How Hot is That Pepper Anyway? {Kitchen Basics}

Salt and Pepper, Sides | August 3, 2016 | By

I’ve had several people ask me why I always make my jams and jellies with habanero (not habañero) peppers since they are so doggone hot. In fact, they’re blazing!

Well, you know I like spicy, and I like heat. But…I don’t ALWAYS use habaneros. I mean I really do use jalapeños. SOMETIMES. And just the other day I made a whole bunch of some HOT FIRE jelly that used mostly ghost peppers. 

My eyes may have watered a little bit that day. Hubby said he could smell the heat downstairs when he opened the garage doors. And, yes, you can smell the heat.

  • The habanero is a very hot pepper with a Scoville heat rating ranging from 100,000 – 350,000.
Orange Habaneros, Red Ghost (wrinkled), and Red Cayenne Peppers from my garden.

Orange Habaneros, Red Ghost (wrinkled), and Red Cayenne Peppers from my garden.

  • The ghost pepper (also known as Bhut Jolokia) is significantly hotter at 855,000 to 1,041, 427 Scoville heat units.
Red and Green Jalapeños

Red and Green Jalapeños

  • On the other hand, the most popular of the spicy peppers is the jalapeño which truly is merely mild to moderate with a Scoville heat unit range of 2,500 to 8,000. The red jalapeño has basically the same taste and heat as the green one. I also grow a mammoth jalapeño that is three times the size of these guys.

That said, you really don’t know how hot a pepper is until you actually taste it. Don’t rely on someone else to tell you whether or not a pepper is too hot. Some people are more sensitive to capsaicin (the chemical that makes hot peppers hot) than others.  The heat may also depend upon the soil and climate where the pepper was grown.

Where do you fall on the Scoville Pepper Scale?

scoville scale 750

 

Peppers are rich in phytochemicals that seem to provide anti-inflammatory benefits. Some medical studies show that capsaicin may act as a blood thinner. Spicing dishes with cayenne or pepper flakes may reduce the need for extra salt. But the same is not true of hot sauces such as our beloved Tabasco,which is made from tabasco peppers exclusively. Sriracha, one of the most famous and trendy hot sauces in the world, is made from red jalapeño peppers. Hot sauces tend to have quite a bit of salt in them as well.

Now I’m not one to eat one of these peppers whole, even a jalapeño, but I will mince them to use in small amounts — definitely VERY small amounts when it comes to the habanero or ghost pepper.

Most peppers are easy to grow in the garden or pots. Typically, I grow mine in pots in the garden since my space is so limited. They thrive. In fact, they thrive very well. Unlike many other vegetables in the garden, peppers have few pests or diseases. But I will tell you that the pesty squirrels and raccoons keep trying. I envision them taking one big bite and away they run to the pond!

I like using the habanero in my fruit jams and jellies because it gives them just the right amount of kick. I use these jams and jellies as condiments with vegetables, as a spread over cream cheese and as a spread on grilled sandwiches. I also like to place a small bowl of one of my pepper jellies on a meat and cheese board when I’m entertaining.

Of course, not everyone likes the heat as much as I. I’ll usually make up a batch using jalapeños for those who prefer milder heat. I really like the flavor combination of cranberry and jalapeño in this jam (which is more like a jelly really — that’s another Kitchen Basic lesson coming up):

cranbery jalapeno jam

There are lots of habanero food products available online, and a really good resource for recipes is The Daily Meal.

Handling the heat.

I keep a clean pair of rubberized garden gloves in my kitchen pantry specifically for handling hot peppers. White I seldom remove the seeds and membranes (where lots of the heat resides) from peppers in my dishes, many recipes recommend that you do that. WEAR GLOVES. Let me repeat that. WEAR GLOVES.

As a young bride, I decided to make some hot pepper jelly to use as Christmas gifts. I set about making jelly all day long — and I peeled, seeded and demembraned (is that a word?) every single jalapeño pepper I used WITHOUT gloves. It was only later as I began washing up the jelly-making dishes in hot water that I began to sense that something was not quite right.

And hours — hours — later it was still not right.

My hands were on fire, y’all. 

I literally slept (the little that I did) with my hands in pans of ice water.

You’ve been warned, but just  in case you didn’t heed my warning—

Cooling the Heat

Do:

  • drink alcohol such as wine or wine coolers – will help dull the pain:)
  • drink and eat dairy products such as milk, ice cream or yogurt – probably the best bet
  • eat bread, pasta, or rice – but don’t swallow it. This is just to absorb some of the capsaicin already in your mouth.
  • suck on lemons and drink tomato juice – the acid attacks the capsaicin
  • know which peppers you are eating before you eat them — check out that Scoville chart above

Don’t:

  • drink water, beer or carbonated beverages – these only spread the capsaicin in your sytem
  • drink hot drinks like tea or coffee – the heat intensifies the heat already present from the capsaicin and takes on down to your tummy
  • eat more hot food – if you already have a hot mouth, eating more heat won’t make your mouth cooler. Duh!
  • handle extremely hot peppers without wearing gloves – Like I said, I learned this one the hard way.
  • touch your body – anywhere, but especially keep away from your privates:) Again, duh!

My pepper plants are loaded in spite of the heat wave we’ve been under. (They tend not to set blooms when the temps stay at 90° or above.) I’ve made scads and scads of pepper jellies, pepper sauce, and have gallons of them in the freezer. 

Anybody need any peppers??????

How about some ideas for using them?
Delta Duck Wraps

Strawberry-Basil Pepper Jelly

Turkish Aleppa Pepper Chicken Wings

Peppermint Dark Chocolate Mix

Pepper Jelly Glazed Pork Tenderloin

Cherry Habanero Jelly

Arkansas Firecrackers

Strawberry-Habanero Jam

Be sure to check back for my Strawberry-Fig-Pepper Jam coming up soon.

Comments

  1. Leave a Reply

    Talya
    August 3, 2016

    I love your pepper jellies. A highlight of the blogger conference hint, hint…

  2. Leave a Reply

    Katharine
    August 3, 2016

    Love the photo of the jalapenos. I notice the striations on the red one, which my true Southern daughter-in-law tells me comes from periods of rain and drought, fluctuating, and indicates a hotter sample of the fruit than the smooth ones can give.
    I mostly use jalapenos for making my own “Rotel” and I use cayennes for making kosher dill pickles. But I also love hot pepper in omelets.
    Thanks for all this great info! <3

    • Leave a Reply

      Debbie
      August 7, 2016

      I have read that there’s really not any noticeable heat difference in the red and green, but I’ve not done any taste tests myself really. I like pepper heat on so many things — my tongue must be asbestos!

      • Leave a Reply

        Katharine
        August 7, 2016

        I meant the red with striations are said to be hotter than the plain red.
        Also they tell me the striations come from fluctuation between drought and rain, which is what cause the extra heat. I don’t know, just wondered if you’d heard anything like it. And I guess no sense in asking for a taste test! 🙂

        • Leave a Reply

          Debbie
          August 10, 2016

          I’ll let you do all the taste testing and let me know:)

  3. Leave a Reply

    Jill
    August 6, 2016

    Yesterday I cut up paprika peppers in order to dry them and grind them. I thought paprika is pretty mild, right? So I didn’t wear gloves. Big mistake! My fingers are still on fire! (And I think my homemade paprika is going to end up being homemade crushed red pepper! It’s HOT!) My next project is grinding up dried poblano peppers for chili powder. I’ll definitely wear gloves!

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