Eventually I began to cultivate a tolerance for capsaicin heat. Over the years I took it to its Habanero limits, but recently I’ve come to appreciate the full flavor of the hot pepper unmasked by its heat. Pepper sauces and purees bring out the full flavors and allow the creator to regulate the heat levels. Try them with enchiladas and other Mexican foods, with barbecued foods – or experiment with other dishes.
Many of the recipes below are quite fiery. They can be moderated by using milder peppers or by removing the seed and white, pithy, inner ribs of the fruits. Lightweight surgical gloves will protect your hands from the oily heat. If you’re working with large amounts of peppers, change gloves every half hour or so, as the oil will eventually work through the latex.
Basic Hot Pepper Sauce
3 c. distilled white or cider vinegar
2 lbs. hot peppers (cayenne, Jalapeno, any mix of varieties)
2 tsp. salt
Simmer all ingredients in a non-reactive saucepan for 10 minutes. Process in a food processor, blender or sieve. Store in glass jars in a cool, dark place. Age for three months. Strain when ready to use. Note: White vinegar will allow a pure pepper flavor; cider vinegar will lend its flavor to the sauce.
1 lb. Jalapeno peppers, quartered
5 2-inch sprigs of oregano, stems removed
1 c. cilantro, chopped
1 large onion, quartered
6 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
1 lemon, juiced
1 c. water
2 c. white wine vinegar
Puree all ingredients in blender or food processor, then pour them into a pot and bring them to boil. Simmer for 15 minutes.
La Mesa Chili Sauce
40 paste tomatoes
5 large onions
3/4 to 1 lb. Jalapeno or chili peppers, seeded
3 1/2 c. cider vinegar
1/2 to 3/4 c. sugar
2 Tbsp. salt
5 to 10 cloves garlic
2 tsp. oregano
2 Tbsp. ground cumin
4 ounces red chili powder
1 Tbsp. dry mustard
In a food processor chop the tomato, onions and peppers in batches. Put the puree in a stockpot and simmer for one hour, stirring to avoid sticking. Add the vinegar, sugar, salt and garlic and simmer for another hour. Add the spices, herbs and mustard; stir. Pour the hot mixture into sterilized pint or smaller canning jars and seal. Let the sauce age for at least two weeks. Makes 3 1/2 quarts.
West Indian Hot Sauce
12 fresh Habanero peppers, coarsely chopped (For a milder sauce, substitute other peppers for some Habaneros)
1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted and chopped
1 c. yellow prepared mustard
1/4 c. brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 Tbsp. prepared curry powder
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. chili powder
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
Steam Habaneros and mango pieces until tender. Blend until smooth, then add remaining ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes. Refrigerate.
Sriracha (Rooster) Sauce
Half fill a container with peeled garlic cloves. Fill the rest of the way with at least two Habaneros and a mix of dried serrano and cayenne pods that have been stemmed but not seeded. Add 1 tablespoon of noniodized salt and fill the container (to cover chili pods and garlic) with 5% strength white vinegar. Cider vinegar or wine vinegar will work but will create a different flavor.
As the chili pods rehydrate, top up the liquid with water or vinegar. After a few days to a week of steeping in the vinegar, dump the whole batch into the food processor or blender and puree until a smooth, thick consistency is reached. If the mixture is too thick, it may be thinned with vinegar or water. Pour the sauce into a clean jar and refrigerate.
Thai Sweet Chili Sauce
Process in a food processor:
1/2 lbs. fresh chili peppers
8 cloves of garlic
2 tsp. salt
Place the above ingredients in a saucepan and add:
2 c. sugar
2 c. vinegar
Simmer for 20 minutes. Place the sauce in a jar or bottle. Refrigerate.
Mild Pepper Puree or Chili Paste
1 lb. mildly hot peppers (Jalapeno, Czech Black, Hungarian Hot Wax, etc.)
1 lb. carrots, sliced
5 to 10 cloves garlic
1 c. vinegar or lime juice
3 Tbsp. salt
Remove seeds, stems and ribs from peppers. Steam peppers, carrots and garlic until tender. Puree in a food processor. Add lime juice or vinegar and salt. Adjust to desired consistency with water or more vinegar or lime juice. Fill sterile half-pint jars and pressure can at 10 lbs. pressure for 30 minutes.
Tomatillo Mint Sauce
(Substitute cilantro for mint for a Mexican-style hot sauce.)
1 lb. tomatillos
Puree, then add to hot mixture:
30 mint leaves
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
3 to 5 hot peppers, chopped
Juice of 2 large lemons or 4 limes
2 tsp. salt
Puree all ingredients until smooth. Fill sterile half-pint jars and seal. Pressure can at 10-lb. pressure for 25 minutes.
About the author: Roberta is a long-time columnist for The MOF&G. She lives in Vassalboro and works for Fedco Seeds.