By Dustin Shipman
For some it takes courage, for others a sense of adventure to take that first bite that they know will set the taste buds ablaze.
Your real pepper heads — connoisseurs of spicy flavors — probably have to look no farther than the kitchen cabinet for a specialty hot sauce to add some kick to a favorite dish.
Although pepper sauces have the reputation of simply being hot, most fans of pepper sauce agree that flavor is the most important part when picking a favorite.
Mel Shipley and his wife, Jan, cater to pepper heads with their business Silly Chili, 87 Spring St., in Eureka Springs, Ark.
“We specialize in hot-and-spicy anything,” Shipley said. “We carry hot and spicy barbecues, salsas, hot sauces, pickles and a lot more,” he said. “People come in here looking for hot and spicy things all the time.”
He said the hotness of peppers and pepper sauces are gauged by a measurement called Scoville heat units. The average jalapeno pepper is measured at about 5,000 Scoville units. Habanero peppers register at about 20,000 to 30,000.
“We carry hot sauces that go beyond the habaneros, which is considered the hottest pepper in the world,” Shipley said. “One of them comes in at 577,000 Scoville units. They make them hotter by boiling down the seeds and the resin and making extracts. We had one sauce in the shop that used this process and was about 6 million Scoville units.”
Those who want to mix some sweet flavors with their heat also have options.
Dee Ogle, owner of Dee’s Gourmet Foods in Webb City, grows peppers and creates her own pepper jellies which she says can be added to just about any food to add spice and flavor.
“The jellies are something that are very popular with the public because they have a lighter flavor than the regular pepper,” Ogle said. “The jelly recipe sweetens it up a little bit so they are not so hot, so they get the taste of the pepper out without being too spicy.”
Ogle said just about any pepper can be used to make jellies and that a lot of people find it enjoyable to come up with their own special recipes, adding other flavors to the pepper.
“There are hundreds of different varieties of these jellies on the market, like jalapeno and walnut or jalapeno and pecan,” she said. “Habanero, chili peppers and green peppers. Really, any kind of pepper and combination that you can come up with, someone has probably already made it.”
Ogle said creating your own pepper jellies at home can take some trial and error, but it is a rather simple process. While pepper jellies are not hard to find, one of the things she likes about making them is getting the chance to combine flavors and create her own.
“One of my favorites is a hot tropical which has kiwi, pineapple and mango with habanero peppers,” she said.
Shipley said most of his customers at Silly Chili are looking for a nice flavor and not simply something that will burn their tongue.
“You should handle those hot sauces with care, you don’t want to get them on your skin and certainly not in your eyes,” he said. “Also, sometimes if you take something that hot it can actually interrupt the rhythm of your heart.”
Plenty of recipes are available online to satisfy any pepper head or those daring enough to put their taste buds to the test.
Belizian habanero sauce
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup chopped carrots
2 cups water
6 habanero chilis, stemmed, seeded and minced
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
Sauté onion in oil until soft. Add carrots and water. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer until the carrots are soft. Remove from heat. Add chilis, lime juice and salt. Process to smooth sauce. Pour into sterilized bottles and seal. Note that the peppers are not cooked to preserve their unique flavor.
Hot pepper jelly
1 cup ground sweet red or green peppers
1/2 cup ground long hot peppers (1 1/2 cups Scottish bonnett or habanero peppers for an intensely hot jelly)
6 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces fruit pectin
Core and grind or puree the peppers, including seeds. Combine peppers, sugar, vinegar and salt in a saucepan. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour in pectin and bring to a boil. Lower heat, continue to stir, until you feel the mixture thicken. Place funnel over tops of sterilized jars. Ladle jelly into jars, wiping any spills immediately.
For more information about Dee’s Gourmet Foods, call (417) 414-0307. To reach Silly Chili, call (479) 253-0088.
By Dustin Shipman
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