Last week, a judge at the Fiery Foods Challenge, a spicy food contest held in conjunction with Texas-based festival, ZestFest 2011, was hospitalized after sampling an entry. The blind entry in the hot sauce category was described as a “nightmare in a bottle” by another of the contest judges. Speculators have suggested the sauce may have contained the extract capsaicin, the chemical that gives chile peppers their heat.
“Our best wishes for a swift recovery go out to the judge injured in the Fiery Foods Challenge this week,” said Dave DeWitt, owner and producer of the Fiery Foods and Barbecue Show in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “Safety is the most important thing when testing fiery foods. Chemical additives such as capsaicin only increase the necessity for proper precautions.”
“At the Fiery Foods Show, exhibitors are required to have warning signage at their booths and to taste only on the end of toothpicks,” said DeWitt.
In addition to producing the Fiery Foods Show—the largest hot foods trade show in the country, DeWitt also hosts the annual Scovie Awards, a contest that judges the best food products in the hot foods industry. Judges who participate in the superhot category of the Scovies (including products containing the capsaicin extract) are required to sign a waiver before the contest and to test products separately, overseen at all times by a designated monitor.
Judges at the Scovies are provided with several different, thick coolants, such as yogurt and ice cream—the same cooling agents that members of the public should use when tasting fiery foods. Dairy and alcohol products are particularly effective in counteracting the heat associated with chile peppers; capsaicin dissolves in the fats contained in dairy. Water is a relatively useless cooling agent. Other methods used to combat the heat from peppers include tasting small samples in order to gauge heat levels, and building a tolerance to heat over time before tackling superhots.
With the proper precautions, the general public can avoid overexposure to the “fire” in fiery foods and enjoy the spice of life.
Check out this video from Dave DeWitt on how to avoid chile pepper burnout!
Sandia Resort and Casino is the ideal location for an event like the National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show. It simply has everything you could want away from home. A spectacular location at the foot of the 10,600 foot-high Sandia Mountains, plus a great view of the city makes for relaxing surroundings. The large rooms offer:
King size or Queen size bed
32" flat screen TV
Separate soaking tub
Oversized walk-in shower
Nicely sized vanity
Complimentary Wireless and Wired Internet access
Gilchrist & Soames bath amenities
To make your reservation at Sandia Resort, call the resort directly at 505-798-3930 or toll-free at 877-272-9199. Make sure you specify that you are with the National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show to get the special rate. Deluxe Guest Rooms – $165.00/night for one king, $175.00/night for two queens.1 Bdrm Suite – $349.00/night. Rooms are filling up fast, so make your reservation today. For detailed information on Sandia Resort and Casino, go here.
After running Germany's first Hot Shop for ten years, Suncoast Peppers GmbH will shift their focus back to publishing, and will discontinue their online shop by mid 2011. In addition to selling chile food and nonfood products, Suncoast Peppers owner Harald Zoschke authored and published the most popular German book on chile peppers and spicy food, Das Chili Pepper Buch, sold through book stores and Amazon. "The book continues to be a bestseller. We have many more projects like that mapped out, which always had to stand back, as the highly successful shop tied us up completely," Zoschke said. "Those ten years were great, but we feel this is also a good moment to shift focus to other exciting ventures."
Suncoast Peppers will continue to run and expand Pepperworld.com. Harald and Renate Zoschke plan to open the most comprehensive German-language chile and barbecue related content Website for advertising targeted at its audience.
Harald will also continue working with Dave and Sunbelt Shows on various projects. Stay tuned!
Time: Earlier This Week Location: A Poorly Stocked Wine Store in Todos Santos, Baja California Sur The Players: Bill and Roberta, Dave and Mary Jane, Numerous American Retirees, and One 30-Something Yuppie Store Owner Undoubtedly from the American California
“This is one of Baja’s best wines,” he said, indicating a dark red bottle. “Can I pour you a glass?” “How much?” I asked. “Eight dollars.” “For a case?” I teased him. “A glass,” he countered. “At that price, it must be good,” I replied. “You’ll love it,” he said. “It’s an artesanal wine.” “What does that mean in the land of beer and tacos?” “Small batches. Hand-crafted by dedicated wine people who know their terroir.” “Sure,” I said. He poured for Roberta and me. I sipped. “Notes of blackberry,” he announced. “A subtle balance of intensity and spirit.” Jug wine, I thought, this is even inferior jug wine, but kept silent. “What do you think?” I glanced at Roberta, who was trying to keep from laughing while she sipped the same thing. “What do you think?” he repeated. Three-Buck Chuck is ten times better entered my mind. Roberta shrugged and winked, waiting for me to cut this pretentious ass into small ribbons of sour grapes. I took a smaller sip just to be sure. Mary Jane looked over, expecting me to ask the guy if this was the first red wine he had ever tasted. “Wonderful, isn’t it?” I almost said, If Thunderbird ever made a red wine, I would buy it instead for two bucks a bottle. At least I didn’t spit it out all over his counter, He waited for me to rave about it. Instead, I stared at him for a long five seconds, gently set the nearly full glass in front of him, turned, and walked out of his shop without a word. Roberta, Bill, and Mary Jane followed me, grinning. “Let’s go home and have some real wine,” Roberta suggested, looking to see if I was angry. “Great idea,” I said, smiling, and we all walked to the car. I sure have matured in my old age, I thought. Don Rickles slowly revolved in his grave.
Can’t decide what to make for dinner tonight? Having trouble with your pizza dough technique? Gone are the days of rifling through a library of cookbooks to find the best tiramisu recipe or the perfectly sized meal for a party of one. The next generation of food documentation is here, and it’s streaming online 24/7.
“[E]ven the most well-stocked library cannot undermine the speed and expanse of the Internet. Cooks curious about a particular technique can click through YouTube archives as if turning the pages of a well-thumbed French Laundry cookbook. I know many who do and then pass them around via e-mail and Facebook. Cutline Communications, a consumer technology PR company, has noted that ‘more Americans are turning to YouTube to learn how to prepare all kinds of foods.’”
Embedded videos from sites such as YouTube aren’t the only forms of new cooking media. Throwing its weight into the arena are video games dedicated to the art of cooking. Games like the popular Diner Dash and Iron Chef America: Supreme Cuisine, are teaching tech-savvy cooks how to filet a fish and julienne an onion from the comfort of their game consoles. Smartphones have also joined the fray, and you can now access thousands of recipes from your iPhone or Android mobile device.
We chile gardeners are getting twitchy. We look at our garden plots, many of which are buried in snow, and we yearn for the growing season. Okay, guys and gals, buck up! You can, indeed, take some action in the "off" season. Here's a quick checklist:
1. Plan your 2011 garden. Select varieties and buy seeds or place your bedding plant order with ChilePlants.com. Decide what companion plants you want to grow. I grow tomatoes, eggplants, colored bell peppers, and lots and lots of herbs. I do not recommend growing potatoes, onions, or corn and I don't even grow New Mexican varieties—saving room for more exotic ones because I know Sichler Farms will supply me with my fresh green and red fixes.
2. Clean up your garden plot(s), removing all dead material to the compost pile. It's okay to add organic material at this time if your ground is not frozen. I recommend aged and sterilized steer manure combined with organic material from your compost pile before you add more non-composted material to it.
3. Plan your garden out for maximum access for harvesting, weeding (for shame—use plastic mulch to eliminate them), and for the viewing pleasure of your envious friends. Tall plants like tomatoes in the background, smaller plants in the foreground.
4. For varieties with long growing seasons, like the Chinense species, you can start seeds now if you have a greenhouse or a sunroom free from cats, who like to graze on the seedlings. Remember to pinch back the seedlings if they get leggy.
5. Read Paul Bosland's and my three articles, "Preparing the Pepper Garden," here.
From the pepper bandits who made off with more than 26,000 pounds of red peppers in Adra, Spain, to the pepper thief who stole 128 pounds of sweet peppers – valued at $20,000 – from a farm in California, chile peppers are definitely a hot commodity on the black market. But it’s not just humans who can’t help themselves to a bit of pepper pilfering.
Santa Fe, New Mexico residents Jamie Hascall and Dr. Betsy Brown were amazed not only to find a pack rat’s nest under the hood of their Subaru Forrester, but also by the artful display of chile pods the rodent had collected from a nearby chile ristra that had fallen to the ground. It turns out that many different animals love peppers just as much as humans do. Birds, rodents, even dogs will grab the chance to sneak a bite of sweet peppers (even jalapeños) if the opportunity should arise. Because birds lack the kind of receptors on their tongues that cause humans to nibble habaneros carefully, they have a much higher tolerance for the capsaicin that makes peppers hot. In fact, many bird seed producers include dried chile pods and seeds in their seed mixes.
Next time you’re prepping a spicy dish, or adding some fresh hatch chiles to the grill, make sure there are no would-be pepper felons hanging around, waiting for a taste!
Trying to recreate favorite dishes from distant lands can be daunting, but I discovered this past weekend that there is one word to keep in mind while trying it: scratch. That's right, forget about prepared (commercial) spice mixes, marinades, and sauces, and make the seasonings from scratch. Take jerk pork, for example. I totally fell in love with jerk pork as the Jamaicans make it, highly spiced and smoke-grilled. But I have been unable to re-create it with prepared jerk seasonings. So I went back to my recipe files and found a recipe that I collected in Ocho Rios, and gave it a try. At first, while marinating, the mixture looked way too herbal and green to do the job, but once the pork started browning on the grill, it looked right. Damn near perfect, and I'm breaking my own arm patting myself on the back. Take a look at the shot above, right off the grill. Not exactly a perfectly-styled photo shoot, but hey, it's a snapshot straight from the grill. And amazingly delicious. Here is the recipe I used, and I marinated "country-style" pork ribs in it for six hours, and then slowly smoke-grilled them over low heat. See you in Jamaica, mon!
North Coast Jerk Marinade
Variations on Jamaican jerk sauces and marinades range from the early, simple pastes of three or four ingredients to the more modern and rather complicated concotions with as many twenty-one spices, herbs, and vegetables. By varying the amount of vegetable oil and lime juice added, the cook can change the consistency from a paste to a sauce. Traditionally, it is used with pork, chicken, or fish.
1/4 cup whole Jamaican pimento berries (or 1/8 cup ground allspice) 3 Scotch bonnet chiles (or habaneros), seeds and stems removed, chopped 10 scallions (green onions), chopped 1/2 cup chopped onion 4 cloves garlic, chopped 4 bay leaves, crushed 1 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and chopped 1/3 cup fresh thyme 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg 1 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon salt (or more, to taste) 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper 1/4 cup vegetable oil 1/4 cup lime juice Water
Roast the pimento berries in a dry skillet until they are aromatic, about 2 minutes. Remove and crush them to a powder in a mortar or spice mill.
Add the pimento powder and the remaining ingredients to a food processor and blend with enough water to make a paste or sauce. Remove and store in a jar in the refrigerator; it will keep for a month or more.
Here at Sunbelt Shows, the SuperSite's parent company, we are really looking forward to the coming year because of the new media projects we're launching—a digital magazine and a book publishing division. We owe it all to technological advancements that now make it easier than ever to publish digital products, so we're proud to announce Burn! digital magazine, and digital books through Sunbelt Media, our book division. But Sunbelt Media will also have printed books, because we are not abandoning a very popular medium that's been around for 600 years or so.
In the next year, look for chilehead and BBQ books from me and from other writers on our team, including a facsimile release of the original Callaloo, Calypso & Carnival: The Cuisines of Trinidad & Tobago, first published in 1993; The Hot Sauce Bible: New Testament; and The Vegetarian Chilehead, a large collection of spicy meatless recipes. Hopefully, we will be able to complete Barbecue Apocalypse: Spiced-Up Q with an Attitude, but that might have to wait until 2012. Burn! digital magazine, a subscription-based monthly, will absolutely blow your mind! Read all about it here. And cheers to a wonderful 2011!