Thursday, November 18, 2010

fresh ghost chiles

This post mentions free stuff. Check out the free stuff policy here.

Fresh ghost chiles

Last year a friend of a friend was generous enough to send me fresh ghost chiles - the world's hottest chile pepper - which I promptly wasted by attempting to make a pepper jelly and scorching the whole batch.  See, the simmering world's hottest pepper jelly sent up such a cloud of capsaicin-spiked steam in my kitchen that I was trying to spend as little time in it as possible, and thus missed that crucial window between "this is now pepper jelly" and "this is burnt."

This year Marx Foods was kind enough to send me some fresh ghosts to play with again ... and I was more careful this time.  For instance, check out this sandwich, which I'm currently recovering from:

Turkey sandwich

Turkey thigh confit, ghost chile pepper jelly, mustard, and cheddar, on a Martin's potato roll.  It's good, but man ... it's spicy.

However, it's not too spicy to handle.  What I decided to do with the pepper jelly this time was use lots of other flavors in addition to the ghost chiles, so that I'd have this complex, spicy, taste bomb.  It worked out well!  The main trick was that I didn't add the ghost chiles until the last minute of cooking.

The reason I particularly wanted to make ghost pepper jelly is because it's one of the ghost chile applications that really needs fresh ghosts instead of dried.  I wanted to get those fresh chile flavors that would be lost in the drying process.  I think the wings and the beer cheese were substantially different made with fresh than they would have been with dried - but the rest of what I made could have been made with dried (which Marx also sells, and which I can vouch for the quality of).

Ghost pepper jelly:

Add the pulp of one Hachiya persimmon (the tomato-shaped persimmon that needs to be so soft it's like a bag full of pulp before it's ripe - American persimmons would be a fine substitute), 2 large red bell peppers (shredded in Cuisinart), chunks of candied orange peel, 3/4 cup of vinegar, 2 cups of sugar, 2-3 limes' worth of lime juice, 1 shredded carrot, and cinnamon and ginger to taste, and boil for 10-15 minutes.  Add shredded ghost chile (I think it was 2 peppers, maybe 3) and a pouch of liquid pectin and boil for another minute, until you have pepper jelly (drop some on a frozen plate, and it should gel).  I actually had to use a pouch and a half of liquid pectin, I think because of the added volume of the persimmon pulp, which I wasn't originally planning to use.

The result is a pepper jelly that's very hot, but not too hot to eat.

So, phew.  I got that done.  My karmic debt to ghost chiles was repaid.  Now ... what else could I do?

Ghost chile hot sauce

Infuse fresh ghost chiles, whole allspice berries, and a few spoonfuls of culantro recaito (culantro cooked with garlic and onion) in a jar of rum.  Wait two weeks.  Strain, and mix with "swamp juice" hot sauce (vinegar blended with culantro and habaneros and then strained).

Culantro I've talked about before - one of my favorite herbs, which I buy whenever we go to Little Cambodia.  It's an exceptional match for very very spicy peppers, and is combined with Scotch bonnets in the Caribbean.  The addition of the rum and allspice makes for a sort of Jamaican jerk-themed hot sauce.

Ghost chile wings

Make brown butter - just cook a stick of butter in a pan until the solids turn very brown - and transfer it to a heatproof dish and stick it in a stovetop smoker for five-six hours.  Blend smoked brown butter with shredded fresh ghost chile and a touch of vinegar, and toss freshly deep-fried chicken wings in the sauce.  Serve with onion dip (better than ranch or blue cheese).

Very very very nice.  But I'm a sucker for Buffalo wings.  You know that.

Ghost chile chili

Roast a pork picnic for some other purpose, so that you have leftover pork picnic to use.

Brown ground beef in a pan and remove, ditching most of the fat (you don't need to be scrupulous about it).  Render a large handful of chopped country-cured bacon (substitute regular bacon) in the pan, and cook onions and red bell pepper in the rendered bacon fat until soft.  Add the ground beef back to the pan, with chopped pork picnic, diced pork skin, Spice House chili con carne seasoning, salt, epazote, Indio Oregano from Rancho Gordo (substitute Mexican oregano), culantro recaito, shredded ghost chiles, water, beer, and roast pork picnic drippings.  Simmer for a couple hours before adding, or serving with, beans.

Nice, nice, thoroughly spicy chili.  Would probably be even better smoked.

Ghost chile beer cheese

Possibly the best thing I made.

Shred sharp cheddar and dry jack cheese - skip the dry jack if you don't have it.  A total of 1/2 pound of cheese.

In a Cuisinart, blend shredded cheese, a little mustard, and a single ghost chile.  It won't blend well at first.  Add a little beer - very little at a time - until the cheese comes together in a spread.  You may have to scrape the sides of the bowl a couple times.  Do NOT use too much beer - you'll wind up with something terrible and soupy instead of a cheese spread.  Use something malty for the beer - I went with Bellhaven Wee Heavy, but any Scotch Ale would be a good choice.

Delicious on cheeseburgers.

Candied ghost chiles

I attempted these but wasn't happy with them - a standard 2-week recipe of immersing the chiles in a sugar solution of increasing density.  I just didn't like the texture of the candied ghost chiles as much as habaneros or jalapenos, and wasn't sure what to alter about the process to have them come out better.

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