Monday, August 9, 2010

Cutting Jalapenos and Habaneras - a burning lesson

Yesterday was peach salsa and stewed tomato canning day. I used 25 jalapenos and 8 habaneros. I had two cutting sessions; once for the stewed toms and once for the salsa. I started noticing throughout the day that my fingers were starting to sting a bit. I knew it was from the hot peppers but I continued on my diligent canning path without taking it too seriously. I have cut that many jalapenos without gloves before and have just had mild effect on my fingers from it. The last time I made salsa I tried habaneros and after reading about them and discovering that they are like 100x hotter than a jalapeno I decided to wear gloves. Well, my memory must have slipped me this time around or I was just too stubborn to go downstairs and get a pair of latex gloves. OH MY. Not long after the second cutting of the jalapenos and habaneros my palms and fingers were on fire. This was way more than a little uncomfortable; it was "I'm going to scream" kind of hurt. I had washed my hands thoroughly after cutting the peppers, but apparently that didn't work. Anyway my hands and fingers continued to get worse as the canning process went on and every time I would touch a hot jar or hot lid it would make the pain flare.

After about a half hour of the intense heat I was feeling in my palms and digits (mostly the left btw since that is the hand that did the holding while my right did the chopping), I decided I needed a solution! A while back while making jalapeno poppers I discovered that milk killed the heat. So I poured a bowl of milk and soaked my left hand in it. This was only temporarily soothing. I poured myself a beer. No not so much to drink as it was to stick my on fire fingers into the golden nectar in hopes of lessening the pain increased as each minute went by. It did not work.

Next I took my bowl of milk upstairs to the computer to ask my trusty friend Google what the solution might be. The definite thing to try was milk; did that though with no result. It was suggested to use alcohol so I poured a bowl of that and soaked for several minutes with no result. Then I tried a bowl of vinegar with no result. Then I poured the vinegar into the alcohol and added the milk and soaked my left hand. This did not help. According to the information I read that it's the caspsaicin in hot peppers that causes the sensation of burning tissue and that contact with heat (hot water, hot jar, hot lid) will reactivate the capsaicin and hurt even more. Once the burning sensation begins it's pretty much too late since the capsaicin oil has soaked into the skin. A better choice would have been to wash my hands with rubbing alcohol right away (or to have worn gloves!). Although it is extremely uncomfortable, the severe burning will slowly go away on its own and is not damaging the skin... in a day or two.

Knowing why my fingers feel like they are on fire didn't help of course so I continued to conjure up ideas of how to make it stop. Ice cubes gave only temporarily relief. Practically in screaming agony I sat down to eat pizza with DH; yes, hot pizza... oh my. Afterward I gobbed on aloe and took 4 200mg IBuprofin. I glopped on some more aloe which seemed to provide the most relief of everything I had tried so far. The aloe dried on my hands and I re-wet them with just a sprinkle of water a couple times and rubbed the aloe around again. I laid down thinking for sure I wouldn't be able to sleep, but between the IBu and the aloe and probably the fact that I was no longer rubbing and using my hands and fingers, I fell asleep.

Today, I can feel the heat just a tad and have promised myself that never ever again will I cut that many hot peppers without gloves!

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