The Scolville Scale

How-To,Ingredient
January 11, 2009

Chile-Peppers-Relish.jpg
Mark Boughton Photography
http://pgoarelish2.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/14533_peppers_-_rotated.jpg

The Scoville Scale, developed by chemist Wilbur Scoville in 1912, measures the heat produced by chile peppers. The scale demonstrates what adventurous eaters already know: Peppers vary wildly in their level of hotness. Sweet bell peppers serve as a threshold with a zero rating; jalapeños go as high as 8,000; and Thai peppers can clock in at 100,000. In 1994, the Red Savina, also known as Dominican Devil’s Tongue, was listed in Guinness World Records as the world’s hottest, topping out at 577, 000, which, competitively speaking, seemed to turn up the heat. India certified its Naga Jolokia at 1,041,427. And England’s Dorset Naga joined the battle with an impressive 970,000.

Why we crave something that causes our mouths to burn and our eyes to water is a subject of debate. Historically, the Carib tribe used the Scotch Bonnet pepper as a means of torture. Some say the burn triggers the production of endorphins, our body’s natural opiate. Others say it’s simply because once we’ve acquired a taste for heat, other foods seem bland.

No time to check the Scolville Scale? Here’s a more manageable approach to gauging a pepper’s hotness: Small peppers can burn more than large ones, and dried are hotter than their fresh counterparts. No matter which peppers you choose, be sure to handle them with care. Even pros wear rubber gloves when dicing and slicing. Or try what native cooks have done for centuries: coat your hands with oil before handling. To tone down heat, remove seeds and veins, wash hands thoroughly after handling and avoid eye contact.

—By Jo Marshall, a food writer in Deephaven, Minn.

jalapeno-cilantro-vinegar-Relish.jpg

Jalapeno Cilantro Vinegar

This hot pepper vinegar is a staple at “meat and three” restaurants across the South.

green-red-chiles-sauce-Relish.jpg

Green Chile Sauce

This mild sauce is perfect with eggs, chicken, pork or vegetarian dishes.

green-red-chiles-sauce-Relish.jpg

Red Chile Sauce

Dried red chiles are skilled roasted them cooked into a thick, piquant sauce, perfect with fried eggs, chicken or pork.

jalapeno_cornbread_312

Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread

Aged extra-sharp Cheddar adds rich flavor, buttermilk adds tenderness, and jalapenos add gentle heat to an irresistible cornbread.

peach salsa

Peach Salsa with Jalapeno and Cilantro

A quick-and-easy topping for fish, chicken or turkey burgers.

fritters

Chile and Cheese Fritters

Dip them in salsa, serve them with Mexican -- but make a lot, because they go fast.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 277 other followers