Sunday, October 05, 2008

Pickled habaneros

In the summer, the local home centre was selling potted habanero pepper plants as the "hottest peppers in the world". I immediately had an image of the pickled jalapeƱo peppers I once enjoyed in a Mexican joint in Santa Monica and decided to have a crack at it.

The pepper bush didn't do very well over the summer, but in the autumn, it suddenly took off and provided a small crop of fairly ugly pale green and red peppers. Today as I was picking them, I nibbled part of one that had been holed by some insect and found it very hot. Indeed, my lips went numb and stayed that way for 20 minutes.

With no sensation in my lips, I washed the peppers, cut two slits in each, put them in an enamel saucepan with some 'rakyu' pickling vinegar and a big clove of garlic, cut into chunks. I simmered them for 5 minutes, omitting the salt and baby carrots in the recipe that I found online. Then I transferred them to an empty jam jar and shoved in some Italian parsley as a means of keeping the peppers fully submerged in the vinegar. With this method, the peppers are supposed to be edible immediately, and are said to keep for a month or two. By the almost transparent appearance of the peppers after an hour in the jar, I think I probably simmered them for 4 minutes longer than is necessary.

I'm looking forward to trying my first home-made pickled peppers - not without some trepidation, it must be said.

The Italian parsley has been visited recently by a pair of fantastically coloured caterpillars. Since they're so outrageously showy and more importantly, don't appear to be harming the parsley, I can't bring myself to kill them.

When Blake wrote,

The Caterpillar on the Leaf
Repeats to thee thy Mother's grief.

one can only assume that he had a different caterpillar in mind, because this one was completely silent on the subject.

And for bunce, a sunset panorama.


Jesus Christ!

I tried one of these goddamn pickled habaneros with the tail end of dinner tonight, and Jesus Christ!

A fair old stink accompanied the opening of the jar, and a few seconds after I took a small bite of one these toxic peppers, pain filled my mouth and breathing became difficult. I experienced several violent hiccups that felt like depth charges going off in my stomach. As my discomfort became apparent, my family dissolved into mirth, with much sarcastic comment, "How is it, is it nice?", "That looks good, are you going to finish the jar off?" Speechless with distress, I could only throw myself back in my chair and sit with my head back and my mouth open. "You've gone all red, ha ha ha!" my family informed me gently. And when I tried to put my distress into words, the smell of the pepper in my mouth flew across the table and made my wife and son screw up their faces in disgust.

I managed to eat only half of one small pepper, and thankfully there was still some tofu on the table to assuage the nerve damage to my mouth. A chilled pear also helped in this regard. But the smell from the remainder of the habanero on my plate seemed to fill the whole dining room.

The question remains, what to do with this hazardous food product.


Damian said...

"the local home centre was selling habanero peppers as the "hottest peppers in the world" "

"after I took a small bite of one these toxic peppers, pain filled my mouth and breathing became difficult. I experienced several violent hiccups that felt like depth charges going off in my stomach."


Rod said...

Yes, you have a point there.

I'm hoping they might be more agreeable added in small quantities to fried rice and ... and ... I can't think of much else.

I also managed to palm off half the habaneros on a friend who gave me some delicious honey and a jar of pesto, both homemade. He says he likes hot peppers, but then he has also not heard of habaneros.

I've planted extra garlic this year to preserve in miso. That's a safer bet.

Damian said...

Your mistake was using vinegar rather than vodka.

Luke said...

Hope you don't mind the bombardment of posts from me!

I got a kick out of this post. I grow a couple jalepeno and cayenne plants each year and one particular year the jalepeno's decided to turn nuclear! they were much hotter than even my cayennes(which i dry and readily crush up on just about everything! yum!).
I tried 3 different attempts at pickling them, even with all the seeds removed and they were still too hot! Haha.
Do you grow any other pepper plants? You should also look into one called "aji dulce". Its supposed to have all the fruity flavor of habanero's but little heat. Despite growing many other kinds of peppers my attempt at this type was terribly unsuccessful last year; not sure why.


Rod said...

Luke, fire away!

"aji dulce" looks exactly what I'd like to grow. It might be hard to get hold of them here though. "Aji" means "flavour" in Japanese, coincidentally.

In my understanding, peppers 'go nuclear' when they're short of water. In 1998, Japan and Korea suffered prolonged drought and I saw a most amusing news item about chilli buyers in Korea. These tough, leathery dudes go from farm to farm tasting fiery red chillies and buying up the good ones for kimchi manufacturers. But due to the drought, all the chillies were extra specially hot. The camera zoomed in on the tasters' faces as they broke into grimaces of unaccustomed agony with each pepper. Less amusingly, many tasters also became ill from the savagery of the peppers.

Luke said...

Haha that's quite a funny story! I'm not too sure on shipping to japan but the seeds were sourced from an online supplier.