Indian summer's come and gone, but it's not too late to capture a piece of the season's heat in a jar. Hot peppers are still lingering at the markets. Some of the more exotic varieties have passed, but common peppers like Thai chilies, pictured, are still available. And of course our friend the jalapeño is fairly abundant; at Wednesday's Heart of the City market, there were piles of them for 75 cents a pound.
The piquancy of chile peppers varies hugely, not only dependent on the type of pepper, but even varying within each variety. The heat is caused by the presence of capsaicin, a chemical that irritates nerve endings. The more capsaicin in a pepper, the hotter it will be. The amount of capsaicin is measured in Scoville heat units (SHU). Comparatively mild chiles like jalapeños rate between 2,500 and 8,000 SHU. Thai chiles can be 10 to 20 times as hot. Habaneros, among the hottest you're likely to see at the markets here (and happily present in the last Mariquita mystery box, can rate as high as 350,000 SHU. That hurts.
But if you're a pepperhead like me, it hurts so good. Rare is the meal I don't add chile peppers to in some form, even if in middling amounts, just to get a little kick. And chiles are excellent for preserving, both as the star ingredient and as supporting player.
If you want to preserve just plain old, straight-up jalapeños, it's easy peasy, as David Lebovitz illustrates. Or, mix them with other veggies for the classic escabeche , a must at any Mexican table. Amy took advantage of her Mariquita mystery box habaneros to punch up a batch of pickled carrots.
The hot pepper recipes keep popping at Punk Domestics.