Bring the heat with Pepper Extracts
If your recipes have begun tasting a little flat, a little dull, you can easily add some burn and bite by cooking with pepper extracts. For instance, just a drop or two of Mad Dog's Revenge Habanero Chile Extract can turn ordinary marinades into spicy culinary adventures.
Pepper extracts are highly concentrated, so use them sparingly. Just a little bit of a potent hot sauce like Toxic Waste Extract Hot Sauce goes a long way. There's nothing toxic in this hot sauce, by the way: just habaneros, vinegar, orange juice and garlic.
If you've holding back from spicing up your recipes with pepper extracts of jalapeno, ghost pepper, datil, scotch bonnet or other chiles, now's the time to experiment. You can predict the effects of these potent pepper extracts by using the Scoville scale. Invented by pharmacist Wilbur Scoville in 1912, it was originally a taste test. Today food chemists use high-performance liquid chromatography to measure the amount of capsaicin present in a given sample. The American Spice Trade Association's pungency units report parts of capsaicin per million: each ASTA unit is about 15 Scoville units.
That's right: whether it's a habanero, jalapeno, ghost pepper, datil or scotch bonnet, all peppers generate their heat from the same chemical. Capsaicin stimulates nerve endings in the skin and especially in the mucous membranes. That's how a great hot sauce brings tears to your eyes, how spicy marinades clear out the sinuses.
While some crossbred peppers like the Naga Viper can test out at over 1 million Scoville units, the real heat is generated by pepper extracts that concentrate the capsaicin even further.
Pure capsaicin would measure about 15 million Scoville units. The pepper spray available to law enforcement personnel tests out around 5 million Scoville units. But you can put even more heat in your spice rack with products like The Source 7.1 Million Scoville Units Pepper Extract — the name says it all, except perhaps Watch Out! Mad Dog 357 Pepper Extract is roughly law enforcement grade at 5 million Scoville Units. The company also makes 44 Magnum (4 million Scoville Units), 38 Special (3 million Scoville Units) and 22 Midnight Special (2 million Scoville Units) pepper extracts.
Super-potent pepper extracts like these are only for the strong and experienced hot sauce aficionado, or chilehead. The tolerance level of the average American is well below 1 million Scoville units. For proof, take a taste of Blair's 2AM Reserve Pepper Extract. Created by former barman Blair Lazar, this formula is rated at a "mild" 650,000 to 900,000 Scoville Units. But the story goes that Blair used this extract to chase the drunks out at closing time (2 AM). Anyone who didn't like the idea of vacating the premises was welcome to say all night, but first they had to eat four hot wings made with this granddaddy of pepper extracts. No one was ever able to make through all four wings before beating a retreat to the street with tearful eyes, a runny nose and sweat dripping from every pore.
By now, you probably get the point about pepper extracts. They can add excitement to almost any dish, and they will open up those tired taste buds. Just go slow: you'll soon find the heat level that's right for you and your guests.