Making Your Own Brazilian Pimenta
In Brazil, it’s common to make one’s own hot sauce. It’s not difficult to do and there are so many wonderful varieties of chilis to choose from in Brazil that you can make several for your kitchen arsenal – each one just different enough from the next to earn its own place on the shelf. Even in non-tropical countries, finding fresh chilis isn’t much of a problem these days. Supermarkets sell them, and every type of urban ethnic market will have its own selection. It’s fun to experiment using different chilis. One hot sauce might turn out not to be very hot at all, and the next might be nuclear. Once you’ve found a combination that you like, homemade hot sauce also makes wonderful and inexpensive presents.
homemade pimenta! – this is going on my list of interesting present ideas
The Portuguese word pimenta is used to refer both to the family of plants that are called chilis or chili peppers in English, and to the table-top sauce made from the fruits of these plants.
A tremendous number of different chilis are grown in Brazil, and the taxonomic confusion is enormous. The same pepper might have two different names in different regions – or two totally unrelated peppers might share a single name. To add to the confusion, some common Brazilian chilis are also used in other national cuisines, but with different names. In Brazil, whether in a restaurant or at home, a bottle of pimenta stands in the middle of the table, like salt and pepper might in North America, ready to be used by any one who wants to spice up a dish on their plate. If it’s not on the table at a restaurant, it can always be obtained on demand.
RECIPE – Homemade Hot Sauce, Brazilian Style (Pimenta Caseira)
This recipe for Brazilian hot sauce comes from Brazilian culinary expert Neide Rigo’s marvelous blog Come-se. Search out fresh chili peppers in your hometown, make a bottle or two of Come-se’s hot sauce and guaranteed, you’ll want to send Neide a big obrigado (thank-you). Enjoy. The end result will look like this (the color varies depending on what kind of peppers you use):
For a visually-attractive hot sauce, it’s best to stick to red, orange and/or yellow chilis. Green chilis have can have marvelous flavor but their color darkens and dulls a blended hot sauce. If the color of the sauce isn’t important to you, go ahead and add green chilis.
For the aromatic infusion:
1/3 cup good-quality vinegar, any type (plus more if needed to reach proper consistency)
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup cachaça
1 tsp whole coriander seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh oregano
1 or 2 fresh leaves basil
1 tsp salt
For the solid ingredients:
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 Tbsp garlic, finely chopped
3 Tbsp onion, finely chopped
about 5 oz (150 gr) small hot chili peppers, ideally a mixture of two or three types, washed and stemmed
Prepare the infusion – Put all the ingredients in a large pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat slightly to a slow boil and let boil for two minutes. Remove from heat, cover the pan and reserve.
Prepare the solid ingredients – Heat the olive oil in another pan, add the garlic and fry until just lightly brown – do not let burn. Reduce the heat, add the chopped onion and cook until the onion is transparent and soft, but not browned. Add the chili peppers. Add the infusion, pouring through a fine sieve to remove the solid spices and herbs. Cover the pan and cook over low heat for about five minutes or until the chilis are soft and tender. Remove from heat and reserve, letting cool completely.
Pour the reserved chilis and their liquid into a food processor or a blender. Blend until completely smooth. Remove the cover and let the sauce rest – avoid breathing the fumes if possible. After an hour, pour the sauce into a large measuring cup with a lip, passing the sauce through a fine sieve to remove any solid bits remaining. Add extra vinegar if required to obtain a liquid consistency. With a small funnel, pour the sauce into small bottles. Close the bottle tightly and store the sauce in the refrigerator or on a cool, dark shelf in a cupboard or in the pantry. Before using, shake well, and add to any dish drop by drop testing after each addition for potency and piquancy.
RECIPE - Conserva de Pimenta Malaguetinha
Here’s an alternative (very simple) recipe for those who are interested in making a hot sauce with the solid peppers preserved in the bottle. This recipe is made with just red chili peppers (pimentas malaguetinhas) but you could also experiment with different kinds of peppers. The end result will look something like this (depending on the mix of peppers you put in):
What you will need:
1 sterilized glass bottle/jar
4 chopped garlic cloves
olive oil OR vinegar (white or wine) OR cachaça (you can choose which liquid you wish to conserve the chilis with)
In a bowl, let the peppers soak in water and wash them off. Then, let them dry off. While they are drying, heat the olive oil in a pan, add the garlic and fry until just lightly brown – do not let it burn. Then, put the clean peppers into your bottle or jar, leaving about two inches of room at the top. Pour in the olive oil and the still-hot garlic until your bottle or jar is full to the top. Seal your bottle or jar and keep it in a cool location for around 60 days.
washing the peppers