Watermelon Cayenne Hot Sauce

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homemade hot sauce to spice up your pantry
BY AMY PENNINGTON

cayenneLate summer welcomes one of my most-coveted arrivals to the farmer markets: those hard-to-resist baskets of peppers. Fortunately for Pacific Northwesterners, the hot, desert-like conditions of eastern Washington lend themselves perfectly to ripe, sun-kissed peppers in sundry sizes, colors and heat levels. Peppers are one of the most versatile vegetables for preserving, and can be grilled, roasted, pickled or pureed into something delicious. This summer, skip the usual suspect of pickled peppers and try your hand at a batch of hot sauce. Homemade hot sauce can vary in heat from make-your-eyes-water hot to a more mellow burn. Adding fruit to hot sauces sweetens them up, and gives them a well-rounded appeal.

The final product can be used on tacos or served with chips, of course, but is also a flavorful addition to vinaigrettes for dressing salads or summer vegetables. Spooned over poached eggs and beans, they’ll wake up your morning palate. However you serve ’em, they’ll most definitelyremind you of summer sun during the short cold days of winter. If you’re lucky to stumble across the dozens of varieties at Tonnemaker or Alvarez Farms, be sure to ask for assistance in identifying which to choose based on your preference for spice.

Watermelon Cayenne Hot Sauce
makes 4 half-pints | start to finish: 2 hours

This hot sauce is blood red and slightly sweet with just a touch of intense heat that won’t linger on your tongue. A single beet added during cooking gives this hot sauce a velvety, thick body and its deep purple-red hue. As for heat, Cayenne peppers are in the middle of the heat-spectrum. Watermelon juice does a good job mellowing out the spice, but if you’re looking for something even less spicy, substitute jalapeños. Use an heirloom watermelon whenever possible, as they tend to have the most flavor and be the sweetest.

5 lbs watermelon, peeled and seeded
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large red onion, chopped fine, yielding 2-3 cups
2 cayenne peppers or 3 jalapeños, chopped
1 medium beet, chopped yielding about 1 1/2 cups
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 limes, juiced
20 mint leaves, whole, yielding 1/4 cup

Working in batches, puree the watermelon flesh in a blender, until very smooth, about 2 minutes. Pour the puree through a fine mesh strainer, reserving the juice in a large bowl. Do not press against the watermelon pulp when straining, and discard the pulp after each batch. Measure out 2 cups watermelon juice and set aside. Reserve any leftover juice for another use.

In a large sauté pan, add the olive oil and set over medium high heat. Add the onions, peppers, beets and salt and sauté until just soft, about 10 minutes. Add the vinegar and lime juice and bring to a simmer, cooking until vegetables are completely soft, about 30 minutes.

Pour the vegetable mixture into a blender and add the mint leaves. Puree, working your way up from lowest to highest setting, until smooth, about 3 to 5 minutes. Pour the puree through a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl and let the juices strain out, using a rubber spatula to gently stir the pulp and help release the juice. Do not actually press the pulp, and discard it after no more juice is being released.

Add the watermelon juice to the pepper liquid and stir to combine. Pour into clean canning jars or small bottles and store in fridge, up to two months. You may also pressure can for shelf-stable hot sauce, processing at 20 minutes for half pint and 30 minutes for pint jars.

Mango Habanero Hot Sauce
makes 4 half-pints | start to finish: 1 1/2 hours

This sauce is crazily spicy and will absolutely hurt. Habañeros are one of the most potent peppers you can buy, and come in hues ranging from yellow to deep orange. Combined with mangos, the heat mellows ever so slightly, letting the sweetness from the mango shine through. They also combine to make a brilliant golden hue which is absolutely stunning in the jar. You must wear latex kitchen gloves when making this hot sauce, as the oil from the habañeros is ferociously hot and will burn the living hell out of your skin and eyes. You should also work in a well-ventilated room. When heated, the peppers release capsaicin into the air, an irritant to your respiratory system.

1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces
1 small onion, skin removed, quartered
7 small orange habañeros, seeds and membranes removed
2 ripe mangoes, peeled, pit removed
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1 cup distilled white vinegar

Using a food processor, grind the carrot to a fine dice. Add the onions and process until finely diced, then add peppers and pulse until they’re finely diced. Next, add the mango, salt and sugar. Blend until completely pureed, about 2 minutes.

Transfer the puree to a medium saucepan. Stir in the vinegar and 1/2 cup water. Set over medium high heat and bring to a low boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 25 minutes, stirring often. Remove the sauce from the heat and pour into clean canning jars, leaving 1/2″ of headspace. (You may also strain hot sauce first, if you would like it to be perfectly smooth.) Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.
washed jars • water bath

washed jars • store in fridge, or pressure can

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