My love affair with hot spicy foods began when I was a teenager eating chips and salsa in a real Mexican Restaurant in Alamosa, Colorado. I would dip the chip just enough to get a kick but not go to the painful levels of the Scoville scale. Heck, I hadn’t even heard of the Scoville scale invented by Wilbur Scoville to measure the hotness of peppers back in 1912 until I’d been eating hot peppers for 20 years or so. Over the years I kept upping the heat and trying new types of ethnic foods that incorporate peppers to expand my pepper experience.
Since then I have used the scale many times over the last 15 years to look up the heat ratings of my favorite peppers. It seems the more new and different hot pepper varieties I try, the more I love hot peppers. They taste great and contrary to public opinion they are good for you! I think I could devote a whole month to hot pepper folklore, recipes and new recipe research on my blog. The most important thing about cooking with, growing and eating hot peppers is they must taste good! I don’t care how hot it is if I don’t like the taste.
It’s kind of funny that I would plant habeneros in my first garden project here in our backyard in Baltimore, Maryland since I had not really liked them much up to that point in my life. I thought I would plant them and see what might happen when I saw a six pack of small plants for $2.50, and was blessed with one crazy little bush out of athat Habenero six pack that gave me more than a hundred peppers! Not wanting to waste the beautiful peppers I set to work to find a way to eat them, and discovered a delicious home made Habenero Salsa (http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/habanero-salsa/).
You can cook down a whole bunch of Habeneros into a couple of half pint jars and store them for a long time if you do the canning process correctly. After that first year’s success I was hooked on growing and eating Habeneros and bought a few Caribbean Red Habeneros to plant as well as the yellow variety. They did ok in the garden and I used them for many a stir fry and also made hot sauce from them. What an amazing flavor they have. They aren’t quite as pungent as a regular yellow Habenero, and not scorching hot like a Ghost Pepper. Red Habeneros have an exotic flavor that conjures up visions of hanging out under an umbrella stretched out on a lounge chair at a Caribbean beach with a cold beer and a nice breeze.
For most people one or two drops of my red salsa on a tortilla chip is enough and gives a flavor explosion as well as raise the internal temperature of the mouth. Last year when my in-laws and my nephew were visiting for Thanksgiving I held a taste test with three kinds of salsas I had made from the summer’s pepper crop. Everyone picked the Caribbean Red as there favorite. It’s not super hot, only 120,000 to 400,000 on the Scoville Scale, and goes well with many different types of food.
You can put it in a meat marinade, stir fry recipe, salad dressing, tomato salsa, or put one in a jar of pickles. Next time you are in your favorite grocery store ask if they carry Red Habeneros. I was surprised to find them in two different grocery stores in my area recently, and of course I had to buy them. I had just ran out of my home made red salsa from last year and needed to make a new batch. Today was the day and I happy to say it came out good and hot. Just remember to handle with care as they are hot! I use plastic food handler’s gloves or even dishwashing gloves when I prep these little fire bombs.
Red Habenero Salsa
1 1/4 cup Red Habeneros sliced thin
1 cup yellow onion sliced thin
1 cup red bell pepper sliced thin
1 clove garlic minced, about 1 Tablespoon
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Water to cover
2-4 tablespoons Bragg’s or Spectrum Apple Cider Vinegar
In a 1 1/2 quart pot saute the onions, bell peppers and garlic for 3-5 minutes on medium heat stirring often. Once the onions, bell peppers and garlic are softened add the habeneros and water to cover. Cook on medium low to medium maintaining a simmer for 20-25 minutes stirring about every 5 minutes until all but about a half cup of the water is cooked off. Cool for 5 minutes and blend well in a food processor adding vinegar until desired twang id achieved. I like the lesser amount of vinegar, but if you want a Tabasco sauce like twang you will probably want to use the larger amount of vinegar. I have kept this type of sauce fresh in my refrigerator for up to 6 months. It lasts a long time as a little goes a long way. Be sure and gift some to your friends and family who like it hot!
You can drain off most of the liquid after cooking/cooling before blending and add it back bit by bit to get your desired consistency.