Given the 90 degree temperatures that have returned to the North East this week, it’s difficult not to think of hot as anything but weather related.
But there are many shades of hot: trendy, now, sexy, peppery, spicy, piquant, electric, stolen, in trouble with the police, etc.
I mulled over the different meanings of hot as I looked through my photos for one or two that would fit the bill. These are what I came up with.
The second time I attended the Calabash Literary Festival in Treasure Beach, Jamaica, I went down to the beach with several hundred attendees for the beach party and the lighting of the bonfire. The Fire is Lit(erature) was the festival’s theme that year.
Named for its resemblance to the Tam o’shanter hat, Scotch Bonnet is one of the hottest peppers in the world with a rating of 100,000 – 350,000 on the Scoville scale, the measurement of the piquance of chili peppers. (As a comparison, jalapenos range 2,500-8,000.) It is an essential ingredient in many Jamaican dishes – escoveitch, jerk, curries, etc.
I made the mistake once of cutting up Scotch Bonnet with my bare hands to make pickled pepper. I didn’t think they would be very hot – because of the soil composition in the U.S., the Scotch Bonnet grown here lose a lot of its piquancy, especially after the first planting. My hands burned for three days. But don’t let that scare you. Eating peppers has been shown to boost metabolism.
Now, I can’t say that’s the reason my grandfather used to eat them. I just know that he did, almost always raw as if he were eating sweet peppers.
The key to eating or cooking with Scotch Bonnet, or any pepper, is to strip away the seeds and the membrane that stores capsaicin, the ingredient which gives them their heat. I always have some in my refrigerator and use it liberally in just about everything.
Scotch Bonnet can also be found in dishes from West Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Guyana, Grenada, Surinam, Haiti and Cayman.