Salsa surpassed ketchup, newspaper columnists, sociologists, and grocery industry gurus marked it as a major milestone, an indicator of irreversible changes in the ethnic makeup of our society. By 2002, the space allotted to hot sauces and salsas in the average supermarket went from a few feet of shelf space to close to an entire aisle. At the fast-food counter and the condiment station of the ballpark, hot sauce has joined ketchup and mustard in the plastic-squeeze-packet pantheon.
Business Week’s list of the twenty-five top-selling condiments in America includes six salsas and four pepper sauces. The hot parade shows no sign of letting up. The 2012 Culinary Trend Mapping Report by food-industry think tank Packaged Facts declared that hot and spicy foods were still one of the fastest growing segments of the grocery business. The researchers reported that multicultural Generation Y and the growing Asian demographic were “eager to try bigger, bolder, hot and spicy flavors in nearly every daypart, food and beverage category, and season.”
From the mainstream American point of view, hot and spicy food seems like something that’s arrived on the culinary scene in the last twenty years. But while some of the brand names might be new, the recipes for the hot sauces contained inside the bottles go back hundreds and, sometimes even thousands, of years.
This book is a casual tour of hot-sauce history, a practical guide for making it at home, and an exploration of the strange relationship between humankind and hot and spicy food.
In six chapters, we consider where hot sauce came from and where it’s going. Chapter 1 introduces some key hot sauce terminology and also describes the various peppers that are used in recipes throughout this book. In chapter 2, you’ll see how your favorite Mexican salsa recipes evolved from centuries-old Mesoamerican “chilmoles.” Chapter 3 will give you some new ideas about how to use the habanero-type chiles of the Caribbean islands, and recounts the story of the pepper sauces that made those intensely hot chiles famous. Chapter 4 follows the fortunes of the Louisiana pepper sauce moguls, and offers recipes for making your own fermented pepper sauces at home. Chapter 5 is a world tour of international hot sauces, including do-it-yourself recipes for Thai Sriracha, Ethiopian berbere, and Indonesian sambal oelek. Finally, in chapter 6 we’ll see how some of America’s top chefs are using hot sauces to raise the profile of fiery food in contemporary American cuisine.
----------------------------------------------------- Escabeche (Pickled Peppers)
Makes about 2 quarts or 11/2 pounds (drained)
This blend of pickled chile peppers, carrots, and onions with seasonings is a favorite condiment. You can use the pickling liquid as a pepper sauce.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, thickly sliced
5 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
8 cups water
15 jalapeño chiles (about 1 pound)
1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced
½ inch thick (about 2 cups)
1¼ cups cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
4 bay leaves
Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 3 min-utes, then add the garlic. Continue cooking until the onions are soft, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil. Add the jalapeños and carrots and cook for 5 minutes, or until slightly softened. Add the cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon pickling salt, oregano, and bay leaves and simmer for another minute. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Transfer the jalapeños, carrots, and onions with a slotted spoon or tongs into sterilized glass quart-size jars (you may need several). When the cooking liquid has cooled, cover the vegetables with liquid until the jars are three-quarters full. Add 1 tablespoon pickling salt to each jar and fill to the top with white vinegar. Cap each jar tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to several months.
Excerpted from The Hot Sauce Cookbook by Robb Walsh. Copyright © 2013 by Robb Walsh. Excerpted by permission of Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.