The Land of Enchantment
I’ve always had a soft spot for Santa Fe, NM. For years it was my stopover home between my cooking gigs in Alaska and Colorado. Every time I visit, I continue to learn more about the rich cuisine and culture of this unique place. The town hosts the Santa Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta each September, showcasing many of the fantastic restaurants in town. This is one of the most spectacular festivals in the US and includes cooking and wine classes, dinners, lectures and the most impressive Grand Tasting I have ever attended.
South of Santa Fe near the Mexico boarder, lies the small town of Hatch. This little village is the epicenter of some of the best chiles in the world and every Labor Day weekend, the Hatch Chile Festival brings thousands of people to experience their magical flavors. While Hatch chiles can be grown in many home gardens, the conditions of Hatch, NM are what makes them so special. The soil, climate and elevation are all factors to creating this incredible food. The capsaicin released from these peppers climbs in heat to a point, but then levels off and creates a kind of ambrosia, and sense of well-being. No other chile has this uniqueness.
The most commonly known chile from Hatch is the Sandia. The hot Sandia variety is delicious and packs just enough heat (5000-7000 scoville units) to make them a staple in New Mexico kitchens. This variety is most often offered in grocery stores, freshly roasted at harvest time.
A Word on Scoville Units
The chile I’m using in this recipe is the Luci Fairy Chile also from Hatch, New Mexico. The Luci Fairy is very similar to a Tabasco chile found in other areas. Even though the chile itself is small in stature, it packs a wallop of heat. The Luci Fairy chile has (30,000 – 50,000 scoville units) of heat making them ideal for making hot sauce. If you can’t find Luci Fairy in your area, mature tabasco, Texas pequin, Thai or African pequin peppers make a great substitute.
In my opinion, hot sauce should complement food, not make it feel like your brain is melting out of your ears. I don’t abide hot sauces genetically engineered to cause as much discomfort as possible. I don’t see the point. In fact, eating the Naga Jolokia “Ghost Pepper”(1,000,000-1,500,000) or Carolina Reaper (2,200,000 scoville units) can lead to serious damage or death by causing a severe narrowing of the coronary artery. One man tore a hole in his esophagus from eating a ghost pepper puree. Another appeared to have died of heart failure after eating a super hot concoction. To each their own, I suppose.
Luci Fairy Clear Hot Chile Sauce
This sauce was a staple in my house growing up. My grandfather grew his own Bird's Eye peppers and made this version of the vinegar sauce. It is delicious with any type of greens, spinach, black-eyed peas, boiled potatoes, crowder peas, steamed cauliflower, zucchini and squash. It is even tasty for a quick appetizer doused on herbed cream cheese.
- 2 cups Luci Fairy peppers, cut with slits
- 1 cup peppers
- 3 cups vinegar, distilled white
- 3/4 cup sugar (optional substitute 3/4 cup granulated Monk Fruit for Keto)
- 1 tsp salt
Slice chiles, but do not remove the seeds. Place into clean jars with a tight fitting lid.
Add the vinegar, sugar (sugar substitute) and salt to a medium pot. Bring to a boil while stirring to dissolve the solids. (About 3-4 minutes.) Pour the hot vinegar over the peppers in the jar or shaker bottle using a funnel. Allow the mixture to cool down for about 15-20 minutes until just warm. Cover with a lid and refrigerate. Clear Pickled Pepper Sauce will keep for months.