Tag Archives: Chiles

“Fire” Extinguishers

Hot food is usually served in small quantities with foods that cool the palate. If you’re new to hot foods and hot sauces, start slowly.  Always start with a small amount and add more to taste as desired.  Your tolerance for heat will increase the more often you indulge in fiery foods!

Because capsaicin, the chemical that created the heat in chiles and peppers, is an oil based substance, the worst thing you can do is to drink water or beer when your mouth is on fire.  They just spread the pain even more!  Instead, try some bread, rice, beans, yogurt, sour cream, milk or cheese as they will help absorb the oil and take away the burn.

Hot Sauce Trivia

  • Hot sauces are excellent in sauces and stir-fry’s, make quick and handy marinades before grilling food, and are always welcome condiments on the table.
  • Research has proven that adding hot sauces to your foods can help your body burn calories faster (up to 45 calories more per meal than if you eat bland dishes).
  • When people eat hotter sauces, they experience pain in their mouths and throats.  The nervous system reacts to the pain by releasing morphine-like endorphins.  Endorphins create a sense of euphoria similar to the “runner’s high” that some people get from exercise.  People who regularly eat hot sauces and chiles will find that they develop a tolerance to the heat and will have to eat increasingly hotter sauces to get the high.
  • Hot sauces are North American’s favorite way to turn up the heat and add some extra flavor and spice to their food. Most hot sauces are a blend of chiles, vinegar and salt, but many are variations that may also contain ingredients such as carrots, onion and papaya.
  • By adding lots of flavor to food with hot sauces, chiles and spices, you can reduce the amount of fat, oil and salt in your diet.
  • The stinking “rose”, otherwise known as garlic and a common ingredient in hot sauces, is an excellent antioxidant that can help reduce free radicals that exist in the human body. Garlic reduces cholesterol, clears arteries and helps maintain healthy blood circulation.The true hot sauce collector and aficionado looks for several qualities when evaluating a new sauce: appearance, originality, aroma, heat and flavor. Why not invite friends over for a hot sauce tasting party with evaluation forms for the sauces you’ll be trying? Try each sauce on unsalted crackers or tortilla chips and have some fun.
  • Half the fun of collecting hot sauces is laughing at the names that their creators give them. The names are as original as the sauces themselves and range from reference to fire and explosion, animals, religious, crime and punishment, controversial, erotic, naughty, mental health, and western themes. The names and labels make us laugh and represent much of the fun that enjoying hot sauces bring us.

Hot and Spicy Mood Lifter

We all know someone who loves their spicy food.  Well, as it turns out, there is some science behind the love of hot flavors.  Capsaicin, the chemical that produces the heat in chiles and peppers, increases the release of feel-good endorphins when the spice hits the tongue, according to Dr. Paul Rozin, Department of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.  Endorphins are known for their ability to reduce stress, relieve depression, and significantly raise the spirits.  So, if you need an emotional lift, add some hot sauce or cayenne pepper to your next meal.

Fresh and Dried Chile Information

When selecting fresh chiles, make sure that the skin is smooth and they are firm to the touch.  Once they become wrinkled, they develop an earthy taste and their crisp texture and fresh flavor are gone.  Use fresh chiles as soon as possible.  They can be kept, however, for up to two weeks if wrapped in a dry cloth or paper towel inside a paper bag in the refrigerator. 

Charring fresh chiles enhances the flavor of the flesh.  Place the firm, fresh chile directly over an open flame or under a broiler until blistered and charred.  Immediately put the charred chiles into a plastic or paper bag and set aside to sweat for about 10 minutes.  Peel off the blackened skin (don’t worry about picking off every bit of skin) and use in your favorite recipe. 

When selecting dried chiles, buy loose instead of packed whenever possible.  Choose chiles that are still a little flexible and not totally dried out.  Before using dried chiles, place them in a warm skillet and heat until they become pliable or for about 2 minutes.  Store dried chiles in a cool, dry place or keep them in your freezer in zip-lock freezer bags.

To reconstitute, place the toasted, dried chiles in a saucepan and cover them with boiling water.  Weight them with a small dish to keep them submerged and let them sit for 50 to 60 minutes, or until soft.

The easiest way to control the flavor and heat of dishes containing reconstituted dried chiles is to make them into purées.  They can be added to dishes in increments until the desired balance of flavor and heat is reached.

Chile Air Conditioning

In addition to their use in Mexican food, chiles are also used extensively in other cultures’ cuisines such as Thai, Hunan, Szechuan, East Indian and African.  Most hot food originates in countries with hot climates (we always say that we need the hot foods in our colder climates to stay warm, from the inside out!).  One of the likely reasons for this is that spice was probably used to mask spoiled food when refrigeration wasn’t yet available.  Another reason is that eating hot food creates perspiration, which creates an “air-conditioning” system when air evaporates the moisture on skin and garments.