Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Chile 101

A common question when you are eating at a Mexican food restaurant in New Mexico is red, green, or Christmas.  They are referring to what type of chile you would like on your food.  Christmas is a combination of half red and half green.  So what is the difference between red and green chile?

All chilies start off green.  As they ripen, they turn red or yellow.  Most red chilies are dried so you need to reconstitute them in hot liquid before you use them.  There are some varieties of chile such as the jalapeno, habanero, or serrano  that will turn red and still be used fresh.

I like to eat Hatch, New Mexico,  green chile.  There are four varieties.

Mild:  This pepper is about 6-9 inches long with little to no heat.  This is a good place to start to get your chile fix.
Medium (Big Jim): The size of the pepper ranges from 7-10 inches.  This pepper is meaty and the heat varies from chile to chile.  Big Jim's are great for making chile rellanos, or just chop and use in your favorite enchilada casserole, scrambled eggs, hamburgers.  The possibilities are endless.
Hot: (Sandia):  This chile is smaller.  It ranges from 5-8 inches.  It has a consistent heat and is great for spicing up dishes.  If you like heat, this is the chile for you.
Extra Hot (Barker).  This chile packs a punch.  Use it in small quantities.

I've talked a lot about the heat of a chile.  The heat  of chilies is measured in Scoville heat units (SHU).  The number of SHU's indicates the amount of capsaicin present.  The SHU scate ranges for 0-15,000,00.  Zero is the bell pepper and the 15,000,000 is pure capsaicin.  The active chemical capsaicin is stored in the veins and seeds of the chile pepper.

Chile Fun Facts

Did you know:
  • One fresh medium-sized green chile pod has as much Vitamin C as six oranges.
  • One teaspoon of dried red chile powder has the daily requirements of Vitamin A.
  • Hot chile peppers burn calories by triggering a thermodynamic burn in the body, which speeds up the metabolism.
  • Teas & lozenges are made with chile peppers for the treatment of a sore throat.
  • Capsaicinoids, the chemical that make chile peppers hot, are used in muscle patches for sore and aching muscles.
  • Chile peppers are relatives of tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants, all belonging to the nightshade family.
  • The color extracted from very red chile pepper pods, oleoresin, is used in everything from lipstick to processed meats.
  • There are 26 known species of chile pepper, five of which are domesticated.
Adapted from the New Mexico Chile Institutes’ “Chile Pepper Facts”

In future posts, I am going to have some great chile recipes for you to try including how to make a great red chile sauce from dried red chile pods.    

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