They taste like BURNING
September 3, 2007 9:18 PM   Subscribe

How does one taste really hot peppers?

This year I planted a few different pepper plants and now they're yielding well and it's time to start cooking with them. But as I'm unfamiliar with the pepper types (I kind of played the pepper lottery at my local nursery after prime planting season), I have no idea how to cook with them.

The only information that I have about the peppers are via the little plastic flags that came in the plants and they're not very helpful (ie, "celebration pepper", "super chili", etc). All of the peppers that I've grown are too hot to eat on their own and I do not know how to temper the heat of them in order to get an idea as to their actual flavor.

My question in a nutshell would be: how does one actually "taste" a very hot pepper without temporarily rendering their taste buds useless? Is there a standard, neutral medium in which I might prepare them all in order to allow their flavor to be experienced without all of their heat?
posted by mezzanayne to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Buy a mild fresh salsa and add varying amounts of finely chopped peppers. To really assess the hotness properties you would separate the seeds and inside part from the outside skin, because they can each vary in hotness. You might want to get some disposable surgical gloves.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:27 PM on September 3, 2007

And don't touch your eyes after chopping up the peppers!
posted by Caper's Ghost at 9:33 PM on September 3, 2007

I know that carrots are frequently used as a foil for habañero peppers, which actually have quite a bit of sweetness underneath the heat. You could make a fantastic dip by roasting peppers, then puréeing them with steamed carrots and maybe some yogurt or sour cream.
posted by padraigin at 9:44 PM on September 3, 2007 [2 favorites]

Maybe it takes practice, but I can pretty much always judge how hot a pepper is just from the smell after chopping it. The capsaicin has a unique odor.

If you do taste one and it's too hot for you, milk or other dairy products will somewhat neutralize the burn.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:46 PM on September 3, 2007

Yet another option: put a bit of pepper in a mortar and pestle with some salt, and pound away. You'll get a powder that you can sample in minute amounts. I use the hot peppers from my garden this way.

(Also: what everybody else said.)
posted by gimonca at 10:02 PM on September 3, 2007

Isn't there a rule of thumb, that the wider the shoulder the milder, the more pointier, the hotter?
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:17 PM on September 3, 2007

Sautee them in canola oil with garlic (perhaps create half a cup of oil with three or so peppers, depending on the size).

Get some potstickers. Boil them first, and then brown them in a pan.

Next, get some soy sauce and some rice vinegar, and a little dipping bowl.

Use the soy sauce and the vinegar as your main dip. Add the chili oil to taste.

God, oh god, I love peppers, especially red chili peppers, Tabasco sauce, and Rooster sauce. There must be a name for this condition. It's almost like contemplating smoking a joint - almost a sexual feeling.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:29 PM on September 3, 2007

God, oh god, I love peppers, especially red chili peppers, Tabasco sauce, and Rooster sauce. There must be a name for this condition. It's almost like contemplating smoking a joint - almost a sexual feeling.

It's an adrenaline rush, but it also could be caused by endorphins being released to sooth the pain.
posted by delmoi at 10:38 PM on September 3, 2007

Roast your peppers as jamaro suggests, this really brings out the best flavor, but there is one important step missing from those instructions. Turn on the vent hood over the oven before you do this, and have a vent that goes to the outdoors instead of one of those recirculating ones. You will drive yourself out of the house otherwise.

For chopping peppers, wear disposable gloves and swim goggles.

Growing conditions have quite an impact on pepper hotness, so don't expect the same results next year. Unless you have outrageously, incredibly hot peppers you should be able to taste a bit after it is roasted. If you want to mix them with something, you can make cooked balls of cheese, potato, and different peppers.
posted by yohko at 11:16 PM on September 3, 2007

mezzanayne, I'm going to have to put up some peppers (frozen) this year, and it's all your fault.
posted by yohko at 11:19 PM on September 3, 2007

I think adding the peppers to a homemade salsa is a good idea, because it dilutes them somewhat and adds complementary flavors so you can taste the pepper in context.

Or, if you don't want to taste them raw, you can make tiger skin peppers, a traditional Sichuan dish of hot peppers, fried in a very hot wok until the skins blister and loosen and the inside flesh becomes somewhat soft, and then simply dressed with salt and a little sugar and/or vinegar.
posted by rxrfrx at 3:50 AM on September 4, 2007

You could try pickling a few - this is easier than you think.

Take out all of the veins and seeds from inside your peppers of choice (use gloves!), then slice them to make about a cup of sliced peppers of various kinds. On the stove, bring to a simmer a mixture of 1 cup 5% acidity vinegar of your choice (red wine, white wine, plain white, cider - I like plain white), 1 cup water, 1/4 cup of pickling salt (salt without any additives), 2 Tablespoons of sugar. Pour over the peppers and let the mixture sit for a half hour. Put the peppers in a glass jar, cover with the liquid, and add a teaspoon of mustard seeds, a few peppercorns, and a sprinkle of dill seeds, plus one clove of garlic split in two. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for a couple of days.

The heat will mellow and the flavors of the peppers will come through. You can add the slices to salads, stir fry, sautees, etc.
posted by Flakypastry at 5:40 AM on September 4, 2007

I know that dairy products neutralize the reaction that our bodies perceive as heat so you could add dairy to your pepper concoctions?
posted by LunaticFringe at 5:43 AM on September 4, 2007

Isn't there a rule of thumb, that the wider the shoulder the milder, the more pointier, the hotter?

That may be true for some varieties, but it's not universal. Habaneros, for instance, are wide-shouldered and round.

posted by nebulawindphone at 7:05 AM on September 4, 2007

Even peppers of the same variety growing on the same plant can vary an incredible degree in their hotness. They're not highly consistent. Just wanted to add that.
posted by Miko at 9:49 AM on September 4, 2007

After a bad experience with some nearly lip numbing stuffed peppers, I asked a little hispanic lady in the grocery store how to tell the difference between the hot ones and the not-so-hot ones. She told me that the darker the color, the not so hot. The lighter the color, the hotter. It's worked for me every since. Also, always make sure to get out all of the seeds.
posted by rcavett at 9:21 PM on September 4, 2007

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