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Subprime Fun With Capsicum

By krkrbt in Culture
Mon Aug 24, 2009 at 02:02:24 PM EST
Tags: Simple Pleasures, Pure Unfiltered Joy, Brewing, Beer, Wine, Alcohol (all tags)

When I was growing up, my experiences with Capsicum were pretty conventional. These were mostly limited to the red pepper shaker at Pizza Hut and the medium-heat salsa companion to tortilla chips. It was years before I realized how much fun Capsicum could be.

The intensity of the economic collapse brings new urgency to this story. In 2008, K5 offered us two strategies to wait out the subprime housing recession: subprime beer and subprime hobo wine. Both recipes were overly complicated, requiring numerous ingredients and many steps. In contrast, Special Vodka is simple, and even a homeless person could make it in their cardboard box on the street.

Implementing the strategy given in this story will not only tickle your joy circuits, it will also fix the health care system and confirm GhostOfTiber's worst fears. You might even save a life.

First some background reading, then a short narrative before the instructions:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capsaicin - the chemical
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capsicum - the plant

Types of Capsicum

Capsicum varieties can generally be broken down into two groups. Sweet peppers are useful for adding volume to a dish, such as a stir fry. This is the boring variety. Chili peppers are much more fun, as they contain Capsaicin.

Capsaicin is the chemical produced by genus Capsicum plants to deter their consumption by mammals. It has the delightful property of stimulating nerve cells in the skin and mucous membranes, producing a burning sensation for the mammal which has the good fortune to make contact. Birds have no such response, and happily spread Capsicum seeds far and wide.

The Scoville Scale ranks capsicum chili peppers by the amount of capsaicin they contain.

Discovering Capsicum

At the start of my first summer home from teh college, my father and I went to the garden center to pick out a few landscape plants. He usually got some tomatoes for his Earthboxes, but on this trip we saw a variety pack of chili pepper seedlings.

We planted two seedlings in each of the Earthboxes. A month later we had four plants covered with little white flowers. A few weeks later and the flowers had changed to immature peppers, and after 2-3 months, we had little Capsicum plants covered with four varieties of delicious-looking Capsicum fruits. The little red jalapeño-shaped peppers looked rather innocuous.

First Contact

One afternoon my father asked if it was time to try them. We each took one of the beautiful little (~1cm) red fruits. I don't remember who went first - perhaps he did, as I tried to take the smallest nibble I could possibly manage. But I vividly remember the burning sensation that quickly took the entirety of my attention.

I'd heard once that milk was supposed to help with the burn. I took a swig and washed it around. Worthless. Water, Orange juice - nothing helped. Some time later the burning had become just a dull throb, and I was able to ignore it while I did other things...

Discovering the Joy of Capsicum

Later that day my younger brother came to visit. I couldn't resist.

"Hey John, these things are really good!", and I handed him one of the little red peppers. Trusting me completely, he took the offered Capsicum fruit and bit down hard on the whole thing. A look of pain spread across his face, and through his grimace he managed to mutter one word: "assholes." I lolled.

My father and I both thoroughly enjoyed my poor brother's predicament. Even as I write this many years later, I can't keep myself from laughing.

Because we had no use for such spicy foods, my father dried all of the peppers in the sun.

I took some of these dried peppers back to teh college with me. I talked them up a time or two, but mostly they stayed in their container. I had a friend of Indian descent, who regularly dismissed my peppers whenever they came up. One evening he said, "You get your peppers down here right now and I'll show you they're nothing!" He happily took the offered pepper and chomped down hard.

He did a decent job of maintaining his composure: "Yeah, that's hot." Later he said that he could have handled it better if he'd been more prepared.

Rediscovering Capsicum

I mostly forgot my good time with capsicum until Slashdot featured an article on the use of Capsaicin to carry local anesthetic QX-314 into nerve cells.

One poster (with a "closet addiction to hotwings") shared his method of consumption, which involves extracting the active ingredient with alcohol.

Health Benefits

Capsaicin is just all-around good medicine. Research shows it's good for any number of health conditions. Traditionally, capsaicin has been used topically for psoriasis and arthritis pain. Cultivated Medicine: Finding Health Benefits in a Fiery Food covers beneficial effects for diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease.  The BBC had this article a few years back: How spicy foods can kill cancers. A research paper on capsaicin & leukemia is available, as is a paper on capsaicin & prostate cancer.

A Word of Caution

While capsicum is super-fun, it is possible to get too much Capsaicin, and sometimes there are allergic reactions.

The Illustrated Guide to Making Your Own Special Vodka

  1. Grow Red Savina habaneros in your garden, or buy a dozen or two habaneros at the grocery store.
  2. Obtain your supplies. You'll need a jar with a lid, distilled alcohol from your subprime fermenting experiements last summer (or, alternatively, the finest professionally-brewed ethanol you can afford), a knife, a cutting board, and the previously harvested capsaicin source.
  3. Remove Stems.
  4. Slice habaneros into halves or quarters.
  5. Place fruits in the jar. Open vodka, remove pour spout.
  6. Add vodka to jar.
  7. Close jar tightly.
  8. Store in a dark place for at least 3 months. After a while, your special vodka will have a beautiful tint to it.

How to enjoy your new Special Vodka

The only way to fully enjoy the Pure Unfiltered Joy that Capsaicin brings is if you have experienced it yourself. Chill your Special Vodka in the freezer, suck it up, pour a shot, and enjoy the pain in private. Feeling will eventually return to your mouth and throat, and you'll be a stronger human for having lived through it. Taking shots semi-regularly will enable you to build tolerance.

This is how I've used Special Vodka to obtain lols, ymmv:

  • Give to your favorite drunk when they're looking for moar alcohol. Watch the facial expressions develop. They might get to enjoy the capsaicin experience twice (going down and coming back up), so either go outside or position your drunk carefully.

  • Find a group of people who like hard liquor. Mention your special vodka in passing, but imply that they're too weak to try it out. It's best to plant the suggestion weeks in advance. Then when you have your gathering, they'll ask you to kick their ass.

    Appoint a timid person photographer, and get the video camera ready. Take a shot with your alcoholic friends. Enjoy watching them roll on the floor, or teach the rosary if you're so inclined. If there is a little bit of kindness in you, have some ice cream (or other dairy product) on hand.

  • Leave a bottle of Special Vodka in the freezer. Tell the house-sitters that they can try the vodka if they want, but it'll kick their ass so they should stay away from it. They won't be able to resist. There will be many shared lols when you return, when the husband-house sitter says he thought he was going to die, and the wife shares her perspective too.

  • Leave a bottle of Special Vodka where your favorite alcoholic will certainly see it. They will ask about the bottle and its special properties eventually...

  • Go to Wayne's Sushi in Las Vegas with your friends. Order a death roll. Wayne says he wants people to hurt when they order this particular item at his sushi bar, so be sure to share it with your friends for entertainment.


While alcohol is just fine, I find it to be quite boring. Blending the benefits of Capsicum and Ethanol creates a life-giving product that will give you joyful memories for years to come. Regular consumption will turn you into a certifiable God-Amongst-Men who can cure alcoholism in a single pass, and make mere mortals lay themselves prostrate at your feet.

(Ref: ye olde k5 comment)


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Best drink of all?
o Subprime Beer 0%
o Subprime Wine 16%
o Special Vodka 83%
o WIPO 0%

Votes: 6
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Slashdot
o subprime beer
o subprime hobo wine
o confirm GhostOfTiber's worst fears
o http://en. wikipedia.org/wiki/Capsaicin
o http://en. wikipedia.org/wiki/Capsicum
o Scoville Scale
o Earthboxes
o Capsaicin to carry local anesthetic QX-314 into nerve cells
o his method of consumption
o Cultivated Medicine: Finding Health Benefits in a Fiery Food
o How spicy foods can kill cancers
o capsaicin & leukemia
o capsaicin & prostate cancer
o too much Capsaicin
o Red Savina habaneros
o Obtain your supplies
o Remove Stems
o Slice habaneros into halves or quarters
o Place fruits in the jar.
o Add vodka to jar
o Close jar tightly
o special vodka
o Wayne's Sushi
o death roll
o ye olde k5 comment
o Also by krkrbt

Display: Sort:
Subprime Fun With Capsicum | 21 comments (18 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
I started writing this story a long time ago (none / 1) (#1)
by krkrbt on Sat Aug 22, 2009 at 01:37:42 AM EST

The motivation for finishing it was provided by LilDebbie, who apparently grew some mildly hot peppers in his garden.  

Shouldn't need much editing, but I'll let it go at least overnight before submitting it to vote.

this one was the fucking hottest jalapeno (none / 0) (#6)
by LilDebbie on Sat Aug 22, 2009 at 02:48:34 PM EST

i've ever eaten. i'm thinking it's a touch underripe.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
Was it green, or had it turned color? (none / 0) (#11)
by krkrbt on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 12:52:40 AM EST


Perhaps you need to do some capsaicin training. Jalapeño peppers are towards the bottom of the scale...

[ Parent ]

green (none / 0) (#14)
by LilDebbie on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 11:34:22 AM EST

and i've eaten habanero before, as i've eaten jalapenos before. this was way hotter than a normal jalapeno which i'm guessing is because it wasn't fully ripe (tasted a little off too).

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
Ripe Jalapenos are red (none / 0) (#19)
by MichaelCrawford on Mon Aug 24, 2009 at 03:21:14 AM EST

It's just that its fashionable to harvest them while still green.


Live your fucking life. Sue someone on the Internet. Write a fucking music player. Like the great man Michael David Crawford has shown us all: Hard work, a strong will to stalk, and a few fries short of a happy meal goes a long way. -- bride of spidy

[ Parent ]

A co-worker once gave me some peppers... (none / 0) (#21)
by skyknight on Sat Aug 29, 2009 at 11:26:12 AM EST

from his garden. I chopped up two "Jamaican Hot Red" peppers and put them in a pot that had a family size box of macaroni and a pound of ground beef. It was almost too hot to eat and I had a hell of a time the following morning. As I understand it, each of those peppers was 100K-200K Scovilles.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
1cm peppers? (none / 1) (#4)
by b1t r0t on Sat Aug 22, 2009 at 08:55:53 AM EST

It sounds like you had chiltepin or pequin peppers, which are about 8mm long. A few years ago a bird "planted" a seed next to my mom's house and a chlitepin bush grew there. (They grow natively here in Texas if you're lucky enough to find one.) I don't think it produced much fruit this year, but 3 crops is pretty good for something that planted itself. The fire level of these things is roughly equivalent to the peppers they use in Szechuan dishes, but already cut up into the proper size for eating with one bite of food.

I really need to try getting a seedling or two to grow. I still have fruits both dried and in the freezer, and hopefully I can get one to grow for next year.

-- Indymedia: the fanfiction.net of journalism.

I'd guess they were 'Thai hot' (none / 0) (#7)
by krkrbt on Sat Aug 22, 2009 at 04:25:30 PM EST

Maybe they were longer than a centimeter - this was 8 or 9 years ago...


[ Parent ]

-1, more of the usual quack medicine (2.20 / 5) (#5)
by lostincali on Sat Aug 22, 2009 at 09:17:07 AM EST

seriously, fuck off.

"The least busy day [at McDonalds] is Monday, and then sales increase throughout the week, I guess as enthusiasm for life dwindles."

why do you hate science? (none / 1) (#8)
by krkrbt on Sat Aug 22, 2009 at 04:30:27 PM EST

Please be specific in your criticism of my story. I thought Berkley was a legitimate research organization - is this not the case?

[ Parent ]
ok (none / 0) (#9)
by lostincali on Sat Aug 22, 2009 at 05:24:08 PM EST

so where's this "Berkley research organization" linked to in your article?

"The least busy day [at McDonalds] is Monday, and then sales increase throughout the week, I guess as enthusiasm for life dwindles."
[ Parent ]

the link is under 'too much Capsaicin' (none / 0) (#10)
by krkrbt on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 12:45:24 AM EST

... This particular piece might've been a student's term paper, so it's not the source I thought it was. It does have plenty of references, even in the short section titled "Beneficial effects of Capsaicin". It was hosted under berkeley.edu a year and a half ago, and is now hosted by archive.org.

Thanks for your comment - I edited the 'health benefits' section to contain more direct links to news stories and papers about positive health benefits of capsaicin.

[ Parent ]

This is the typical chili enthusiast wank (3.00 / 2) (#13)
by ksandstr on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 07:53:58 AM EST

Which is just another form of magical wooden volume knob and gold cable "high-end audio" wank.

"Zomg that's so hot", "pure unfiltered joy", "guys guys there's this scientiffick scale called Scoville units for this you gotta hear about it!".

Does this look like a chili wanker forum? Does it? No? Then why the fuck is this article here?

[ Parent ]

It's a followup to last year's subprime homebrew (none / 1) (#18)
by krkrbt on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 11:40:05 PM EST

... stories. Back then subprime housing was the problem with the economy. The economic storm was expected to pass over quickly, so a little cheap homebrew was one way to pass time until the economy righted itself.

Now that we know the economy's problems are more structural than a few bad loans, we need a better strategy than "ride it out - get drunk cheap" (which was the whole point of the 'subprime hobo wine' story).

'Subprime Fun' is one way to have fun with friends - much better than getting plastered every night, imho.

[ Parent ]

(0), Kill yourself (none / 1) (#17)
by Enlarged to Show Texture on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 08:33:49 PM EST


"Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do." -- Isaac Asimov
[ Parent ]
In college, one of my friends was from Vermont, (2.80 / 5) (#15)
by claes on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 02:19:14 PM EST

another from Texas.  They came back after winter break with a bunch of stuff from home, and this resulted in the first and thankfully only combination Jalapeño-pepper eating and Maple Syrup chugging contest.  Truly a high point in my education.

I made a creamed honey with this. (2.66 / 3) (#16)
by xC0000005 on Sun Aug 23, 2009 at 06:46:02 PM EST

Crystalized until it's rock hard in candy sized pieces. I then freeze the candy (or at minimum chill it - I prefer frozen). I call it "Satan's Ice Cubes" and for tea it is heavenly and painful. People who love hot like to eat them as hard candy - a combination of physical cold and oil based heat with a rich sweet backing from the honey.

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
I'm guessing the cream was from the obvious? (none / 0) (#20)
by Ruston Rustov on Wed Aug 26, 2009 at 06:13:18 PM EST

I had had incurable open sores all over my feet for sixteen years. The doctors were powerless to do anything about it. I told my psychiatrist that they were psychosomatic Stigmata - the Stigmata are the wounds Jesus suffered when he was nailed to the cross. Three days later all my sores were gone. -- Michael Crawford
Maybe tomorrow. -- Michael Crawford
As soon as she has her first period, fuck your daughter. -- localroger

[ Parent ]
Subprime Fun With Capsicum | 21 comments (18 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
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