Friday, March 14, 2008

Hot Pepper Relish

15-20 cherry peppers
6-10 medium sized habañeros (depending on how hot you want it)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbs white vinegar
2 tbs brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt
boiling water (enough to cover peppers)

1 non-wood cutting board. (I've found that wood can hold on to and transfer oil from the peppers which can unexpectedly add quite a bit of heat to other foods)
1 very sharp non-serrated kitchen knife.
1 small (1-2 quart) sauce pan
Tupperware or Canning containers to fit least 1.5 pints (3 cups)

Makes around 3 cups

This was an experiment that thankfully turned out great. I wasn't sure how to go about processing the peppers into relish but after reading half a dozen or so pepper relish recipes I got the general idea of what to do.

For this recipe I decided to use cherry peppers and orange habañeros. These days you can usually find a variety of imported hot peppers, including the aforementioned, at your local supermarket. The Shaws in the Back Bay tends to have a good selection and almost always a full bin of habañeros or scotch bonnets; plus they are open 24/7 for all you late night chili-heads.

The cherry pepper is a nice bright to deep red: looking like an over sized cherry, typically around 2 inches in diameter. It shares some of the same sweetness as the sweet red bell pepper but it's got a nice little bit of heat.

The habañero comes in green, yellow, orange and red as well as mixes of those and shades in between. It is usually around 2 inches long but can vary. The habañero comes to a point at the end; unlike it's Caribbean cousin the Scotch Bonnet which has more of a stout/squished look. The habañero is a very hot pepper with a fruity aroma.

Cutting and seeding the peppers.

Taking Caution
When cutting into peppers I recommend you use the sharpest non-serrated knife you own - the reason being that a knife that can't smoothly cut through the skin of the pepper, will tear and squeeze the pepper which can cause squirting, and you don't want that getting on your face. Furthermore - I cannot stress enough that you should WEAR GLOVES when cutting peppers because the last thing you want is to unthinkingly rub your eye with capsaicin (the chemical in the pepper that makes it spicy and burn) from any hot pepper - let alone a habañero.

For the cherry peppers most of the seeds are located on a kind of bud inside the pepper - attached to the top. I usually cut a circle around the top of the pepper and pull the bud out by the stem (like removing the top of a pumpkin). Then under cool running water I scrape out any leftover seeds and white membrane. The water minimizes any capsicum being released into the air. DO NOT use hot water because it seems to activate the capsicum more and you basically get pepper-spray steam.

The habañeros have the seeds more spread out in the pod so I slice off the top of the pepper then split it lengthwise and scrape off the seeds and white membrane once again under cool water.

-Cut the peppers into thin strips then mince them; cutting the cherry peppers into centimeter long pieces and the habañeros into much smaller bits for better distribution.

-Place the cut peppers in a heat proof bowl and pour in the boiling water until it covers the peppers. Cover and let stand 10 minutes then drain. This removes any excess oils in the peppers.

-Pour the vinegar into the saucepan and place on medium/high heat until it comes to a boil.

-Add the sugar - stir till dissolved then add peppers.

-When it comes to a boil reduce the heat to low and add the salt.

-Stirring constantly let simmer for 20-30 minutes or until about a quarter to a third of the liquid is gone and the peppers are softened.

-Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes.

-Pour into your container (using a funnel if necessary). If your container is glass you should first heat it by running it under hot water to prevent heat shock which might crack it.

-Refrigerate. Once again if your container is glass I would let it cool down, on the counter, until it is cool enough to handle - this is so the cold shock doesn't crack the glass.

And there you have it: you're very own hot pepper relish. You can put it on hot dogs , eggs, tacos - my friend Chris even put it on cake.

I'm not sure how long it will last but my experience with peppers tells me that since it's cooked and with vinegar and salt as natural preservatives, it should last quite a while in the fridge.

Stroud out.

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