2007.Mar.30 Friday · 4 comments

in Food & Recipes

 Scoville’s original method for testing hotness was called the Scoville Organoleptic Test, which he developed in 1912. As originally devised, a solution of the pepper extract is diluted in sugar water until the “heat” is no longer detectable to a panel of (usually five) tasters; the degree of dilution gives its measure on the Scoville scale. Thus a sweet pepper or a bell pepper, containing no capsaicin at all, has a Scoville rating of zero, meaning no heat detectable even undiluted. Conversely, the hottest chiles, such as habaneros, have a rating of 300,000 or more, indicating that their extract has to be diluted 300,000-fold before the capsaicin present is undetectable. The greatest weakness of the Scoville Organoleptic Test is its imprecision, because it relies on human subjectivity.”

– Wikipedia

Buenos Aires – When you’re living somewhere where finding something spicy is considered by some to be a curse and others to be a blessing, with few folk falling in-between, stumbling across a small bag of habanero peppers and another of piquins is like discovering buried treasure. The question is, if you’re the sort who is going to open the treasure box and make off with the gold doubloons, or are you the sort who will walk away and leave it to the shades of pirates long gone. Okay, maybe it’s nothing like that, but I found a small bag of each at the Belgrano market and brought them home. I had no plans at that moment of just what I was going to do with them, though the likelihood of simply making a couple of hot sauces loomed large.

jalapeños and habanerosAnd, in the end, that’s exactly what I did, made two different hot sauces. Both were based on recipes found out there on the internet, modified based on what I had available, or caprice, or a bit of both. I started off with the habanero peppers. Those are the pretty bright orange peppers on the right. Don’t let their cuteness fool you, on the scale mentioned above, habaneros range anywhere from 100,000 to 350,000 units. I’m guessing these to be towards the lower end of that scale, just based on a very minute sampling, but they’re still damned hot. The recipe called for a blend of habaneros and jalapeños, and it happened I also had a bag of the latter sitting around – doesn’t everyone? So, into the blender whole, other than stems, six habaneros, ten jalapeños (a mere 2,500 to 8,000 units of heat, just to give you a sense), 3 cloves of garlic, 1 small onion, ½ teaspoon oregano, ½ teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon mustard powder, &#188 teaspoon black pepper, and roughly a teaspoon and a half of salt. Then, because I simply didn’t have enough of any one vinegar, roughly ¾ cup each of cider vinegar and Chinese red vinegar. Pureed on high speed for several minutes, then poured into a saucepan, brought to a boil, and then simmered for 15 minutes to meld the flavors and burn off a bit of the excess liquid. Voila! Habanero hot sauce – enough to last for awhile I would think…

Piquin chiliesEvery recipe I could find for these called for “dried piquin peppers”. Not a one called for fresh, other than one suggestion for tossing them whole, stem and all, into a bottle of vinegar and letting them sit for a month to flavor the vinegar and look pretty. While I’m sure that would result in a delightful vinegar, I didn’t have enough in the house, and it wasn’t really what I was looking for to make from these pea-sized beauties. Piquins, or chiltepins, are locally known as ají putaparió – whore’s offspring chilies – they’re hot, but much milder than habaneros, coming in between 50,000 and 100,000 units. The name is also generally applied to any dish made with them, including apparently a chili-like dish made somewhere out in the countryside that’s simply called putaparió – I’ve been unable to locate a recipe for this dish, so if anyone has a traditional one, do send it on, I’m curious… My new hot saucesOne of the most intriguing sounding uses for these peppers comes from Ethiopia, where it’s used, pounded into a paste, to make a condiment called berbere. I decided to make a hot sauce based on the flavors used in that – so, into the blender a good handful of these, destemmed (luckily very easy, the stems simply pull off like a cherry stem), 2 tablespoons of ají rojo powder, 2 tablespoons of sweet paprika, 1 teaspoon cardamom, 2 teaspoons cumin, ½ teaspoon black pepper, ½ teaspoon fenugreek, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, &#188 teaspoon clove, 1 small onion, 4 cloves garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, a 1″ knob of fresh ginger, a cup of water, and ¼ cup of olive oil. Blended to a smooth paste, then, as above, simmered for 15 minutes and put in a jar.

No doubt these will, in some manner, end up showing up in an upcoming Casa S dinner – or maybe we’ll just use them ourselves – I only have about a cup and a half of each… time will tell – they get better as they sit in the refrigerator, too….


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

ksternberg March 30, 2007 at 12:38

The prevalence of so many peppers is another reason I would love to live in Buenos Aires. I am a total, crazed spicy hot fanatic, but I must sadly admit to meeting my match once with a hot sauce made entirely from habanero peppers. In an instant, my existence turned to one of extreme heat and perspiration. Not pleasant. I know of some sauces that come boxed in their own individual wooden coffin-shaped boxes. It’s not hard to see why.

dan March 30, 2007 at 14:25

Actually, it’s extraordinarily difficult to find chili peppers here. That’s why I pointed it out as a sort of treasure trove find. Most markets carry no hotter peppers at all, and if they do, it’s likely that they’re something fairly basic like jalapeños or serranos. It’s becoming easier – finding the two types that I found in the one market this week (and they literally only had the one small bag of each) simply wouldn’t have happened a year or two ago. As to bottled hot sauces, about the only things you can find are Tabasco, and occasionally a bottle of another tabasco based sauce like Louisiana Gold. Hence, the excitement here…

ksternberg March 30, 2007 at 15:03

I missed your whole point, Dan. Sorry. I can see, then, why it was so nice to find some nice chili peppers there.

asadoarg April 9, 2007 at 18:55

Why why why can’t habaneros be popular here!?

Some of the markets carry a bunch of what I’m guessing are anaheim chiles down here. They pack some heat when pureed with the seeds but not as much as I would like. I’m not too fond of their tough skins either. Some jalapeños appear once in a while.

I do have a habanero plant (plus a couple ancho) growing indoors but they refuse to produce any fruits. I think next summer I’ll take the chance and leave them outside. The nights are cool but maybe they’ll hold up. Or if not at least bring them indoors at night. Nothing to lose really at this point.

For now I’ll just have to live with family sending bottles of hot sauce–some with extract added for extra kick!

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