Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Five Little Scotch Bonnets

One of my best friends from law school lives in Queens now, and I’ve only ever seen his apartment three times in the eight years we’ve lived in New York: once when he moved in—we’d rented a truck together from Buffalo and drove down with all of our stuff, but I was only there for about a half and hour stropping off his stuff. The next time, he cajoled me to come out to Queens for dinner when his partner was out of town. He’d told me back in July that he and L., his partner, grew Scotch Bonnet peppers in their apartment over the summer, and there they were in his kitchen: 4 huge, beautiful plants! L. is from the Islands, so he made all kinds of delectable sauces and oils with the peppers (and put them in really cool jars, too!) Now I like hot food, and I can really dig me some hot sauce, but they were all too hot for me. From what I’ve been told, Scotch Bonnets are really the hottest, but I seem to remember being told that habaneras are hotter….hmm?

As I was running out the door to the taxi after a chill evening of beef stew and red wine, my friend handed me a plastic baggie with five little Scotch Bonnet peppers.

I didn’t have time over the next few days to do anything with them, so in my fridge they sat. One Saturday afternoon, I decided that I wanted to make hot pepper relish, so I looked through my favorite websites,,, and my favorite cooking bible: The Joy of Cooking. When I cut up the Scotch Bonnets, my whole kitchen was infused with the vapors from the peppers. My eyes were literally watering by the time I was done. So I ran out to the store, and bought some tomatillos, poblanos, and some more green bell peppers to add to the mix. I simmered the little flecks of yellow and red S.B.s with the bell peppers, onions, poblanos, tomatillos, in their own juices and little bit of water. I poured the mixture out 10 4 oz. quilted canning jars, and then poured a just-starting-to-boil mixture of cider vinegar and sugar over the pepper mixture. I sealed the jars, and then placed them all in a pot of boiling water to seal them for about 10 minutes. Voila! Hellfire Hot Pepper Relish!

We’ve used the relish on fish, in a mayonnaise-based sauce for salmon, on sirloin burgers, and on chicken. I brought a little jar to a cocktail party at the home of a doctor friend, and people spread it on crackers with hummous, cheese, and olives. I’m in Florida on a work trip right now and I brought a jar down in my checked luggage, and I plan to use it on steaks we cook on the outdoor grill. Yummy! I am definitely adding this relish to the list of products in my future line….

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