Back in 2011 we went back to our family reunion in North Carolina and spent a few days outside Charlotte in the small town of Fort Mill, South Carolina. During our stay we stopped at a small salsa/hot sauce stand at a now defunct shopping mall next to the Carowinds amusement park. We got talking to this guy who said he had been a banker in Charlotte but quit to start growing hot peppers. He mentioned that he was working on getting certified as the hottest pepper in the world. Yeah, right.
We liked the free samples and the name of the company, PuckerButt, was amusing so we bought some bottles and forgot all about it. Fast forward a couple years and we see a news flash that the Carolina Reaper has been named the world’s hottest pepper by the Guinness Book of World Records. Sure enough this pepper was grown by Ed Currie of the PuckerButt Pepper Company.
Since that time the Carolina Reaper has received all kinds of attention. We even found one of our Hollywood friends was making a documentary on the world’s hottest pepper with Ed and the Reaper as a prominent focus. So of course we have to grow this for ourselves. Seeds are widely available from PuckerButt and other online sources and in many cases can be found in a local gardening store. So we ordered some and got to planting.
They proved very easy to grow in San Diego. They do best in full sun and we have plenty of that. Just water on a regular basis and wait 6-8 weeks until they turn a bright red (they go from green to red). Now comes the time to pick them and figure out what to do with them. This is where things get tricky.
We found out quickly these things are dangerous. Blue Oyster Cult’s classic 1970s song “Don’t Fear the Reaper” does not apply here. As PuckerButt’s own site states, those that don’t fear the reaper are fools. Simply touching these things can cause skin burns as we found out when picking them with our bare hands.
To handle these things wear gloves and use tongs when possible. Furthermore, it is crucial to really clean everything these peppers touch. After blending the peppers our daughter was cleaning the blender with soup and water and a tiny speck got on her hand. Her skin was burning for over an hour. As a sidenote, if that happens we found a preparation of corn starch and vinegar worked best at easing the pain.
To dry the peppers we used our Nesco dehydrator. Simply put the peppers in the dehydrator at 135 and let it go for 24 hours. To avoid taking chance with fumes we ran the dehydrator outside but that may not have been necessary. Once dried the peppers can be placed in a bad and are ready for use as needed.