Scientists theorize that our brains release endorphins in
response to the discomfort caused by hot chiles like jalapenos. At high
levels, endorphins create a sensation of pleasure.
Named for Jalapa, the capital of Veracruz, Mexico, these chile
range from medium to hot. They have smooth, dark green skins
(red when left to ripen) and rounded tips.
A favorite among cooks for
their spicy flavor, jalapenos are very easily seeded for use in
recipes. When smoked and dried, jalapenos are known as chipotles.
When buying fresh, choose peppers that are firm, smooth and glossy.
Dry lines are not blemishes, but signs of maturity and hotness.
Canned jalapenos are
also available whole, sliced or chopped for convenience. Look for them
in your grocer's Mexican food aisle.
Store fresh jalapenos in a paper bag in the refrigerator for up to two
weeks. Dried chiles can be stored in an airtight container away
from light and heat for up to six months. Canned jalapenos will keep at
room temperature for one year when unopened. Once opened, refrigerate
for one week or freeze for up to six months.
A member of the Capsicum
family, jalapenos contain
capsaicin, a potent natural compound that produces an intensely hot, biting
taste. Up to 80% of chile peppers' capsaicin is found in the seeds and membranes, so use extra caution
when preparing them.
Wear thin rubber gloves and avoid touching your
face and eyes. If you don't have gloves, wash your hands thoroughly with
soap and water as soon as you're finished. If you feel a burning sensation on your skin, try
soaking your hands in a bowl of milk
Wash the peppers right before using. To slice, begin by removing the
stem and cutting the pepper in half. Next, use a teaspoon to carefully
remove the ribs and seeds. If
, leave these half sections whole and fill. Otherwise, put the
peppers cut-side down and slice as desired.
• When cooking hot peppers on the stovetop, avoid breathing the fumes as they may irritate your throat, nose and eyes.
• To rehydrate dried chiles, cover with very hot water and let stand for 30 minutes.
• Purée rehydrated chiles with a little water and add to sauces and stews
for rich, fiery flavor.
• Can't take the heat? Drink or eat a capsaicin-absorbing food
to temper the intensity. These include milk
tomato juice, bread, potatoes
, rice, ice cream or bananas
. Don't drink
alcohol or water—they'll only increase capsaicin absorption and spread
it to more parts of your mouth.
Try one of our favorite jalapeno recipes:
Jalapeno Bacon Wrap
Boracho Bean Soup