John Garcia of St. Johns Florist & Greenhouse, St. Johns,Michigan, is a friendly guy.
When we stopped by to pick up some ornamental grasses for our yard in late spring, he was more than happy to spend a few minutes chatting to us. During the course of our conversation, the topic of hot chile peppers somehow came up. His eyes lit up when we mentioned that we loved spicy foods. “Wait a minute,” he said. “I’ve got something for you.”
John, a third generation Mexican-American resident of Michigan, handed us a little 4-pack of small pepper plants. He didn’t know exactly what kind of chiles they were. “We just call them ‘Garcia chiles’. My grandfather brought them from his home town in Mexico and our family has been growing them ever since.”
Although it was a little late in the season to be setting out pepper plants, we found room for the chiles in a sunny corner of our small backyard garden. They were vigorous growers and, within a couple of weeks, had doubled in size. Soon, each plant was dotted with tiny white blossoms, each a potential chile in the making.
Time passed, and it wasn’t long until our now not-so-little plants were loaded with maturing chile peppers and it was time for a taste test. Our first sampling of the chiles made one thing amply clear – they were packing some serious heat! But they were not simply spicy. Their flavor was exceptional, a little like a habanero, but not as searingly hot. Their taste was complex – sweet & fruity with a clean, citrus-like grassy finish.
By late August, the plants were loaded and we were beginning to be overwhelmed by our spicy bounty. It all came to a head when, in one day, we harvested over a pound of greenish-golden, 2-to-3 inch long peppers. What to do with this sudden wealth of golden chiles? The answer: hot sauce!
I wanted to try making something different from a thick, tomato-based salsa in order to let the wonderful flavor of the chiles dominate, perhaps something similar in style and texture to Tabasco sauce. After a little research and a little experimentation, we arrived at this recipe which allows the full impact of John’s chiles to explode on the palate with every bit of their glorious fruity, floral & sweat-inducing intensity intact.
If you like hot, spicy & flavorful chile sauce, you’ve got to try this recipe out. If you’re not sure, try it anyway. It just might make a believer of you.
‘Lagrimas del Sol’ Hot Chile Sauce
Use extreme caution when handling fresh chiles. The interior of a fresh chile, especially the area around the seeds and inner white ‘veins,’ is loaded with capsaicin, the active ingredient which causes the burning sensation of chiles. Plastic gloves are highly recommended. Whatever you do, do not touch your eyes, lips, nose or other “sensitive areas” (if you know what I mean) after handling fresh chiles – even if you use gloves.
We used a mixture of the “Garcia chiles,” which we got from our friend, John, and bright red ‘Cowhorn’ chiles, a thick-walled Cayenne-type which is said to be the largest of the hot chiles. The flavors and colors blended beautifully into a golden orange-yellow sauce which we dubbed “Lagrimas del Sol” (Tears of the Sun). It’s so good and so hot that it will literally make you cry – but in a good way.
You’ll also notice that we added a carrot and plum to the mix. Their natural sweetness makes it unnecessary to add sugar or other sweeteners to the sauce and helps to smooth out any rough edges. Carrots and chiles go together marvelously, and the carrot contributes additional color, body and texture to the sauce.
Use whatever chiles you prefer to achieve the flavor and level of heat that is best for you. Make a small batch first and feel free to experiment until you come up with the right combination of heat, flavor and consistency. Above all, have fun.
- 1 lb hot chiles
- 2 medium onions
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 medium carrot
- 1 large yellow plum
- 1 cup white wine vinegar
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 tsp salt
Remove the stems from the chiles (and seeds, if desired) and coarsely chop into 1/2 inch segments. Use caution when handling fresh chiles – gloves are highly recommended. Peel and dice the onions and carrot into 1/4 inch pieces. Peel and coarsely chop the garlic. Slice the plum into 1/2 cubes and discard the pit.
Add all ingredients to a large non-reactive pot and bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool briefly.
Place the chile mixture and all the liquid into a blender. A food processor will work in a pinch, but I prefer a blender, since it will virtually liquidity the ingredients. Blend or process until all solids have been incorporated into a smooth puree. Using the back of a ladle or spoon, force the mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Press the ladle firmly against the strainer and move it vigorously in circular motion until all of the liquid has been squeezed out. Discard the remaining pulp.
The resulting chile sauce should be smooth and homogeneous, thinner than ketchup, but thicker and denser than Tabasco sauce.
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