Thursday, 28 March 2013

Cold spring, hot coffee

It's a cold spring in holland, to cold, can't do any work in the garden because the soil is still frozen.
To get a bit warmer myself I made a nice cup of coffee, and as you can imagine on this blog, with chillies!

But first the coffee.
To get you a good brew, you need good coffee. I found good coffee at Konvent.
Konvent is a small coffee-roasting factory ran by people who have disabilities what makes it hard for them to find a regular job.

For me the perfect coffee is a mix of enough caffeine and still a nice soft taste.
To get that perfect brew you need a mix of differend varities, a strong one (most times Robusta) for the caffeine kick and a mild one (most times Arabica) for a nice taste.
This time i choose for the "Guatamala"(strong) and "Santos Brazil"(tastefull)

The "Santos Brazil" even came with a 30% discount!

Next stap is grinding the coffee, for this i have a old grinder from the eighties.

But not before:....yes, you allready guessed, we add some chilli!!!
Many times I used the Aribibi Gusano because it has a nice vanillie like aroma that suits perfect.
But this time I choose for a chilli with a bit less taste so i can really taste the different sorts of coffee.

 Bishops hat

Together they go in the grinder, but.... oh no... The cover of my grinder is lost! .....
Happily some, happy looking, old muck fits right on top!

Not having some nice shiny, metalmade (and expensive!)  coffeemachine i used this old piece of plastic bought at the local second hand shop.

Aaaaaaaaaahhhh HOT coffee!...don't mind anymore spring is late this year...


Tuesday, 12 March 2013

There’s dried chilli and there are dried chillies.

Some time ago I had the chance to try some dried chillies from Chinaspice in the UK. These are the chaps that send me the Szechuan flower pepper and gave me a load of information about the Chengdu cuisine.
Jenny Song wrote an excellent book on the Szechuan cuisine by the way.

Anyway, I have been tasting more than a load of dried chillies and the taste varies a lot! And I am still working myself through a mountain of them and really, what a difference. Now I want to take your time for a bit, to tell you about the differences I have found.
I learned anybody can mess up the best chilli, but hardly anybody can make a good chilli taste great after it is dried. And the secret is in the time. Now sure, we all are busy and I would love to have 40 hours in a day or more, but for some things you need to take time. And drying chillies does.

Now I had them in the oven, dehydrator and what not. And it didn’t take long to learn that if I am in a hurry, and dry them at higher temperatures the taste goes bad. You always get this almost “just about not burned” taste where the sugars go beyond caramelising. . . Brr
So lower at the temp is better, also in a dehydrator, still there is something missing.
Then I air dried them on strings, like they do in France, well hellooooo! That was the taste I was looking for and wanted. And I was sure to have tasted it before, it was in air dried wild chillies I got from Bolivia, and from Mexican chillies. I got the same taste now and then in Chinese chillies you can buy here, but that is a bit of hit and miss. Some are great, most are not. Sorry for the ramble, but do try to dry on a string some time, you will be amazed. The difference is about as big as pork meat and naturally cured Prosciutto. . .

Now, today I had the honour to taste the “Facing Heaven Fingers” or rather the choatian qixiang jiao. These type of chillies go by various names, also “facing heaven 7 stars” and “seven sisters” they are sold as rather hot chillies. In the way the plant is growing, they look similar to the Rawit from Indonesia and the Cheongyang Gochu from Korea.

I think they are as hot as those too, around 50.000-70.000 SHU. The taste has a bit of citrus and fruit. Due to really being naturally dried, or cured almost, you get a bit of a liquorice taste. It is not prominent nor faint but present.
The heat is frontal, you know what you get, and it leaves a bit of a sweet taste. On the way down, it heats the mouth and throat in a pleasant way. But what strikes me most is the sweet aftertaste it has.
This chilli is used in, what I read in Jenny’s cookbook as most commonly used in Sichuan for hotpot. Now I think I am going to use this in a hotpot too, or a Carbonade flamande, hmm choices choices. I think I will keep it to only using 2, hmm, or 3?

Yours sincerely

Bart J. Meijer

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Sambal Ulek (sambal oelek NL) fast recipe, and a load of joy!

In my previous post about Sambal (Indonesian pepperpaste) its background and history, I gave a few recipes. Now, I got loads of questions about it, and was even asked to make recipes for other sauce makers. Now, I would love to, but till waiting for a job offer. . . hihi.

Well I think I will please my good readers though, if I can give you a fast recipe, so you can try the first and most important Sambal there is.
Now from my Indonesian friends I got to hear, I need to try to make Sambal with a traditional mortar, as it tastes better and different. Now I can relate to that, as I can smell and taste the difference between hand cut and machine chopped onion, the same with pressed garlic and cut garlic.
So, for sambal you need a coarse mortar, not a smooth one, to be able to grind the chillies a bit.

So you need:
A mortar and pestle
5-10 mild to medium hot chillies (50 grams) Lombok or Rawit
1 clove of Garlic
1 tablespoon of Olive oil, or Peanut oil
1 tablespoon of Lemon juice
1 good pinch of salt

Clean the chillies taking the seeds out, to make it easier, slice and cut them fairly fine.
Clean, slice and cut the garlic.
Now you can use a normal mortar and pestle like this

But I use a Indonesian Lesung, where you rather rub the ingredients fine, not bash them

So, salt, oil, and garlic, chilli and a good splash of lemon juice in the mortar

Give it a good rub, and while you do it, you will notice the smell change to a balanced herbs like freshness.

Enjoy !

Yours sincerely,

Bart J. Meijer

Thursday, 7 March 2013

HP22B "Carolina Reaper", or the Carolina Ripper? Follow the money !

Well, as I said I would come back on this one, as I would get to see real proof and data. And?
Well, I have been nagging Ed Currie with questions as constantly, there is talk about proof. Talk doesn’t bring me anywhere, but I get to hear, proof has been published. . .

First what is happening with the Carolina Reaper?
Well as far as I got from Ed Currie which is the developer or the one to find it, this is a very stable chilli. Apart from that I learn the low and the high are very close to the average (mean US) heat. Now that, if it is true, would be fantastic for the chilli industry and the people using this chilli. As with a heap of super hot varieties it is almost like running the gauntlet, you never know how hot it is. And sauce makers will want to have a constant same heat, and the user of the chilli on itself as well. You don’t want your food to be twice as hot, just as you took a chilli from the wrong plant. So in fact, it would be fantastic !!

“This is not my goal” Ed says in an interview I had with him “The chilli is used in several researches at the Winthrop University and most important for me, it might be used in the fight for cancer”. Ed has already worked for several years together looking for the best and most stable chilli, and several studies have been done with the “kids”

So why did it get hyped?

Well any novelty on the chilli market and in the chilli scene is worth a lot of money. It is a lot better if it would be at the top end in heat scale if it has an ok taste. It would even be loads better if your super hot novelty is great tasting, and kept silent up to releasing it after it won a record and/or is registered as a new variety. When you have a registered name, or rather a patented variety, you have struck gold if it really is a great pepper.
Think about the peppadew, and that is a medium heat chilli !
So why was it released too early, hyped too much, and no proof was shown? To add to the hype?

Well the story is this:
Ed Currie has this great chilli he is working on for years on end, and he has a little local hot sauce shop. He offers this chilli to Dr. Calloway for testing and using at research with the Winthrop University, so that students learn to work through the standardized testing methods without having to work with a dull white powder or a liquid that tells nothing. Dr. Calloway’s teaching interests focus on analytical chemistry as well as introductory chemistry for science and non-science majors, using real chillies, I like this man! Anyway, 04-11-2011 at the student researchers share project results from measurements and research is shown in a poster show. A local newspaper covers this news and national public radio, got to hear about it, and showed up at Ed Currie’s doorstep. The good and dumb reporter tastes a little and starts to throw up, this landed at youtube. Ted, Brad and other enthusiasts find out about it, and this way more and more people start talking about it.

Now, at some point Pepper Joe ( known to a lot of us) gets wind of it, and hooks up with Ed.
Now the rest I already puzzled together. Pepper Joe got his hands on a decent amount of seeds, and starts hyping this variety premature, even gets it a name in a contest and starts selling them. Ed didn’t see this coming. Too daft to be true, but well, a novelty is worth a lot of money. Such a shame, but what can you do, the word is out? It could have been much better and worth a lot more. Both for science and for the work Ed is trying to do with it.

So what can you do?

Now this thing is the oddest Ed has been saying that proof was published all the time. So where is it?
Well, simple, at the Winthrop University where you can ask for the results. The newspaper I couldn’t find, but what better to believe than a Uni. So I asked if I could give Dr Calloway a call, sure, so I did. I had a pleasant talk with him for almost an hour, and at the end was given permission to publish both the poster as well as a close up from the results of measurements. COOL ! Do I have a first now? No, this news is 2 years old.
Is Ed Currie going for the Guinness Record for Hottest Chilli?
Yes, the paperwork is in the process, and I get to show the nrs, 22b is the bad boy.

Yours sincerely,

Bart J. Meijer

Friday, 1 March 2013

Trinidad Moruga Scorpion going for Guinness record, or just going for your money?

In my quest to find out more about these so-called new pro-claimed record winners, I have had a good few emails and questions, why I would dig. Or why it is an interesting topic even. Note these questions have only been asked by people in the chilli business, or affiliated to it. Most of the time, I do answer; I am trying to follow the money. But as soon as the word money drops, all gets silent, or I get answers like “I am just earning my living”.
If I also hear from growers of the next possible runner ups, that they get over 1000 emails per day begging for seeds, do the calculation yourself for 10 dollar per 10 seeds or more.. Nothing wrong with it, if it really is a winner, but you know what? You need to win first, before you are a winner.

So, the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, Trinidad Scorpion “Moruga”, TS Morouga, and TS Morouga blend, that are the pretty much the same, has been announced on 5 February 2012 by NMSU’s ( New Mexico State University) Chile Pepper Institute (CPI) as the hottest pepper on earth. Jim Duffy from Refining Fire Chillies provided the seeds to the CPI and comes in several media for that and sells these seeds from this “Hottest pepper on earth”.

Nothing wrong with that sofar, however. . . .
A lot of controversy is there, as a lot of debate all over the web starts about the facts and numbers, and the question rises for proof and the publication of this proof.
Proof of this scientific research and its research gets published by the American Society for Horticultural Science in the Hortechnology issue August 2012 22(4) under the title: ‘Trinidad Moruga Scorpion’ Pepper is the World’s Hottest Measured Chile Pepper at More Than Two Million Scoville Heat Units. This title is somewhat better and I will explain this.

But first, where does this chilli come from? It has been found in Moruga, Trinidad in the Caribbean’s. It is found by Sara Ragoonanan, who found a lot more superhot chillies in this region. She, and I quote: “I found it in 2007, it was used as a vegetable. I used it for hot sauce. That's how I discovered this variety packed heat. I knew this was the variety I was searching for, I would first dissect the pods, and take some seeds out for growing. I did start trading seeds with no charge to growers worldwide. At that time I did not think super hots would get this recognition. “
She shared them with several people amongst others with Christopher Phillips, who shares them also wtih Neil Smith from the Hippyseedcompany and Marcel de Wit from the Chilli Factory. I love it, that sharing bit!
Those last two tell me both they have send seeds to Jim Duffy and Jim tells me he got it from Jukka in Finland. Funny in between the lines this great chap Neil Smith, is dyslexic so he miss spells the name Moruga to Morouga. So almost another variety was born. . . Sorry, drifted off, so after this trip around the world, let’s go to New Mexico.

For testing SHU (Scoville Heat Units) the Chilli Pepper Institute grows chillies on fertile fields along the Rio Grande, in a high desert country, 1200 meters above sea level where the sun always shines, the air is dry, and only20 cm of rain a year. Well, that is bound to give good results. They performed an excellent test by the first look at it, testing the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, Bhut Jolokia, Trinidad Scorpion, Douglah Trinidad Chocolate, and Trinidad 7-pot Jonah to see which variety has the highest average measured heat level (mean) and how the chile peppers are related, using molecular analysis. Now, sounds great but I would have loved this research to compare the others to the current Guinness Book of records chilli, the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T.
And they do not? Well, they could not get the seeds at the time they answer by mail after asking.

Even though the publication of this research in HortTechnology at first glance looks great, it is wildly vague about how many plants there were planted it their test fields, and even do not name a specific number of pods tested. This is a bit strange, together with the title “World hottest measured Chilli” Then if you want to read the issue from HortTechnology, or the part that has the research the answer is: It is copyrighted so, you have to pay money for it. . . .
After asking by email the CPI replies: We harvested 30 pods per plant, randomly picked from different places all over the plant, 20 plants per replication and there were 4 replications.
There were 2,400 pods harvested from each variety.
So the article should have been clear on that.

The result from all this testing is clear; The Trinidad Moruga Scorpion has peaked at 2,009,231 SHU having a low at 953,703 SHU and an average heat level (mean) of 1,207,764.
So is this now the new Guinness Book of Records chilli? No, as the other winners had to proof average (mean) heat level, and this chilli is 200.000SHU+ under par.
So is the “World hottest measured Chilli” No, as we haven’t seen publications of research by others, nor their test results for highest measured. V ( Nor is the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T tested for this at the CPI themselves either.)
Why? It is not important what the highest is, it is important what the average is if you want to make produce with it. Would I want to use it at home? No, as I have 2 kids and a wife, and I would not like it to play Russian roulette with food that can be twice as hot depending on which plant you took a chilli from.

Still, seeds are sold as mad, so from this self proclaimed title money is made. People contesting this “record” are being told that the other record breakers are not tested by a third party.
SHU measurements would have been done by colleges or second grade laboratories.
Only one pepper would have been tested and other rubbish.
The lab equipment would not be calibrated with the other labs, etc etc.
Well for SHU measurement there is a standardized procedure that any labrat can do if he has the tools.
Even the scale at the local butcher is calibrated every year, so what do you think they do in a lab, smoke pot?
Even Guinness is attacked: “Guinness is Independent and nothing but a record keeper and record publisher. They are not a scientific organization. They can make their own rules and set their own criteria and change it anytime they want.” ( Guinness when I called them, asked me to provide links to these statements, and to send them on to their legal department )
These poor excuses was what tickled me to look further into things, as they sound to me like poor excuses, or as poor advertisement for a chilli that is not a winner.
And claiming victory on a self proclaimed title of “World hottest measured Chilli” is too silly to step in to.

Weird enough there has been more controversies with the “New Mexico Scorpion” as well. This was also claimed to be a new found variety, that later was discovered to be a renamed one.
The Trinidad Scorpion Butch T, the current record holder.
The current record holder therefore is still Marcel de Wit from Australia with the Trinidad Scorpion “Butch T” and after asking he let us know:
So the Guinness World Record was:
- Tested more than one pod.
- 8,500 Trinidad plants, commercial growers.
- Scientifically tested and averaged/MEAN heat.

Anybody telling you differently just tell them to read this ... and yes we have had to send a scientifically correct tested, backed up by THREE horticulturists, pack with lots of information to Guinness World Record to PROOF we did it Scientifically!

All in all I think it is great that a chilli grower works with  the CPI, and is giving away loads of seeds to research, as others did not. So I hope Jim Duffy can select the hottest plants, topping at 2 million SHU. If he gets that one stable at say 1,8 million SHU, I bet nobody will go over that mark.

If you want the hottest, ask for proof, if there is none I’ll bet you. . .
There is none.

Yours sincerely,

Bart J. Meijer
Images by Chris Fowler, a chap in the UK with excellent seeds as well!