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Tips on cooking or brewing with hot peppers.
December 18, 2007 10:26 AM   Subscribe

Tell me about cooking (or better yet, brewing) with hot peppers.

I'm looking to make a batch of ancho chili mead. I'd like it to have as much of the fruity ancho flavor as possible, and as little heat or bitterness — I know that some heat is inevitable, but I want this stuff to be drinkable for ordinary humans and not just rabid chili-heads, so I'm aiming for a nice warm tingle and not a vicious burn.

Cooks: How do you maximize the flavor, and minimize the heat, when cooking with hot peppers? Methods involving fat (steeping in oil, frying) aren't really an option here. Anything involving water, sugar, honey or alcohol is ideal.

Homebrewers: Have you ever brewed with hot peppers? Did you add them to the boil, in primary, in secondary, to the bottle, or what? How'd it turn out? What did you learn?
posted by nebulawindphone to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Cooks: How do you maximize the flavor, and minimize the heat

Remove the seeds and ribs, which is where most of the capsaicin (the molecule responsible for the pepper's heat) is concentrated.

There's quite a bit of confusion about whether the seeds or the ribs are more responsible for the heat; the best I can gather from the conflicting information is that the capsaicin is in the ribs, and not inside the seeds, but since the seeds are attached to and rest against the ribs, capsaicin may rub off on the outside of the seeds. I'd remove both to be safe, and in any case you wouldn't want the texture of the seeds in most recipes.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:40 AM on December 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


The spiciness is concentrated in the pithy "ribs" that define the chambers of the pepper. Also the seeds. Slicing out and discarding those will go a long way to minimizing the vicious burn.
posted by mumkin at 10:41 AM on December 18, 2007


Using anchos you arent dealing with that much heat to begin with. I would strongly suggest that you wait until late spring plant your own and then using the above suggestions to prepare them do so using as fresh a product as possible, you will get a much "fruitier" flavor that way.

It just occurred to me that you could soak the peppers in milk for a few hours then rinse them off, which might remove some more of the heat, but it could also be really gross.

ps. alcohol neutralizes capsaicin, so you might not have to worry about it that much anyways
posted by BobbyDigital at 10:49 AM on December 18, 2007


ps. alcohol neutralizes capsaicin, so you might not have to worry about it that much anyways

Well, this is actually one of the things I'm interested in. I was under the impression that alcoholic drinks are good with hot food because the capsaicin is alcohol-soluble.

If that's true, then adding the chilis relatively late, when there's already alcohol present, ought to make for hotter booze — more capsaicin dissolved out of the pepper and into the drink.

On the other hand, adding aromatic ingredients at a late stage (called "dry-hopping" when you do it with hops) results in more flavor too, and it's really the flavor-to-heat ratio that I'm trying to control. So I'm not sure how those two variables would interact, and I'm hoping someone's actually tried it and can fill me in.

(I've heard the soaking-in-milk trick, but I'm worried that traces of milk wouldn't be the best thing to have fermenting. I'm wondering if soaking them in vodka overnight might leach out enough of the capsaicin to have a similar effect.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:01 AM on December 18, 2007


(....er, and it's possible too that I'm overthinking this. Anyway, good suggestions so far, and keep 'em coming.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:26 AM on December 18, 2007


AVOID rubbing your eyes after handling them! (Ask me how I know!)
posted by Juggling Frogs at 11:49 AM on December 18, 2007


on the homebrew front check out Jalapeño Pepper ale (in particular Brewpastor post) and Chile Verde Beer season!
posted by phil at 12:07 PM on December 18, 2007


one more time with a working link Chile Verde Beer season!
posted by phil at 12:09 PM on December 18, 2007


AVOID rubbing your eyes after handling them! (Ask me how I know!)
posted by Juggling Frogs at 11:49 AM on December 18


Avoid touching ANY mucous membrane after handling them (Don't ask me how I know and yes it was painful)
posted by special-k at 12:27 PM on December 18, 2007


ps. alcohol neutralizes capsaicin

Nope, it dissolves it. Capsaicin is pretty unreactive as far as foodstuffs go.
posted by rxrfrx at 12:58 PM on December 18, 2007


Spiciness is one of those things that intensifies when food's let to sit. I would definitely advise brewing with the peppers in the primary brewing stage, and then strain out the peppers prior to fermentation.

Also seconding the notion of cutting out the seeds and ribs from the peppers. You want the fruity flavor, not the spicy innards.
posted by explosion at 1:53 PM on December 18, 2007


I'm wondering if soaking them in vodka overnight might leach out enough of the capsaicin to have a similar effect.

I have done this (I made some habanero vodka), and the vodka absorbed the spiciness & flavor of the peppers quite nicely overnight. I'm not sure how much of it would be left in the peppers afterward, though -- I just threw them away.

btw, delicious: habanero vodka + rose's lime, on the rocks. :)
posted by vorfeed at 2:00 PM on December 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


Capsaicin is at least a moderately effective anti-fungal. I think this raises at least two problems for your plan.

First, if the peppers inhibit the yeast (a single-celled fungus, after all), your mead may end up with off-flavors generated by bacteria, and it may take a long time for the alcohol to develop, if it ever does. Second, one of the ways the yeast might fight back is by degrading the capsaicin, and the mead may end up much less hot than it started out.

On the other hand, the battle of the bottle between the yeast and the peppers may be a royal road to complexity and depth of flavor, attributes I have so far keenly felt the lack of in about half of the mead I've had. Please give it a shot and let us know how it comes out.
posted by jamjam at 4:05 PM on December 18, 2007


For what it's worth, when choosing jalapeno peppers my experience has been that the darker green ones are not as hot as the lighter green ones. I would assume this to be true of other peppers as well. Wear rubber gloves when you're cutting up hot peppers and if you're doing a big batch, make sure you're in a well-ventilated area as the "fumes" can get to you.
posted by tamitang at 9:44 PM on December 18, 2007


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