Handling Chiles

Salsa Recipes


Handling Chiles

"Too Hot to Handle"

Due to the way chiles ripen, the chile will vary from day to day in hotness. The Serrano for example one day will almost be mild and tomorrow will absolutely knock your socks off with heat.

The capsaicin is produced by glands at the junction of the placenta (think of the white veins) and the pod walls. The highest concentration is mostly in the placenta tissue.

There is a misconception that the seeds hold the greatest heat. They do not. You certainly can reduce the degree of heat by removing the seeds because you are in fact removing the "veins" along with the seed.

Handling Chiles

Burns from the chiles, can be very painful and irritating. Simply because the oil is so volatile, you must use caution when handling chiles.

Chiles can really burn you.

The only real guide to the heat of the pepper is to barely place the tip of your tongue, very lightly, I do mean very lightly "hey it is your tongue" so be careful, on the cut edge of the pepper "hey trust me even the mildest habanero will curl my toes"

When handling chiles you should have a good idea before you start how hot the chili might be, whether it is jalapeño or habanero, a serrano, or a cayenne.

Don´t spoil a great dish by making your guest hurt.

There is a big difference between HOT and HURT.

Yes, it´s true you can get used to the fire of chiles. The more you eat over time the more heat you will be able to tolerate. Be careful if you take a month or two off you are back to being a tenderfoot.

Start with milder chiles and work your way up.

Tips for handling chiles

When working with any fresh or dried hot chilies, wear plastic or rubber gloves when working with them.

Chop or cut green chiles on a non porous surface like china, glass or metal. Do not use your favorite wood cutting board. The wood will soak up the chile oils and it will pass it along to the next food you chop...

Wow, these are the hottest strawberries I have ever had!

Do not cut chiles under running water

When you process or saute hot chilies they release plenty of burning vapors into the air. Turning your head or wearing a household dust mask will help.

To get rid of the chili oil on your hands.

First wet your hands with cold water, and then rub them briskly together with a teaspoon or so of salt as if you are washing your hands. I prefer kosher salt due to its course texture. Now, wash your hands again with soap and warm water. This also works well when working with garlic and onions.

"Your mouth is on fire"

    Oh, I remember your mouth is on fire. What ever you do not reach for the water glass: it only spreads the capsaicin around inside your mouth. It is just like throwing water on an oil fire.

Here are a few remedies that have proven to work. Milk or dairy products are cooling. And yes beer is cooling too, the alcohol, helps to dissolve the irritating oils as well as "deaden" the pain.

A squeeze of lemon or lime will help balance the palate and distract it from the heat.