As I have mentioned before in this blog, I’m a hothead. I really like spicy food, and since returning from Asia, I’ve been cooking curries that tend to be on the hot side. My channa masalas, kadhai paneers, and sambhars are considered quite spicy to an average western pallet (although they might be considered bland to a native of Tamil Nadu), so planting some hot peppers this year in the garden seemed to be a sensible thing to do.
Four small pepper plants were planted in a raised bed, and the tag that accompanied them said they were hot cherry (or chiltepin) peppers which rates a 1000 – 3500 on the Scoville scale. By comparison, a jalapeño is between 2500 and 8000, a serrano pepper is 5000-23000, and a sweet bell pepper is 0 1. You can read all about the Scoville scale here.
A very hot and humid July meant that the plants thrived and many blossoms turned into fruit on the little pepper plants. But as the peppers matured in August, their shape was not that of the picture on the little tag…
After consulting some websites on pepper identification, I concluded that the peppers were of the scotch bonnet variety, which have a rating of 100000 – 350000 on the Scoville scale… and I had over 20 of them on the plants.
Now I can eat a serrano pepper whole, and enjoy them in curries and omelettes and soups. Popping a jalapeño in my mouth is like eating an apple, and the deep fried battered ones are mouth watering to me. Those bottles of pickled jalapeños that you can get in western supermarkets and that appear on substandard nacho plates in family restaurants are like my dill pickles, but there is a point where the heat is just too overpowering for me.
When the first few of these scotch bonnets ripened, I picked one to use in a giant double batch of channa masala. I was very careful and used gloves while preparing the pepper. I chopped it into the smallest pieces I could, almost mincing it, and added it to the monster pot of chick pea curry. On the cutting board, there was the tiniest piece of the pepper, smaller than a bread crumb or the head of a pin.
It was taunting me… egging me on to try it. So I tentatively deposited the tiny morsel of pepper flesh into my gob.
When I recovered two days and seven gallons of yoghurt later, I came to the conclusion that I would need to come up with a different use for these capsicums.
I felt like my tongue had been sliced by a sword. There was no taste, just pain. I prefer having less pain and more taste, as if my tongue had been sliced by a fake sword… maybe one made of foam-core like the heroes on the Indian TV serials. Something that had taste, but caused a little pain. Not so much hardcore, but foamcore.
I decided on concocting a hot-sauce that would not only use these peppers, but utilize some of the other vegetables in the garden. That way I could disperse the heat instead of trying to cut out my tongue from the burn, and use some of the abundant produce left over in the backyard.
This sauce is similar to a Franks Red Hot or other commercial hot-sauce that has tomatoes in its ingredients and goes well with samosas, soups, and curries.
Foamcore Hawtsauce inspired by the TV serials of India
3 cups halved cherry tomatoes or chopped tomatoes
1 cup chopped onions (1 large)
1 chopped large sweet bell pepper (I used an orange one that gave the sauce a nice colour)
3 scotch bonnet chile peppers (or your favourite hot pepper)
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves minced garlic
1 cup white vinegar
2 tsp sugar (optional depending on how sweet your other produce is)
2 tsp salt
Mince the garlic and chop onions, tomatoes, sweet peppers.
Seed and chop the hot peppers.
Be VERY careful when handling hot peppers, especially the seeds. The gel like substance around the seeds is where most of the heat is, and can be easily transferred to delicate body parts like eyes or lips. This includes when you are disposing of the refuse from the peppers. I composted mine and then turned the compost pile with bare hands not realising I was touching a lot of seeds from the scotch bonnets. The capsaicin is NOT water soluble and can’t be washed off with soap and water. I went to the bathroom half an hour later and invented a new dance called Oh my aching loins.
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
Add onion, chile peppers, sweet peppers, and garlic and cook, stirring, until the onion is soft and beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes.
Reduce heat and add tomatoes, vinegar, salt, and sugar if you’re using grocery store produce.
Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.
Carefully puree ingredients until smooth. I transferred everything to a large measuring cup and used an immersion blender, but a food processor would work well too, just be sure to clean it thoroughly.
Using a fine-mesh sieve over a glass jar or bowl, pour the pureed mixture through the sieve, pushing on the solids with a wooden spoon to extract all the liquid. (Discard solids CAREFULLY, No dancing.)
Store in a glass jar, let the sauce cool to room temperature, and then refrigerate.
Makes about a litre and will last up to six months in the fridge.
I decanted it a day later into smaller bottles so I could give some to friends. My cats don’t like it so much.
1 Source Wikipedia.