After all the noise I’ve made about Puerto Ricans not liking spicy hot food, you’re probably wondering what this post is all about. Well, I’ve noticed there’s always a bottle of red sauce on the table in Puerto Rican restaurants and just assumed it was Tabasco for the gringos and other islanders who enjoy a bit more heat. Borecuas (Puerto Ricans) do grow hot chilies and they do use them moderately in chorizo, soups, rice and a few other dishes like Pique – Vinagre de Piña and this condiment Pique Boricua.
The chilies used to make this sauce are called aji caballero and they are native to Puerto Rico. They are about 1-inch long and grow straight up on the bush rather than hanging down. You’ll want to pick the reddest of them for the best flavor and kick. If you can’t find aji caballero chilies, red habanero or Scotch Bonnet chilies will work fine. If you’d like to grow your own aji caballero chilies, seeds are available at http://caribbeanseeds.com/ajicaballero
This sauce is nicely piquant like the Tabasco brand of hot sauce we’re all familar with. However, in this sauce there is a sweet undertone from fermented pineapple. That’s right, pineapple wine is fermented along with aji caballero chilies, garlic, herbs and spices to create this condiment. The traditional process is lengthy but well worth the wait. It takes a day or two for the pineapple to ferment enough to achieve a tangy aroma and taste. Then once the remaining ingredients are added it needs to ferment an additional 5 days at least and 14 days max. The time will depend on the temperature of the kitchen or pantry. Obviously, it will take less time to ferment in the summer. Once the fermentation has finished, the sauce is strained, bottled and aged for another 14 days. The longer it ages the hotter it gets.
If you’re not into brewing pineapple wine or waiting a month to taste the end result, then you’ll love this recipe. Pineapple wine is available in just about all supermarkets and ABC stores. Any cheap brand will do but if you’re making this for gourmet gifts check out http://pineapplewine.net for pineapple wine sources from Maui and Florida. In lieu of pineapple wine, use Tequila, white wine or white rum.
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 10 red hot chilies (aji caballero or habanero), remove stems and halve
- 4 red cayenne chilies, remove stems and halve
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 small onion, minced
- 1- 1/4 cups pineapple wine (or 1 cups pineapple juice and 1/4 cup white wine, Tequila or white rum)
- 6 Tbsp lime juice or orange juice
- 1/2 tsp cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin powder
- 1 Tbsp whole black peppercorns
- 1/2 tsp oregano leaves (dry)
- 1 sprigs culantro (recao) optional
- 4 sprigs cilantro (coriander leaves) optional
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp sugar (optional if using orange juice)
- Over medium-high heat, saute chilies, garlic and onion just until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Remove and let cool.
- Add remaining ingredients to a blender and whirl until smooth.
- Add cooled chilies, garlic and onion to the blender and whirl until smooth. For a thinner consistency add more pineapple juice or wine.
- Pour into sterilized bottles, cap and let age at least 1 week. The longer it steeps, the hotter and more flavorful it will be.
- Refrigerate once opened.