The spicy, tasty, explosive seduction of pepper
Pepper: the spicy counterpart to 'sober' salt
Pepper comes in surprisingly many shapes and sizes. The pepper and salt mill together form a dynamic duo, like Yin and Yang, Bert and Ernie. Who says A, must also say B. And who says pepper, says salt. And who says pepper, says salt.
A salt and pepper shaker is a well-known housewarming gift. And what do you find on the table in every self-respecting restaurant? Exactly: pepper and salt. Pepper and salt make black and white blend: like a groom dressed in stylish black and the bride in radiant white.
The heat of pepper
Who says pepper, says 'spicy'. Yet there are gradations in the spiciness of peppers. Some peppers are small spicy - almost everyone can tolerate them - while other peppers are so hot that they scorch your palate and you get tears in your eyes. In 1912, American chemist Wilbur Scoville developed the first scale for measuring the spiciness of spicy sauces and various chilli peppers.
Special effects of capsaicin
Capsaicin is the substance that makes pepper spicy. It is mainly found in the internal seeds, or in other words: the fruit ribs. Even when you heat the pepper, the substance remains present. So heating dishes with red pepper is useless if you're trying to wipe out the piquancy.
The average Dutch person experiences something as spicy with a score of 500-1000 on the Scoville scale. A funny detail: on the scale, this score is still very low.
The very sharpest peppers
Two sharp pepper types are the Surinamese Madame Jeanette and Mexican Habanero pepper. The small red or green pepper Rawit can also be very hot. However, the Rawit pepper is no match for the world's sharpest pepper. The Caroline Reaper holds the world record in the Guinness Book of World Records since 2012 with a score of no less than 1,569,300 on the Scoville scale.
What is chilli?
Chilli peppers are not from Spain at all, but they do have the name 'Spanish'. Why is that? These chillies actually originate from South and Central America, where Spain had its colonies in the 16th century and took the chillies from. It was the Spanish who brought the chillies to the European market, including the Netherlands (Holland did not yet exist).
What do chillies look like?
Chilli peppers are red and elongated. For convenience they are also called 'red chillies', although it is possible to eat them when they are still green. In Spanish they are known as 'chile' or 'pimiento'. The chillies have an elongated shape similar to a pointed pepper.
The Jalapeno Pepper
The best known Jalapeno pepper is undoubtedly José Jalapeno (on a stick), the sombrero doll of American ventriloquist Jeff Dunham. José is green just like the Jalapeno. This pepper has become increasingly popular in recent years and is mainly used in tapas restaurants. A green pepper turns red after some time and then the Jalapeno is at its hottest.
Black pepper and white pepper
Black pepper originates from green berries that are ripening. After they are picked, they are fermented and then dried. So in fact black pepper is a wrinkled berry. White pepper is also made from berries, but from fully-grown light red berries. These are soaked in water, after which the berry ferments and bursts open. After being washed, the berries are skinned and then dried in the sun. What remains is a smooth berry.
The Rawit chilli
The rawit pepper is small but fine, short but powerful. Spicier than its modest size suggests. The Rawit is particularly popular in Asian cuisine, where it is used in salsas and sambals, as well as curries. Small but fine: these chillies reach a value of 82,500-480,000 on the Scovilla scale.
The Madame Jeanette pepper
The Madame Jeanette pepper originates from Suriname and is said to be named after a streetwalker in Paramaribo. The pepper is yellow, wrinkly, related to the Habanero pepper and very hot. The Madame Jeannette is used in the Antillean and Surinamese selection.
What is Lombok pepper?
The Lombok pepper is related to the pepper and is also called 'Spanish pepper' or 'chilli pepper'. The spicy taste (due to the substance capsaicin) is mainly in the seeds. Removing the seeds makes the pepper less spicy. The green Lombok is sharper but less spicy than the red (ripe) pepper, which has a milder flavour. Lomboks are usually dried because they do not last too long. They are also often used in sambals.
The Adjuma pepper
The Adjuma pepper is a very sharp pepper also known as 'Habanero'. The taste of the pepper is fruity, tropical and spicy. Habanero means 'from Havana' in Spanish. The pepper originates from the Caribbean, but also from Central America. The Adjuma is often confused with the Madame Jeannete, which is longer and less stocky.
Cayenne pepper and Chipotle pepper
Cayenne pepper is popular in African, South American and Asian dishes. This pepper is often used for meat marinades and to spice up tomato sauce. The Chipotle pepper is not a separate pepper type but the smoked, dried form of the Jalapeno. Smoking gives the Chipotle, in addition to its spiciness, a sweet and smoky aroma.