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Growing hot peppers and making hot sauce

Hot Sauce

It wasn’t a great year for peppers. But there’s enough to make some hot sauce soon. For variety I grew 4 types of peppers this year, which should get me enough sauce through until next year.

Portuguese hot red peppers are just moderately hot, rated at 5,000 to 30,000 Scoville. They mature from dark green to bright, lipstick red and grow to an average of 6 inches long and measure one and a half inches at the shoulders. The pointed chili peppers have thin walls and may curve slightly or have the occasional wrinkle. There is a hint of sweetness beneath the spiciness of the capsaicin, the compound responsible for the heat. The peppers have a crunchy texture and a lingering heat.

Thai hot red peppers are noticeably hot. There’s a smaller variety that was the first really hot pepper I ever tried. I was stationed in Thailand and it was quite an introduction to the world of hot peppers. They took quite a few of the Southern boys that were in my unit by surprise too. Thai Dragon Pepper or Thai Volcano Pepper is 50,000 to 100,000 Scoville Units. These peppers, 3 to 4 inches long, start out green and mature to a bright red. They grow on a short, bushy plant, and have clusters of upright peppers.

The last of the Habanero’s. Unripe habaneros are green, and they color into orange and red, but white, brown, yellow, green, and purple as they mature.  Typically, a ripe habanero chili is 1 to 2.5 in long. Habanero chilies are very hot, rated 100,000–350,000 on the Scoville scale.

Ghost peppers have a long growing season and prefer it hot.  Extreme temperatures where it is grown, up to 130° F, contribute to the high heat levels of Ghost chilies.  Growing them in more climate regions reduces the heat level significantly.

I tried growing them once before but only got one pepper. This year’s crop was not much better, with only 5 on the bush. I haven’t made sauce from one yet. But I did puncture the skin of one with a knife and then slicked one side. The heat was noticeable.  If they are as hot as hoped, is any one ready for a ghost pepper beer? One or two in 2 ½ barrels ought to do it.

Ghost chilies are part of regional cuisine throughout the Assam region of India. In 2007 Guinness World Records certified that the Ghost pepper, also known as Bhut Jolokia, was the world’s hottest chili pepper, rated at more than 1 million Scovilles. It has since been relegated to 3rd or 4th place.

Ghost chilies disguise their heat in a small orange to red, slightly curved pod that comes to a point. They range in length from 2-3 inches and about 1/2 inch wide, with a smooth, waxy, glossy and firm skin. One seed can contain levels of heat that can produce sustained intense pain sensations in the mouth for up to 30 minutes. The pod’s membrane also contains high levels of heat, so removing the seeds does not remove the heat. Cooking Ghost chilies does not reduce the pepper’s vicious bite.

The Ghost chili’s heat level should never be underestimated as even the smallest amount can render a dish inedible. It is best used very sparingly in addition to several other ingredients in the preparation of sauces or as a seasoning. I’ll make a carrot based sauce and bring the heat to something reasonable.  Perhaps you’ll get a taste at the taproom.

Below is a recipe for hot habanero sauce.  There are quite a few other ways to make hot sauce, including fermenting.

Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Slice the habanero peppers in half lengthwise and remove the stems. Set them onto a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake 20-25 minutes, or until the skins blister.

Remove from heat and cover with aluminum foil or a towel to allow them to steam. Peel off the skins and discard.

Put the peppers into a food processor.

Heat a small pan to medium heat and add chopped onion and garlic with a splash of olive oil. Cook about 5 minutes to soften.

Add all remaining ingredients and heat through. Into the food processor they go.

Process the sauce until smooth. You can also use a food mill if you’d like your sauce to be thick and consistent.

Test for salt and serve!