Habaneros are lantern-shaped chile peppers
with a subtle
-like aroma and extremely hot flavor. Growing to no more than
two inches in length, their color ranges from light green when fresh to
bright orange when ripe.
Habaneros are native to the Caribbean, the
Yucatan and the north coast of South America. But in recent years,
they've become a trendy ingredient in sophisticated kitchens around the
world. Fresh or dried, they're most commonly used in fiery seasonings,
sauces and dressings.
When buying fresh, choose habaneros that are firm and heavy for their
size. Their skins should be smooth and glossy. Dried habaneros should
have a rich, consistent color, unbroken skin and slight flexibility.
Don't buy any with blemishes or soft spots.
Store fresh habanero peppers in a paper bag in the refrigerator for
up to two weeks. Keep dried chiles in an airtight container away from light and heat for up to six months.
Habaneros are one of the hottest varieties of peppers, so use extra
when preparing them. Up to 80% of a chile pepper's capsaicin (the
potent compound that gives peppers their heat) is found in the seeds
and membranes. Wear thin rubber gloves and avoid touching your
face and eyes. If you don't have gloves, wash your hands thoroughly
soap and water as soon as you're finished. If you still feel a burning
sensation on your skin, try
soaking hands in a bowl of milk
Wash the peppers right before using. To slice, begin by removing the
stem and cutting the pepper in half. Next, use a teaspoon to carefully
remove the ribs and seeds (this will temper the chile's heat). Slice as desired.
• When cooking hot peppers on the stovetop, avoid breathing the fumes as they may irritate your throat, nose and eyes.
• To rehydrate dried chiles, cover with very hot water and let stand for 30 minutes.
• Purée rehydrated chiles with a little water and add to sauces and stews
for rich, fiery flavor.
• Can't take the heat? Drink or eat a capsaicin-absorbing food
to temper the intensity. These include milk
tomato juice, bread, potatoes
, rice, ice cream or bananas
. Don't drink
alcohol or water—they'll only increase capsaicin absorption and spread
it to more parts of your mouth.
Try one of our favorite habanero recipes:
Belizian Style Habanero Hot Sauce