Bhut Jolokia-The Hottest Chile Pepper

jolokiaThere is a recurring bit in “The Simpsons” where Homer eats some kind of fiery spicy hot food, has a cartoonish physical reaction like flaming smoke rings flying out of his mouth while shrieking, then promptly and calmly says “more please.”

Not so when Dr. Paul Bosland of the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University bit into a Bhut Jolokia, now considered the world’s hottest chile pepper. One bite was enough to convince him that this pepper packed some record setting heat and what he’d really like was a glass of milk and not another helping of that pod.

The Bhut Jolokia is indigenous to north eastern India and the name translates into “ghost pepper.” Seeds were sent to New Mexico by a colleague of Dr. Bosland. Plants were raised under controlled conditions and the heat levels tested in laboratories. Would you believe a pepper three times hotter than a habanero? Over a million Scoville Heat Units? Dude, that is hot!

You can read more about Bhut Jolokia here.

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Celebrating Hatch New Mexico Green Chile

Central Market locations in Texas and an assortment of Tex-Mex restaurants usually set aside a couple weekends this time of year to celebrate the green Hatch chile harvest.

Not wanting to miss out, I zipped over to the Central Market Dallas location last Friday. They had a couple guys out front flame roasting the famous New Mexican chile by the case. Inside the store were various displays of fresh Hatch chile that you could buy bulk. “A” list pods, I should mention.
Central Market is known for their in-house bakery, among other things, so I picked up some hamburger buns and sourdough bread baked with bits of Hatch chile. You could also buy hamburger patties or sausage with the New Mexico green goodness mixed in. Those I passed because it’s pretty easy to make your own at home.

I also got home with a case of Hatch chile that had been fire roasted an hour or so before. The inside of my car still smells like roasted New Mexican chili, but who’s complaining? I’ll have to admit that the chiles looked pretty ugly with a real good toasting put on them. But the outer skin slides off real easy.

It’s New Mexico Chile Season

You know the Hatch chile season is really underway when you walk into a Walmart in Rowlett, Texas and come face to face with long green New Mexican chile goodness.

What surprised me a little was the improved quality of the green Hatch chili pods over what I had seen the other day at a local Albertsons.

These green chile pods were closer to “A” list. Sure there were some small curly pods to avoid, but plenty of long, flat, heavy green chiles. The kind to take home to Mama Relleno, if you know what I mean.  And I think you do.

Hatch Green Chile and Swiss Cheese. Yum.

For me, there is something magically delicious about putting New Mexican chile together with Swiss cheese. Not just somewhere in the same dish or recipe, but right on top of each other.

Quick examples would include a burger with a slice of Swiss cheese top and and chopped green Hatch chili on top of the cheese. Or an omelet with melting Swiss cheese and chopped green chile as a hat.

Another unlikely but tasty combination is fresh pineapple and New Mexico green chile. In some parts of the Southwest U.S. pizza parlors (does anyone call them that any more?) or the pizza delivery chains offer up a pineapple and green chile pie on their menus.

If your part of the world doesn’t include green chile on the pizza menus you can always have a couple of 4 oz cans of chopped green New Mexican chile ready when the pizza arrives and throw it on while it’s still hot. Try it, you might like it.

Jalapenos as Instruments of Punishment

In 1967 when The Beatles were tripping in “Strawberry Fields Forever” and The Doors were urging us to “Light My Fire” I was a “new cadet” at New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell.

In that day “new cadets” at N.M.M.I. were under a hazing system similar to Plebes at
West Point. We had our heads shaved, doubled timed in The Area, yes sir/no sir, saluted, kept eyes straight ahead as not to engage humans, which we were considered not to be by “old cadets”, dropped for push-ups, walked “tours” or ran laps for the slightest perceived infractions of behavior or “deportment.” It was a real slice of heaven for a 15 year old from California.

The fun continued at meal time when we “new cadets” perched ourselves on the front
few inches of our chair, sitting at attention with eyes forward, yet expected to serve and
cater to the whims of the “old cadets” scattered among us, members of our squad or

Punishment for not doing so took various forms. Hispanic New Mexico “old cadets” often brought jars of jalapenos to the table. Forcing some hapless table pepper avoiding “new cadet” from, say, Wisconsin, to munch up a jalapeno pepper as punishment for some infraction was considered great entertainment and a fair warning for other “new cadets.” Adult supervision looked the other way.

I don’t totally hate the three and a half years I spent at New Mexico Military Institute. I learned to lead other young cadets through humor and cajoling as opposed to acting like some junior psychotic schmuck. The school had a very strong academic program. It directly and indirectly led to a Journalism degree from New Mexico State University and a broadcasting career, my wife of 34 years, and several life long friendships.

These days I enjoy jalapenos, serranos, New Mexico green chile, and the occasional
habanero, among other fiery foods. But I still think that tricking or forcing the unsuspecting or uninitiated to bite into such things is not cool.