I’m not a gardener as much as some folks, but my family and I went all in last year and we learned, and probably hauled, a ton. I don’t have a garden this year—maybe I can live vicariously through your and yours?—but I think the most bang for your backache is hot peppers. We found them to be high yielding and (at least I found them) incredibly awesome for their heat.
But then, I am a hot sauce fiend. I’ll admit, I’m a little proud of it. I can take down large volumes of hot sauce with narry more than a dribbly nose and a sweaty-eyelid-framed catatonic stare.
I profess my love for a favorite few brands in my post about egg tacos, but from a disciplined health perspective, commercial sauces come with a bit of a red flag. Commercial sauces of any kind are essentially concentrated produce, processed in an industrial kitchen in big batches. This diminishes the healthful potential of these sauces because, a) any toxins or pesticides on the produce become concentrated into the sauce*, b) commercial sauces are more likely to have lots of added salt and sugar, and c) commercial processing concentrates the risk of contamination with toxins or pathogens.
These are all reasons to especially value short chains of custody, local and organic produce, and local and small scale processing. And the shortest, cleanest, smallest and most local of sauces—hot or otherwise—is one made at home. I’m sure there are plenty of hot sauce recipes out there, but Threw these together and they turned out pretty tasty. Pictured above and described below are my experiments from this past pepper season.
When we didn’t have time or endurance to eat our hottest peppers, we let them sit and many of them dried without molding. Next time I might cut off the tops so that they’ll dry faster, or put them in a dehydrator. The dried peppers went for a spin in my food processor and then landed on my spice shelf, warming my curries and chilis all winter long.
Tomatillo and Mystery Sweet Hot Pepper
1 lb fresh organic tomatillos
a few hot peppers
a few flavorful sweet peppers
1/4 cup vinegar
If you didn’t get a chance to grow your own, here’s a perfect example of how to make the farmers’ market work for you! I approached the nice folks at Gales Meadow Farm, who are especially knowledgeable about heirloom peppers, squash and garlic. I took their recommendation for hot peppers that would pair nicely with tomatillos, and came away with some fantastically-flavored sweet and hot peppers.
I roasted the tomatillos in the oven, and blended these, still hot, with the fresh sweets and hot peppers, leaving the seeds in and skin on, added vinegar, to help the sauce keep longer, and salt to taste.
Oven Roasted Habanero and Jalapeno
1 lb habanero and jalapeno peppers (adjust the ratio to taste)
3 tablespoons vinegar
Mama gave me her homegrown peppers that she didn’t have time to process. Total score! I roasted them in the oven until they were all puffy and some of the skins slipped off, then blended them in a food processor, adding vinegar and salt at the end. This resulted in the proudest flavor of my homemade hot sauces, but the product turned slightly gelatinous in the fridge. Great for spreading on tortillas, but next time I’ll see what happens when I roast them over my gas range. Hot.
* This is a risk that comes along with any sauce, commercial or homemade. However, it’s much harder to know and trust the produce sourcing of commercial sauces than of homemade sauces.