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Chili Peppers

Chilies are available fresh, dried, dried and ground, and pickled. In Mexico there are different names for the dried and fresh version of the same chili – for example a chipotle is a dried ripe jalapeno and an ancho is a dried ripe poblano. In cooking, the fresh and pickled are best minced, the dried and ground are added the same as other spices. The dried are best with stems, seeds, and membranes removed and toasted in a dry skillet until fragrant. They are then soaked in water for at least 30 minutes and minced. Before going further take note that the heat of a chili is concentrated in the white membrane that holds the seeds. The membrane contains 87 percent of the heat, the seeds 12 percent, and the flesh only 1 percent. Removing the membrane and seeds will leave the chili milder yet retaining the chili flavor. Capsasin, the chemical that provides the heat, is FAT NOT WATER SOLUABLE. If food is too hot place butter or oil on your tongue, then rinse with water. A scale for chili heat was developed by Wilber Scoville, a drug company chemist.

Pepper Scoville Scale

Bell pepper 0

Banana pepper, pepperoncini 100 – 500

Anaheim 500 – 2,500

Jalapeno, Tabasco sauce 2,500 – 8,000

Cayenne 30,000 – 50,000

Habanero, Scotch bonnet 100,000 – 350.000

Ghost 1,000,000

Law enforcement pepper spray 5,000,000

The chili powder you buy in the store is a blend of powdered chilies, garlic, oregano, cumin, coriander, and cloves. It was designed to simplify the seasoning of chili con carne.

Better yet, make your own chili powder. I use equal amounts of ancho below (left) and guajillo (below right) chilies. Remove the stem, seeds, membranes, and powder them in a coffee grinder. You can also add chipotle (below center) chilies. Experiment.

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