Sunday, 8 November 2015
Scotch Bonnet - Green Mango Sauce
Every year I plant fresh herbs to use in my cooking during the warmer months. This year I planted some scotch bonnet peppers along with my herbs. I love spicy food and scotch bonnets may just be my all-time favourite chili pepper. They have a gorgeous flavour and very fiery heat. I mean very, very fiery. To give you a point of reference, the common jalapeño registers 2500-5000 heat units on the Scoville scale. A scotch bonnet pepper registers 100,000-325,000 on the same scale. They are quite hot and spicy, but when you know how to use them they can add spectacular flavour to your dishes. No cuisine in the world has harnessed the awesome power of Scotch bonnet peppers better than West Indian food. Particularly in countries like Jamaica and Trinidad are scotch bonnets an essential part of daily fare.
All chili peppers have an endless variety of uses, but one of my favourites is hot sauce. The Caribbean makes so many different hot sauces (commonly referred to as pepper sauce). I had been toying with the idea of making my own hot sauce using the scotch bonnet peppers I had grown, inspired by my own travels to Trinidad & Tobago. There is a strong Indian community in T&T which has left a very distinguishable mark on their cuisine. I wanted to pair my spicy scotch bonnets with the sour and slightly sweet flavour of green, unripened mango. You could use ripe mango if you prefer, but the flavour will be quite different. A ripe mango is very sweet whereas in its green stage its quite a bit more tart. Either will work but ripe mango will make your sauce spoil quicker in the fridge. This recipe also includes a little fresh garlic and mostly Indian spices to give it a depth of flavour.
One thing that I feel obligated to point out is that the scotch bonnets that I grew this year took a long time to be ready. We are nearing mid-November and it's getting much chillier now than it was in late Spring. We have had a few nights so far this fall where the temperatures have dipped into frosty conditions overnight. So I had to bring the scotch bonnets inside to keep them from getting killed by the elements. There are a few factors I have to keep in mind such as Toronto's climate, the soil made available to me, the fact that when I originally planted them they were too close together... but for whatever reason my scotch bonnet peppers that I grew were not quite as hot as the peppers I'm used to buying at the store. Caribbean style pepper sauce is usually very spicy and used sparingly. It's good to have a strong ground chili pepper like cayenne or habanero on hand to tweak this to your liking. Generally, this recipe is not for the faint of heart. If you don't love very spicy food, then I would not recommend this recipe to you.
Let's talk a bit about the mango part of the recipe. Here in Canada I find that you most commonly find two kinds of mango. There is a variety of large mangoes that turn red when they ripen (most often eaten fresh, as is) and a smaller variety that turns yellow when ripe (usually found in Asian markets and seems to be used more in cooked applications). You can use any mango that you can find. I ended up using a mix of both, just because I had them and I didn't find that the quantity I had of one variety was enough for this recipe.
Here is a shot of the scotch bonnet peppers that I harvested from my herb garden. They vary in colour and so will your hot sauce. To the right are the smaller "yellow" mangoes that I used for the recipe.
When I felt that I didn't have quite enough mango I used one additional "red" mango, which looks like this when unripe.
To prepare either variety of mango, I just did used the classic method of slicing two halves of the fruit around the large, flat pit in the middle. Use a knife to create a cross-hatch pattern in the two halves without piercing the skin. Then turn the piece inside-out to expose the cubes so that they can be easily sliced off. You can also slice the two remaining sides of fruit around the mango pit and use them. Just slice the skin off as if you would a fillet of fish and then chop the remaining fruit.
Since scotch bonnets and mangoes came in such a wide variety of shapes and sizes, I'm going to give very precise measurements of what you'll need in this recipe. In the list of ingredients you'll find the weight of portions in ounces and grams and approximately how much space they take up in cups. I hope this helps.
This recipe also includes a variety of delicious Indian spices. I've said this a hundred times and I will always continue to say it, when cooking with spices it is always best to buy them whole when possible. Toasting your own whole spices in a dry pan and then grinding them yourself with a mortar and pestle is an extra step that takes a few minutes but will make a profoundly significant effect on your cooking than using pre-ground spices. I had my own mustard and cumin seeds which I toasted, constantly moving in a dry pan, just long enough until you can start to smell them. Spices can burn quickly so you don't want to overdo it.
Lastly, but oh so importantly, prep your scotch bonnet peppers last before blending your ingredients and use protective gloves. I don't care how experienced you are at handling spicy peppers. When preparing chilis in this amount, always protect your hands. This will prevent capsaicin (the active chemical in chilis that makes them hot) from spreading to your skin. It is a very irritating chemical compound that will aggravate your eyes, fingers, or anything you touch and it doesn't rinse off with just soap and water. I recommend putting the gloves on before you chop your scotch bonnets, put them in your blender or food processor, then immediately wash your cutting board, knife and anything that may have come in contact with the peppers before taking the gloves off. It's your safest bet. Trust me when I say this is not a lesson you want to learn the hard way.
With all that out of the way, the rest of this recipe is quick and simple so let's get to it!
Scotch bonnet peppers, roughly chopped (approx 8 oz, 250 grams or 2 cups)
Green, unripe mango, roughly chopped (approx 11 oz, 300 grams or 2/5 cups)
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup ground mustard
2 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp curry powder
2 tbsp ground ginger
1-2 tbsp cayenne pepper (use 1 at first, and adjust at the end if you'd like more)
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp sea salt
Remove the stems and roughly chop your scotch bonnet peppers (seeds, membrane and all), mango, garlic and add to a blender or food processor with the white and apple cider vinegars.
Blend into a smooth purée.
Place in a pan or skillet over medium heat with the rest of the other ingredients and stir occasionally for about 10 minutes. During this process the flavours will deepen and the mixture will reduce slightly. Give the sauce a little taste and adjust the salt or cayenne as you wish.
Transfer to a clean container and allow to cool to room temperature before storing in your fridge. That's basically it! Over time the flavours of the sauce will get better and better. This recipe also is comprised of natural capsaicin, vinegar, sugar and salt - all of which have preservative traits. So long as you keep this in the fridge and avoid using your fingers or dirty utensils, it should keep for anywhere from 6 months to a year without spoiling.
This sauce has more of a grainy purée consistency than a runny, saucy one. You can think of it as a very spicy chutney. The flavour begins tart and sweet on the palate before it hits you with fiery heat. It is fantastic with meat, poultry, fish, roti, used in marinades, stirred into soups, stews or curries and just about anything you prepare that could benefit from a little Caribbean heat. Colour and flavour will differ slightly depending on the ingredients you can get your hands on. If you have any questions, please let me know and I will do my best to assist.
This stuff is so good I just can't tell you. If you love spicy food then you won't want to be without this sauce. This is a great little project if you grow your own peppers at home.