Chile Peppers

A display of hot peppers and a board explainin...
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  • Chile Peppers
  • by Jennifer A. Wickes
  • copyright 2011

Chiles are also known as chile peppers, hot peppers and chillis.

History and Geography

Native to the New World, Christopher Columbus discovered chiles upon his arrival. Now these peppers from the Capsicum family play an integral part in the following cuisines: Africa, China, India, Mexico, Pakistan, South America, Spain and Thailand.

Varieties

There are more than 200 varieties of peppers, each with its own season and degree of “heatness”. They also vary in size and color. The largest can be as large as 12 inches, and the smallest as small as ¼ inch! Dried chiles and chile powders are available year round, usually in Latin American and Asian markets. Examples of some chiles:

  • Aconcagua
  • Anaheim
  • Ancho
  • Banana Peppers
  • Bell Peppers
  • Bird
  • Bishop’s Crown
  • Bulgarian Carrot
  • Caribe
  • Cascabel
  • Cayenne
  • Charleston Hot
  • Cherry Peppers
  • Chilaca
  • Chile Colorado
  • Chipotle
  • Corno di Toro
  • De Arbor
  • Fresno
  • Guajillo
  • Guero
  • Habanero
  • Hinkelhatz
  • Hungarian Wax
  • Jalapeño
  • Jamaican Hot
  • McMahan’s Texas Bird
  • Mulato
  • Pasilla
  • Pepperoncini
  • Pequín
  • Pimiento
  • Poblano
  • Red Pepper
  • Ristra
  • Rocotillos
  • Santa Fe Grande
  • Scotch Bonnet
  • Serrano
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Thai Chile
  • Togarashi.

How To Select Your Chiles

Choose your chile with deep vivid colors. Avoid any chile that is shriveled or has any soft spots. Usually, a larger chile is milder. Most of the heat of a chile is contained in the veins and the seeds. Cooking and freezing does not diminish the heat intensity of a chile, so removing the veins and seeds will greatly help. Dried chiles will store indefinitely.

A Word of Caution

It is very important to wash your hands after handling hot peppers. Your skin and eyes can burn from the juices contained within the peppers. Some people are really sensitive and require gloves while handling chiles. If you burn your mouth from a chile, try eating a piece of bread to reduce the sting. If you do burn your fingers, try soaking your hands in milk or yogurt.

Food and Spice Affinity

  • avocados
  • bananas
  • basil
  • bay leaf
  • beans
  • cheese
  • chocolate
  • cilantro
  • cinnamon
  • citrus fruits
  • coconut
  • coffee
  • corn
  • cumin
  • eggplant
  • fennel
  • fish sauce
  • garlic
  • ginger
  • ketchup
  • lemons
  • lemongrass
  • lentils
  • lime
  • mangoes
  • marjoram
  • mushrooms
  • mustard
  • olive oil
  • onions
  • oregano
  • paprika
  • parsley
  • peanuts
  • pineapple
  • rice
  • rosemary
  • salads
  • salsas
  • seafood
  • sesame
  • shallots
  • soy sauce
  • thyme
  • tomatoes
  • vinegar
  • yogurt

Cooking Hint

If you are cooking something and it has become too spicy, make it milder by adding noodles or a potato. These will help absorb some of the heat!

Nutritional Information

Chiles are cholesterol free, low in sodium and calories. They are high in Vitamins A and C, and a good source of folic acid, potassium and Vitamin E.

Health Benefits

Chiles are mostly grown in hot countries, as eating them will help cool your body temperature down by sweating a lot quicker than drinking a cold beverage. This theory has been utilized by native cultures to help bring down a fever.

Also, hot chiles can help ease congestion by making your sinuses run, and they help kill bacteria in your body!

You can make a paste of 9 parts flour, 1 part olive oil and 1 part cayenne pepper. Add enough water to make a paste. Sandwich this mixture between two cloths and use on arthritic joints.

Scoville Units

This is a method to determine the heat of a pepper.

Mild: 0 to 2,500 Scoville Units
Anaheims, Anchos, Mulato, Pimiento, Poblanos, Pasillas, and Sweet Peppers

Medium: 2,500 to 10,000 Scoville Units
Cascabel, Cherries, Chilaca, Chipotles, Fresno, Guero, Hungarian Wax, Jalapeños, New Mexico, Pepperoncini, Red Pepper

Hot: 10,000 to 100,000 Scoville Units
Bird, Caribe, Cayenne, Charleston Hot, De Arbol, Guajillo, Jamaican Hot, Pequín, Santa Fe Grande, Serrano, Thai Chile, Togarashi

VERY Hot: 100,000 to 300,000 Scoville Units
Habanero, Scotch Bonnet

Recipes

“Hot” Chocolate

  • 4 cups milk
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 pieces of Mexican sweet chocolate (or your favorite cocoa)
  • Cayenne pepper

Combine the milk and cinnamon sticks in a saucepan and heat over medium heat. When the milk begins to simmer, add the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has completely dissolved. Remove the cinnamon sticks, and pour into mugs. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper!

Yields: 4 servings

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Tomatillo Soup

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 quarts chicken broth
  • 30 tomatillos
  • 3 jalapenos
  • 1 habanero
  • 6 ounces rotelle, cooked and drained
  • 3/4 cup light sour cream

In a medium saucepan, heat oil.  Add onion and garlic.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add broth, tomatillos and peppers.  Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low.  Simmer partially covered for 7 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool slightly.

In a blender or food processor, puree the mixture, in batches, until smooth. Return to saucepan.  Add pasta and sour cream.  Cook until heated through.

Yields: 4 servings

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Sherry Peppers – Bermuda’s version to Tabasco sauce

  • Thai chiles, red bird peppers
  • Sherry

Fill a clean jar of chiles and then pour sherry over them. Cover and store in a cool dry place.

Check on the jar and add more sherry as necessary.

Continue for 6 – 8 weeks.

Use with eggs, fish chowder or wherever you would like some zing to a dish.

Serving size: several drops

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Fresh Salsa

  • 4 tomatillos
  • 4 tomatoes, vine-ripened, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, minced
  • 2 jalapenos, or 1 habanero, or 3 pasillas, veined, deseeded and minced
  • 1 rib celery, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup cilantro, washed and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Peel the papery skin off of the tomatillos.  Put in a pot with water and boil 10 minutes.

In a separate bowl, mix together the tomatoes, onion, chiles, celery, garlic and cilantro.

Crush the tomatillos and fold into the chopped mixture.

Add the cumin, salt, lime juice and honey.

Allow to sit, covered in the refrigerer night.

Serve with chips, eggs, grilled meats, tacos, burritos or fajitas.

Yields: 4 cups

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Chipotle Chicken

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 4 black peppercorns
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 3 pickled chipotle chiles

Wash and pat dry the chicken breasts.  Season with salt and pepper on both sides.

In a blender, puree the garlic, peppercorns, cloves, cumin and onion with half of the water.  Add the tomatoes, chipotles and the rest of the water and puree again.

In a skillet, heat the puree in a pan until it boils.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add the chicken, cover and cook on low for 25 minutes.

Yields: 4 servings

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