For the next 2-3 months, my blogging may be slower than usual. So I have decided that during this time, I will offer my readers informative snapshots of classic West Indian foods, ingredients, or drinks. This segment will be called “Ketch of the Week” – ‘ketch’ is the patois term for ‘catch’ or to burn (also the name of this blog!). The ‘ketch’ of this week is Scotch Bonnet Peppers.
What: A type of pepper that got its name from the shape of a traditional Scottish bonnet, a Tam o’Shanter hat. These cute little buggers are spicier than hell. They are responsible for the intense heat in jerk chicken and a variety of other caribbean stews and curries.
Pepper Scale: Scoville Scale: 100,000-400,000 SHU
The website, pepperscale.com has an awesome reference point – the Scotch Bonnet Pepper is about “12 to 140 times hotter than a Jalapeño” Still confused? Unless you plan to spend a romantic evening next to your toilet, don’t even try to eat this pepper whole.
Where: Cultivated throughout the Caribbean. If you don’t know where to find one, you can probably ‘sniff’ them out in your local grocery store isle – they carry an intense smell. Otherwise, visit a Caribbean (or even Asian) specialty store.
Types: There are a variety of types (colours), but according to my mom there are two main ‘colours’ that are used in cooking: the yellow and red. Each carries its own flavour profile (beyond just being too damn spicy). The ‘green‘ ones in the picture above are just ‘unripe’ yellow scotch bonnet peppers. However, the green one is just as commonly used to ‘flavour’ dishes because it can still pack a punch of flavour without being extremely hot.
How: As mentioned, scotch bonnet peppers are added to a variety of dishes, most famously jerk chicken. This is a cooking pepper – not an “add it to my Sunday nacho’s” type of pepper. I love this post by Caribbeanrecipekits as it gives some quick tips on how to handle the pepper, depending on the type of dish or heat intensity you are looking for.
Try it yourself! With all the intense heat in Toronto, it’s the perfect weather to make pepper sauce. Try this hot sauce recipe, for a quick way to dissect these peppers and make them into a hot sauce that you can use to add heat to any meal.