Words and Photos by Harald Zoschke
Cayenne is undoubtedly one of the most popular chile peppers worldwide. In the United States it is used to manufacture the famous “Louisiana Style” hot sauces. More importantly, this is one yummy pepper! When I received a ‘NuMex Las Cruces Cayenne’ seed pack in 2010 with my Chile Pepper Institute Member Newsletter, I grew some plants. Even here in Germany, they did extremely well and produced large meaty chiles that were great fresh, dried, and even smoked like chipotle. These fine peppers have instantly become a must for every growing season on our plot.
This year we used about a pound of LC Cayenne pods to cook up a sweet and spicy Thai sauce. Unlike “Louisiana Style” hot sauce, this one is thick, almost like ketchup, and is a lot less vinegary. It is great with grilled shrimp, over rice, for Asian cooking, and even as a dip. I need to cook more of it next year, as I use lots of this tasty sauce at home. I hope you like the sauce as much as everybody in my family does. Feel free to customize the sauce, for example by adding exotic herbs or spices.
1 pound red, ripe NuMex Las Cruces Cayenne chiles (or similar meaty cayenne peppers)
1/2 sweet red pepper (e.g. Gypsy or a small ripe bell pepper)
1 medium-sized onion, minced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound sugar
4 ounces rice vinegar
2 tablespoons olive or sunflower oil
2 ounces rice vinegar **
1 ounce maple syrup **
water (if necessary) **
4-5 empty hot sauce bottles
** These ingredients are to be added after cooking and blending
Rinse the cayenne peppers, cut off the tops with the stems, and slit pods open lengthwise, discarding most but not all seeds. Cut pods into chunks. Also remove the stem and “innards” of the sweet pepper and cut the pod into chunks as well.
In a sauce pan sauté the onion in the oil until soft (2-3 minutes).
Add the garlic and simmer for an additional 2 minutes.
Add sugar and the 4 ounces of vinegar, stir well and bring to a boil.
Add chopped cayenne and sweet peppers, stir well and simmer over medium heat for about 45 minutes, until the peppers are soft.
Meanwhile, sterilize your hot sauce bottles in boiling water and let them drain upside down on a towel.
Blend the sauce in a blender, or in the sauce pan using a hand-held immersion blender until smooth. Using a whisk, blend in the maple syrup and the 2 ounces of vinegar. ***
The sauce should be smooth and thick now, with a consistency almost like ketchup. If the sauce appears to be too thick, carefully add a little water and whisk again. Bring sauce briefly to a boil again.
Using a funnel, fill the bottles with sauce and put on lids immediately.
Design a label and put it on your bottles. Enjoy! Store opened bottles in the refrigerator. Yield: about 20 oz. (i.e. four “Woozy” type 5oz./148 ml bottles). I bet now you’re glad you kept those emptied hot sauce bottles!
Heat Level (1-10): 4
*** Since vinegar tends to lose acidity during cooking, we add some of it at the end. That way we’re getting a lower pH (= higher acidity), which is necessary for preservation. If you would produce such a sauce commercially, you would check the pH with a meter and keep it well below pH 4.2).
Here’s some background on the cayenne peppers Harald used in his hot sauce:
In 2010, the New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Institute introduced * an enhanced Cayenne variety, named ‘NuMex Las Cruces Cayenne’. This cultivar is a high-yielding, pungent cayenne pepper similar to the popular ‘Large Red Thick’, an early- maturing cayenne cultivar, just better. It is resistant to the dangerous curly top virus, as well as to other plant viruses, including Beet curly top virus (BCTV), Beet severe curly top virus (BSCTV), and Beet mild curly top virus (BMCTV; formerly Worland strain). And besides higher yield, it is also on the fiery side: In field tests NuMex Las Cruces scored 17,400 Scoville Heat Units (SHU), clearly hotter than ‘Large Red Thick’ (12,900 SHU) or ‘Mesilla’ (13,200 SHU). * That makes ‘NuMex Las Cruces’ an ideal candidate for cayenne mash, the base product for hot sauce.
* Published in HORTSCIENCE 45(11):1751–1752. 2010.
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Note to self: Next time I’ll also add some fresh ground ginger root.