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Dave's Fiery Front Page

Exploring the World of Spice and Smoke
Tags >> chile peppers

 

James BeckJames Beck of EatMoreHeat.com is my first guest on the new weekly feature of the SuperSite, and he discusses eating superhot chiles and finishing an Apocalypse Burger.  Upcoming guests are Dave Hirschkop who invented Insanity Sauce; chemical engineer Marlin Bensinger, who tests the superhot chiles in his own lab; Jim Garcia of El Pinto Salsa, discussing Scorpion Salsa and the purported "chile crisis;" and Chris Fowler, who uses a polytunnel to grow chillis near Cardiff, Wales.  To hear James on the first podcast, go here.

 


Chile Harvesting, Mesilla Valley, New MexicoWhen the media get wind of a typical change in the ever-fluctuating world of economic agriculture, they just have to turn it into a crisis. Take the drop in harvested chile acreage over the last decade or so—down to 8,700 acres from a high of 29,000. Is this a "crisis" or merely a reflection of economic reality? I think the latter. Chiles compete against other crops that are often more profitable to grow: pecans, cotton, and even onions. Also contributing are the loss of agricultural land to development, cheaper imports from Mexico, and the necessity to use human labor to harvest green chile. (Red chile can be mechanically harvested, but not green...yet.)

Kraig Kraft, coauthor of a new book, Chasing Chiles, wrote an op-ed piece the the Albuquerque Journal (5-15-11) in which part of the headline refers to "fake N.M. chiles," a reference to chiles from Mexico that are imported for processing in southern New Mexico because local growers can't keep up with demand due to the competition from other crops. But ignored in this discussion is the fact that these are New Mexico varieties like 'NuMex 6-4 Heritage', developed by Dr. Paul Bosland's chile breeding team, and the seeds provided to Mexican growers. If you really, really want your chile, does it really matter if it is grown in the Mesilla Valley or 100 miles south of there in Chihuahua?  I don't think so.


The real problems lie below the surface of the hype and screaming of "fake chiles."  Here they are:

1.  The real fake chiles are "Hatch chiles."  There is no such thing.  "Hatch chiles" are a complete fabrication.  There is no such variety.  Hatch farmers devote most of their fields to alfalfa, and cannot possibly grow all the chiles labeled with the name of that tiny town.

2. New Mexican varieties are only part of the crop processed in southern New Mexico.  Even more important are the cayennes, paprika (non-pungent red chiles, by definition), and jalapeños.

3.  The New Mexico chiles deserving what Kraft calls "geographic indicators" (similar to Idaho potatoes and Florida oranges) are the endangered heirloom or land race chiles of northern New Mexico, like 'Chimayo'.

The recently-passed New Mexico Chile Advertising Act, which supposedly prohibits the advertising of chiles listed as New Mexican but not grown in the state, is a joke.  It is totally unenforceable, which renders it useless, and is another attempt by politicians to place a "legal fix" upon what is really just an economic fact of life brought on by changing times, NAFTA, and the ability of farmers in other countries to grow New Mexican varieties to meet the demand here.


Bedding Plants from Cross Country NurseriesHere's what my superhot chiles ('Trinidad Scorpion' and '7Pot') look like after they arrived from Cross Country (chileplants.com).  They are healthy and vigorous, and are now hardening off under the semi-shade of my potted Meyer lemon plant (which already has small lemons on it).  I've been doing business with Cross Country for a decade, and they never disappoint me with their 500 chile varieties and 275 tomato varieties.  There's only a couple of weeks left to order yours!


New Issue of Burn! Available

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Burn!-May-June-2011Hey all you lovers of peppers, smoke, and sauce, the new issue of Burn! Magazine is on the virtual newsstand and ready for reading.

I hope you’ll enjoy the newest issue. It’s chock full of great information like a how-to for making your own pastrami, an article all about salsa, recipes for Cinco de Mayo, a recap of the 2011 National Fiery Foods & BBQ Show, and much more. I even share the story of how hot sauce saved my marriage.

If you liked the debut issue, you’re going to love issue #2. Click here to subscribe!

Lois Manno, Burn! Magazine Editor


Charleston Pepper SunIn an article posted on The Atlantic’s website last week, Gary Paul Nabhan, co-author of Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail, addressed the relationship between farming in the Southwest and climate change—both food production and food security have been cast into question with the growing scarcity of water and unpredictable growing seasons and weather patterns, such as drought.

Nabhan points out that with water capacity near its limit for cities and rural agricultural areas, “food security in the Southwest depends upon the security of water supplies being delivered to irrigable land. That capacity, we can now see, has been severely impaired by urban growth in the Sunbelt since World War II, and is likely to be further impacted by the vagaries of weather shifts.”

The burden of addressing such trends, says Nabhan, falls on both the consumer and farmer, and while individual responses may not be enough to reverse the trends. Sustainable agriculture and good farming practices may be the best way to counter the growing threat of food security in the region.

In Chasing Chiles, Nabhan, along with co-authors Kurt Michael Friese and Kraig Kraft, set out to discover the history and potential of America’s heirloom chile varieties. Their journey reveals the chile pepper’s dynamic role in understanding climate change and the future of food production.

So how can food producers and eaters in the Southwest improve their “foodprints?”

“Eat and farm as if the earth matters, as we should have been doing all along,” says Nabhan in Chasing Chiles. “Regardless of how quickly we can implement the specific fixes proposed to mitigate climate change, we all need to reduce our carbon [footprint] and adapt to change in ways that keep the earth’s bounty as diverse, as delicious, and as resilient as possible.”

As an orchard keeper and chile grower, Nabhan has committed to do his share to curve the growing trend of climate change by conserving water between rainfalls, growing regional-appropriate crops, such as drought and heat-tolerant heirlooms, and soil-building.

For the rest of us, Nabhan, Friese, and Kraft have these suggestions in Chasing Chiles:

  1. Explore, celebrate, and consume what diversity can be found locally.
  2. Farmers’ knowledge and problem-solving skills are assets for coping with and adapting to climate change.
  3. Eaters (chefs and consumers) need to vote with their forks, wallets, and ballots in support of more diverse and regionally self-sufficient food systems.
  4. Climate change is best dealt with as one of many compounding factors, not as an environmental impact apart from all others.
  5. Empower local food communities to be “co-designers” of local solutions to global change, and then to creatively transmit their solutions to other communities.

If nothing else, says Nabhan, “I get down on my knees and put my hands into the earth.”

Read more about the history of chiles in America, and their tenuous relationship with biodiversity and climate change in Chasing Chiles, available at Amazon. Click here to read the full article from The Atlantic.


Sources:

“Farming in the Time of Climate Catastrophe,” by Gary Paul Nabhan, www.TheAtlantic.com

Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail, by Kurt Michael Friese, Kraig Kraft & Gary Paul Nabhan, © 2011 Chelsea Green Publishing


The top seller of live chile bedding plants in the country, Cross Country Nurseries, dba ChilePlants.com, has listed their top five best selling varieties, and it's no surprise that superhots dominate the list.

 

Bhut JolokiaThis position figures because of all the superhots, Bhuts have garnered the most publicity over the past few years, and it doesn't seem to matter that it's been dethroned as the hottest pepper in the world.

 

Trinidad ScorpionComing on strong is this variety, now generally thought to be the hottest, at the upper levels measuring 1.2 to 1.4 million Scoville Heat Units.  It has a better name and a more interesting pod shape.

 

7-PotThe third Trinidad variety in a row places in the top 3, showing the remarkable trend of superhots originating in the country of Trinidad & Tobago.

 

Habanero Red SavinaThis plant-patented variety is generally thought to be a variation on the 'Red Caribbean' varieties that are spread around the islands.  It never tested as hot as 577,000 SHU in any other laboratory tests except the one that got it the Guinness record.

 

Bhut Jolokia YellowA bit of a surprise in the number 5 position is this yellow variation of the 'Bhut Jolokia', which is becoming a favorite of chile gardeners.

 

Hats and caps off to Janie and Fernando of Chileplants.com for helping us all out by providing 500 chile varieties.  And what am I growing out of all these superhots?  Scorpion, of course!


At Last, a Chipotle Vodka!

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: spicy drinks , smoking , chile peppers , alcohol

 

Hangar One VodkaThe fine folks at Hangar One Vodka sent me a bottle of their new vodka, so I had to give it a try.  I pulled it out of the freezer (see ice crystals, left), poured a little into a shot glass, and sipped it.  Big flavor!  Then the heat, which was medium hot.  Very nice.  Then the smokiness hit, and it really worked.  Then the crucial test, a Bloody Mary.  Tomato juice, Hangar One, a little lime juice, a touch of Worcestershire sauce over ice, stirred, not shaken.  Delicious—even my non-Bloody-Mary-drinking wife Mary Jane liked it—but because of the dilution of the vodka, not quite hot enough.  A few dashes of hot sauce solved that and I wondered: how is this made?  The back label provided the answer by Master Distiller Lance Winters: "We're blending infusions and distillations of beautifully roasted chipotle peppers, green jalapeños, red bells, and Scoville-scorching habaneros.  Each pepper was smoked by my friends at T-Rex Barbecue in Berkeley, California."  In my humble opinion, this is a wonderful, spiced up vodka, and again proves my long held belief: vodka is the only alcoholic beverage that works with chile peppers.  Chiles do not improve mediocre wines or beers, and ruin fine ones.

 


Xinjiang Lamb and Chile Barbecue

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Xinjiang Lamb KebabsIn 1987, Robert Spiegel, Nancy Gerlach and I launched Chile Pepper magazine and began my lengthy quest to assemble the world's hot and spicy recipes.  In our third issue, we published an article that Nancy and I wrote, "Asia Heats Up."  The recipe is from Xinjiang Uygur Automomous Region, which is, after Sichuan and Hunan, the spiciest region in China. There, the ubiquitous kebabs are called 烤肉 (kăo ròu).


Lamb is rarely eaten in other parts of China, and in fact, the Mongolian tribes were the ones who introduced lamb to the rest of China. This simple barbecue goes well with a flat bread or sesame seed biscuits and a tossed salad. This recipe is adapted from one by Lynn Joiner, a PBS journalist who published it in Wok Talk, a newsletter for Asian food enthusiasts that was published in the 1980s. Note: This recipe requires advance preparation.

1/4 cup hot chile oil
10 cherry tomatoes
1 small onion, cut in half and sectioned
6 large jalapeño chiles, seeds and stems removed, cut into large chunks
2 pounds lamb, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch sugar

 Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and marinate the lamb overnight in the refrigerator or for 2 to 3 hours at room temperature.

Thread the lamb on skewers, alternating with the jalapenos, tomatoes, and onions and grill them over gas or charcoall, basting frequently with the reserved marinade until done.

Serve the lamb and chiles over rice, garnished with carved chile pepper flowers

Yield: 4 servings

Heat Scale: Hot, if you eat all the jalapeños


Greek Stuffed Peppers Recipe

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: recipe , chile peppers

Greek Peppers Stuffed with Feta

Piperies Gemistes me Feta may be Greek to you and me, but to a Greek, it means “Greek Peppers Stuffed with Feta.” A photo of these peppers was part of the Burn! digital monthly magazine display at last weekend’s Fiery Foods Show, and several people said they wanted to learn how to make that dish. So here’s the recipe…you can find this and many other recipes for stuffed peppers from around the world in the April issue of Burn!

Because they’re broiled, not battered and fried, these stuffed peppers are somewhat healthier than traditional chiles rellenos.

6 fresh New Mexican red chiles, unpeeled, cut open along one side to remove the seeds
9 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon minced Italian parsley
1⁄2 teaspoon lemon zest
1⁄4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 egg yolks
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1⁄4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Arrange a rack 6 inches from the broiler element and set your oven to broil. Put the peppers on a baking sheet and broil, turning once, until just soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer peppers to a rack and let cool.

In a large bowl, use a hand mixer to whip the feta, oil, yogurt, parsley, zest, oregano, and egg yolks; season with salt and pepper. Make a lengthwise cut from the stem to the tip of each pepper and stuff each pepper with some of the feta filling; transfer to an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet and chill for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.  Sprinkle the peppers with grated Parmesan cheese and broil them until cheese is golden brown and bubbly, about 6 minutes. Transfer the peppers to a platter and serve hot.

Yield:  6 servings
Heat Scale: Medium


LabelFor the fifth year in a row, the 23rd annual National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show is sold out of exhibitor space!  Thanks to all of our loyal customers and the new exhibitors as well.  Join us March 4-6 for the show at Sandia Resort and Casino.  The bravest of spice fanatics will also have the opportunity to sample El Pinto Scorpion Salsa, a product made with the new hottest chile pepper in the world, the New Mexico Scorpion. The New Mexico Scorpion measures 1.2 million Scoville Heat Units (SHU) according to tests conducted by a third-party laboratory and is currently under consideration by Guinness World Records™ for the “World’s Hottest Chili” record. Myself,  Marlin Bensinger, Chemical Engineer; and Jim Duffy, grower, are pursuing the record.

 

Other exciting happenings at the show include a daily Disc-It grill raffle giveaway. The Disc-It, customized for the Fiery Foods Show with a chile pattern and inscription, has a unique wok shape that makes it ideal for outdoor cooking and grilling. Disc-It’s are manufactured locally in northwest Albuquerque. The show will also be streamed live for the first time ever on Saturday and Sunday. The live stream can be viewed at www.stickam.com during public show hours on March 5 and 6.  More show details are here.

Scorpion bedding plants are available from ChilePlants.com, here.  Seeds are available in the Store at Refining Fire Chiles, here.


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