How hot sauce is hot – an interesting three and a half minute video from the American Chemical Society. It starts out with explaining that the chemical in hot sauce stimulates the receptors in our mouth that normally notice actual heat. This is the reason the chemical seems hot. People like it because it leads to an endorphin release making us feel good after the burning goes away.
A Heat Scale
Then it compares the different peppers for how much “heat” they produce. Over 100 years ago Wilbur Scoville devised a scale for determining the heat. It went from 0 (a bell pepper) to 16 million for pure capsaicin.
The scale was subjective, so other methods of measuring heat were devised. High performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) is a method that uses American Spice Trade Association Pungency Units. One pungency unit equals one part per million of capsaicin, and is equivalent to 1/15 Scoville units.
How Hot Is It?
Sriracha sauce ranges from 1000 to 2500 Scoville units. Jalapeno pepper is about 4000 units. Tabasco sauce is about 2500 to 5000 units. But if you are really looking for heat, a habanero pepper has 350,000 units.
The potassium sorbate and sodium bisulfite in sriracha prolongs shelf life, helping it keep its color. The sorbate reduces microbe growth and the bisulfite slows oxidation. The salt, garlic and vinegar it contains also slow microbial growth. One problem – it has 100 mg sodium in a tsp and an unknown amount of potassium.
Homemade Hot Sauce
I prefer homemade sauces. They have less sodium and you can control the heat and flavor more. For a great habanero hot sauce recipe so you can avoid sodium and get plenty of potassium, go to http://allrecipes.com/recipe/habanero-hot-sauce/
Original recipe – makes 3 cups
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
5 habanero peppers
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup white vinegar
Some reviewers felt it needed modifying by reducing the amount of water and tomatoes. You always have to modify recipes to make them your own.