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Dave's Fiery Front Page

Exploring the World of Spice and Smoke
Tags >> fiery foods
Sichuan peppers
Dried Sichuan peppers & husks

Sichuan pepper is a popular ingredient in Asian cuisine, but you may not know the whole story behind this unique spice. If you’re a fan of Asian cuisine, there are a few things you should know about Sichuan peppers.

  1. Sichuan peppers (known in Chinese as hua jiao) aren’t related to chili peppers or black pepper. They’re actually the fruits of the prickly ash tree (Zanthoxylum piperitum)! To make things more confusing, they’ve been marketed as ”brown peppercorns”, "Szechwan pepper," "Chinese pepper," "Japanese pepper," "aniseed pepper," "Sprice pepper," "Chinese prickly-ash,"
    Sichuan Pepper Plant
    Sichuan pepper plant
    "Fagara," "sansho," "Nepal pepper," "Indonesian lemon pepper," and others.
  2. Sichuan peppers aren’t exactly “hot” in the way white pepper or chili pepperscan taste.Instead, along with a citrusy flavor, the tiny fruits cause a numbing,tingling sensation in the mouth. The active ingredient in Sichuan peppers is hydroxyl alpha sanshool (or “sanshool” for short). So, while capsaicincausesspiciness in chile peppers, and piperidine causes the hot, biting flavor ofblack and white peppercorns, sanshool causes a “pins and needles” sensation, as if you’ve stuck a nine-volt battery on your tongue! The Chinese have a word for this; they call it ma la, which literally means “numbing” and “spicy.”
  3. Up until the sixteenth century, Sichuan peppers had been the primary “spicy”ingredient in Asian cuisine. This changed after Christopher Columbus introduced the chili pepper to the Old World. Hot chili peppers and peppercorns spread rapidly across Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, and suddenly, there was a new hot spice in town.
  4. Sichuan pepper was actually banned in the United States the same year LSD was made
    Fresh green peppercorns
    Fresh green Sichuan peppers
    illegal. While the pepper didn’t have quite the reputation LSD had, the FDA banned imports of Sichuan peppers out of fears that it would infect American citrus groves with a rare citrus canker disease. The ban was lifted in 2005, and you can now find Sichuan peppers in markets across the country.
  5. The berries are good for more than just cooking. Some of the medicinal attributes of the berries include pain relief, weight loss, food retention, and especially toothache suppression. The North American prickly ash is known as the ‘Toothache Tree’ because the powdered bark was used as a toothache remedy and to heal wounds.

Want to try out the tongue-numbing berry yourself? Click here for recipes.

Learn more about the spice!

Spice Profile: Peppercorns by Dave DeWitt
The Tongue-Numbing "Flower Pepper" of Sichuan Province by Kimberly Dukes
Three Things You Didn't Know About Sichuan Peppers by Darren Lim


The Pepper EaterSometimes it’s easy to forget that producing fiery foods is more than just a passion – in many parts of the world, chile production and processing is a necessity. Dried red pepper is the one of the most widely consumed spices in the world, eaten daily by one-quarter of the world’s population. Chile peppers are one of the oldest domesticated crops. Civilizations in South America grew chile peppers for food and medicinal purposes, and after peppers were introduced to other parts of the globe more than 500 years ago, chiles became important in developing nations for their economic value. Ethiopia alone consumes 466 million kilograms of pepper annually, with an estimated 400,000 women in Ethiopia processing peppers for income.Women Processing Peppers

Inspired by stories of Ethiopian women bringing in income by processing peppers by hand, a team from the Hassno Plattner Design Institute at Stanford University developed the Pepper Eater—an affordable hand-cranked pepper grinder. Pepper processing is exhausting work that turns fresh peppers into higher-value products: dried flakes, seeds, and powder. The procedure can cause severe irritation in the skin, eyes, and noses from exposure to pepper oil containing capsaicin, pepper dust in the air can cause respiratory issues. The Pepper Eater produces dried pepper flakes about 2-4 times faster than current manual methods while greatly reducing the health risks associated with processing chiles.

The design team included Samuel Hamner, Megan Kerins, Siobhan Nolan, and Scott Sadlon, a group of Stanford Engineering and Business grad students. After successfully conducting an on-the-ground feasibility study in September 2009, Sam and Scott are continuing as an independent design and strategy team with the goal of implementing the Pepper Eater in Ethiopia and other developing markets. Most recently, they have partnered with Compatible Technology International and have been featured in National Geographic Magazine to help them achieve their goal and gain exposure for the project.

Interested in learning more about the project, or donating? Visit: www.thepeppereater.org.

Sources & images for this article provided by:

www.thepeppereater.org

http://socialelab.org/?page_id=103


Full Judging TablesA  record number of judges showed up for our 15th annual Scovie Awards judging on October 4, 2010 at the County Line Restaurant in Albuquerque. More than 100 food industry professionals—plus foodie media people—crowded into two sessions with six tables each and tasted about 650 products. This means that the average product entered got tasted and judged by six or more judges, an all-time record for us.

The real surprise of the judging were the eventual scores for Grand Prize Winner—the highest recorded score out of a perfect 50. For the first time in Scovie history, we had a tie to three decimal places and were unable to break it, so congratulations to our co-Grand Prize Winners, Barhyte Foods’ Saucy Mama Creamy Horseradish and Poco Dolce’s Super Chile Toffee Squares. The Advertising and Marketing Grand Prize Winner was Crazy Uncle Jesters’ Company or Product Logo/Label. A Grand Prize Winner that’s a sweet heat product is not unusual at all, as fully half of our Grand Prize  Winners have been in that category.  But horseradish finishing so strongly, that’s simply remarkable.  Complete Scovie results are posted here.

Spicy Mama Creamy Horseradish Super Chile Toffee Crazy Uncle Jester Logo

Journalist and author Larry Greenly claims he has been a judge at every single Scovie Judging—and I have no reason to doubt this. Thanks, Larry, you’re a loyal chilehead!


 

Scovie Awards JudgingThe judging of our 14th annual Scovie Awards Competition was held yesterday at the County Line Barbecue Restaurant in Albuquerque and we were astonished by the response from the judges.  Usually we have an attrition rate of 10 to 20% for judges because these food professionals are such busy people.  But this time, nearly every judge showed up, and they brought friends!  About 90 judges showed up in two sessions and the tables were packed.  Fortunately, we had enough drinks and cool-downs for everyone, and although some tables had a slight delay because the judging 600+ products took a while, when it was all said and done, every product got tasted by more judges than usual.  Part of the delay was due to the diligence on the part of the judges, who took time to make a lot more comments than usual.  Thanks to everyone who participated, and the results will be announced in about two weeks.


New DD Books Published

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: history , fiery foods , entertainment , books

1001 Best CoverI'm pleased to announce the publication of two new books of mine.  The first, 1001 Best Hot & Spicy Recipes, is a compilation assembled from my rather large recipe archives.  I went through them and selected what I considered to be the best and most representative recipes from all cultures that like to spice up their foods with chiles.  Together with last year's The Complete Chile Pepper Book, these are all you would need to be certified an official chilehead.  I submitted a total of 1059 recipes just to be sure there were enough!  You can order the book at a discount from Amazon, here.

The next book is one that I'm really proud of.  For the second time (after Da Vinci's Kitchen), I abandoned writing about chiles and hot and spicy to try my hand at food Founding Foodies Coverhistory.  Because I graduated from the University of Virginia ("Mr. Jefferson's academical village"), I've always been a fan of Thomas Jefferson, and when I started researching his farming and gardening, that led me to George Washington (a better farmer, actually) and Benjamin Franklin, one of the more famous early American food lovers.  After three and a half years of research and writing, I completed The Founding Foodies: How Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin Revolutionized American Cuisine.  My agent, Scott Mendel, believes that it is one of my best books ever, and I take that a step further:  I think it's the best book I've ever written.  It's not scheduled for release until November 1, but you can pre-order it at Amazon, here.  You will not be disappointed, I promise.  Early American cuisine was surprisingly sophisticated, and both Washington and Jefferson grew chile peppers in their gardens.  Everyone loved barbecue back in those days--when it was mostly a political event featuring smoked ox or whole hogs, plus, of course, a great amount of beer and whiskey.  For more information and some excerpts from the book, see my founding foodies website, here.


Digital Magazine Survey Results

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

 

Burn!The final results of our digital magazine survey are in and the survey is now over. Thanks to everyone who participated and we now have a clearer view of what people are looking for in a monthly digital magazine.  As far as the basic information goes, the total respondents to the survey was 184 and the gender totals are 71% male and 29% female.  Only 19% are under 35 years of age while 81% are 36+, including 47% over the age of 46.  When asked if they would subscribe to a monthly digital magazine from the SuperSite publishers, 52% said maybe, 38% said yes, and 10% said no. (This by itself is very encouraging.)  We also asked if readers wanted a male-oriented magazine (15.2% said yes), a world travel and food magazine (12.1% said yes), a recipe-oriented magazine (12.1% said yes).  By far, recording 60.6%, people basically want us to continue what we started in 1987 with Chile Pepper magazine, continued in 1997 with Fiery Foods & BBQ, and are still doing with the SuperSite, namely a magazine devoted to chiles, fiery foods, and barbecue with articles, recipes, and how-to, so that's exactly what we intend to do.  We finally asked people to choose their three favorite cuisines, and the results were very revealing:

Mexican, 52.5%
American Barbecue, 49.5%
American Southwest, 47.5%
Asian, 40.4%
Creole/Cajun, 34.3%
Italian, 34.3%
Caribbean, 19.2%
India, 17.2%

So, in April, 2011, we will launch Burn! For Lovers of Peppers, Smoke, and Sauce, and the first issue will be introduced at the National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show, March 4-6.  More details are coming soon, so stay tuned!


ThrowdownRippin’ Red Wing Sauce, the newest product from Rizzotti Foods, LLC will be going head to head with the one and only DEFCON Sauces! The gauntlet was thrown in a thread on peppersandmore.com in August, and both Rippin’ Red Wing Sauce and DEFCON have accepted the challenge.

“It is an honor and pleasure to challenge the mighty DEFCON sauces. We have nothing but respect and admiration for John Dilley and his products,” said Rizotti Foods owner John Rizzotti.Rippin Red Hot Wing Sauce

Hosted by Peppers and More, the contest will feature a blind taste test using tasters who have never tried either of the two sauces. The sauces will be judged on a list of four criteria, rating the food with a 1 to 5 number system, 5 being the best:

  1. How well does the sauce cling/stick to wings? 1-2-3-4-5
  2. Aroma? 1-2-3-4-5
  3. Color of sauce 1-2-3-4-5
  4. Overall taste? 1-2-3-4-5Defcon Sauces

To find out more about the Throwdown, visit www.scottrobertsweb.com, or read the original thread on www.peppersandmore.com!

Learn more about the challengers: DEFCON Sauces and Rippin' Red Wing Sauces.


Fiery Foods Show 2010There has been misinformation flying around on certain Chilehead blogs about the National Fiery Foods & BBQ Show. Some folks have been trying to compare our show with a competing show in Texas (which was recently purchased by new people who just managed to put up a website, and no longer has the backing of a certain food magazine that can’t seem to publish a magazine any more).

One comment claimed that the National Fiery Foods & BBQ Show was much larger (that part is correct), but the show in Texas was ‘more fun’ because of free alcohol and parties. Question: exactly why do companies exhibit at shows? Is it to have fun and get free booze? Or is it to promote your product to the largest possible audience? That’s the difference between a festival and a trade show.

Exhibiting at any show is costly and time consuming. Sometimes it’s a lot of fun. So if you’re going to spend that money, doesn’t it make sense to direct your energy where you’ll get the most bang for your buck? The Fiery Foods & BBQ Show is the place.

And about that imagined absence of buyers at the Fiery Foods & BBQ Show. We’re in our 23rd year, and every year our buyer list expands—you do the math. It’s a proven fact that many buyers come to our show every year and make their buying decisions based on what they see.

We appreciate everyone who participates in the Fiery Foods & BBQ Show, either as a buyer, exhibitor, or attendee. Trying to decide which show will be the best for your company? That’s your call. But at the end of the day, Albuquerque is still home to the biggest, the longest running, the Hottest Show on Earth!

Lois Manno
Editor, www.fiery-foods.com
Sunbelt Shows

PS:  Chilehead blogger Scott Roberts has a poll up about what show you would attend in 2011 if you only had one show to go to.  If you like our show, please take his poll (3 seconds max) that is here.


Red Chile Sauce, photo by Wes NamanI never imagined that a single red chile enchilada could burn me out. After all, I've been eating New Mexican red chile enchiladas for 35 years, and although some red chile sauces are hotter than others, they usually run medium-hot at the hottest. But yesterday, Lois (the SuperSite editor and art director) and I had a business lunch at Abuelita's Restaurant at 6083 Isleta Boulevard in Albuquerque's South Valley, about three miles from my house. Fall was in the air, so I had a bowl of green chile stew plus a red chile enchilada a la carte. The stew was tasty and medium in heat. But it took me ten minutes to finish that single enchilada. It was just killer hot and I had to wait between bites for capsaicin dispersal. I called the server over and asked her if the chef had put habaneros in the red chile. Nope, she replied, it was just that last year's dried red chile crop they purchased was unusually hot. It was a perfect storm of the right combination of capsaicin genes colliding with some stress on those particular plants that produced an abnormally high amount of capsaicin. And I tried to wolf down that enchilada only to find that I had to treat it with extreme respect.


Chile TreeChile peppers are hot, and we love them for it! From mild bell peppers to the insanely hot Bhut Jolokia, peppers can have an incredible heat range. But have you ever wondered why our favorite chile peppers are so hot? Join an American ecologist, his weary team of graduate assistants and scientists, and a curious journalist as they trek through the jungles and deserts of Bolivia in search of the answer.

Read the article from the Smithsonian Magazine by clicking here!


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