The jalapeño is probably the most common and most manipulated of all chiles. It ranges from no heat to hot enough to make you chug your drink (typically 20,000 to 40,000 SHU). By no means is it a super hot, but it is where most get introduced to spiciness. They range from small to large and from fat to skinny.
These peppers are a mystery to many who wonder why each time they get one it tastes different. Here in the borderland and across the southwest they are a necessity to those eating nachos, tacos, or pico de gallo. In short, they are a diverse group in the great landscape of the chile.
Jalapeños have been bred for many different applications. Your common jalapeño, at 20,000 scoville heat units, has a unique flavor and texture. It is relatively uniform in color, shape and size. Growers have since bred them to replace bell peppers which have no heat, but are difficult to process due to the large core. These jalapeños taste like lettuce, less than 500 scoville heat units. Chipotle is made from jalapeños. The smoking and drying of the chipotle process shrinks the peppers considerably. To counter this the breeders came up with bigger jalapeños. Since chipotle is hot, they bred these larger jalapeños hotter. These can range up to as much as 60.000 scoville heat units.
As a consumer, this means that it is a crap shoot each time you go to the grocery store. The grocery stores do not know what variety they are selling or what the heat level is. Jalapeños can be eaten green (immature) or red (mature). The fresh industry is primarily green. The dehydrated industry consists of green, red, and various types of chipotle. The chipotle is made by smoking and dehydrating the jalapeños. We will discuss chipotle later in a separate post. The most recognizable form of the jalapeño is the nacho slice. It is a green jalapeño pepper sliced vertically giving a round wagon wheel like piece. Stuffed jalapeños are popular among grillers.
Red jalapeños have the heat of a green jalapeño with a sweetness from the maturing process. Jalapeño powder allows every dish to have a kick and a full flavor of jalapeño any time of the year. Red jalapeño can be a little strong in flavor for light meats like fish. It tends to go very well in soups, and on red meat and pork. Red jalapeño powder can be added to other chiles to raise the heat level as desired. This is common in dishes like Menudo, Enchiladas, and Chile Colorado.