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13 Hot Sauces for the Most Adventurous Eaters

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For nearly as long as humans have been preparing meals, we’ve been looking for ways to give our food a little extra kick. Today, hot sauce is one of the world’s most beloved condiments and, as one of America’s fastest-growing industries, it shows no signs of slowing down. But with thousands of commercially available sauces, finding the right one for your tastebuds can be daunting. Here are 13 hot sauces to satisfy every tongue, from the cautious novice to the champion "chilihead."

A note on heat: The Scoville scale, devised in 1912 by American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville, is the standard measure of relative heat level in chili peppers and sauces. While taste is subjective, the scale measures approximately how many dilutions a specific sauce needs until the spice is no longer noticeable. For reference, standard Tabasco sauce—generally considered mild among hot sauce fans—has a Scoville rating of between 2500-5000, meaning that one teaspoon of Tabasco would require 2500-5000 teaspoons of water (roughly between three and seven gallons) to completely dilute the heat.

1. FOR THE WARY WING-LOVER

If you love the savory flavor of buffalo wings but only want a little burn, consider a bottle of Ott’s Original Wing Sauce. Spicy food expert Scott Roberts calls it his favorite mild buffalo sauce, specifically praising its "creamy, robust flavor." Cayenne peppers give Ott’s a kick, but its low 725 Scoville rating shouldn’t scare anyone off.

2. FOR THE CAUTIOUS BUT CURIOUS

Before getting international distribution, Cholula Salsa Picante Hot Sauce was made by one family in Chapala, Mexico for three generations. It might just be the perfect middle ground for someone who wants a little more heat than Tabasco, but isn’t ready to totally torch their taste buds yet. Made with pequin peppers, it rates a moderate 3600 on the Scoville scale and is versatile enough to pair with any type of food. Pick up a bottle in your local grocery, or on Amazon for just $6.

3. FOR BACON LOVERS

Look at any food blog and it becomes quickly apparent there’s an appetite for adding bacon to every dish imaginable. It’s no surprise, then, to see the breakfast staple popping up in modern hot sauces. If pork and pepper sound like the perfect pairing, check out Porcum Inférnum from Voodoo Chile Sauces. Pequin chilis and Trinidad Scorpion pepper combine to reach a toasty 5000 Scoville units. As for that delicious bacon flavor, it actually comes from a special spice blend, so even vegans can enjoy some bacon burn. Pick up some directly from Voodoo Chile Sauces.

4. FOR SHRIMP COCKTAIL—OR A SPICY COCKTAIL

El Yucateco Red Habanero is a thicker sauce made from tomatoes, habanero peppers, and spices. At 5800 Scoville units, it’s just slightly hotter than eating an average jalapeño pepper, and Chiliworld.com’s review notes that the sauce’s thicker texture makes it an ideal choice for seafood dishes or spicy cocktails like a Bloody Mary or a Michelada.

5. FOR THE REASONABLE LUNATIC

Around the 10,000 mark on the Scoville scale, the market shifts from standard hot sauces into speciality products directly aimed at "chiliheads" (and generally begin bearing terrifying names). Crazy Jerry’s Brain Damage straddles both worlds: It’ll light up your mouth, but compared to all available hot sauces, it’s still on the milder end of the spectrum. Mangoes and mandarin oranges give this sauce a fruitier flavor in addition to the heat.

6. FOR A CARIBBEAN HEAT WAVE

Based on a classic West Indies recipe, Lottie’s Traditional Barbados Yellow has a "nice, slow burn that adds a delicious touch of heat," according to Roberts’s review. The surprising addition of mustard gives this sauce its distinctive color and flavor, while habaneros and other spices provide a blistering dose of heat—about 30,000 on the Scoville.

7. FOR THE “CHOCOLATE” LOVERS

Despite its name, the chocolate habanero is hardly dessert fare—the name refers to the deep brown color of the pepper, the hottest variant of the habanero family. Volcanic Peppers’ Lava Chocolate Lightning Hot Sauce blends a base of these smoky scorchers with a dash of even hotter peppers, including the fearsome Bhut Jolokia chile, to deliver what Roberts calls "a nice smoky flavor and an enjoyable garlicky touch." Perfect for a fiery mole sauce, you can grab a bottle direct from Volcanic Peppers for just $8.

8. FOR THE INSANE …

Dave’s Gourmet Insanity Sauce was one of the first ultra-hot specialty products to hit the market, and has the (dubious?) distinction of actually being banned from the National Fiery Foods Show (where, true to brand, creator Dave Hirschkop was advertising his product in a straitjacket). Primarily deriving its heat from red habaneros, Insanity Sauce clocks in at an intimidating 180,000 Scoville units—36 times as spicy as eating a normal jalapeño.

9. … AND FOR THE EVEN MORE INSANE

Still too tame? Hirschkop later topped himself with Dave’s Ultimate Insanity Sauce, which ramps up the heat 40 percent (or around 250,000 units), is intended to be used one drop at a time, and "is not recommended for people with heart or respiratory problems."

10. FOR THE HOTTEST NON-EXTRACT OPTION

Once you near the 1 million Scoville line, most available products are technically considered "food additives," made largely from pepper extract, and are intended to be used very sparingly. For the hottest "all natural" sauce—one using only real peppers and no extract—check out CaJohn’s Lethal Ingestion, which hits 234,500 on the Scoville. Made with Red Savina, Fatilli, and Bhut Jolokia chiles, Lethal Ingestion proves extract isn’t necessary to deliver a molten mouthfeel.

11. FOR THE FIRE-BREATHING DRAGONS

UK company Chilli Pepper Pete has been crafting a wide range of hot sauces for 15 years, but their flagship flavor is Dragon’s Blood Chilli Sauce. Dragon’s Blood immolates tongues with a ridiculously spicy pepper extract, augmented with Naga Ghost Peppers and pineapples, and clocks in at around 800,000 Scovilles. Daenerys Targaryen, take note.

12. FOR THE ABSOLUTE HOTTEST OF THE HOT

The title of "Hottest Sauce Ever Created" is currently held by Blair Lazar, owner of Blair's Sauces & Snacks. He creates and sells a number of variations, but none are spicier than Blair's 16 Million Reserve, so named for its 16-million rating on the Scoville scale. That works out to 8000 times stronger than regular Tabasco! Lazar even requires customers to sign a waiver promising to wear protective gloves and eyewear. Good luck finding a bottle though—only 999 were ever produced.

13. FOR A REASONABLE APPROXIMATION OF ELECTROCUTION

If you can’t track down the 16 Million Reserve, consider The Source, another food additive that’s pure heat—it briefly held the title of "World’s Hottest" in 2002. It’s "only" 7 million on the Scoville scale, but that didn’t stop one Amazon reviewer from memorably likening a single taste to "sucking on a downed power line." All you need is a single drop to inflame a pot of chili or stew, so The Source should last for years—which is good, since a single bottle will set you back $99.

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How to Choose the Best Watermelon
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Buying a watermelon is an experience one can grow to resent. The 92 percent moisture content of Citrullus lanatus means you're basically buying a giant ball of water. On the plus side, they're delicious and packed with enough vitamin C and D to keep you from getting scurvy.

But how to select the best of the batch? Food blogger Emma Christensen over at kitchn recently offered some advice, and it involves a little weight-training. When you examine watermelons in the produce section of your local grocery, you want to look for the heaviest one for its size. The denser the fruit, the more juice it has. That's when it's at its most ripe.

Next, check the underside of the watermelon for the "splotch." That's the yellow patch the watermelon develops by resting on the ground. If it's a creamy yellow, it's also a good indicator of being ripe.

Finally, give the underside a little smack—not aggressive enough to draw attention from grocery workers, but enough so that you can determine whether the watermelon sounds hollow. If it does, that's good. If it sounds dull, like you're hitting a solid brick of material, it's overripe; put the watermelon down and slowly back away from it.

If you're not confident in your watermelon evaluation abilities, there's another option: Local farmers markets typically have only choice product available, so any watermelon you pick up is likely to be a winner. You can also ask the merchant to pick one out for you. Pay attention to what he's doing and then try to emulate it the next time you're forced to choose your own produce.

[h/t: kitchn]

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Wine
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by Tilar J. Mazzeo

Between the vine and the liquor store, plenty of secrets are submerged in your favorite bottle of vino. Here, the author of Back Lane Wineries of Sonoma spills some of the best.

1. DIGITAL EYES ARE EVERYWHERE IN VINEYARDS.

Certain premium estates in Bordeaux and Napa are beginning to look a little more like an army base—or an Amazon.com warehouse. They’re using drones, optical scanners, and heat-sensing satellites to keep a digital eye on things. Some airborne drones collect data that helps winemakers decide on the optimal time to harvest and evaluate where they can use less fertilizer. Others rove through the vineyard rows, where they may soon be able to take over pruning. Of course, these are major investments. At $68,000 a pop, the Scancopter 450 is about twice as costly as a 1941 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon!

2. THERE ARE ALSO LOTS OF COW SKULLS.

They’re not everywhere, but biodynamic farming techniques are on the rise among vintners who don’t want to rely on chemicals, and this is one trick they’ve been known to use to combat plant diseases and improve soil PH. It’s called Preparation No. 505, and it involves taking a cow’s skull (or a sheep’s or a goat’s), stuffing it with finely ground oak chips, and burying it in a wet spot for a season or two before adding it to the vineyard compost.

3. FEROCIOUS FOLIAGE IS A VINTNER’S FRIEND.

The mustard flowers blooming between vineyard rows aren’t just for romance. Glucosinolates in plants like radishes and mustard give them their spicy bite, and through the wonders of organic chemistry, those glucosinolates also double as powerful pesticides. Winemakers use them to combat nematodes—tiny worms that can destroy grape crops.

4. WHAT A CANARY IS TO A COAL MINE, ROSES ARE TO A VINEYARD.

Vintners plant roses among their vines because they get sick before anything else in the field. If there’s mildew in the air, it will infect the roses first and give a winemaker a heads-up that it’s time to spray.

5. VINTNERS EXPLOIT THE FOOD CHAIN.

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Small birds like blackbirds and starlings can clear out 20 percent of a crop in no time. But you know what eats little birds? Big birds. Falconry programs are on the rise in vineyards from California to New Zealand. Researchers have found that raptors eat a bird or two a day (along with a proportion of field mice and other critters) and cost only about as much to maintain as your average house cat.

6. THE BIG PROBLEMS IN TASTING ROOMS ARE VERY SMALL.

Winemakers are constantly seeking ways to manage the swarms of Drosophila melanogaster that routinely gather around the dump buckets in their swanky showrooms. You know these pests as fruit flies, and some vintners in California are exploring ways to use carnivorous plants to tackle the problem without pesticides. Butterworts, sundews, and pitcher plants all have sweet-sounding names, but the bugeating predators make for terrific fruit fly assassins, and you’ll see them decorating tasting rooms across wine country.

7. WINE NEEDS CLEANING.

Winemaking produces hard-to-remove sediments. Filters can catch most of the debris, but winemakers must add “fining agents” to remove any suspended solids that sneak by. Until it was banned in the 1990s, many European vintners used powdered ox blood to clean their wines. Today, they use diatomaceous earth (the fossilized remains of hard-shelled algae), Isinglass (a collagen made from fish swim bladders), and sometimes bentonite (volcanic clay). Irish moss and egg whites are also fine wine cleaners.

8. ATOMS HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS.

About 5 percent of the premium wine sold for cellaring doesn’t contain what the label promises. So how do top-shelf buyers avoid plunking down serious cash on a bottle of something bunk? Most elite wine brokerages, auction houses, and collectors use atomic dating to detect fraud. By measuring trace radioactive carbon in the wine, most bottles can be dated to within a year or two of the vintage.

9. FINE WINES GET MRIs.

Even with atomic dating, there are certain perils involved in buying a $20,000 bottle of wine. Leaving a case in the hot trunk of your car is enough to ruin it, so imagine what can happen over a couple of decades if a wine isn’t kept in the proper conditions. Back in 2002, a chemistry professor at University of California at Davis patented a technique that uses MRI technology to diagnose the condition of vintage wines. Not planning any $20,000 wine purchases? This is still good news for the consumer. This technique may soon be used at airport security, meaning you’ll be able to carry on your booze.

10. THERE’S A TRICK TO AGING YOUR WINE.

If you end up with a bottle of plonk, Chinese scientists have developed a handy solution. Zapping a young wine with electricity makes it taste like something you’ve cellar aged. Scientists aren’t quite sure how it happens yet, but it seems that running your wine for precisely three minutes through an electric field changes the esters, proteins, and aldehydes and can “age” a wine instantly.

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