Some Like ’em Hot

Maybe it’s because the outside temperature is down in the teens, and my backyard looks like Siberia.  Whatever the reason, I’ve been thumbing through a wonderful book of traditional New Mexico recipes that a friend gave me.  Just reading them warms me up.  The most common ingredients are beans, blue corn tortillas, and hot, hot chile peppers (chili and chilli are also acceptable spellings, not to be confused with the soupy red Tex-Mex dish made from beans and meat).

Chiles have been part of the human diet in the Americas since at least 7500 BC.  The Aztecs accorded chiles the status of a minor god.  Christopher Columbus called them peppers because they tasted like the precious spice.  After Spanish explorers brought them to Europe, they were used as a cheaper substitute for black peppercorns.  Their use in cooking and medicine swiftly spread throughout the world.

What makes chiles hot and spicy?  It’s a substance called capsaicin.  The amount of capsaicin in a chile determines its hotness.  In high concentrations, capsaicin can actually burn flesh.  The heat of a chile is measured in Scoville units.  Without going into technical details, here are some examples:  15-16 million Scoville units is pure capsaicin.  5-6 million units is police grade pepper spray.  On the lower end of the scale, green bell peppers have an index of 0.  Jalapenos measure from 2,500 to 8,000, most habaneros from 100,000 to 350,000.  The Naga Viper pepper, which has potential use in medicine and weaponry, has an index of 850,000 to over a million.  Ouch.

Cooks working with hot chiles are cautioned to wear rubber gloves.  The customary way to prepare them (this for New Mexico green chiles) is to slit the pods lengthwise, remove the seeds and veins and roast them under the broiler or on a grill.  When the skin blisters and blackens, peel it off, and the flesh of the pepper is ready to use (or do what I do and buy them canned).   Chile aficionados say that once you get used to the taste, the memory stays with you, and you can’t wait to have more.

How about you?   Are you a lover of hot peppers, or do you leave them alone?  Do you have a favorite hot Southwest dish?

 On another note, here’s an early peek at my new cover.  THE WIDOWED BRIDE will be a March release.  I’ll tell you more about it next month, or you can check it out now on my web site,

I like this cover except for one thing.  Ruby, my heroine, is a voluptuous redhead.  Who is the pretty, slender brunette with my hero?  Go figure.

Wishing you a warm January.

+ posts

21 thoughts on “Some Like ’em Hot”

  1. Just reading this article gave me a “chile” glow. My husband loves chili peppers. He adds raw jalapenos to scrambled eggs, tacos, whatever else strikes him. Habaneros are a favorite. Raw chile peppers are way too spicy for me, but I can tell the difference between jalapenos, serranos, habaneros and . . . the name escapes me . . . there’s a green pepper that’s larger than a serrano and milder. Thanks for the fun post, Elizabeth!

    P.S. It’s a pretty cover even if the heroine’s hair is the wrong color. The hero looks like country singer Joe Nichols 🙂

  2. Thanks, Vicki. For some reason hot peppers seem to be a “macho” thing. Your hubby must have tough taste buds. FYI, I chose the “chile” spelling because it’s used in my cookbook and because it’s the Spanish version, but either way is correct.
    Now I am packed and almost out the door, keeping a friend company on a business trip to Las Vegas (hoping it’ll be warm). I won’t be here to answer your comments. But thanks to all in advance who drop by to keep things lively.

  3. I think you mean the Anaheim chili, Vicki. I like spicy food, but not too hot. I’ve tried food with habanero in it and a little goes a very long way.

    Thanks for the post, Elizabeth.

  4. I am NOT tough about hot stuff

    (hey, that’s a poem!)
    I like some heat but I don’t want to spend a meal trying to decide if I need to call 911 to squelch the flames firing from my throat.

    I have a brother in law though who is wild for chili peppers. He grows them trying to get the hottest peppers on the planet.

    He grows habaneros and if they’re not the HOTTEST they’re darn close.

    Here’s a link to a chart about the Scoville Scale that rates the capsaisin in peppers.

    My brother in law has the chart in his kitchen.

  5. Elizabeth, I don’t eat anything hot or real spicy. My stomach doesn’t like it much. Guess I’m just a wimp. Now my aunt couldn’t get enough. She always grew them and would walk out and pick one off and eat it right there in the garden without anything with it. I never knew how she did that. It amazed me.

    Congratulations on the new book cover! I love it. You can definitely see that it’s a western. Sorry they got your heroine’s hair color wrong. I hate when that happens. The title sure draws a person in. Is it part of your Bride Series? I can’t wait to read it.

  6. The cover is lovely, Elizabeth, even if they have turned your handsome hero into a two timer, lol. As for peppers, I used to work with a fello from Madras in India. Apparently they specialize in the hottest of hot Indian food. My colleague’s mother used to send him jars of pickled chilies, which he ate whole, straight from the bottle. He made a lamb curry for a pot-luck once that could have set the place on fire. I think you have to grow up eating food that hot to be able to stand it.

  7. I am a wimp also. I don’t care for anything hot! I will be sorry to see the Bride series end, but there is always something new coming later. I read about your new books on your web site. Will be looking forward to them.

  8. Thanks for the info on the chilies. Myself, I have to opt for the MILD version of anything chilies since my body can’t handle the hot stuff.

  9. Hi Elizabeth!

    I do like things a little hot — I can tolerate — now my husband LOVES hot things. I do have a story.

    Long ago, my in-laws came to our apartment in Vermont and I was making Kung Pao Chicken Chinese style for dinner. Because there were so many people there, I doubled the recipe. When I added the peppers, there were so many of them in that hot oil, that the smell permeated the apartment — no one could breathe because of the hot pepper odor in the air — we all had to run out in the the cold until I could go in and take those peppers out of the wok. 🙂

  10. Elizabeth, I forgot to say that I loved CHRISTMAS MOON! It’s one of those stories that stays with you long after you finish the book. What memorable characters. I bought several copies and gave them away as Christmas gifts. I hope you write more time travel stories because you really have a knack for that genre.

  11. Interesting how those peppers (when there’s too many of them frying in very hot oil) make it hard to breathe — of course you can, but the sensation is interesting. I had to brave the kitchen and go and take them out of the oil. :)We still talk about this to this day — and my kids love to tease me about it.

  12. Hi ELizabeth, great post. I so love hot chile peppers…I have an amazing tolerance for the heat LOL. I can eat jalapenos like M and M’s. This post comes just in time for our family’s annual Super Bowl Chili Cookoff. I hope I win. sxoxox Good one, filly sister.

  13. i’m totally a wussy about hot stuff
    which is too bad b/c i love to eat most everything 🙂

    my dad has capsaisin stuff for his arthritis–says it works well!

  14. Hi Elizabeth,

    My husband makes salsa, and it is SOOOO HOT. He and my son eat it like crazy, but I have to have him make me a little milder version. When I was younger, I could eat anything hot no matter what or how hot it was. My mom used to say, “Cheryl, you are not going to have a stomach left by the time you’re 30.” Well, it lasted about 20 years longer than she predicted, but I don’t have the tolerance I used to have, for sure. Great post. I enjoyed it!
    Cheryl P.

  15. My husband eats them like candy. He says they aren’t hot unless he’s sweating, while eating them.
    That has happened on several occasions. He would not admit it, though.
    Now I can go medium. I used to stay up with him, but in my toddering old age, I can’t anymore.
    Now, my kids try to out-do each other on the HOT. They are all crazy.

  16. Growing up in a Hispanic family, we were surrounded by people eating really hot chiles. Although both of my parents loved the hotter chiles, we children never ate any of the hot stuff. Mother never added chiles to foods she served us but did provide jars of peppers for
    any adults who wished to indulge. Today I simply
    refuse to eat anything that is too hot. Foods
    that are fiery are not in the least bit enjoy-
    able for me!

    Pat Cochran


  17. No, I’m not a fan of HOT peppers. But my mother who was raised in the North met and married my dad a Texan right after WWII. She said she thought they were all nuts eating hot peppers, but after about 6 months she began craving them. It’s my unscientific theory that people who live in hot climates need the hot peppers for some digestive purpose. I had a friend in college who was from Indonesia 5 degrees above the equator. She lost her taste for hot peppers after living in IL for a little over a year. Interesting, no?

  18. I love the flavor of peppers, but really can’t handle the hot ones. I want to be able to taste my food.
    I started CHRISTMAS MOON this afternoon and have about half of it read. Am enjoying it.

Comments are closed.