Some Like it Really Hot: Habanero

tricolor-habanerosAre you a bona fide chili freak like me? Then habaneros surely rank high on your list of favorite foods.

Some have even gone as far as to write a whole website about them.

These little hotties gets their name from the Cuban city of La Habana, or Havana as we call it, because they were traded there — although the chili originally hails from Mexico.

Habaneros have been in use for over 8,500 years and are still going strong! Some believe that they are the same as Scotch bonnets, another killer chili in the same family, but habaneros have a different pod shape that’s slightly more elongated, while scotch bonnets has a stouter, more pumpkin-like shape.

In terms of heat, they both rank in the range of 100,000 – 300,000 units on the Scoville scale. Habanero has hints of fruit beneath a whole lotta heat, so pair them with sweet barbeque, salsas, and even fruit like blueberries.

How to Cook with Habaneros

1. How to pick a pepper. Habaneros come mainly in red, yellow, andorange, but apparently there is a rare “black” habanero — I’ve never tasted one but they are reputed to be the baddest and hottest on the block. Habaneros can be found in specialty grocery stores in the produce isle. When shopping for habaneros, look for an unwrinkled, smooth skin that is free of dark or soft spots. Give the pepper a gentle squeeze to make sure they are firm.

2. How to chop. Use gloves to remove the seeds and membrane if you don’t want to feel the burn on your skin and under your fingernails. The active “hot” ingredient capsaicin, is fat soluble and can leave a residual burn for hours after contact. Once you’ve removed the seeds and membrane, mince for salsa or slice for a hot chili relishMexican fare.

3. How to enjoy. Habaneros are definitely not for the weak of heart or tongue! But if you’re a chili pro or trying to “one up” a chili compadre, then try adding minced habanero to your favorite meat marinade, to your Bloody Mary mix, to your taco meat, or any way you need a kick.

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