Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Eating Out A Wee Peek

Yes, I’m a naughty, wicked boy. I peeked. I guess I’m supposed to feel guilty, but the only bummer was getting caught. But oh, if you could have felt that sticky warm sense of happiness and gratitude when I realized that the postman had dropped off a rather pregnant looking Airmail envelope. Whatever could this be? Return address says New South Wales, Australia. Wait…NEW South Wales? The same one where stoner pepper maniac Neil of The Hippy Seed Company resides? EEEEEEE! This moment is even sweeter than when I accepted my tiara as Homecoming Economics Queen. Christmas is so much sweeter when it comes early! Besides, it’s not really cheating, I can’t start germinating until around January. Some of these are known to take up to 6 weeks to germinate! And so much to do! Soil to amend and sterilize, space to be cleared, heating and lighting setups to be figured out, a cat defensive perimeter to be devised. Thankfully I’m avoiding gadget fever and so super sexy metal halide megalights just aren’t on my radar. I just want to get them sprouted and stable enough to get them potted and let the oppressive Fresno sun do it’s UV radiation mojo. But onto the stars of our (hopefully) bountiful upcoming pepper garden!

We got Bhut Jolokias! The original big name of superhots that have intrigued me to the point of near obsession. Trust me, ask anyone about my Peter Peppers, I’m worse than folks with their first child. These are notoriously difficult to germinate and are reputed to not be terribly strong producers. But I figure even 1 or two should be enough for some emergency room quality comedy. And considering how I lost my dignity the other night attempting to make a chili eater vid with a green PP, I expect to be a mewling blob of pain should I deign to eat part of one raw.

Next up is the Bih Jolokia. A kissing cousin of the Bhut, with a similar, deadly, level of tooth melting heat. According to the biology paper posted on THSC, they’re distinct in that the Bih is a better producer and seems to be somewhat easier to grow. I hope that they’ll be a nice backup in case that the Bhuts live up to their reputation for difficulty.

Another of the Indian peppers we got is the Dorset Naga of the Naga Morich family. Rather than the Ghost Chili appellation of the Bhuts (which is apparently the result of a misspelling anyway), the folks of Nagaland where these originate from made damn sure that they got credit for their demonic dirt gems. Very much on par with the above peppers in heat. Although in almost all live descriptions of the flavor, the most I get from the tasters is; “Fruity…HOThothothotHAWT!” But they should come out all bumpy and nifty looking. Maybe I can convince my jelly friends to help me make a weapons grade marmalade!

And now we leap across the supercontinent over to the Caribbean. The funny thing is that these are all still cousins with the Indian peppers, capsicum Chinese. Starting off with the meanest, we’ve got the Trinidad Scorpion, so named for the curled stinger shape of the point of the pod (and their country of origin of course). From all I’ve seen in the pepper tests, this one seems to be the most painful and feared of the pepper types. Chili powder, here we come!

Then we’ve got the 7 pots, sometimes known as 7 pods. The story goes that these living cinders are so hot that you can use one of them to season at least 7 pots of stew (or the Carib equivalent). So we got some of the 7pot Jonah variety, mostly because I’m hoping that a more “bred up” version of the pepper will be a hearty producer. We’ll see soon enough.

Also we got the 7pot Douglah, otherwise known as the Chocolate 7pot, since they turn a deep purplish brown as they mature. This is another that is reputed to be hotter than hot ever hoped to be on it’s best day with a coke hardon. I guess THSC’s are a strain developed by some folks called Alphanerdz, which I think is pretty awesome since I’ll be growing a fairly new subspecies and hopefully helping to spread it to other chili fans after the season.

Haaaaabaneros! Nummy, burny and mean, these be. And we’ve got the exclusive THSC Red Savina Habanero pepper. Rated at up to 580,000 scovilles, it’s around half as hot as the hottest Bhuts and Nagas, but it’s also about double the heat of the average habanero. Pain by exponents. Not only did I go for these because of their heat, but also their impressively deep, red of the pods will add some striking color to the garden.

Next door to these we’ve got the Chocolate Habaneros. While not quite as hot at the Savina, these are still about half-again as hot as your average Habs. And given some of the reactions I’ve seen on the chili tests, this one has a rather special type of burn that comes at you sideways. I’m pondering smoking these and figuring out how to make an adobo style sauce for them for the most evil chipotle you’ve ever conceived.

The one I’ve been most excited about making hot sauces with would have to be the Fatali. Still in the Habanero category, it tends to grow in a more traditional pepper shape and ripens to a vibrant yellow color. Don’t mistake these bad boys for a Hungarian Wax though! Even though they’re not full fledged superhots, they still reside in that nebulous area between the pedestrian concept of hot and the nutjob version of eating pepper spray. These are reputed to have one of the most pleasant flavors for the pain endured.

Another of the flavor favorites is the Bonda Ma Jaques. What? The French colonized the fuck outta the Caribbean. This is also a Hab cousin and seems fairly closely related to the Fatali as well. Almost anywhere I’ve snooped about hot peppers and cooking, the Bonda has come up as a pleasure to eat. So I’m hoping that I’ll be posting bondage humor themed recipes of spiciness ad naseum. Smack My Chix Up, Bonda flavored chicken fingers with a creamy ebil Chocolate Hab chipotle aioli. Oh yes, spring can’t come fast enough!

And our one and only prevarication from the Chinese variety of capsicums, the Aji Lemon, which is instead a baccatum. What is that difference? Hell if I know. But they appear to be prolific in South America, this Aji coming from Peru. You know it has to be tasty, after all it’s got to, all that coca chewing has got to be hell on the taste buds! This one is off of the superhot radar, but instead lives up to it’s name in more than color and is supposed to have a nice citrus overtone to the flesh. This is the one I’m lining up for some spicy shrimp and other fish dishes. Plus, it’ll also add some nice color contrast to all of those reds, oranges and browns

Plus we got extras!! Who doesn’t love pleasant surprises? And we got two of them! The first was an additional baggy of 10 seeds with a Nagabon tag, but a personal note from the Lead Hippy himself saying that there are 9 Scotch Bonnet seeds and 1 more Bih Jolokia. W00t!! I’ve always been in love with the nifty shape of the Bonnet, but as you’ve seen, I’m up to my eyeballs in species! But it’s a delight to have too many awesome peppers to wrap my head around growing, plus the fun in figuring out which of the 10 seeds was the Bih. And the other, I’m presuming is an additional stocking stuff from our superawesome Bay Area Momma. A packet of black pepper, called Pepper Pepper. At first I thought that they were simply emphasizing the regular nature of the piper nigum, until I looked at the ingredients and saw that the peppercorns are infused with capsaisin! That’ll heat up your Cobb salad something fierce! I’m going to have to get a separate peppermill to keep from burning up Mrs. EOF.

And so there we are! A naughty preview of Christmas joy. And you didn’t even have to wake up early to the sounds of squalling children and clean up 12 acres of wrapping paper while resisting the urge to garrote your Uncle for getting the kids the “loud toy”. And I’ve got the vaguest idea of how much planning I’ve got ahead of me for spring. 12 new species of chili, plus my Peter Pepper project to sow comedy peppers far and wide across Fresno. Next up will the Great Germination Project in January. We’ll get the superhots started first, since they’re notorious for being difficult late risers. Then hopefully we’ll get them transplanted and growing outside once the frosts are done. Given my issues this year with the heat stressing the plants into blossom loss, I want to take as much advantage of the milder spring days for growth and have them fruiting as we edge toward the 90’s rather than watch them struggle to grow and produce in the 100’s.

It’s a spicy ass Christmas! And I’m sure you can tell that I’m already over the moon about it 10 days too early. If you’re lucky, you too can have a badass Mom’n’law who’ll gift you with indulgences for your horticultural habit (and who was probably just relieved that I didn’t ask for nipple piercings again this year). The tone for my season is set. I’m on happiness cruise control until I can start digging around in the dirt and make a general mess of things. Well, and until Christmas dinner, where I’ll have brought my own pepper grinder for dinner and fully plan to giggle when curious family members simply must have a taste…

Happy Holidays dear readers! May you be happy, warm and full. General peace with family members is optional. Warm cockles extra. 20% gratuity for parties over 10 and $19 corkage fee. Mileage may vary.