Homesick for Jalapeno Hot Sauce
In the United States jalapeño peppers are the must have ingredient for making Tex-mex style cuisine. When pronouncing the name of the pepper, remember that the j is pronounced like an h and the n has a tilde, which creates the ñ or 'eñe' letter of the Spanish alphabet. The jalapeno is just one of hundreds of varieties of hot peppers grown around the world. Today you find chillies in a variety of global cuisines from Thai to Indian, but the chili pepper originated in Central and South America. Evidence suggests that they were cultivated as long as 6000 years ago. The chili pepper was brought to Europe by Christopher Columbus and from there was spread by Spanish and Portuguese traders.
The jalapeno pepper is typically picked when green and is about the size of an average adult thumb. When the pepper ripens it becomes red. The jalapeno is considered a medium pepper and doesn't have the punch of something like a habeñero. Most of the heat from the pepper is contained in the seeds. This makes it possible to make milder preparations by removing some or all of the seeds and using only the flesh.
Trying to understand the heat of chili peppers can be tricky. The Scoville scale is used to rate the heat of a pepper and is related to the amount of capsaicin oil present in a dried sample. The jalapeno rates between 2,500 and 8,000 on the Scoville scale. The hottest peppers on the scale rate at over a million Scoville heat units (SHU). The habanero is rated at 100,000 to 350,000 SHU and the Naga Viper is 855,000-1,463,700. All that makes the humble jalapeno seem very tame indeed. Don't be over confident though, any experienced cook knows that it is a good idea to wear gloves when working with chillis and at the very least wash your hands carefully. One scratch of your eye with a capsaicin stained hand is a lesson learned a very painful way.
Today, the main cultivation for the jalapeno pepper is in Mexico and the United States. If you are living outside these areas, the jalapeno can be difficult to find. Luckily, jalapeno peppers are processed into a variety of different products that are shipped around the globe. While many Mexican peppers are preserved by drying them, it is uncommon to find a dried jalapeno pepper. Canned jalapeno peppers are cut and pickled. These green slices are found typically adorning platters and piles of 'nachos'.
If you want to combine the flavor of the jalapeno pepper with something that is much hotter, there are sauces like Sharkbite Green Jalapeno Hot Sauce, which is renowned for its bite. Other sauces, like El Yucateco Jalapeno Hot Sauce captures a more traditional Mexican flavor without the increased heat.
As with any plant, the taste difference between varieties of peppers is complex. It is important to use authentic peppers. Choose Thai green chillies for Thai cuisine, Paprika for Hungarian cuisine and if you want to make authentic Mexican or Tex-mex cuisine, choose a jalapeno pepper.