As a lil fella growing up on the islands I recall it was a sort of expectation to see people ‘sunning’ out the freshly prepared bottles of traditional pepper sauce, when peppers were abundant (usually during dry season). Recycled bottles (which once housed peanut butter, jam or mayonnaise) packed with pureed, chunky or a combo of both. Vibrant red, orange, yellow and green, depending on the variety of pepper they used and the type of “peppersauce” they made. According to the elders, that Caribbean sun helped to cure the sauce and add even more wicked flavors.
25-35 hot peppers
20-30 bird pepper
1 tablespoon salt
2-3 cups white vinegar
1/2 large bitter melon
12-18 cloves garlic (smashed)
1 large carrot (or 10 tiny ones)
6 limes (divided)
11 lemons (divided)
IMPORTANT! Wear gloves and wash your hands immediately after handling such hot peppers with soap and water.
Wash everything and allow them to dry, then remove the stems off the peppers.
Cut the bitter melon in half (lenght) and using a tablespoon, scrape out the seeds and area around the seeds and discard. Slice thin.
Cut the limes in 1/4 (lenght-wise), then 1/2 cm slices. Do the same for four the lemons. TIP.. remove the center core of the lemons to make them more tender later on. (please watch the video below to follow along)
I used a variety of extremely hot peppers as I had an abundance in my garden. Feel free to use what you can source (watch the video below to see what I used). Slice each pepper thin and include the seeds for more heat. I left the bird peppers whole (stems removed).
Place the lime and lemon pieces in a deep pot and pour in the vinegar. Turn the heat to medium, bring to a simmer and cook on that simmer for 15 minutes.
Turn off the stove after 15 minutes (by cooking the lime and lemon pieces first in that vinegar will help to break down the skin and release a ton of that citrus flavor). While still warm, add the thinly sliced peppers, followed by all of the other ingredients (not the remaining lime nor lemons).
Stir well. I used baby carrots as that’s all I had on hand, but you can definitely slice up a large carrot. Allow this to fully cool.
Juice the remaining limes and lemon. (set aside)
It’s now time to place the pepper mixture into your clean glass containers. I used tongs, then I poured in the vinegar juice. I then strained in the freshly squeezed lime and lemon juice.
By adding the juice now it’s brings out that fresh citrus flavor and brightens the finished pepper-sauce.
Now tuck everything down with a wooden spoon. If you find that your peppers are not covered in liquid, add a bit more white vinegar and mix well. Uncovered peppers may tend to ferment and go bad quickly.
While you’ll be tempted to get into this asap, give it a week to fully ‘cure” before sampling. Store in the fridge for longer shelf life (about 6 months). Admittedly I was tempted to do as my ancestors did and place it in the sun, but it’s wasn’t a Caribbean sun so instead I hid mine in a cool dark corner in my kitchen. I find that when peppersauce goes in the fridge its heat level drops! It’s been there for about 9 months now. The sauce is excellent in soups and on the side of my beloved Pelau!
Drop me your comments below, tag me on Instagram and don’t forget you can now get my cookbook – The Vibrant Caribbean Pot, 100 Traditional And Fusion Recipes @ CaribbeanPot.com/CookBook/