25 October 2009

Carmelita's Chile Peppers

My suegra (mother-in-law) Carmelita has a chile plant growing in a pot on her patio that is more like a small bush than a plant. It provides her with a steady supply of little red chiles almost the year around. These chiles are fairly hot but they are so small that you don't have to be afraid of them and they give food a wonderful flavor. As far as I can tell they are a variety of Capsicum frutescens which is the same pepper that is used in making the McIlhenny Company's famous Tobasco Sauce. Another name for the chile is "Cayenne". There is a photo of some of Carmelita's chiles below. Most of the chiles would fit within the diameter of a one peso coin. We hardly ever see this type of chile in the stores but once in awhile we have have seen it in the market at San Miguel de Allende where the "Marías" selling produce are lined up at the entrance. I have also see a handful or two being sold by ancianos (old folks) on the streets of Guanbajuato. If you happen to visit one of those cities or live there I urge you to take advantage of the opportunity and buy a handful when you see them. They will keep for a long time in an open dish on your kitchen counter.

There are many ways that you can use these chiles. One of my favorite ways it to make a "guisado" (ghee-SAHD-oh) which is a stew or a thick chunky sauce using thin pieces of "chicharrón" (pig skin from the carnitas making process), cooked beans, chorrizo, onions, tomatoes, garlic, and salt to taste. To this you add three or four of the small red chiles after chopping them once or twice. Start out with three and then add the fourth or even more if you like. Then you just simmer everything until it all blends together and smells so good that you just can't wait to eat it. This dish can be eaten as it is with some little chunks of queso panela on top to give it balance or else put into a tortilla and served as a taco. It also goes very well with rice. Like my friend Martha always says..."It's a good thing!".

¡Buen Provecho!


Calypso said...

Don't judge the heat by the size of the pepper. My father-in-law (a macho Mexican hombre) tested my intentions towards his daughter early on. He rolled several small red balls of peppers towards me from across the table.

I boldly ingested a couple. He watched my response intently.

have placed in my mouth I assure you.

I passed the test - but man! THOSE LITTLE RED BALLS WERE BEYOND HOT.

GlorV1 said...

I grow these chili's every year and they last well into the wet season. I have some outside right now and they are hot, but I like hot. I still have habaneros on the plant and they are doing well. Good post. Anything with chili passes the good post test.:D

Leslie Harris said...

I didn't get the chile eating gene in my one-quarter Mexican blood. I can't handle that kind of heat. It has taken quite some time for me to be able to eat poblanos, chiles gueros, serranos and very few chiles de arbol. The funny thing is that only during pregnancy can I eat jalapeños! Maybe that explains why my kiddies all LOVE their very spicy food! :D

1st Mate said...

They're really pretty, too, very festive-looking. I wonder if the heat is controllable by removing some of the seeds. You should also remember that hands have to be thoroughly washed after adding the chiles, or those thin plastic gloves could be worn. It can be very distracting when you forgetfully swipe some sweat off your brow and the sting starts in.

Bob Mrotek said...

Leslie and Bliss,
I think there is a misconception about chiles. They are not for heat but rather for flavor. The capsaicin in the chiles unlocks flavor receptors on the tongue and in the mouth. If you use too much you feel the heat and the irritation can become too much. You need to find the balance that's right for you. Just a little bit of chile will make the food taste better without making you uncomfortable. These little chiles are hot but they are small and just using a few can make a big improvement in the flavor of the food. Some people make chiles into a macho thing. The key as in all things is moderation :)

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.