The culinary culture of the Caribbean (for the most part) is very seasonal as we’ve perfected the art of using fruits and vegetables when they are their best. Basically we don’t have much or a pickling culture. The exception being, peppers! The variety of pepper sauces (anything fiery with the abundance and variety of our lovely HOT peppers we have) and oils will blow you away. In this recipe I’m trying my best to recall my grandmother’s version and pay tribute to her by using a classic food mill as she would.
1 lb Bird’s Eye Peppers
5 shado beni (culantro)
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoon parsley
10-15 cloves garlic
1 1/2 – 2 cups olive oil
Wash the peppers, remove the stems and allow them to air dry as we don’t want water in the finished oil as it will decrease the shelf life.
Wash and chop the scallions, parsley and shado beni – also allow to them dry a bit or use paper towels to dry them before rough-chopping. It will make it easier for the food processor or food mill you’ll be using shortly.
Basically all you have to do now is to ‘grind’ it I used a traditional food mill my grandma would use, but you can certainly use a food processor or blender. You want something that’s a bit chunky. Watch the video below to see how I used the food mill.
You’re making sure everything is ground into tiny bits, but NOT pureed! As you want the finished pepper oil to have some texture. Yes, we did include the seeds of the peppers and if you wanted to give this finished pepper oil more of a kick, you can add some Caribbean sunshine (scotch bonnet pepper) to the mix.
Scrape it all into a sauce pan, followed by the olive oil and salt. Mix well and cook on a VERY LOW heat so you have a gentle simmer. Remember to open the windows in your kitchen and turn on the exhaust fan above your stove if you have one. Cook for about 45-60 minutes. The goal is to make sure you burn off any water and to enhance the flavors of the ingredients we used.
It will go darker and the oil itself will take on a reddish hue. Allow it to cool before putting into glass containers (with a lid). Make sure the oil covers the peppers as it will help to preserve it’s wonderful flavor and prevent it from going bad easily.
According to my dad, my great-grand-mother would do something similar, but she would use a massive mortar and pestle (one my family would use for crushing cocoa and coffee beans) to crush her peppers and garlic and she wouldn’t use scallions.
IMPORTANT! Use gloves when handling such hot peppers and be sure to wash your hands IMMEDIATELY after with soap and water.