Contestants will be heating up in Oxford
The seventh annual N.C. Hot Sauce Festival on Saturday offers brave pepper-lovers the chance to win $300 in a pepper eating contest.
The winner must endure a large cayenne pepper, red fresno, jalepeno, serrano chile and orange habenero.
The peppers are supplied by Oxford’s Bailey Farms, which ships its peppers to stores along the East Coast, from Maine to Florida, and as far west as Chicago.
As contestants advance to the next pepper, the level of heat increases.
A pepper’s heat is measured on a scale called the Scoville Heat Unit Scale, which was created by pharmocologist Wilbur Lincoln Scoville.
Scoville’s method dissolves capsaicin, the active component in peppers, in alcohol. This solution is then diluted with sugar water until the heat is no longer detected.
For example, if 1,000 units of water was used to dilute one unit of solution then the sample measures 1,000 Scoville Units.
The cayenne pepper packs the least heat with 500 to 2,500 SU.
The next pepper contestants eat, the red fresno, measures 4,000-5,500 SU and the jalepeno is 2,500-5,000 SU.
The last two peppers, seranno chile and orange haberno, are not for amateur pepper-lovers. Serannos measure 5,000-10,000 SU and habernos are 100,000-300,000 SU.
Contestants must eat the entire pepper, except the stem, and are only provided one bottle of water.
Randy Bailey, owner of Bailey Farms, said the water is essentially useless if pepper-eaters want to extinguish the fire in their mouths.
Capsaicin, which makes peppers hot, is slightly soluble in water.
“Water doesn’t do much,” Bailey said.
But capsaicin is very soluble in oils and alcohols, as well as other dairy products like sour cream, yogurt or ice cream.
He said a glass of milk is the simplest way to relieve a burning mouth.
Bailey said he loves spicy peppers, but that doesn’t mean he could compete in Saturday’s contest.
“I couldn’t be the winner of the hot pepper eating contest,” he said.
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N.C. HOT SAUCE FESTIVAL
• When: Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
• Where: Downtown Oxford (Main Street, Hillsboro Street and College Street)
• What’s happening: The event will feature a pepper eating contest, free horse and carriage rides, music by local entertainers, the 12th annual Oxford Parks & Recreation Top 50 Car Show, the Granville County Museum September sensations bazaar, artist Dan Nelson’s festival on canvas, the Granville gardeners plant sale and more. Hot sauces, barbecue sauces, beer and wine will be available to sample and purchase.