain the heat of your chiles, avoid washing them before using them.
  • A general rule of thumb: The smaller the chile, the hotter it will be.
  • Use rubber gloves in preparing your chiles, as the oil can last on surfaces for several hours afterwards.
  • Stems should always be removed. The seeds and inner fibers are up to you.
  • A fair amount of the capsaicin is located in the inner fibers and seeds. If you leave them in, your dish will be hotter.
  • The seeds are not the hottest part of peppers. It is at the point where the seed is attached to the white membrane inside the pepper that the highest concentration of capsaicin is found.
  • Do not touch your eyes after you’ve cut chile peppers! Wash your hands first!
  • Wash your hands with hot, soapy water after done preparing the chiles, to remove any residual oils. Vinegar is also recommended.
  • Store your chiles in a paper bag in your refrigerator for up to one week.
  • Some Flavors that go with chile peppers: Chocolate, Cilantro, Coconut milk, fish sauce, ginger, lemons, lime, new world beans, peanuts, baked winter squash seeds, sesame oil, soy sauce tomitillas, tomatoes
  • The best way to reduce the heat from a chile you’ve recently bitten into? Eat either a banana, yogurt, milk, and soft/mild cheeses. Alcohol and carbonation will make the heat worse. Water does little against the heat.

Technorati Tags: Food, food tips, chile, food trivia


Chile Pepper Varieties

Here’s a compiled list of different chile peppers you may come across in your own travels. The number next to the name is the pepper’s Scoville rating. The hotter the pepper equates to a higher number.

Sweet bell pepper: 0 : Yes, this is indeed a chile, although we don’t typically believe it to be so. Ubiquitous in the states, they’re typically green and about the size of a large fist.

Pimento: 100 – 500 : Also a chile. I actually did not know this about pimentos, thinking them only as olive stuffing. Pimiento is the Spanish word for “pepper”, which shows you how well I know the spanish language.

Pepperoncini pepper: 100-500 : Also known as Tuscan Peppers, this pepper is found in Italy and Greece. It’s the Grecian crop that we typically find in pizzerias and Italian eateries here in the states, as they tend to be more sweet than those grown in Italy.

Paprika: 250 – 1000 : It’s not a spice, but actually a chili pepper from which the spice is made. Think of it as a large sweet pepper, conical in shape.

Santa Fe Grande pepper: 500 – 700 : Also known as the yellow hot chile and the guero chile, I’ve seen this pepper in the grocery store from time to time. They’re about 5″ long and ripen from greenish-yellow, to orange-yellow to red.

Poblano pepper: 1,000 – 2,000 : Probably Mexico’s most popular variety of chile. It has a big interior which is perfect for stuffing. It’s 4″ long and its coloring is a dark blackish green maturing to red or brown. An Ancho pepper is dried form of the poblano chile.

Jalapeño: 2,500 – 8,000: Rightly or wrongly, when an American thinks of Mexican cuisine, the jalapeño is most likely thought of. A chipotle is a jalapeño that has been smoked. It is often found in adobo sauce. They are harvested when they are green or red if allowed to ripen. You can find them between 4″-6″ long.

Serrano pepper: 5,000 Р23,000 : Generally 1 to 2 inches long, 1/2 inch wide and similarly colored to the jalape̱o, dark green to red. This chile is often used in salsas and as a flavoring for stews, casseroles and egg dishes.

Tabasco pepper: 30,000 – 50,000 : The chile they use to make Tabasco sauce. The fruit is tapered and small (under 2″ in length). The color is often a creamy yellow to red.

Cayenne pepper: 30,000 – 50,000 : A very thin chile pepper, green to red in coloring, and about 2 to 3 inches in length. It is often used in a ground form as a spice, hence – Cayenne Pepper.

Tien Tsin Pepper: 50,000 – 75,000 : Traditional for Asian cooking. Very hot, bright red, 1-2″ Chinese pods. These are the peppers found in your Kung Pao chicken. I recall many of my knowledgable friends daring anyone gullible enough to eat these dried delicacies.

Rocoto Pepper: 50,000 – 100,000 : Also called the Manzano pepper, this chile is typically found in South America. It is among the oldest of domesticated peppers, and was grown up to as much as 5000 years ago. It is probably related to undomesticated peppers that still grow in South America.

Thai pepper: 50,000 – 100,000 : These chiles are small, seldom growing larger than 1 to 3 inches long. They are usually less than 1/2 inch wide, but provide plenty of heat. These slightly curvy, potent peppers are typically bright red or deep green, and end in a sharp point. Finely sliced Thai peppers can be mixed with the hot oil in a stir-fry or used to heat up coconut soups and noodle dishes.

Scotch bonnet: 100,000 – 325,000 : Probably the cultivar of chile that Columbus sampled. Serves the bastard right. They are tam-shaped and found in Caribbean. They are also called booney peppers, bonney peppers, and goat peppers on various islands. They are usually red or yellow at maturity

Habanero chile: 100,000 – 350,000 : Sibling to the Scotch Bonnet, it’s widely recognized as the hottest chile cultivar. Grown mainly on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, its coloring is yellow-orange, orange or bright red, depending upon when it’s harvested. Average Size 1 – 2 1/2″ long, 1 – 2″ diameter and tam-shaped.

Red Savina Habanero: 350,000 – 580,000 : Reportedly the hottest chile pepper on record.

Technorati Tags: Food, Chile, chile peppers


The Heat in Chiles – Scoville and Capsaicin

Get it? Heat? Chile? *taps microphone* Hullo, is this thing on?

If you’ll pardon my attempt at lame puns, I want address the issue about what makes chiles, y’know, so hot.

The substances that give chile peppers their heat are the alkaloid capsaicin, and other related chemicals. These substances are collectively called capsaicinoids. For the record, the other capsaicinoids are:

  • dihydrocapsaicin
  • nordihydrocapsaicin
  • homodihydrocapsaicin
  • homocapsaicin

Say them aloud at a party, and you’ll be sure to leave others either impressed or befuddled.

Speaking of impressing people, I could let you know how capsaicinoids interact with your body, creating the sensation of pain and heat. For instance, I could write “The sensations associated with capsaicin result from capsaicin’s chemical interaction with your sensory neurons. Capsaicin binds to a receptor called the vanilloid receptor subtype 1. This binding allows positively-charged ions to pass through the cell membrane and into the cell. This results in a “depolarization” of the neuron, causing the neuron to signal your brain with, what medical professionals call, an ‘owie’”.

I could write that, but you’d probably fall asleep as soon as I mentioned the phrase “vanilloid receptor subtype 1″. I base this assumption only on the fact that I slightly nodded off myself, and I typed out the darn thing.

Different chiles have different levels of capsaicinoids found within their fruits. This is why you can eat a bell pepper without any fuss, yet cry like Halle Berry winning an Oscar when taking a bite out of a scotch bonnet. The Scoville scale is a measure of the amount on capsaicinoids found in a chile pepper. Coincidentally named after it’s developer, William Scoville, the scale is set by measuring a dilution of pepper extract in sugar water until the ‘heat’ of a pepper is no longer detectable. As Wikipedia explains:

…a sweet pepper, containing no capsaicin at all, has a Scoville rating of zero, meaning no heat detectable even undiluted. Conversely, the hottest chiles, such as habaneros, have a rating of 300,000 or more, indicating that their extract has to be diluted 300,000-fold before the capsaicin present is undetectable.

The Scoville scale now uses high pressure liquid chromatography in order to get a precise number. As it turns out, 15 Scoville units is roughly equivalent to one part capsaicin per million.

That’s only some of the science behind chile peppers. Later, I’ll post a list of varieties of chiles and each of their Scoville level. It promises to be fun interesting in a trivial sort of way.

Technorati Tags: food, chile, chile pepper, food trivia


O’ Capsicum, my Capsicum – Chiles

I’ve completed three recipes for squash and it’s time to move along (I know, I know, Ipromised one more pumkpin pie recipe. It’s on the way). Checking the Food Timeline, I see that next on the research mill is a topic to which I’ve been looking forward: Chiles.

Chiles are a food that draws a great deal of passion from people. Finding sites that deal with the little peppers was no problem at all. It’s quite difficult to imagine people working a similar obsession over, say, cucumbers.

Chiles are members of the nightshade family, and are the fruits of the plant Solanaceae Capsicum. There are literally hundreds of species that fall under this classification, and there’s no way I’m going to be able to try them all. Lucky for us, there’s an obsessive pepper fan who has created the chile pepper database to document the different varieties. I’m continually amazed at the things one can find on the internet.

The peppers have been around for quite some time. Evidence of their existance has been dated back to around 7000 BC, while proof of domestication of the plant has been noted to be around 5200 BC. This took place over on this side of the world in the Western Hemisphere. Capsicum was domesticated at least five times by prehistoric peoples in different parts of South and Middle America.

It was Columbus who introduced the plant to the rest of the world, where it quickly took off in popularity. Today you can find variations of the plant being grown in New Mexico, Central and South American, Italy, Thailand, China, and dozens of other locations worldwide.

Chiles also are mired in a tiny bit of a controversy as well. Currently there are 5 tastes that are generally recognized – sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and savory (umami). The question is: where does the taste of peppers fit in to these categories, specifically those varieties that carry a bit of heat in them? It’s a good question. The pungency of the plants are produced by capsaicinoids, alkaloid compounds that are found only in Capsicums.

But it is not my place to answer such questions of yet. It is my place to find out as much as I can about these plants and how they fit into food culture. Color me one happy person.

Technorati Tags: food, chile, food history, chile facts