Pepper aficionados who revel in highly spiced foods seek out sources for the hottest peppers available. The chemical that gives chilli peppers their "heat" is capsaicin. Scoville Heat Units measure the degree of hotness of the many different types of peppers, based on the amount of capsaicin present. To get the hottest flavour possible, some cooks prefer to extract the capsaicin from the peppers to use as a flavouring ingredient in the dishes they prepare. To accomplish this, they must turn to chemical techniques to remove the capsaicin from the peppers.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Face mask
- Latex gloves
- Plastic goggles
- Dried hot peppers (high Scoville value)
- 190 proof grain alcohol
- Food chopper or grinder
- 1-quart canning jar with lid
- Fruit strainer
- 1-gallon glass bottle with screw-on lid
- Large funnel
- Coffee filter
- Heat spreader
- Double boiler
- Cooking thermometer
- Pyrex pie pan
- Vial with tight lid
- Stainless steel scraper
Put on the face mask, gloves and goggles. As you extract capsaicin, many components can cause injury if you do not take precautions.
Place the dried peppers in the food chopper or grinder and turn it on. Allow the chopper or grinder to run until the peppers are in very small pieces. The greater surface area of the peppers after chopping will speed up the extraction process.
Fill a 1-quart canning jar with the pepper pieces, leaving 1 inch at the top of the jar. Shaking or tapping the jar as you fill it will help to get as much pepper in the jar as possible.
Pour the grain alcohol into the jar slowly and carefully so as to allow the air in the bottom to rise to the top. Gently hit the bottom of the jar to help any remaining air to escape. Screw the lid tightly on the jar and set aside.
Place the jar away from sunlight and heat for three days. Shake the jar twice each day. Over the three days the alcohol should turn dark red.
Place the fruit strainer in the mouth of the gallon bottle. Carefully pour the contents of the jar into the strainer to separate the pepper bits from the alcohol.
Allow the pepper and alcohol mix to filter through the funnel, tapping the sides of the funnel every few minutes to help the alcohol separate from the pepper pieces.
Tighten the lid after the dripping stops. Discard the waste and wash all the glassware thoroughly in hot water.
Place the large funnel into the top of the empty alcohol bottle.
Put the coffee filter in the mouth of the funnel.
Pour the alcohol through the filter to remove any sediment or particles that may still remain in the liquid. The filtered alcohol should be clear and have a deep red colour.
Assemble the hotplate with a heat spreader. The spreader is a flat piece of steel or copper that covers the entire heating element of the hotplate. This will keep the heat constant and evenly distributed.
Place the double boiler on the hotplate and fill the bottom half with water.
To perform this step, locate the apparatus in a well-ventilated room or a covered outdoor area. Turn on the hotplate and bring the temperature to between 82.2 and 87.8 degrees Celsius. Once the temperature has levelled out and remains steady, pour the alcohol into the top of the double boiler.
After the level of alcohol in the double boiler falls below half of the original volume, pour the remainder of the alcohol into a Pyrex pie plate.
Allow the remaining alcohol to evaporate on its own. As the amount of alcohol reduces, the capsaicin will become thick and sticky like molasses.
Use a stainless steel scraper to transfer the residue to a vial and cap tightly. Store at room temperature and away from direct sunlight.
Tips and warnings
- Always wear your safety mask, goggles and gloves when extracting capsaicin.
- Beware of the fumes of the alcohol as it evaporates. If you are not in a well-ventilated area, the fumes could overpower you and lead to injury.