Habaneros – Some Basic Facts
Habaneros are amazingly versatile peppers. They’re very hot, but most have a citrusy or pineappley flavor underneath the heat, which makes them well suited to many types of cooking, especially sweet and sour dishes that need heat. They’re also a great hot sauce component.
Habaneros can usually be gotten at most produce markets, and are showing up in many supermarkets’ produce sections as well.
This pepper is thought to have originated somewhere in the Amazon jungle, and they have migrated to Mexico, where they are most widely known and farmed. They’re synonymous with Mexican cooking, but have traveled far and wide. British traders took them as far as China, where for awhile they were confused as originating there, to the point of having their scientific name contain a reference to them as being a Chinese pepper.
There are also several varieties of Habaneros peppers. (also referred to as plain old habanero)
You can find them most commonly in the green unripe state and in yellow or orange colors.
They are also seen in red as the proprietary “Red Sabina” variety, and also in a dark brown color, also referred to as the black, or “chocolate”, habaneros.
They are called chocolate due to color, not taste.
Brown habaneros are very hot. While regular habaneros can be as much as 300,000-350,000 Scoville heat units. (compared to 2500 for jalapenos)
Sometimes a very close relative pepper, the Jamaican Scotch Bonnets, are mistakenly labeled as habaneros. This is not great tragedy as their flavor and heat level are similar.
There are much hotter varieties that look like habaneros, but pack even more of a punch. I mean as much as 2-3 times hotter, if you can imagine that! I am referring to the Trinidad 7 Pot peppers, which are named that because it was said that one pepper was hot enough to ass spicy heat for up to 7 pots of stew.
Habaneros Hot Sauce
Habaneros are great for making hot sauces. You can simply get a package from a market. I am referring to a small package of about 8 of these. You can make a pepper sauce using some orange or yellow bell peppers as a base, and blend up the habaneros for the heat. Then add your salt and vinegar to taste and cook it for awhile, then blend it again until it is a loose consistency. At this time you can choose to hot pack jar it in jam jars for storage and store some in hot sauce bottles with an orifice reducer since it is a thin sauce that requires this in order to keep it all from puring out. This is a tasty hotter alternative to Tabasco sauce and great on anything, right down to that morning omelette.
If you’re not into the real sour vinegar based sauces, then you can still use the bell peppers as a sweet base, or even use something else entirely, like mango, or papaya, or pineapple. Be creative! The key here is do you want a traditional hot sauce (sour to not sweet) or a sweet hot sauce. Depending on the type, you might try a brown hot BBQ type of sauce with some smoke flavor added, or maybe add some ground up smoked jalapenos (chipotles) to the mix, for the smoky flavor. Or maybe you want that sweeter sauce that’s great as a glaze for fish or pork dishes, in which case you can use the fruit base with brown sugar added. If you want to add a bit of fruity sour to the sweet, then use powdered citric acid, which also acts as a natural preservative. When I make these kinds of sauces, I usually blend them thick, but I blend them before cooking and then after cooking, then cook them some more, to make them ultra smooth. Get a good blender like a Ninja, or one of those liquefying blenders that people use to make vegetable smoothies.
Habaneros – Don’t Eat them Raw
You can go on YouTube and see chili heads and wanna be macho men, or dare takers, attempt to eat habaneros raw. They chew them up and try to appear to keep a straight face. Now it’s true that some people are somewhat immune to very hot chili peppers, but most people aren’t. I have eaten these raw, and let me tell you, that if you have not built up a tolerance to them, and that tolerance only lasts as long as you eat them regularly, then you will experience a heat like you’ve never had before. It starts off where you taste the actual pepper for a split second, then the heat hits you like a ton of bricks over the head. Your eyes will water, you may cough as you try to catch your breath, and you will start to sweat profusely.
It’s kind of like chewing on broken glass.
I’ve eaten hotter peppers than habaneros this way, even the Ghost pepper and the Trinidad Scorpion or the 7 Pot, but honestly, I have to say, the habaneros peppers have a wicked raspy heat that just tears your mouth apart if you aren’t ready for it. Some hot peppers’ heat will creep up on you and build. Habaneros peppers have a heat that hits you head on and just takes a while to let up.
You’ve been warned.
Habaneros are Better Used for Cooking
You are WAY better off using habaneros peppers for cooking or making hot sauces than eating raw.
They go a long way, so you can use just a sliver and keep the rest in a baggie in the refrigerator for next time. Habaneros pieces can also be frozen for a short time in a baggie for meals that may be spaced out a few days apart.
While food purists may want to stick to using pepper varieties from the locale of the recipe they are using, you can use habaneros with any dish that needs hot chili spice. Just be careful how much you use and that whoever is consuming the recipe can handle it.
While habaneros are probably used mostly in Mexican recipes, you can use them in Jamaican, Indian, or any hot recipe.
Habaneros Do Well Dried and Dehydrated
As with any hot chili pepper, habaneros can be dried in a Nesco food dehydrator and kept for a long time in baggies for future use. This is probably the best way to store them long term, especially if you have a garden and grow lots of hot peppers. You can never use them all at once, but this way you can use them all year long and even after several years, as long as they are stored relatively dry and in a non humid environment.
I hope that you found this habaneros article well written and useful. If I find anything else that would be a good addition I will update it later. Please be sure to bookmark it and share it socially with your friends and social networks so that everyone can get into the habaneros game!