I absolutely LOVE stuffed and grilled jalapenos, but due to the cruelties of time, my old gut has started rebelling at overy spicy foods. However, as I’m not willing to give up one of my favorite flavors, just because my stomach has turned traitor on me!
Jalepeno Peppers averages 2,500 – 8,000 Scoville Heat Units* (SHU), putting them somewhere between Anaheim peppers (500 ~ 2,500 SHU) and Hidalgos (6,000 ~ 17,000 SHU).
To get an idea of the scale, the average sweet bell pepper comes in at 0, and at the top of the Scoville scale: the fearsome Naga Jolokia peppers are 800,000 to over One Million SHU’s!
Yes, that was the sound of your esophageal sphincter melting.
What Makes Chili Peppers Hot
The heat-inducing chemical in peppers is called “hydrophopic capsasium“, or what my friend Melanie would call C18H27NO3. Capsaicin and several related compounds are called capsaicinoids and are produced as secondary metabolites by chili peppers, and other vegetables as deterrents against certain mammals and fungi.
High levels of capsasium can produce a pain-stimulated release of endorphins, causing pleasurable and even euphoric effects (You freakin’ junkies!) 😉
For spice-lovers and pepper-heads, jalapeno’s are the “hot food” equivalent of eating gummy bears, but for NORMAL people, they pack some heat.
Grilling or roasting peppers make them even hotter as you’re cooking moisture out of them, which concentrates the percentage of capsasium.
Here are some tips we used in restaurants to make jalapenos dishes a bit more “customer friendly.”
Tips for Tongue-Friendly Jalapenos
1. Remove the seeds and membranes from the interior of the pepper. They contain the majority of the capsasium (the hot stuff). An old fashioned potato peeler, the point-end kind, works great for this.
2. Soak the cleaned peppers in an ice-water bath for 1/2 hour. This soaking method will reduce the finished heat by about 50%. To take ALL the fire out, use lemon-lime soda (not diet) instead of water, for 30-45 minutes. Really! Drain, rinse in fresh water, and pat dry.
(Chef’s note: Pour the soda you soaked the peppers in over a tall glass of ice and add a healthy shot of your favorite tequila. You’re welcome!)
3. If that doesn’t tame the beast enough for you, blanch the rinsed peppers in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, then place them in a (fresh) ice bath to chill, and stop the cooking process. Rinse and pat dry.
Remember, ALWAYS wear disposable gloves when working with hot peppers, and try to avoid touching your face or eyes.
Oh, and…guys? Try to remember to use the bathroom BEFORE you start your prep! 😉
*The Scoville unit was named for Wilbur Scoville in 1912. At the time, he worked for the pharmaceutical company, Parke-Davis, where he developed a test called the “Scoville Organoleptic Test” which is still used to measure a chili pepper’s heat.