Warming up winter

Carla
Carla Allen
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With cold weather right around the corner there are other ways to heat up your life than turning up the thermostat or wrapping yourself in another blanket.

Hot peppers can heat up your winter in many different ways.

Hot peppers can add sizzle to those blustery winter days.

 I’ve found these slender scorchers to be even more productive than sweet green peppers and insects seldom bother them.

What's fascinating about these 4-5" long, dagger-shaped peppers is the fact that they can be completely green when picked, but within two days a fiery red blush begins to creep across their skin.

If you didn’t grow any hot peppers of your own, visit your local farmers’ market and stock up. They can be dried, pickled, sauced and so much more.

To dry, cut peppers into strips, remove the seeds and place them in a warm, airy location. Turn them daily until crisp.

There are several different recipes for pickling, but the simplest method seems to be to blanch the peppers in boiling water for 30 seconds first, cool them, remove the seeds and chop them.

Then combine 1/4 cup of sugar with eight cups of cider vinegar and one tablespoon of peppercorns. Bring this to a boil and pour it over the peppers. The addition of a few crushed cloves of garlic can add to this fiendish taste experience.

I am one of those deranged connoisseurs, forever in search of the hottest pepper sauce, but confess that I do dive for bread or milk afterwards. Other foods that help cool the burn are pasta, potatoes or a banana.

The chemical compound that gives hot peppers their bite are known as capsaicins. They have various effects on the human mouth. Five have been identified so far. Three give rapid “bite” sensations in the back of the palate, while two others give a low intensive slow burn on the tongue and mid-palate. The inner wall is the hottest part of hot peppers.

Pepper spray is a common weapon for city dwellers. The success of New York City transit officials use of hot pepper dust in 1983 could have influenced its popularity. They sprinkled this substance on subway token slots to prevent teenagers from sucking tokens from the turnstiles.

Peppers don't necessarily have to turn red to be hot, but some chefs believe the deeper the color of a pepper, the more flavorful it is.

Geographic location: New York City

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