Bhut Jalokia, Ghost Pepper, Lots of Heat

The pepper just looks mean, even fresh like this one. The heat is inside, however, not on the outside.

You may remember I've been writing about Bhut Jalokia peppers each year for the past 3 or 4 years. Back when the seed was nearly impossible to get, I was one of the few people growing the plant. If you did a Google search for the words bhut jalokia, you would find my blog at the top of the searches. Now there are lots of posts about this famous pepper. Even Bonnie's Plants, a nation-wide plant distributor, offered the ghost pepper in selected markets.

So why such a strange name, and what's so special about this pepper? It came originally from Sri Lanka or Bangladesh, sources differ. The farmers there claimed it to be the world's hottest pepper. The University of New Mexico, which is a world-class bunch of pepperheads and experts, decided to challenge the Sri Lankans and conducted several seasons of pepper-heat trials with the pepper. Guess what? Those fire-eating Sri Lankans were right. The Univ. of Mexico certified the ghost pepper is the world's hottest! (Unfortunately they claimed they had "discovered" the pepper and got it listed in the Guiness Book of World's Records under their name). The stinkers.
The ghost peppers grow on a plant that reaches about 48 inches high, and almost as wide.

The word, "bhut" a Hindi word, simply means hornet, while "jalokia" is simply Hindi for pepper. So whether you call this pepper a Bhut Jaloakia (hornet pepper), or a Naga Jalokia (ghost pepper), they are one and the same (ghost refers to the fact you think you will die from the pain, leaving just a ghost).  To give an idea of the heat of a bhut jalokia, a jalapeno is rated at around 8,000-10,000 SHUs (Scoville Heat Units, the international measure of pepper heat). A Habanero or Scotsh Bonnet weighs in at 50,000 to 80,000 SHUs. (The former World's Hottest Pepper, the Red Savina Habanero, which rates at 577,000 SHU). The Bhut or Naga Jalokia comes in at (drum roll please)... 1,001,304 SHU. Exponentially hotter than a Habanero.

The Indian Government this year announced it is using the ghost pepper in new smoke grenades in their arsenal of weapons to combat terrorists. The pepper powder, combined with the smoke, produces non-harmful means of stopping any angry crowd it its tracks. Read the story here on NPR.

Just before frost I harvested all of my hot peppers. I grew 18 varieties, plus the Bhut Jalokia and the Naga Jalokia (to see if they were different, they aren't). Because of our drought, no rain from July 4 to September 5, with hot winds that knocked the blossoms with little fruit set, our crop of chilies was pretty poor. I gathered about a half bushel or so, a quarter of what the crop should have been from that many plants. I've been getting them ready for the dehydrator (meaning, I cut the stem end off and make a slit in the pepper, to shorten the time needed in the food dehydrator).

One of my favorite peppers this year is the Shishito, seen above, third from the left. They have little heat, but when flash-fried in a very hot, dry skillet for about 60 seconds, then salted, make an outstanding snack. The edges are roasted, while the primary part of the pepper are still crisp. I found these in the Farmer's Market in Santa Fe last year and was so impressed, had to grow them. The pepper on the lower bottom, right, is a sweet bell pepper called, "Yummy Orange" which mixes well with the hot peppers for a combination of flavors.
The peppers, stem ends cut off, go into the food dehydrator. It takes about 3 days to dry them to total crispness. I've filled the dehydrator several times, then filling gallon plastic bags with the dried peppers.
So just what do I do with my dried peppers? I put them all into the food processor (wearing a mask and goggles because even the dust is painful) and processing them into small flakes. Those will become my winter pepper seasoning, and gifts for some of my pepperhead friends.

Here's an outstanding hot pepper sauce recipe that my friend Eric Jeltes, birdman from the St. Louis Zoo shared with me and he said I could share it with you. This isn't especially hot, but really good flavor and we like it on everything. Thank you for sharing this, Eric!
 Eric's Hot Sauce

1 medium onion chopped
3 carrots chopped
5 cloves of garlic chopped
2 - 4 habeneros chopped
Juice of one fresh lime
One shot, about 2 Tablespoons, of white wine vinigar
2 tablespoons light vegetable oil
1 cup water
Salt to taste

-Heat a skillet to med/high and add veggie oil, onions and garlic and sautee until onions are translucent.
-Add water and carrots and heat until boiling. Cover, turn down the heat, and simmer 20 minutes until carrots are tender.
-Put everything in a blender and blend until smooth. For a thinner sauce add more water.
-Store in the refrigerator.

1 comment:

Kara said...

Jim, do you know the maker of that food dehydrator? I just purchased the same exact one and have been looking everywhere for an instruction booklet but I have no idea who makde it!