One of my early cooking memories is my dad making hot sauce from the peppers he had grown in our home garden. There is no question this is where my affinity for spicy food began. He would always come up with homebrewesque names, “Haly’s Habanero Blaster Sauce” was my favorite both in name and flavor. My household goes through some serious hot sauce to this day, Siracha, Sambal Ooelek and Tabasco to name a few. More often than not my love for the scoville burn is tamed down for Savoury Kitchen… until now.
I procured a case of habanero peppers for this very project. I really like the habanero, it’s hot, really hot, but at the same time has a great sweetness to it. They come in tons of great colors ranging from yellow to red and have this awesome black death type mystery surrounding them. Once smoked, the habanero has some of the best flavor of any hot pepper, period. If you want to tame the heat a little you can use other, not so hot peppers along with a couple of habaneros.
The first will be a smoked habanero, apple, onion, garlic and savory with apple cider vinegar. I am smoking all of the ingredients but the savory, peeling and seeding the peppers, pureeing everything in the blender and then bringing it to a simmer, seasoning it and canning it. #2 will be a smoked habanero sambal. This one will be pretty chunky, with seeds and all. I am using the same method that sambal ooelek is made with, just using smoked habaneros instead of thai chilis. Number three will be a bit like number two, smoked habaneros will be used to make a siracha type sauce. 50/50 peppers and garlic will sit for a week or so in white vinegar and then be pureed. Our last selection will not be a hot sauce as much as a habanero powder used for our BBQ rub.
Any of the sauces could be made with a much tamer pepper and still have a lot of great flavor, with-out the extreme heat, but that heat is what we’re going for here. These sauces will really go a long way in our kitchen. I tend to use quite a bit of hot sauces and pepper powders in my cooking, it adds a great dimension to almost all of our sauces, and makes great condiments to put on the table. We don’t have any great names yet, unless you think Smoked Habanero and Apple is a winner but I’m sure that will come around. Here is the recipe I use for that exact sauce;
- 24 habanero peppers, or combination of tamer peppers and habaneros
- 1 sweet onion
- 6 cloves garlic
- 3 apples, whatever is available
- 3-4 ounces fresh herbs, we use savory and marjoram; oregano or thyme would work as well
- 4 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon black strap molasses
- 1/2-1 cup apple cider vinegar, depending on desired consistancy
- 3 tablespoons salt
The smoke is the key ingredient that is not listed. If you have a smoker, have a go. If not a Weber kettle grill works great (any charcoal grill will do the trick). Get your hardwood chips soaking in water. Cherry and apple are great, pecan is also really nice if you can find it. Build your fire, we use hardwood lump charcoal and separate it into two piles on opposing sides of the grill once everything has caught. Put some of the wet chips on the coals and get the rack in place. If you have a vegetable basket, load the peppers, garlic, sliced onion into it and place it in the center of the grill. Slice the apples and arrange them around the basket but still indirect of the heat. Close lid and adjust vents to just open enough for the fire and smoke to keep going. 45 minutes is what you’re going for, an hour is great if you can keep the heat down. Continue to re-stoke the fires as needed with hardwood charcoal and wood chips until finished. Smoke = Good here, keep it smoking as heavily as you can without removing the lid all the time.
Apples, onions and peppers will be browned and smell mostly of smoke, soft but intact as well. Using rubber gloves, seed the peppers. Rough chop apples, herbs, onion and add to blender with garlic, brown sugar, molasses and half a cup of vinegar. Blend until pureed, adjusting consistency by adding more vinegar to thin the sauce. Once pureed, add to sauce pan and bring to simmer. Season with salt, adding 2 tablespoons, tasting, and adding more if needed.
Here is where we seal the sauce into sterilized glass jars, we use beer bottles with fresh caps from the brew shop or 1/2 pint mason jars. If you are just making some for you and a couple of friends, put the chilled sauce into beer bottles that have been cleaned and boiled. Use artificial corks from wine bottles to seal them off. They should last 3 months in the fridge. The flavor will develop for the next week or so, mellowing out a little with time.
This winter we will be getting some great oysters in and doing them on the half shell with all three hot sauces and tempura fried with smoked habanero remoulade. Give us a call and let us put together a great oyster and raw bar tasting for you and some of your closest friends, or let us throw a pepper themed dinner or appetizer party for you. We’ll save a couple bottles of sauce.