Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The hottest club in town

Chili Pepper Club members know how to spice things up

By Chuck Martin
Enquirer staff writer

Chili Pepper Club members Dianne Creech and George Cook enjoy a club get-together at member John Stricker's house in Silverton.
Photos by BRANDI STAFFORD/The Enquirer
Grazing at a meeting of the Cincinnati Chili Pepper Club is like walking across a bed of coals barefoot: Just when you think you've found a cool spot to rest your toes, er, tongue, the food flames and burns you.

You know, for instance, the roasted orange habanero peppers over chipotle rice that Dianne Creech brought are going to sear your mouth. So for relief, you dig into Beth McClean's Sweet Heat Coleslaw.


The crispy slaw starts cold but finishes hot because McClean made it with Tabasco sauce and hot pepper vinegar.


Connie Kohls even added ground red pepper to her Mexican Chocolate Cake.

But this is all tasty sport if you belong to the Chili Pepper Club. Every year, members start pepper plants from seed (this year, about 35 varieties and 3,000 plants). They pickle, smoke and dry the peppers for cooking. Once a month, they meet to share dishes, dab their brows and drink beer.

On this balmy June night in Silverton, host John Stricker served his amazing homemade goetta spiked with red pepper, George Cook brought hot wings and Sue Ruthen and Mark Eitel cooked a pot of their smoky chili. And there was more.

Among their other uses, chile peppers make great restaurant names. Try the spicy food at these Cincinnati restaurants.

• Jalapeno has spicy Tex-Mex standards and classic Mexican dishes, 7980 Hosbrook Road, Madeira; 793-0999

• Habanero, one of the hottest peppers, gives its name to a burrito restaurant in Clifton with flavors from all over Latin America. 358 Ludlow Ave.; 961-6800

• Chipotle Mexican Grills are named for the smoky dried pepper. They serve big burritos in 10 Greater Cincinnati locations.

Developed in 1912, the Scoville Scale is the most widely used measure of spicy heat in peppers. The larger the number of scoville units, the hotter the pepper. The hottest pepper ever recorded was a habanero, at 16 million scoville units. Generally, the peppers rank this way:

Bell pepper .... 0 units

These chili heads know how to eat heat.

Mild beginnings for chili society

The roots of the Cincinnati Chili Pepper Club go back to 1996, when then soccer coach Mike Mueller of Madisonville began trading peppers and sharing spicy meals with parents of his players. Later, Mueller struck a deal with Roy Evers of Evers' Greenhouse in Bond Hill to help the club start chile peppers from seed.

The club meets in December to order seeds from catalogs. In January, members plant the seeds in Evers' Greenhouse. They care for the pepper seedlings through the winter and spring and take home their share to transplant in May. Evers keeps some of the seedlings to sell.

Even though the chiles may not be ready to harvest until late July or August, the club meets monthly to eat and talk about peppers.

Hot recipes from the Pepper Club

Hickory Hot Chili

3 pounds ground chuck

1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed and crumbled

2 30-ounce cans Brooks Chili Mix with beans

1 46-ounce can Campbell's tomato juice

1 19-ounce can LaRosa's Sauce

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

2 jalapeno peppers, diced

1 medium onion chopped

4 tablespoons Bubba Brothers Barbecue Sauce (Hickory Flavor)

Dried ground habanero pepper, to taste*

Cook beef and sausage together in pan and drain excess fat. (For more smoky flavor, cook meat in covered grill with wood chips or chunks.)

Mix meat and remaining ingredients in large pot. Simmer chili on low heat 2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

Note: Sue Ruthen grows, dries and grinds her own habanero chiles. Dried habanero is available in some groceries and many specialty food stores. Be careful when adding habanero to chili and other food - it's the hottest of the chiles.

Sue Ruthen and Mark Eitel, Silverton

Bubba's Hot Wings

5 pounds chicken wings

1/2 cup Tones Garlic and Herb Seasoning*

Peanut oil, for deep frying

1 16-ounce jar Bubba Brothers Gourmet BBQ Sauce

1/4 cup Frank's hot sauce

Marinate wings overnight in 1/2 gallon of water with 1/2 cup Tones Garlic and Herb Seasoning. Transfer to smoker and smoke on low (about 190 degrees) 11/2 hours. Remove wings and deep fry in peanut oil 10 to 15 minutes, until golden brown. Mix barbecue sauce with hot sauce and generously brush on wings to coat.

*Available in the spice section of many groceries.

George Cook, Kennedy Heights

Strick's Hot Goetta

6 cups water

2 teaspoons beef base (or replace the 6 cups water with equal amount of beef broth)

1 tablespoon ground thyme

1 tablespoon course-ground black pepper

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

5 to 6 bay leaves (or to taste)

1 teaspoon sage (optional)

1 medium to large onion, finely chopped

21/2 cups Dorsel's pinhead oats (available at many groceries)

1 pound ground beef (not chuck or sirloin)

1 pound ground pork or sausage

In a crock pot or other slow cooker combine 6 cups of hot water, beef base, all of seasonings, and chopped onion. Cook on high 1 hour. Add pinhead oats and stir. The mixture must be stirred at least every 15 minutes.

Continue to cook on high 11/2 hours. Mixture should look very creamy and have the consistency of thick oatmeal. Crumble meat and add to pot. Continue to stir mixture at least every 30 minutes. Cook for at least 4 more hours.

Transfer goetta to loaf pans. Garnish with coarsely ground black pepper. Allow to cool completely at room temperature. Place uncovered in refrigerator overnight. Next day, wrap tightly or seal in plastic bags.

To prepare: Slice to desired thickness and fry until crisp.

John Stricker, Silverton

Sweet Heat Coleslaw

1 cup regular or low-fat mayonnaise

3 tablespoons low-fat yogurt or sour cream

1/4 cup white wine vinegar or pepper vinegar, such as Trappey's

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon poppy seed

1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon Tabasco or other hot sauce

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 head green cabbage, cored and grated

2 medium carrots, peeled and grated

1 medium red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped

Stir together mayonnaise, yogurt, vinegar, sugar, poppy seed, hot pepper sauce and salt.

In large bowl, combine grated cabbage, carrots and bell pepper. Stir in dressing. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Makes 6 servings.

Adapted from Patio-Daddy-O (Chronicle; $12.95).

Beth McClean, College Hill

Mexican Chocolate Cake

1 package chocolate cake mix

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar


1 tablespoon margarine or butter

1/2 to 1 cup confectioners' sugar

1/4 to 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Coat bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Stir cinnamon, red pepper and balsamic vinegar into cake batter; pour into bundt pan.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until cake tests done with toothpick. Let cake cool.

To make icing, melt margarine and stir in sugar and 1/4 cup water gradually. Add cocoa, stir and drizzle over cooled cake. Makes 12 servings.

Connie Kohls, Montgomery


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