Spice It Up With Jalapeños

Chili peppers are culinary favorites the world over and if you’re a heat novice, jalapeños are a great place to start. Spice up your menu with these favorite ways to cook with jalapeños.

Once, after a tortuous bowl of ultra-spicy soup at an Indian feast, I thought I would die. I sure kept my distance from all chili peppers for a good long time after that!

Yet when I lived in Texas, I gradually learned that jalapeños are peppers that my palate enjoys. I’ll bet yours will, too. Although chili peppers are used by experienced cooks the world over, if you’re a heat novice, jalapeños are a great place to start.

Ranging in color from bright green to red, they’re up to three inches long and rank fairly low on the Scoville scale, a measure of the units of heat produced by the capsaicin, the natural compound in peppers that makes them spicy.

To put it in perspective, bell peppers rank zero Scoville units; jalapeños rank 5,000 Scoville units; and habaneros, some of the hottest peppers in the world, rank up to 300,000 Scoville units. Jalapeños are incredibly versatile. You can enjoy them fresh, roasted, stuffed, pickled, canned, jarred and dried.

Once dried and smoked, they develop a deeper, sweeter flavor and are called chipotle peppers. Fresh jalapeños should have nice tight skin with no bruising or soft spots. They are best used fresh or stored in the fridge in a plastic bag for up to two weeks. Don’t wash until you’re ready to use them, and remember that the ribs and seeds contain most of the heat. For milder, less spicy taste, remove both.

If you’ve shied away from chili peppers like I have, you may be in for a nice surprise with our ideas.

If you’re in a time crunch, sliced, canned jalapeños are a good option and are easy to keep on hand.

Do you cook with jalapenos? Got a favorite recipe? I’d love to hear.

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