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Freezing Hot: Taming Capsicum


maggiethecat
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In the early days of eGullet their was a subset of members called SSBs, an acronym for Smug Scientific Bastards. Come out, come out, wherever you are, to comfirm or debunk this amazing tip I received from my mother, via my brother.

Seems Mummy had made a Turkey Curry after Christmas and tipped in waaaaay too much hot stuff--not sure if it was cayenne, red pepper flakes, whatever. Even in her gastronomically adventuresome household, it proved too hot to eat with any pleasure. She froze the leftovers, figuring she'd do some doctoring with coconut milk to make it edible for my brother and his family when they paid a New Year's visit.

She explained all this to my brother as she groped for the coconut milk at the back of the pantry. Ian (Caterer) said: "Chill, Mum. Freezing spicy hot food takes the edge off. It will be fine."

And he was right. No fiddling necessary. Has anyone experienced this phenomenon? If real, why?

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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Ummm . . . SSB here. I can't explain this reported freezing phenomenon. What I do know is that any recipe with peppers in it can become more hot with freezing/fridging in that the capsaisins get an opportunity to diffuse into the dish. As far as getting the capsaisins to go away with freezing, I haven't a clue. In my experience, it has been the other way around. Freezing/fridging makes things hotter. And this is from direct experience.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Perhaps it was due to the phenomena called "positive thinking"?

So often, saying so does make it so.

Very unscientific in the world of food, I know - but true in the world of psychology.

I often throw entire jalapenos into the freezer from laziness, to chop and use later. Never noticed any affect to the heat level. . .

(Definitely not SSB here. . . :wink: )

Edited by Carrot Top (log)
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I've certainly experienced things getting less hot after an overnight refridgeration and re-heating.

I doubt that the capsacain is reacting and being de-hottened, though that is a possibility.

I think it's more likely that, depending on the composition of the dish, the flavor can either get more or less intense. In fifi's example, things get hotter as stuff diffuses from peppers into the sauce as it refrigerates. In other cases, capsacain could get bound up in certain structures (starch globules? muscle fibers?) that would mask the hotness.

Edited by rxrfrx (log)
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From Here

Basic Info and Characteristics:

Capsaicin is an incredibly powerful and stable alkaloid seemingly unaffected by cold or heat, which retains its original potency despite time, cooking, or freezing. Because it has no flavor, color, or odor, the precise amount of capsaicin present in chiles can only be measured by a specialized laboratory procedure known as high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Although it has no odor or flavor, it is one of the most pungent compounds known, detectable to the palate in dilutions of one to seventeen million. It is slightly soluble in water, but very soluble in alcohols, fats, and oils.

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Fourth SSB from the right here (although, I was conceived and born in wedlock). Chilling does have a direct effect on the neurons and taste receptors, though.

Actually there are two things going on: cooling the capsaicin will lower its transport speed from the food to the taste receptor, and cool neurons work slower.

So, it doesn't surprise me too much.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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OK, I have experienced the phenomenon of things needing more seasoning after freezing or refridgerating- like beans needing more salt the next day.

But I had the opposite experience with some Mexican chocolate ice cream with cayenne and cinnamon that I made recently- it had a faint kick on the first day, but by the third day in the freezer it was overpoweringly, unpleasantly spicy.

Explain THAT, you SSBs! :blink:

Edited by avocado (log)

"It is impossible not to love someone who makes toast for you."

-Nigel Slater

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Weeeeeeeell, either on day 3 you were eating from a kryptonite bowl, or you added the cayenne at a point where the capsaicin wasn't going to dissociate out of the cayenne in time for you to really get its kick on the first day.

Cold things don't dissolve quickly, so it wasn't permeating the ice cream on the first day. Also, capsaicin, IIRC, sublimes readily, so it has multiple means of transport through the ice cream, even while frozen--it just needs time.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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Maybe the flavors had rounded out sufficiently in freezing such that the capiscum, which had been at the forefront initially, was now melding with other flavors, making it seem to be less pronounced.

Or maybe Carrot Top's right. Perhaps the flavor change was caused by the human belief in the possibility of a flavor change (the placebo effect).

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Maybe the flavors had rounded out sufficiently in freezing such that the capiscum, which had been at the forefront initially, was now melding with other flavors, making it seem to be less pronounced.

This is the best explanation I can come up with. I've double checked McGee and this experience does not seem to be addressed. I too have experienced the decrease in heat in spicy foods that I've frozen and then reheated.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I'd expect it to get hotter in dishes with few carbs and a lot of fat (capsaicin is fat soluble).

For some reason, starches/sugars are the best way to ease the pain of an overdose, so I wonder if a starchy dish would in fact be less spicy after storage, due to the interaction with starch. Someone else mentioned this as well.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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As mentioned above, capsaicin is hydrophobic (good SSB word). If the sauce contained fat, and the fat congealed when the dish was cooled, the fat-soluble capsaicin may have been preferentially segregated from the sauce. Perhaps the congealed fat was left behind when the dish was reheated? This could account for the lowered zing.

Basis for this theory is as follows: I once made chili with lots of chipotles. The chili packed a wallop, and I was worried that it would be too spicy for its intended recipients. Just before serving, I skimmed an oily layer from the chili’s surface. Apparently, most of the capsaicin was in the oily layer, because the chili went from maybe-too-hot to definitely-too-bland :sad:

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