Tuesday, October 27, 2009

RECIPE - Home-made chili-pepper sauce (pimenta)

This is really more a how-to post, than a true recipe. The ingredients and quantities vary so much that it's impossible to write a traditional-style recipe. However, it's very easy to explain, and extremely easy to make. The resulting sauce, pimenta, can be used on the stove to spice up food as it's being cooked, or it can stand on the table to allow diners to add to their own taste. It's inexpensive, and it lasts forever without spoiling.

First, you need to collect the ingredients and materials. You'll need about 1/2 lb. (500 gr.) of one or more varieties of small, hot chili peppers. What's available to you will depend on your own market sources in your city. For the sauce in the photos in this post, I used two chili peppers available locally here in Fortaleza - malagueta and camurim. The vendor I bought the chilis from at Fortaleza's central market, Sao Sebastiao, recommended combining these two, as the malagueta would provide the heat, and the camurim would provide the aroma and flavor. You'll also need some small glass bottles, suitable for the size of the chilis. I used recycled Worcestershire sauce bottles, but almost any kind will work. And last, you'll need some liquid to cover the chilis in the bottle. The liquids used most commonly in Brazil are vinegar (white or wine) or cachaça, Brazil's sugar-cane based liquor. I chose cachaça.

In preparing the pimenta, it's best to use rubber gloves whenever handling the chilis. Wash the chilis thoroughly, then pull off the stems, leaving the chilis whole. Pack them into the bottle, filling it completely. Then add the liquid to cover, and cap the bottle. Let stand at least 3 days for flavor to develop before using. As the pimenta is used at the stove or table, the liquid can be replenished.

Incidentally, pimenta makes an excellent gift for a holiday, or as a host/hostess present at a dinner party.


  1. I am curious about using cachaca is the recipe--does the alcohol remain and you essentially have a very hot rum? Or does the alcohol content break down?

    1. Since this hot sauce is not cooked, the alcohol does remain. However, this sauce is VERY hot (spicy) and most people use three or four drops only to season a dish, so the quantity of alcohol is not enormous. However, this recipe would not be good for anyone who cannot have any alcohol. Thanks for bringing up this point - I should have mentioned that in the article at the time it was written.

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