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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- Grow Red Savina habaneros in your garden, or buy a dozen or two habaneros at the grocery store.
- 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.
- Remove Stems.
- Slice habaneros into halves or quarters.
- Place fruits in the jar. Open vodka, remove pour spout.
- Add vodka to jar.
- Close jar tightly.
- 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)