Chile Peppers add a little spice to life. Almost every country in the world today enjoys the flavors and benefits of this humble plant. The name is spelled differently in many regions, The term chili in most of the world refers exclusively to the smaller, hot types of capsicum.
The chili pepper is the fruit of the plants from the genus Capsicum, which are members of the nightshade family, Solanaceae, the same family as the potato. Chile peppers are thought to have originated in South America. Until the arrival of Spanish and Portuguese explorers in the New World, peppers grew only in Latin America, but they now cultivated all over the world for centuries, resulting in a wide variety of species with different colors, shapes, flavors, and, of course, spiciness. The mildest and very popular is the bell pepper often referred to red bell, green bell, used in salads, stir fries or stuffed.
A very popular grilling pepper that’s ideal for stuffing to make Chiles Rellenos with a kick of heat. On the heat scale, they are a 2 to 3. They are big, about 4 to 6 inches long and are usually sold fresh, while they are younger and dark green. As they become red, this mature stage is when they are usually dried (and in their dried form they are called ancho chiles). Poblanos dried become Ancho or Mulato chilies.
Ancho or Mulato Chilies
Ancho Chile means “wide chile” in Spanish, nearly black pepper, made from ripe poblano peppers. They have a high yield of flesh to skin. Anchos are mild with a rich, dark cherry/raisin sweetness. Ancho chiles are sometimes labeled “pasilla chiles,” but they are much wider at the stem than true pasillas.
This is a Mexican variety that matures from dark olive green to dark chocolate brown. The pasilla is six- to 12-inch and on the spiciness scale they are about a 2 to 3.. It’s a versatile pepper that’s good for sauces, roasting, and grilling when fresh. Pasilla chilies are medium hot but not so much that they are scary. Dried pasillas and are common in salsas (sauces) recipes; Pasillas (also known as chiles negros) are available both whole and powdered.
Pisillas or Chiles Negros
Chiles Negros, also called Chile Pisilla- This chili is characterized by its deep red flesh It has a mild flavor and only a small amount of heat. They are sometimes used to make the salsa. Ancho, Pasilla and Guajillo make up the “holy trinity” widely used in mole and enchilada sauces. These long, tapered chiles sport black, wrinkled skins and lend a subtle, prune-like flavor with a whisper of licorice to sauces. Complex and quite spicy, the dark flesh of these “chile negros” yields a mahogany brown puree that is often blended with cream.
The Chile de árbol (Spanish for tree chili) is a small and potent Mexican chili pepper also known as bird’s beak chile and rat’s tail chile. Chile De Arbol Peppers are named in reference to the woody stems attached to the pod. These chilies are about 2 to 3 inches long. Their heat index is between about 7-8 on a 1-10 scale. The peppers start out green and turn a bright red color as they mature. Chile de árbol peppers can be found fresh, dried, or powdered. These beautiful little red chiles are thought to be derived from the cayenne pepper. As dried chiles, they are often used to decorate wreaths because they do not lose their red color after dehydration. Excellent in salsas.
Fresh Anaheim Chili
The Anaheim is big, about 5 to 6 inches long, and a mild chile that’s good for stuffing. Anaheims are good roasted, cut into strips, and thrown into a salad; stuffed with meat and grilled; used in salsa verde, or added to cheese enchiladas. Mildly spicy about a 3 on the spiciness level.
Anaheim Dried Chili
Anaheim, are also known as New Mexican or California chile pepper pods have a marvelous sweet, pungent, earthy flavor which you might find quite addicting. They and a shiny smooth skin, with a flavor that is very mild. They are usually blended with more interesting chilies when making sauces. It is possible to derive three distinct flavors from one chile pod: the seeds alone, the flesh alone, or the whole pod. Each produces different levels of flavor and heat.
This bright red pepper, about 2 to 6 inches long and is usually consumed in its dried, powdered form, known as cayenne pepper. When ripe and fresh, cayenne chilies are long, skinny, and very hot, spiciness range of 4 to 5.
- Guajillo chilies have long, shiny, tapered pods with tough cranberry-red skins. They boast a moderately spicy, tangy flavor with a hint of citrus. Because the skins are tough, be prepared to soak the chilies a bit longer to make them pliable, and be sure to strain the sauce once blended.
The jalapeño is a medium-sized chili pepper a mature jalapeño fruit is 2 to 3 inches long with a round, firm, smooth flesh of 1–1.5 in wide. The jalapeno is harvested both green and red, the jalapeño is spicy. When dried and smoked, it’s called a chipotle chile.
Jalapeño chilies progressively get hotter the older they get, eventually turning bright red. As they age, they develop white lines and flecks, like stretch marks running in the direction of the length of the pepper. The smoother the pepper, the younger, and milder it is. The more white lines or striations, the older and hotter the chile may be. Red jalapeños can be very hot. If you want the mildest jalapeno pick the chilies without any striations. If you want heat, find a red or green one with plenty of white stretch marks.
- Chipotles are made by smoking and drying jalapenos. They are often sold canned in tomato sauce as “chipotles in adobo”. They have a dusty, tan appearance and a woodsy, smoky flavor with about a 3 on the temperature scale. They are wonderful in sauces, sour cream and even in mayonnaise for sandwiches. Try them one at a time until you find your spiciness level.
Spicier than the jalapeño, and more flavorful, the serrano is a small Mexican pepper, about 1 to 3 inches long and thinner than the jalapeno, with thick, juicy walls, and is widely available and versatile. It is about a 3 on the spiciness level. It is most commonly sold in its green stage and like the jalapeno, it turns red and then yellow as it ages. You can also find serranos canned pickled or dried.
Habaneros add a lot of heat to cooking, on the spiciness scale they rate about a 5. Be careful with them or you will destroy your dish. You’ll find different colors, ranging from red to white-yellow and even brown, but orange is the most common, they are usually 2 to 3 inches long. Great for salsa, hot sauces, or a fiery jerk chicken.
The most common sweet pepper, bells are red, green, and yellow, but there are also purple, brown, and orange varieties, 3 to 6 inches in size. They are a crunchy, juicy pepper that is great for eating raw on salads, sautéing, they have next to no heat to the bite. They have a large cavity that is ideal for stuffing. On the heat scale, they are about a 1, very little.
Hot Cherry Pepper
These vary in size from 1 to 2 inches and shape and are very hot. They are usually round though sometimes more of a triangular shape. Cherry peppers can also be sweet and are about a 3-4 on the spiciness range. They’re most often used in pickling and stuffing.
This is a type of pimento (or pimiento) pepper, which is what you often find stuffed in green olives. It is a large 4 to 6 inches long, sweet red pepper, similar to a bell but with an extra-thick, juicy wall. The skin comes off easily, so this is an ideal pepper for roasting. It’s also great to eat raw with dip, it is only about a 1 on the spiciness range.
- If you want the flavor without the mouth-scorching fire, remove the seeds and interior ribs from a chile before cooking it.
- When you purchase chilies in a can they are much milder than the fresh version.
- When cooking with chilies for a group you are not sure what spiciness level they can handle, soak chilies in salt and vinegar 20 to 60 minutes, depending on how hot they are. Rinse and dry the fill as before.
- Most green peppers are less spicy than the darker and redder they get.
- It’s also a good idea to have dairy products, such as milk or yogurt, on hand—they contain casein, which helps neutralize capsaicin, the chemical that gives chilies their heat. A teaspoon of sugar on your tongue also helps so does eating rice, pasta or bread.
- Always protect your skin by wearing gloves when handling hot peppers in your skin is sensitive. Always wash your hands thoroughly after working with chilies otherwise, you may touch your eyes or other body parts, and will feel a burn for a while.
- To prevent making an overly spicy dish, be sure to add just a little bit of chili at a time and taste as you go. If using hot peppers, taste a little bit first to get a sense for how hot it is.
- If you do make something that is too spicy, try one of the following, before giving up on your dish:
- Dairy combats heat whether it is milk, sour cream, or yogurt, use as much of it as you can until the spice has calmed down. Stir in a tablespoon at a time of yogurt, sour cream, milk, coconut milk (a great nondairy alternative) and/or a mild cheese like Parmesan to counteract overly hot flavors.
- Some people swear nut butter are able to cut through the excess heat of a dish. If it’s appropriate for the dish, try stirring in a couple tablespoons of peanut butter, almond butter, tahini, etc.
- Acid can cut through the heat try vinegar, lemon juice, and lime juice.
- A spoonful of sugar can also go a long way in neutralizing the spice. Sugar may be used best in combination with an acid, like lemon juice.
- Soak roasted chilies first in a teaspoon of vinegar and a dash of salt with enough water to cover them, soak them for 20 to 60 minutes or more depending on the heat level of the chili.
Health Benefits of Chilies
- Chilies contain health benefiting an alkaloid compound in them, capsaicin, which gives them strong spicy pungent character. Early laboratory studies on experimental mammals suggest that capsaicin has anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic and anti-diabetic properties. It also found to reduce LDL cholesterol levels in obese individuals.
- Fresh chili peppers, red and green, are rich source of vitamin-C. 100 g fresh chilies provide about 143.7 µg or about 240% of RDA. Vitamin C is a potent water-soluble antioxidant. It is required for the collagen synthesis inside the human body. Collagen is one of the main structural protein required for maintaining the integrity of blood vessels, skin, organs, and bones.
- They are also good in other antioxidants such as vitamin-A, and flavonoids like ß-carotene, a-carotene, lutein, zea-xanthin, and cryptoxanthin. These antioxidant substances in capsicum help protect the body from injurious effects of free radicals generated during stress, diseases conditions.
- Chilies carry a good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
- Chilies are also good in B-complex group of vitamins such as niacin, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), riboflavin and thiamin (vitamin B-1). These vitamins are essential in the sense that human body requires them from external sources to replenish.
- Some of my health information is from: http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/chili-peppers.html
How to Roast Fresh Chili Peppers
- Place the chilies over a stove flame, under the broiler or on a grill and roast until the skin is charred and blistered, about 3 to 5 minutes. Avoid completely blackening the chiles; you’re looking for them to be about 60% to 70% charred.
- Turn them over and roast the other side: Using tongs, flip the chiles over and roast on all sides until the skin is charred and blistered, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Steam the peppers to loosen the peel: Remove the chilies from the heat and place them in a paper bag, food-safe plastic bag, or heat-safe bowl. Close the bag or cover the bowl, and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes. The steam will help loosen the peel from the chiles.
When buying dry chilies, look for ones that are still pliable and leathery. If they feel hard or crack when you bend them inside their packaging, they’re too old and have lost much of their flavor. If you are not planning on using your chilies right away, or if you are planning on buying them in bulk, the best way to store them is in an air-tight zipper-lock bag inside the freezer or cool dark location. They become moldy if you do not wrap them well.
How To Prepare Dry Chilies
- First clean To clean a long, straight chili like a Guajillo, start by snipping off the stem with some clean kitchen shears into a bowl. Next, make a slit along one edge. Open up the chili and use your fingers to scrape out the seeds and any ribs. For wrinkled chilies where the stem ends up inverted, start by cutting the chili in half, making sure to cut below where the internal portion of the stem ends up. Scrape the seeds and ribs out of the bottom half. Next, turn the top half inside out so that the inner portion of the stem is exposed. Cut the stem off from the inside. You should end up with a clean, ring-shaped piece of chili, the stem falling neatly into the bowl below.
- Second Toast the Chili Toasting chilies opens the cells and oils which increase the flavor and complexity. Use a skillet with a heavy bottom and over medium heat toast the chili. It will slowly puff up when done. Watch the chilies because they will burn quickly.
- Grind the Chilies Once those chilies are toasted, place them into a blender or spice grinder to make your own chili powder.
- Soften the Chilies Place the toasted chilies in a small bowl of boiling water and let them sit for about 15 to 20 minutes to soften. Then place them in the blender and puree. Proceed with your recipe for salsa or various sauces. *Soften the dried chili also if you are going to fill it.
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