Hot sauce (a.k.a. pepper sauce) is a condiment intended to add spiciness to food items. It's considered to be a manly condiment. Hot sauce is regarded as a good value due to it's long shelf life, and how little is needed to achieve the desired result. Hot sauce is stored in small glass bottles, which aids in portability. Hot sauce is a versatile condiment, because it is considered an appropriate addition to a large variety of food items.
Hot sauce almost always includes some amount of pepper and vinegar. It is also typical for hot sauces to include salt, water, and Xanthan Gum (a thickening agent). Hot sauces can additionally be flavored by a number of ingredients, including garlic, tomatoes, mustard, paprika, sugar, and sometimes fruit juices.
On occasion, a hot sauce manufacturer will deem to add a capsaicin extract to their concoction. Capsaicin is the chemical that makes peppers spicy. Extracting this substance is a process that is not without it's dangers. Some may consider using this extract to add spiciness to one's sauce to be cheating, prefering the spiciness to be a natural byproduct of the pepper used as an ingredient.
Scoville Heat Units (SHU)Edit
The spiciness of hot sauce (and nearly any spicy food) is measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHU). This unit is named for chemist Wilbur Scoville, who devised a scale of spiciness for various peppers by how many times that a pureed pepper would have to be mixed with a saline solution before it would no longer be considered spicy. The original Scoville measurement method involved a subjective element (the taste of the judges), because of which it is no longer employed by the scientific community. Rather, a new scale of spiciness is in use that measures a food item's spiciness by the concentration of capsaicin contained within. This new scale is named for Dr. Wilbur Scoville, in his honor.
A food that is not spicy (such as ordinary bell peppers, which have no capsaicin) has a SHU of zero, while pure capsaicin (the chemical that makes peppers spicy) has a SHU of 16,000,000.
The following chart lists a few peppers and chemicals according to SHU:
|Peperoncini, Banana Pepper||100-1000|
|Jalapeno, Chipotle, Tabasco Sauce||3000-8000|
|Tabasco pepper, Ceyenne pepper||30,000-50,000|
|Bhut Jolokia pepper||800,000-1,500,000|
The following is a list of food items on which one can enjoy hot sauce:
Hot sauce toleranceEditUp until recently, the flavor of hot sauces was dictated largely by the availability of ingredients. Because of this, hot sauces from all over the world each had distinct flavor. In the modern age of shipping techniques, it's easier for the hottest peppers to be shipped around the world to chefs willing to purchase them. Furthermore, capsaicin has been identified and means of extraction have been developed. As a result, many have taken it upon themselves to use this extract to produce the hottest sauce they possibly can. A few have even managed to create bottles of pure capsaicin. Right now, there are cultures of hot sauce enthusiasts that make it their macho duty to build tolerance to the hottest hot sauce they can find.
Because of this, there are many young men who confidently consume hot sauce they aren't ready for, sometimes going right for the hottest sauce they can find. Such an approach is not recommended. Spiciness is something that a person builds a tolerance to. It's recommended that a person climb a scale of spiciness before moving on to the hottest.
A good place to start is with a bottle of regular Tabasco Sauce, and try that on various things. Pickled japaleno peppers are also a good place to start. From there, pick up a habanero sauce. As one researches hot sauces, one should pay attention to the SHU, and not take it further than one is ready for. It's not always easy for a person to decide on the next step up.
When moving on to sauces with SHU in the millions, it may be a good idea to start with only a drop or two in a whole pot of chili. Such sauces are only intended as food additives, and not to be consumed by themselves. Some take this potentially dangerous action, anyway.
One must not lose sight of what hot sauces are about: hot sauces are something that we are supposed to enjoy, not just endure. Something that is over 2,000,000 SHU can actually leave lasting damage on a person's sense of taste. That's a good reason to not take it too far.
Hot sauce and healthEdit
An enduring myth about hot sauces is that they can cause ulcers. While it is true that hot sauces can cause stomach discomfort, there is no conclusive evidence that relates hot sauce to ulcers. On the contrary, hot sauce has been shown to increase blood flow to the stomach, and stimulate stomach secretions. This improves a stomach's mucous lining, and can actually help reduce ulcers. Most stomach ulcers are caused by H. pylori, the propagation of which isn't affected by hot sauce.
Hot sauce can be used to battle depression. The consumption of hot sauce causes a release of endorphins, natural opiates that the body produces that battle pain and promote a sense of well-being.
Hot sauces may also boost a person's metabolic rate, allowing them to eat less and feel satisfied. Because of this, hot sauce can help a person to lose weight, and prevent it from returning.
A recent study has shown that the consumption of capsaicin can kill prostate cancer cells. Hot sauce can also help reduce high blood pressure (be careful to read the labels though, many hot sauces contain high amounts of sodium). Hot sauces can clear the sinuses, which could help someone suffering with the cold. Hot sauce may also protect a person from salmonella. There are a number of other health claims made about hot sauce.
Once accused of being the culprit behind ulcers, hot sauce can be a beneficial part of one's diet. There is much to enjoy about this spicy condiment, the benefits of good health being among them.
Hot sauce enthusiasts often make hot sauces at home. There are numerous procedures and recipies that will make delicious hot sauces. Here is a sample recipe:
What you'll need:
- 10-15 jalapeno peppers
- 1 cup vinegar
- 1 tablespoon salt
Note: it is recommended that you wear gloves, and you avoid making direct skin contact with the pepper, especially if you substitute something spicier than jalapenos. Avoid contact with your eyes and nose until you have finished preparing the product, and you wash your hands with soap and water afterwards. If you handle the peppers with your bare hands, it could be days before you can touch your eyes or nose without causing a burning sensation, even if you wash your hands.
Remove the stems from the jalapeno peppers. Place all ingredients into a blender, cover, and liquefy. Store in a small jar. Easy, right?
There are numerous variations that can make the hot sauce recipe your own. Reducing the vinegar makes for a thicker solution. Some decide to age ground peppers with salt and vinegar in a jar at room temperature for about a month. One can easily substitute other peppers into the recipe, such as ceyenne, habanero, or whatever pepper you have available. Fruits and vegetables can also be added to give your sauce more character. Carrots bring out the flavor of habaneros. Peaches and tomatoes are popular additions. Some like to heat their sauces in a saucepan or skillet as part of the process. Experiment to find a flavor that you enjoy, and share with your friends and family.
The shelf life of homemade hot sauces can greatly vary, depending on the ingredients used. Generally, they can remain fresh for about a year. Most hot sauces won't require refrigeration, though refrigeration won't harm the product.