Goodbye Chilly Winter, Hello Chili Pepper!

Goodbye Chilly Winter, Hello Chili Pepper!

This column first appeared in the June 2017 issue of Life in Québec Magazine.

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Goodbye Chilly Winter, Hello Chili Pepper!

By Annik De Celles

As the spring air heats up, so do our taste buds! The hot trend in seasoning is spicy heat, and the reigning queen of the kitchen table is hot sauce.

From classic Tabasco to trendy sriracha to the ever-expanding list of spicy condiments, more and more companies are exploring hot sauce and all of the different blends and varieties of peppers on the market.

Québec companies are also getting on the hot sauce bandwagon and coming out with their own twists, adding local flavours like maple or beer.

The Heat is On!

Historians have pinpointed the invention of hot sauce to an area between Mexico and Bolivia where the chili pepper grew wild, about 2,000 years ago. Indigenous people crushed the peppers and mixed in herbs and water to form a paste that was served with tortillas. Chili peppers were also added to a potent chocolate drink used in Aztec celebrations. In the 16th century, the Spanish conquistadors got a kick out of the hot sauce idea and ran with it all the way back to Europe, adding their own local ingredients, namely onions and oil. By then, the South Americans had become experts at growing peppers, breeding and harvesting many varieties, like anchos, jalapeños and chipotles.

Let’s Get Saucy!

Hot sauce is now a global business; for many, it’s an obsession. The first company to popularize hot sauce was the Louisiana-based McIlhenny Company. They started commercializing their “Salsa Mexicana” in discarded cologne bottles in 1868, using the brand name Tabasco. The iconic brand was eventually distributed in restaurants as the condiment of choice. Sriracha followed in Tabasco’s footsteps, starting out as a restaurant-only distribution business in 1980. Now, more and more hot sauce companies are taking the same path, debuting their products on trendy restaurant tables before making them available to home cooks in supermarkets and specialty food stores.

Adventurous Heat Seekers

Millions of people are now pushing their palates with the limitless array of hot sauces out there. Hot sauce-oriented blogs, video challenges, guides and chatrooms are sprouting up everywhere. People are looking for taste, spice and death-defying levels of heat!

 How do we measure this heat?

With the Scoville scale, which uses jalapeño peppers as a baseline measurement. While Tabasco sauce has 1,200 units (36 per cent of the heat of a jalapeño pepper), sriracha rates 2,200 units on the Scoville scale (44 per cent of a jalapeño pepper).

Some of the hottest sauces on the market now go up to an inferno raising 16,000,000 (3,200 times hotter than a jalapeño)! With names like Texas Creek Pure Evil, Another Bloody Day in Paradise, Belligerent Blaze or Screaming Sphincter, they each evoke the daring and creative minds behind their spicy, tongue-igniting potency.

Heat, Love and Heartburn

Some people are so adamant about their use of hot sauce that they sprinkle it (or slather it) over everything! Is it dangerous to consume that much hot sauce? Health experts are divided on the subject. For a healthy person, eating spicy foods can actually be good for digestion. Hot peppers are high in vitamin C, which boosts your metabolism. The heat in chili peppers also raises your body temperature, which can induce thermogenesis, causing the body to burn fat faster. Ingesting spicy foods is proven to help enhance your mood by releasing endorphins and improving blood circulation. However, doctors and nutrition experts do advise people with acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers or other gastric ailments not to indulge in the hot sauce habit.

Heat Hacks

Not a fan of hot sauce? You will still find many uses for that bottle of the red stuff in your kitchen cupboard! Get rid of that nasty nail-biting habit by using a few drops of hot sauce on your digits! Use the spicy concoction on objects you don’t want your pet to chew on, or sprinkle it on your bird seeds to keep hungry squirrels from rummaging through the feeder (birds actually don’t feel the heat).

Or create some sweet heat with this easy spicy brownie recipe.

Easy Spicy Sriracha Brownies (Vegan)

Makes 8-10 portions
* 1 cup whole wheat flour
* 1/2 cup brown sugar
* 1/2 cup white sugar
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1 cup chocolate chips
* 1 tablespoon margarine
* 1/4 teaspoon sriracha sauce
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
* 1/2 cup warm water

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In a large bowl, mix all dry ingredients.

Melt chocolate chips with margarine in the microwave.

Add melted chocolate, sriracha sauce, vanilla and warm water to dry mix. Incorporate well.

Pour mixture into greased square baking dish.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until slightly firm (do not overbake).

Cool, cut and serve.

Recipe by Annik De Celles


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About Author

Annik De Celles

Teacher by day, cookbook author and foodie by night, Annik is a mom of 3 who believes life can be sweet and healthy!

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