One of the things I have wanted to do ever since I moved into my very own apartment is can vegetables. For some inexplicable reason, I think that the ability to can one’s own food is a symbol of independence and adulthood. My parents only ever can homemade jam (with the exception of one summer when my father canned rhubarb and tomatoes) so I can’t say I have this opinion due to parental example. Therefore, the only logical explanation I can find is that canning is something complicated, that involves not only a well-equipped kitchen but also the knowledge that one will remain in one place for long enough to enjoy the food several months down the road (hence only for adults…?).
So, when I received my latest care package from my boyfriend’s father and it included fresh red chilies along with my American brown sugar, I thought: Here is my chance to join the grown-up world. I decided to try my hand at Louisiana Hot Sauce. Now, according to a Google search, real Louisiana Hot Sauce uses jalapeño or cayenne peppers, vinegar, and salt. Since I wasn’t sure what my peppers were, but I knew they weren’t jalapeño, I decided I couldn’t really make an authentic recipe. Upon further research, I pieced together a recipe I thought might pass as an Un-Louisana Hot Sauce.
As I began chopping, I followed all the warnings: when dealing with incredibly spicy peppers wear gloves, or if none at hand, wash hands frequently to avoid burning skin. So I was washing my hands and not touching my face and eyes at all (of course, inevitably, my eyes were itching terribly during this process!). I frequently walked back and forth between my living room, where my computer and recipes were, and the kitchen during this process. Each time I walked into the kitchen I got a whiff of the peppers and their spicy scent (yes, I consider spiciness to have a certain scent) and thought “Wow, these are potent peppers!”
Finally, while I was chopping up my last pepper, I couldn’t contain myself. I had to experience how spicy these were. So I took a teeny piece and popped it into my mouth. I waited. I chewed. I waited. Nothing. “Hm…I must not have taken a big enough chunk.” So, I took a slightly larger piece and chewed it. Nothing. Getting suspicious, I sampled an even larger piece. Sweet, crunchy, and very flavorful, but definitely not spicy.
What to do? My Un-Louisiana Hot Sauce was now an Un-Louisiana Un-Hot Sauce! No fear: my liberal arts degree has taught me to be a creative problem-solver and think quickly on my feet: add dried hot chili peppers! So, in went a couple dried, chopped peppers and all was well.
To can my sauce I placed it in a washed glass jar left over from jam I bought earlier this fall. In Germany, most people can vegetables and jams using left-over jars from the grocery store. As long as the rubber band on the lid is still in tact one can clean out the jar, then boil it (and the lid) to sanitize, fill the jar and close the lid tightly. While it cools it is placed upside down on its top and thus becomes sealed. Raffiniert!
So now, I get to wait three months and see how my sauce has matured. I will have to throw a party for the grand opening.
[I have recently found out that the peppers I used were "Sweet Banana Peppers." Jesse Sharrard of Corduroy Orange just posted about the varying degree of hotness of chilies and peppers which I highly recommend to keep in mind when making sauces and salsas. Jan. 12, 2007 ~KM]
Un-Louisiana (Un)-Hot Sauce
1 small yellow onion, finely diced (about ½ cup)
1 clove garlic
2 cups chopped chilies (preferably spicy variety!)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 cup sugar (granulated is fine, brown or raw sugar would provide a more complex sweet flavor)
3 Tbsp white (wine) vinegar
Sauté onions until clear, add garlic and chilies. Sauté another two minutes, then add vinegar and seasoning. Let the sauce simmer for a couple minutes, then add the sugar. Blend with a whoosh-whoosh thingy and continue simmering for another few minutes. I added the cloves at this point; however, to release their flavors more you can add the cloves earlier when you add the chilies and seasoning. Fill sauce into a canning jar and seal. Let mature for three months in a cool, dry place.