Kitchen Notes

Hosting a Tamalada

In some households, tamales are totems of the holiday season. The corn-based steamed cakes studded with filling and wrapped in corn husks are labor intensive, so they’re best undertaken with a bit of help. Our suggestion: throw a tamale party. Enlist friends and family to come over for a drink or two and put them to work, assembly-line style.

We’re fans of preparing a few different fillings for variety’s sake. We’ve made tamales with everything from red chili-soaked carnitas to green chili chicken. For vegetarians, try a traditional rajas tamale made with cheese and poblanos.

And no tamale party is complete without an army of hot sauces and condiments to doctor the finished product. Grab a copy of our Hot Sauce Field Guide for recipe inspiration to adorn your tamale bar.

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How to Cool Down After a Hot Pepper

We've all been there. The love of the chili pepper can come with quite the afterburn! Whether it's the citrusy kiss of habanero in our Grove Blend Hot Sauce or the extra helping of jalapeño in our guac, the allure of the pepper always pulls us back! So, how do you cut the heat when the intensity gets too much? Here are some tips on how to lessen the burn.

Drink Milk

Got Milk? Maybe it's time you did! The active compound in pepper that causes a burning sensation is known as capsaicin. Casein found in milk neutralizes this compound, breaking down the molecules, so they're less potent.  

drinking milk

Drink whole milk if it's available. Fats absorb nutrients such as capsaicin. Consuming milk with a higher fat content will make this spicy compound less prevalent in your stinging mouth and belly. 

No milk? No problem! Anything dairy will do. Ice cream, yogurt, and if you're desperate, even a stick a butter can help in cutting down the burn. 

A Spoonful of Something Sweet

A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down. It also makes the swelling in your mouth go down, too. 

All things sweet are made up of little crystallines. These crystals tend to absorb capsaicin partially. Plus, a little sweetness adds another complexity to your palette. By the time you're done putting out the fire, you may make your own hot sauce!

Eat Fluffy Foods

While casein will neutralize capsaicin and sugar molecules will absorb some of it,  fluffy foods create a barrier. Think of when you have a headache. All you want to do is wrap your head in you fluffy pillow. Pepper burn is like a headache for your mouth and bread is that fluffy pillow.

bread

Up the cooldown factor by throwing on some peanut butter. Peanut butter has healthy fats that will soak up the capsaicin. Plus, who doesn't love a good peanut butter sandwich? Just opt out of the Pepper Jelly this time, okay?

Not into bread? Other starchy foods like potatoes, rice, and pasta should also do the trick!

Creamy is Dreamy

For the carb-conscious, a loaf of bread or a bowl of pasta may not be the most viable option. Instead, go for something with a creamy texture like yogurt, avocados, or bananas. If you're not carb-counting, then by all means--have an avo toast!

Foods that become soft and smooth as you chew them will coat your mouth. Their creamy texture is like putting lotion on a rash. Sit for a moment to let the foods cool down your tongue before swallowing. 

Suck a Lemon

Sometimes the only way to cut heat is to bring acid into the picture. Grab something citrusy like a lemon or lime and chomp into it! 

While capsaicin is getting all the heat for bringing the heat, other capsaicinoids also cause these pain sensations. They bind onto our pain receptors, creating that little annoying reminder that we just ate something spicy. 

Many capsaicinoids are alkaline. Therefore, they change the temporarily change the pH balance of the area they're in. This change in environment is was causes the pain receptors to trigger our tingly mouth. 

Citrus fruits are highly acidic. This quality is ideal for bringing the pH balance back to what it was before eating the spicy food. 

Bring the Heat Home

No matter how you decide to handle the heat, don't drink too much water. Capcaisin is like an oil-base. Have you ever tried mixing oil and water? It's not going to happen. Therefore, you are just swallowing the heat all over again!

Now that you're fully equipped to stand the heat, why not dip your toes into the water? Make your own hot sauce with our Homemade Hot Sauce Kit. We deliver everything you need to craft, bottle, and enjoy two hot sauce blends in your own home!

 

Hot Sauce Master Class: Preserving Chilies

Long before we came out with our hot sauce making kit, we can chalk up the invention of hot sauce to a time prior to refrigeration. It’s more than likely that the first chili pepper condiments were made as a way to stretch out the summer chili crops. There are two main methods for preserving peppers: fermenting with salt and pickling with vinegar.

Fermented with Salt Chili Peppers

salt

Fermenting peppers requires a little bit of patience, but it yields exceptional results. Many of the popular brands of hot sauce on the market (Tabasco, Texas Pete, and Frank’s) owe their depth of flavor to an aging process that starts with a pepper mash—essentially peppers that have been fermented with a salt-brine.

Pickled Peppers in Vinegar

Pixabay - Pickled Peppers

Another method of putting up peppers is pickling, most commonly with a vinegar brine. Heavily salted liquids like fish sauce or alcohols like sherry also make excellent brines. The latter is a fixture of Caribbean cuisine and is the simplest condiment to make from scratch. After the peppers have soaked in the sherry for a few days, you can use both the peppers and the liquid.

Now that you have the preserved chilies taken care of, do you have some dried chilies you need to put to good use? For one, you can try rehydrating chilies.

Otherwise, make your own hot sauce. Try out our Homemade Sauce Kit where you can make two unique hot sauces in your own kitchen (with little effort and little clean up)!

Hot Sauce Field Guide: Nam Prik

There is no better example of the balance between sweet, salty, sour and spicy than this Thai condiment. To make this chili jam, dried chilies, shallots and garlic are fried to bring out their flavors, then blended with a mix of brown sugar and dried shrimp paste, and finished with fish sauce. If the idea of shrimp paste freaks you out, you can omit it—the jam will still be delicious.

Yield: 2 cups

  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 2 1/2 ounces dried chilies
  • 25 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 5 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons shrimp paste
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons fish sauce

Add the oil to a skillet over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chilies and fry, stirring , for half a minute, taking care not to burn them. Transfer them to a paper-towel lined plate. Add the garlic to the skillet and fry for about 15 seconds, until barely brown, then transfer to the plate with the chilies. Add the shallots and fry until crispy, about 1 minute. Transfer to the plate with the chilies. Remove the skillet from heat, leaving the oil in the pan.

Place the chilies, garlic and shallots in a food processor and process until a paste forms. Set aside.

Return the skillet to medium heat and add the shrimp paste, breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon. Add the brown sugar and stir until it dissolves. Then stir in the reserved chili paste, 2 tablespoons water and the fish sauce. Cook for a few minutes until the mixture is combined and slightly thickened. Store in a lidded container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Hot Sauce Field Guide: Grilled Peach Salsa

Not exactly a hot sauce but definitely a close cousin, this salsa should be on your summer barbecue rotation. We sprinkle the peaches with ground chili flakes before grilling to lend a second layer of heat and complexity to the brightness of fresh jalapeño.

Yield: 2 cups

  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 fresh jalapeño chili, stem and seeds removed, finely chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 2 peaches, halved, pits removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup mint leaves
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves

In a small bowl, combine the lime juice, jalapeño, and red onion. Let sit for 10 minutes. Prepare a medium-hot grill (or a grill pan over high heat). Rub each peach half with olive oil, then sprinkle with the cayenne. Arrange the peaches on the grill, cut side down, and cook for 2 minutes. Flip the halves and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Transfer the peaches to a cutting board to cool. When they are cool enough to handle, dice into ½-inch cubes. Transfer to a medium bowl with the mint and cilantro. Add the marinated jalapeño and red onion and their juices. Season generously with salt, and serve.

Love the idea of making your own hot sauce but don't know where to start? Try our At-Home Homemade Hot Sauce Kit on for size! Our Kit comes with everything you need to make two delicious hot sauces...including clear instructions! Hot sauce made easy...hot sauce made by you.

Hot Sauce Field Guide: Belizean Heat

One of our favorite bottled hot sauces on the market is a habanero-based condiment from Belize called “Marie Sharp’s Belizean Heat.” It’s undeniably fiery, but with a touch of earthy sweetness to balance everything out. The secret ingredient: carrots. Here’s our homemade version.

Yield: 2 cups

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 3 fresh habanero chilies, stem and seeds removed, diced
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

In a skillet over medium heat, add the canola oil. When it shimmers, add the onion and carrot and cook until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a food processor. Add the chilies, lime juice, salt and 3/4 cup water and puree until completely combined. Transfer to a bottle and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Hot Sauce Field Guide: Muhammara

As far as Middle Eastern dips are concerned, muhammara is the stepsister, always outflanked by hummus. But we love this underdog, which combines chilies, bread, walnuts, and the sweet-sour kick of pomegranate molasses into a spread that we can’t stop eating.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 slice bread, cut into cubes (about 1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons crushed Aleppo chili flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
  • 1 roasted red pepper, peeled, seeds and stem removed
  • 1/2 cup olive oil 1 teaspoon sea salt

In a medium skillet over medium heat, warm the oil until it shimmers. Add the bread cubes and toast, stirring occasionally, until they are golden brown. Add the crushed chili flake and cumin and stir to coat, cooking for another minute or so to toast the spices. Transfer the mixture to a food processor. Add the walnuts, pomegranate molasses, red pepper and olive oil. Process until the mixture forms a thick paste. With the machine running, add ½ cup water and the salt. Transfer to a lidded container until ready to serve. Serve it as a dip with toasted pita bread. The muhammara will keep, refrigerated, for 1 week.

Hot Sauce Field Guide: Mojo Picon

Mojo, like salsa or aji, is really a blanket term, used across multiple countries to refer to a wide spectrum of chili-based sauces. In Cuba, its defining characteristic is orange juice; in Puerto Rico, it’s more of a garlic marinade than a hot sauce—some versions don’t even contain chilies! But the original version, which stems from the Canary Islands, is typically made with chilies (including dried ground pimentón), and bread.

Yield: 3/4 cup

  • 3 dried guajillo chilies (about 1/2 ounce)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 slice bread, cut into small cubes (about 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked pimentón
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

In a small bowl, cover the guajillos with boiling water and let sit for 10 minutes to rehydrate. Drain, reserving the liquid, and remove the stems and seeds from the chilies. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the bread and toast, stirring occasionally, until it turns golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the pimentón and toss to coat. Transfer the bread, the rehydrated chilies, garlic, red wine vinegar, and cumin to a food processor, and process. With the motor running, add the reserved chili soaking water by the tablespoon, until the sauce reaches your desired consistency (you can keep it thicker, like a paste, or thin it out to be more of a sauce).