From ‘Hungarian Hot Wax’ and ‘Red Savina’ to ‘Elephant’s Trunk and ‘The Turtle’s Claw’, chile peppers come in dozens of shapes, colors, and degrees of spiciness—from sweet and succulent to blow-your-top off hot.
A colleague here at work mistakenly planted a few ‘Scotch Bonnet’ peppers this spring and found the Scotch Bonnet’s 445,000 Scoville Heat Units beyond their capabilities. So I asked her to pass the peppers along to me and I’ve been having a blast preserving their heat for warm winter dishes.
One batch I dehydrated and then ground up in a spice grinder—the red-hot powder looks so pretty and innocent in its spice jar. Another batch I pickled whole, following a recipe shared with my by my friend Hali Ramdene, Food Editor of The Kitchn. I first poked a hole through each of the peppers with a skewer, then in a pint jar I added 1 clove of garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of black peppercorns before packing the jar with the peppers. Next, I brought to a boil 1 cup vinegar, 1 cup water, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt and 1 tablespoon of sugar, then poured the brine over the peppers, filling the jar almost to the top. They’ll keep in the refrigerator for a few months. I’ll keep you posted on how I put the peppers to work.
In the meantime, here are three new books you should check out if you are at all chile pepper inclined (please note the various spellings of chile):
• 101 Chilies to Try Before You Die (Firefly Books) by David Floyd is an all-in-one guide to the tastiest, most unique and interesting chili varieties from around the world and is the essential guide for lovers of chilies and those looking to learn more about these ancient and widely consumed vegetables.
• Red Hot Chili Grower: The Complete Guide to Planting, Picking, and Preserving Chilis (Mitchell Beazley) by Kay Maguire provides everything you need to grow your own chiles from scratch, with step-by-step instructions for planting, growing, harvesting—plus plenty of history, a guide to Scoville heat units, and more.
• The Chile Pepper Bible: From Sweet to Fiery and Everything In Between (Robert Rose) by Judith Finlayson is quite comprehensive, including profiles of dozens of chiles, absorbing information on the historical and geographic origins of chiles, the health benefits of chiles and—finally—250 delicious and inventive recipes.