The beauty of the AHO weekly produce box is that you will be introduced to a wide range of items over the course of the year and AHO farmers are known for their variety of chili peppers. Chili peppers can take a dish from blah to WOW fast but you might be hesitant to cook with them for fear of feeling the burn, not just in your dish but on your hands, face, eyes and anywhere you might accidentally scratch post kitchen prep. Here are some simple tips to get the right level of spice in your dish, and to help keep the heat in your food and off of you.
It’s Hot Inside
The true heat of a pepper is found in the white flesh on the inside. It contains a chemical compound called capsaicinoids, that when they come in contact with the heat receptors on your tongue either make you say…yum…or OUCH that’s HOT! Of course not all peppers are considered “HOT.” The heat of a pepper is measured on a 100 unit scale called the Scoville Test. A bell pepper is a zero on the scale, so it doesn’t register as spicy. On the other hand a habanero pepper registers at about 350,000 units which when eaten reads..”HOT HOT HOT!”
So logic tells us that if we want to remove the heat from a pepper we need to remove the parts that cause this chemical reaction. Hence you need to remove the white skins and seeds found inside the chili pepper. A melon baller or a spoon is a useful tool in removing the seeds and ribs of a pepper. To do so, slice the pepper in half lengthwise then run the melon baller or spoon up the inside of the pepper, starting at the tip and moving toward the stem to scoop out all seeds and inner ribbing. You might consider using gloves during this step depending upon what peppers you are cooking with as any residue from the inside of the peppers can remain on your skin and cause a burning sensation.
Feeling the Burn
If by chance you happen to get some of the residue on your skin there are a few handy remedies found right in your fridge. First and foremost a warning…don’t use water. Capsaicin is not water soluble so it won’t help the situation. What you need is something that will bind with it and remove it. Here milk is your best bet. Other options are rubbing alcohol, olive oil, and even dish soap.
Just be sure to keep these items handy if you plan to cook with chilis.
From Bells to Bonnets: Choosing Your Heat
If you are looking to add just a bit of kick to your dish, look for sweet and mild peppers like anaheim, Italian sweet peppers, tomatillos and poblanos. If its a good amount of heat you are after, you will want to reach for serranos and jalapenos. If you’ve got a super high tolerance for heat and spice give habaneros or even scotch bonnet peppers a try. Just be sure you know which is which before you dive in!
When you are ready, head here to find some of our favorite chili pepper recipes!