I have an unbalanced relationship with habanero chilis. I love the flavor, but they are simply way too hot for me to deal with let alone subject anyone else too. The problem is that they really are unique in their flavor and pretty hard to live without in the types of dishes that call for them, primarily dishes from the Caribbean and West Africa. The solution that I have adopted in dealing with these orange bundles of flaming flavor is to build a sauce that gets the flavor I want, and then use that in my cooking.
This sauce is one such example, although it contains a lot more flavors than just habanero. Here, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg provide a backdrop for the heat contributed by the crushed black pepper and the habanero. A little bit of rum and the tartness of cider vinegar finish off the flavor profile. In making this, I use pickled habaneros because, frankly, fresh ones frighten me. I think next time I make it, I will give the fresh ones a shot. When adding the chilies, simply adjust the number used to the upper limit of your heat tolerance. You want the sauce to be pretty hot and the heat from the habanero will settle down a little with time, so be a little more adventurous than you feel is prudent. Oh, make sure to be careful in handling the chilies. In fact, don’t handle them at all. They really are insanely hot and the juice, once it gets on your hands can play havoc with eyes and other sensitive areas. Remember, safety first.
When I make sauces of this type, they tend to come out a bit chunky; a little too chunky for my preference. This is probably because my food processor is sort of on its last legs and I always forget to set up the food mill on my kitchen-aid. If you have access to a food mill, I recommend using it so that you get a nice smooth texture.
I really like this sauce with roast or smoked chicken dishes, but it also goes very well with jerked pork, which is what we served it with the other day. It is always a little surprising to me how fast these types of sauces disappear from the refrigerator. If around, they tend to find their way into the general, day to day cooking, particularly meat dishes. If you are the sort that likes to tinker with flavors, I think that you will find this sort of sauce a good outlet. Enjoy.
- 5 habanero, pickled or 3 fresh, minced
- 2 lengths cinnamon bark, about 3 to 4 inches each
- 15 allspice berries, whole
- 15 to 20 black peppercorns
- ¼ nutmeg with mace
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 large onion, pureed
- 4 cloves garlic, pureed
- 2 carrots, pureed
- 1 tsp. ketchup
- 3 Tbs. dark rum
- 1.5 cups cider vinegar
- Grind all dry spices in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle.
- In a medium saucepan, heat one tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat and add the onion, garlic and carrot. Cook over medium-high heat until mixture is browned some of the moisture has evaporated.
- Add the spices, habanero, the ketchup, rum, and the vinegar. Cook about 20 minutes over medium to medium high to combine flavors and slightly reduce.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Process with a food processor or food mill to the desired consistency. Pour into a bottle and refrigerate for up to 2 months.