I remember my grandma had a basement room brimming with canned applesauce and tomatoes and plums and other fruits and vegetables, and she was always adding to the collection.
Now that’s me, straining under the crush of the harvest and turning it into this week’s meals and next winter’s happy freezer discoveries.
You haven’t heard from me much lately because I’ve been picking and processing tomatoes for the past four weeks, and just as they tailed off, the main fig crop started ripening, in a big way. And during both of those harvests, an experimental row of Scotch Bonnet peppers has produced (so far) about 60 balls of fire for me to play with.
Sauces, salsas, salads, pickled, canned, whole frozen, you name it I’ve been doing it. With pleasure, I might add, considering how much I love a real garden tomato and dislike the way grocery food prices are spiraling.
The wildcard this summer has been the Scotch Bonnets. These are like my Jamaican Hot Chocolate peppers in that both of them are variants of habaneros, sharing the same scientific name. But while the Hot Chocolates give off almost a smokey heat and flavor, the Bonnets are sharp and hit the back of your mouth like little lightening bolts, yet just before the heat comes a fruity taste.
I’ve made hot sauce batches featuring tomatoes, papayas, mangos and limes, with a cast that’s included onions, lots of garlic, mustard, honey and brown sugar. Some are only medium-hot, some are very hot indeed. All of them are made with ingredients that happen to be on hand. Which is why this one, made just a few minutes ago, was inevitable:
Tropical Bob’s Flaming Fig Sauce
– 12 large figs
– 10 whole Scotch Bonnet peppers
– 5-6 large garlic cloves
– 1 cup balsamic vinegar
– 4 Tablespoons lemon juice
– 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
– 2 tablespoons molasses
– 2 teaspoons sea salt
– 1 teaspoon allspice
– 1 teaspoon curry powder
– 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Combine all ingredients in blender and blend until quite smooth. Empty blender into a large sauce pan and heat until boiling. Allow to boil hard for 3 minutes, then simmer for about 10 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Then ladel into sterilized jars. Screw on lids and can in a water bath for about 15 minutes (my batch made about 5 cups of sauce). I imagine these will keep in the cupboard for a year or more.
The sauce is very spicy, but tempered by the sweet figs, sugar and molasses. Depending on your tastes, you could easily tame this by cutting the number of peppers in half. Scotch Bonnets are abundant in the Caribbean, but rarely offered in grocery stores. If you can’t find any, habaneros make a fine substitute. If you decide to cut them open and remove the seeds (which reduces the heat) make sure to put on a pair of latex gloves first, otherwise you may regret touching these bad boys with your uncovered fingers.