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.