All About Hot Peppers

Interesting Hot Pepper Facts:

The first chiles were wild  berries that grew on vines in the Amazon  jungle.  The  plants thrived   and spread  north   from central  South  America  through Central  America, the Caribbean, and into southwestern North America.  Chiles were one of the earliest  plants to be cultivated   in the New World.  Culinary  and  medical  use  of hot  peppers extends back at least 7000 years. 

Hot  peppers  are an excellent  source of vitamin A. Two ounces of chile pepper contains twice the recommended daily intake of this important antioxidant vitamin.  They are rich in  beta-carotene,  which  converts  to Vitamin A in the body.  Hot  peppers  are  a  good source of vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, which helps the body break down protein and plays a vital role in maintaining the health of red blood cells.  They  are  also a good source of vitamin C,  potassium,  folic acid,  vitamin E, vitamin K (which  helps  promote  normal blood clotting), and manganese, an  essential  trace  mineral   which   helps   protect body cells  from  free radical damage. They are low in calories, low in sodium and cholestorol-free.

The  heat in  hot  peppers  is  caused  by a chemical  component  called  capsaicin.  This naturally occurring  chemical  survives both heating and freezing.  In  addition to causing a  burning  sensation, this  chemical  triggers  the  brain  to produce  endorphins, natural painkillers that promote a sense of well-being.  It is also a natural decongestant.

The  Scoville  Scale, created  by Wilbur   Scoville in 1912, is the method  by which   this   heat   is measured.  Scoville, an American   pharmacist, conducted   a series of tests using whole  ground  peppers  mixed with a solution of water and sugar. He then had a panel of testers  sip  the  solution  in  increased  dilutions until it reached the point that it no longer burned the mouth.  One part of pepper heat per one million drops of water was then rated at 1.5 Scoville Heat Units or SHU.

Enjoying hot peppers:

Hot  peppers  can  be  utilized in  a  variety  of  methods.  They  can  be eaten raw, dried, pickled, or roasted to use in casseroles,  stirfries,  soups,  noodle  dishes,  breads,  salsas,  marinates,  chutneys,  hot  sauces  and  dipping  sauces.

To dry chili peppers:

Wash peppers thoroughly, dry, place on wire rack or dish in dry, warm, well-ventilated room or string peppers on thread or fine wire and hang to dry.  Peppers will take 2-3 weeks to dry after which they can be ground and stored in an air- tight container.

To Roast Hot Peppers:

  • Turn oven to broil setting.
  • Lightly oil a cookie sheet and place peppers on sheet a few inches apart.
  • Use tongs to turn peppers every few minutes to ensure even roasting.
  • Remove tray from oven when all sides of peppers are blackened.  Cooking time will vary depending on size and number of peppers being roasted. A tray of medium Anaheims will take about 15-20 minutes.
  • Put the roasted peppers in a bowl, cover, let steam for 10-15 minutes.
  • Peel the skins away from the peppers with your hands.  Wear gloves.
  • Roasting will deepen the flavour and add a smoky flavour that complements the heat.

To freeze Hot Peppers:

  • Place the roasted cooled peppers in a single layer on wax paper.
  • Repeat,  placing  wax  paper between each layer.
  • Put in an airtight container and store in the freezer for up to 9 months.
  • Use in any recipe that requires roasted hot peppers.
  • Freezing roasted peppers alters the flavour slightly but not enough to be noticeable in most recipes.
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