Some hot peppers are surprisingly easy to grow, in my experience. Like having fresh herbs growing in the backyard, having a robust serrano or jalapeño plant in a pot by the back door certainly enlivens my cooking (and pickling!).
Both serranos and jalapeños get hotter as the season progresses and the jalapeños get thin brown scars (see photo at left) and both eventually turn red. They can be very spicy, though I find it really varies but the more scars they have the hotter they typically are. They also have a rich flavor that adds depth to dishes as well as just heat.
The Czeck black pepper is typically a little less spicy than a jalapeño. It has juicy, thick flesh and thin skin and turns from black to bright red later in the season. It’s great for pickling or salsas, soups, and other dishes.
Cayenne peppers are the spiciest of the four discussed here and are often used in hot sauces particularly those using vinegar. They are wonderful pickled and of course are common dried and ground. Using them fresh is a nice alternative. They can be used wherever a little heat is needed. They are delicious chopped up and mixed with a little butter or mayonnaise or aioli and spread on a sandwich. As they pack a serious punch and I often use the dried ones by removing the seeds and then breaking the pepper into 2 or 3 pieces and sautéing it with whatever vegetable or meat I might be cooking and then removing the pieces. I do the same with Thai and Indian curries and pots of beans. The pepper will impart quite a bit of heat that way but a bit more subtly than by chopping it up and leaving it in the dish.
All of the peppers are delicious in marinades for vegetables or meat, take well to pickling, and are delicious in salsa. Take care handling any of them but especially the cayennes and be sure to wash your hands well before touching your eyes.
All of these peppers keep quite well, often for several weeks in the refrigerator. The cayennes of course can be dried as well and then have a much longer shelf life.
Ingredients that are particularly suited to these peppers:
- Butter, cream, sour cream, yogurt
- Cilantro, mint, chives, parsley
- Beef, lamb, pork, chicken
Dishes that include Jalapeño, Serrano, Czech Black or Cayenne peppers: