Saturday, January 17, 2009

Jamaican Hot Peppers

A couple nights ago I was intent on julienning some jicama. But it was not to be. The Fine Fare had all sorts of tubers but no jicama. I was going to make a salad. I decided I'd still make one - without the jicama.

I picked up some cilantro, okra (why is it slimy?), tomatilloes, red onions, a red pepper and a package of Jamaican Hot Peppers - what little I know of Caribbean cooking could fit on a postage stamp and I thought the JHPs were going to be well behaved, something that might go into a jerk seasoning, maybe a little heat but not too much. Plus those pepps were priced to move so I moved them into my basket. What I didn't realize at the time was that Jamaican Hot Peppers go by another name - scotch bonnets. I'd crossed paths with those sb's before and wouldn't have knowlingly done so again.

Salad time. I chopped the goodies, I removed the seeds and ribs of the peppers. We tried a teensy taste. Hot. High pitched screaming hot. But too hot? We had cheese - a cheddar and a farmer's queso and tortillas - all good for dampening the heat of peppers. I thought we were good but what I hadn't counted on was that pepper juice getting on my hands. After a little while it became apparent that I'd gotten some of that pepper lava on the back of two fingers and a thumb. Three pinpricks of heat like three magnifying glasses of sun boring into me. Ow. I cursed myself for thinkng Alton Brown was a sissy when he'd chop peppers with latex gloves. I tried cold water. Soap. I applied cheddar cheese, queso, lotion but the burns burned. I went to bed with those three pinpricks of heat and by morning they were asleep though they stirred when I took this photo - maybe it was just my memory of them.

They say you can build up a tolerance to these things. (They being some web site I can't remember the URL for.) I have to wonder at what price though. If I am able to stand the heat would it mean my pleasure in the taste of something else would be diminished? I like how I taste things now - most things taste good, even beets now. I'm OK with my being a wimp when it comes to hot peppers - I prefer a smoulder over a fire.

The offending peppers are now in the freezer. I'm hoping that will cool them down.


Melissa said...

I often wonder about tolerance in that way. If you get too used to something, does that mean you are no longer feeling the small details that used to effect you?

There is a poem I have seen in the subway about that (not in connection to burning tongues or fingers)will have to look it up and get back to you...but it suggests that if we really felt everything, the beauty and the pain, we would spend all of our time overwhelmed.

I wonder sometimes if that's why some of us get so overwhelmed in NYC in particular.

Greg said...

I hope those pin-pricks of heat have faded for you, now; sometimes all you need is a smoulder to fry on.

Did you end up using them for your dinner at all...or are they slowly eating through the floor of your freezer compartment?

Homer said...

I have recovered from the heat.
We did use a bit of the peppers in a salad. I stayed clear of those chunks and the seeds as best I could but there were occasions of heat nonetheless.
The peppers are in the freezer but I think their heat has been causing brown outs through the Northeast Corridor so I plan to do the responsible thing and dispatch them tonight. I'm going to make a hot sauce that will, no doubt, be too hot for me but hopefully enjoyable to others who have developed a tolerance.
I plan to wear gloves this time.

Homer said...

Update - a nice hot sauce can be made from 8 frozen Jamaican Hot Peppers (seeds and ribs removed), 2 mangoes, 2 limes, lemon juice, a large red onion, cilantro and a Cuisinart.

Byron said...

Excellent entry (and comments)! Information interestingly invested, plus an Important safety tip from Alton. And, Melissa, I'm jealous of you NYers reading the words of the prophets written on the subway walls.