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Thursday, May 31, 2012 08:52 am

The heat is on!


I’ve heard it over and over: People in the hottest places on the planet eat spicy-hot foods is because it makes them feel cooler. Really? For me, eating spicy-hot food on the high temperature/humidity days of central Illinois’ summertime doesn’t make me feel cooler. I just sweat more – a lot more.

Regardless, I love spicy-hot foods. That includes the almost innumerable bottled hot sauces. There are so many bottled hot sauces available – often with tongue-in-cheek, outrageously humorous, and even downright risqué monikers, it would take a lifetime (and probably a permanently desensitized tongue) to taste them all.

I have lots of them. Some I couldn’t resist because of their funny names and labels. But others, such as Darn Hot Peppers’ fantastic Peach Spiced Jam and Habañero Apricot Ambrosia (available at the Old State Capitol Farmers Market and some local groceries and restaurants), have become essential condiments for egg salad sandwiches, on Triple S Farm’s grilled, smoked pork chops, or as a condiment for a cheese platter.

But some special hot sauces I like to make, both for our family and to have for giving as gifts. Here are four favorites:

Rhubarb is at peak season right now, making this chutney a springtime specialty. It’s great brushed on grilled chicken (especially wings) or as an accompaniment to cheese and crackers.
  • 1/3 c. (one third cup) finely chopped shallots, OR substitute (NOT-Supersweet) white onion
  • 1 T. butter
  • 2 c. fresh rhubarb, sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 c. (one half cup) sugar
  • 1/3 c. (one third cup) orange juice
  • 1 T. cider (preferred) or white vinegar
  • 1 T. very coarsely ground white (preferred) or black peppercorns, or more or less to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. (one fourth) tsp. salt, or to taste
Cook shallot in butter in a large non-reactive saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until translucent and golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients and bring to a bare simmer, uncovered. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is completely cooked and soft, and the chutney is thickened, about 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Makes about 1c. Keeps, covered and refrigerated, for several weeks.

This mojo spreads its wings over different cultures, making it appropriate for Latin American grilled pork or poultry, or even as a condiment for Argentinian grilled (provolone) cheese. It’s also a wonderful accompaniment to fishes suitable for grilling, including salmon, trout, swordfish and seafood such as shrimp.
  • 2 c. dried sour cherries
  • 3 c. red wine
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1/2 (one half) c. thinly sliced shallots
  • 1 – 2 chopped chipotle in adobo, available in most groceries’ ethnic sections
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/4 (one fourth) c. red wine vinegar
  • 2 c. unsalted or low sodium chicken stock
  • Honey, optional
  • 2 T. chopped cilantro, preferred, or flat-leaf parsley for garnish
Soak the cherries in the red wine for an hour or more. Drain, reserving about a cup of the wine.

Meanwhile, in a medium pan, heat the oil over medium high heat. Just as it starts to smoke, add the shallots, chipotle in adobo (letting some sauce cling to the peppers), and garlic. Sauté, stirring frequently, until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Stirring constantly, add the cherries, red wine vinegar, and chicken stock, turn the heat to high, and reduce until the liquid’s a syrupy glaze. Taste for seasoning, adding a little salt, honey, or marinating liquid if needed. Stir in the cilantro just before serving, leaving some to sprinkle over the top. Makes 3-4 cups.

Hot sauces made from Habañero peppers are endemic in the Caribbean, but seldom found elsewhere. I first tasted this riff on a traditional Caribbean Carrot hot sauce that substitutes sweet potato for the carrots at Cochon, a wildly popular New Orleans restaurant with a new branch in Lafayette, La. I’ve eaten at both, and each time left determined to duplicate their Sweet Potato Hot Sauce. After much experimentation, I think I hit the mark!
  • 1 c. chopped onion, NOT super-sweet
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4 habañero peppers, seeds and stems removed, then minced
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 1 heaping c. chopped and peeled sweet potato
  • 4 T. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 T. cider (preferred) vinegar
  • 1 tsp. salt
Sauté the onion, garlic and peppers in a medium-sized pan over medium-high heat until they soften and start to caramelize, about five minutes or longer. Add the water and sweet potato to the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a bare simmer until the sweet potatoes are completely cooked through, 5-10 minutes depending on the size of the sweet potato pieces.

Remove from the heat and let stand until the mixture comes to room temperature. You can hasten this process by putting the pan in a sink or large bowl of cold water. Puree the mixture in a blender, hand-held blender, or food processor until it’s completely smooth. Pour into small bottles. It will keep, refrigerated, for several weeks. Makes approximately 3 c.

Picklese (a.k.a. Pikliz)
This classic condiment can be found on every table in Haiti, oftentimes even when there isn’t a table in that devastated and destitute country. I first heared of Picklese when I was researching for an article about the horrible effects on Haiti rendered by a hurricane in January of 2010. But it was more fully brought home after I realized that virtually all the men working in my daughter’s apartment building’s garage were from Haiti – their lovely lilting French Caribbean-influenced voices were a giveaway. I was there for an almost two-month stretch and sporadic weeks after that. One guy went especially out of his way to be helpful when I had multiple shopping bags as well as a baby to try to safely secure in his car seat (It used to be a lot easier!). As a “Thank you” I began making jars of picklese to give to him. I thought he’d like it, but I’d underestimated how much he appreciated it: “Oh, my wife; she doesn’t like to make this – it’s too hot for her!” Picklese’s liquid is used as a hot sauce; in other dishes the thinly sliced vegetables are used as a sort of slaw/pickle condiment for meat or vegetable preparations. Scotch bonnet peppers are traditional – but their close relatives, habañeros, can be substituted and are more easily found in local groceries. Pepper aficionados distinguish between them, but Scotch bonnets and habeñeros share a flavor profile unique among chilies, as well as a similar Scoville index – the measurement used to classify chiles’ heat levels. Both are incendiary; picklese is not for the faint of heart.
  • 6 Scotch bonnet peppers, or substitute habañeros
  • 2 c. very thinly sliced cabbage
  • 1/2 c. (one half cup)very thinly sliced carrots
  • 1/4 c.(one fourth cup) very thinly sliced onion, not super-sweet, preferably red
  • 1 1/2 (one and one half) tsp. salt
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 4 whole allspice berries
  • 12 peppercorns
  • Approximately 3 c. distilled white vinegar
Use rubber gloves when handling the peppers; alternately, coat your hands with oil before slicing. Stem the peppers and remove the seeds. Slice into thin slivers; place into a medium-large non-reactive bowl. Add the cabbage, carrots, onion and salt, toss to combine. Let stand for about 15 minutes; the salt will wilt the vegetables. Crush the cloves, allspice and peppercorns lightly and add to the bowl. Let stand for another 15 minutes, or about 30 minutes total for the vegetables and spices mixed together. Put the mixture into a quart jar, including any liquid. Add enough vinegar to fill to the top, and stir to combine. Cover tightly and let stand for at least 24 hours and up to 48 hours before using, then refrigerate. Makes 1 quart.

Contact Julianne Glatz at
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