Monday, September 12, 2011

RECIPE - Homemade Hot Sauce, Brazilian Style (Pimenta Caseira)

Photo courtesy Come-se
A bottle of hot sauce, made with spicy chili peppers, vinegar and flavorings, is one of the most important tools in one's home pantry or on a shelf in the kitchen. Whenever a dish seems flat or a bit dull, a drop or two of hot sauce can perk it up, enliven all the other flavors of the dish, and make diners sit up and take notice. Smart cooks, professional and amateur, Brazilian or otherwise, have known this for a long time, and a bottle of hot sauce sits in a convenient location in their kitchens, waiting to be called on to bring a dish to life.

Many times, this hot sauce is the Louisiana-made Tabasco sauce, a marvelously useful and totally natural aged hot sauce. Few professional kitchens would be without Tabasco sauce. But there are many others as well, and each has its own personality, its signature.

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 it's 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.

This recipe for Brazilian hot sauce comes to Flavors of Brazil 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.
RECIPE - Homemade Hot Sauce, Brazilian Style (Pimenta Caseira)

NB. 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
2 cloves
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.


  1. A dash of hot sauce always adds that bit of spice to bland food. I agree with you that it's one of the most important arsenals in the kitchen, and using it is a habit that's hard to break.

    Alex Staff

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