wackyweasel (wackyweasel) wrote in little_details,

Fermenting Hot Peppers

I'm writing in a fantasy world which, in this area, is much like the classic medieval-Europe-type setting with swords and sorcery, but would prefer not to use magic for this, as that would be a cheap way out, and this is also a culture that doesn't really use magic.
Basically, I need to know whether hot peppers can be made into wine. Someone told me that the chemical which makes them hot is there to prevent things - like bacteria and fungi, such as yeast - from eating them, and that could mean that they can't ferment. These have to be hot peppers, not sweet ones - not necessarily the world's hottest or anything, but my aim is an alcoholic drink which is also hot. That's another question - how hot would the wine itself be? I was thinking, also, that the culture (which lives primarily in cold mountain areas, and thus can use the varying cold temperatures in different parts/heights of the mountains to help with this) could freeze-distill the wine to get a harder beverage. I have it on good authority (a chemistry professor who also brews his own alcohol, but who was unable to answer most of my more pepper-related questions, and suggested the fermentation problem) that this part itself is okay, but I wonder: would this distillation change the spicy-hotness of the drink? Also, what color would the wine be (assume the peppers are red)? The distilled drink (if at all different)? Finally, I know that the stuff that makes peppers hot is soluble in alcohol, because that's part of how they measure the heat of peppers (soak the pepper in alcohol, then measure how much water it takes to dilute the alcohol until the hot taste is barely perceptible), so: Is there any problem with bottling the distilled drink with a small, very hot pepper in the bottom (sort of like a tequila worm in a bottle) to add even more heat? Would this pepper need to be prepared in any way? Assume that the people drinking this stuff have very tough systems and can take the heat - but would any of these drinks have harmful (more than just briefly unpleasant) effects on normal humans?
Note: It's important that the drink be made of fermented peppers, not some other kind of alcohol with peppers added - it has to do with what the people have avaliable to them and their reasons for making the drink, and their beliefs about it. If yeast is going to have to be added, was there a way that people did that before the modern isolation of yeast, maybe before they knew exactly what it was that caused the fermentation - maybe by adding a piece of a plant that naturally has yeast on it (I believe grapes do, and would LOVE to hear of others which naturally grow enough yeast to ferment without having it added, and maybe to help other things ferment if they are added)? I could live with them adding some of another plant, but I don't want that to be where the drink comes from.
Many thanks!
Tags: ~booze, ~food and drink (misc)

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