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Chile Pepper Tops

Hot Terms: Pepperology 101

By Eric Vinje, Cosmic Chile

Aji, the name originally given to hot chile peppers by South American Indians, before Christopher Columbus mistook a pepper plant for a member of the black pepper family.

Anaheim, a very mild pepper. Six to eight inches in size and a deep, shiny green. It's often stuffed or added to salsas.

Avery Island, the site where the McIlhenny family founded its company and grows peppers for its trademarked Tabasco sauce, a condiment made from Tabasco peppers, vinegar and salt. Avery Island is not really an island, but a huge dome of rock salt, a crucial ingredient to Tabasco Sauce which is located seven miles south of New Iberia.

Barbecue, a method for grilling food over a wood or charcoal fire. Usually a rub, marinade or sauce is applied before during or after the item is grilled.

Bloody Mary, a tomato juice-based cocktail combining vodka, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, lemon, lime and horseradish created in Paris in 1921 by American bartender Pete Petiot. Petiot reportedly said he named the drink "Bloody Mary" because it reminded him of the Bucket of Blood Club in Chicago, and a girl there named Mary. Petiot recommended his tomato-based cocktail as a hangover cure.

Capsaicin, what gives chile peppers and hot pepper sauces their heat. Most of the capsaicin in a pepper is contained in its seeds and membranes which is why these portions of the pepper are removed when a cook wants them to be less spicy. Capsaicin is a decongestant and it also causes the brain to produce endorphins, which in turn promote a sense of well being.

Capsicum, the hot chile pepper genus of the Americas, which is composed of five species: C. pubescens, C. baccatum, C. annuum, C. frutescens and C. chinense. Capsicum is a member of the nightshade family and is related to tomatoes, cherries, potatoes and eggplant.

Cayenne, a hot pepper that originated in French Guyana. It ranges in color from deep green to yellow, orange or red. It's long, skinny and wrinkled. It is often dried and ground to make cayenne pepper powder, which is used in soups and sauces.

Chilaca chile, a mild to medium-hot chile. When dried, it is known as a pasilla.

Chile; chili pepper; chile pepper; hot pepper. More than 200 varieties of peppers are grown today and they are as varied as the spelling of their name. The chili's seeds and membranes can contain as much as 80 percent of the pepper's capsaicin, which is what makes a pepper hot. Chiles are a rich source of vitamins A and C as well as folic acid, potassium and Vitamin E.

Chipolte chile, a jalapeno that has been dried and smoked. Chipoltes come dried, pickled or canned in adobo sauce.

Fresno chile, a short, cone-shaped chile that rivals the better known jalapeno for its heat.

Habanero, the hottest type of pepper on the planet.

Harissa sauce, a hot sauce from Tunisia which usually features hot chiles, garlic, cumin, and olive oil.

Hungarian wax chile, a large yellow chile that ranges in heat from mild to medium. It has a distinctly "waxy" flavor hence its name. Hungarian wax chiles are also known as banana chile because of their appearance.

Jalapeno, a hot chile pepper named after Jalapa, the capital of Veracruz, Mexico. It ranges in color from dark green to red.

Jamaican hot chile, a small, but fiery pepper. It's often used in curried dishes and condiments.

Jerk, a spice rub or marinade applied to meat and even vegetables, which are then barbecued. One of the national dishes of Jamaica. The name may derive from the Spanish term "charqui" which means dried meat or perhaps from the jerking motion required to turn the meat as it roasts over the fire.

Kecap manis, a thick sweet Indonesian sauce based soy sauce combined with various seasonings and sweetened with palm sugar. It's used as a marinade and to flavor other dishes. Also known as ketjap manis.

Ketchup, an American sweet sauce made with tomatoes, vinegar, sugar and spices. Also known as catsup. Its name is said to be derived from ketsiap, a spicy pickled fish condiment popular in 17th century China.

Ketjap manis. Also known as kecap manis. It's a thick sweet Indonesian sauce based on soy sauce, to which palm sugar and other seasonings are added.

McIlhenny, Edmund. A New Orleans banker (1815 - 1890) who created and trademarked Tabasco Sauce, a hot sauce made from red chile peppers, vinegar and salt.

Nam pla, a Vietnamese fish sauce. Also known as nuoc nam.

Nuoc cham, a Vietnamese condiment based on nuoc nam combined with other ingredients including lime juice, ginger, scallions and sugar.

Nuoc nam, a Vietnamese fish sauce. Also known as nam pla.

Pico de gallo, a relish made of chopped fruit and vegetables, including jicama, oranges, onions, jalapeno peppers, cucumbers, tomato and various seasonings. In Spanish, pico de gallo literally means "rooster's beak" and the name is thought to be derived by how it was originally eaten - with the thumb and index finger, which together resembled a rooster's pecking beat.

Poblano, a mild to medium hot chile pepper that is dark green, shiny and large in size.

Raita, a yogurt condiment from India which is often served as an accompaniment to hot dishes to counterbalance their spiciness.

Red Savina, a type of habanero reputed to be the hottest pepper on earth with a Scoville Heat Unit rating of 570,000. Has gotten that title from the Guinness World Book of Records.

Salsa, the Mexican word for "sauce." A salsa can be cooked or raw and comes in an infinite number of variations. Salsa crudo is uncooked. Salsa verde (green) is usually made from tomatillos, green chiles and cilantro. Salsas can range in spiciness from mild to extremely hot.

Sambal, a popular condiment in Malaysia, southern India and Indonesia. It comes in many different varieties. One of the most common is sambal oelek, which is made from hot chiles, brown sugar and salt. Sambals usually accompany rice and curry dishes.

Scotch bonnet chile, a small (1 to 1-1/2 inch in diameter pepper) that ranges in color form yellow to orange to red. It is among the hottest of chiles and is closely relate to the habanero pepper.

Scoville Scale, a scale developed by Wilbur Scoville in 1912 which measures the heat level in chile peppers.

Serrano, another hot pepper. It can be canned, pickled, packed in oil or eaten fresh. Often found in Thai or Mexican dishes.

Tabasco, both a Mexican state as well as a trademarked hot sauce by the McIlhenny Company.

Tabasco Sauce, a sauce made by the McIlhenny Company which is made from red chile peppers, vinegar, and salt. It is aged in oak barrels.

Wasabi or Wasabe, a Japanese horseradish root. It's a key ingredient in wasabi, the green paste made from the root, which is a condiment used with sushi and sashimi. It's available in powdered form much like dry mustard.

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