The Heat Is On: The Guyana Pepper Sauce
Okay, so you’ve heard it every Summer…someone asking for the hot sauce to spice up their barbeque. Then the deep breaths follow as they begin fanning their lips from the burn, looking for that glass of water, shocked at themselves for tearing up over a small taste of pepper. If you’re the onlooker, you’re probably chuckling on the side. If you’re the brave adventurer, you’re probably only going to laugh later. The best hot sauce makers have experienced this time and again when they’ve served up their concoctions. There are events every year across the country where people get together, research the hottest peppers, and tempt the courageous to try their brews and live to tell about it. But us mere mortals, who will not hunt the world to find the holy grail of hot peppers, might still want to have some fun in our circles. How do we compete with the masters? Well, the Guyana Pepper Sauce is it.
The appropriately dubbed "land of many waters" is located on the northeastern tip of South America, just above Brazil. Many people mistake it for a Caribbean island, because of its proximity to Trinidad & Tobago, where the Caribbean Islands end.
Guyana has a beautiful rain forest, and to the credit of the Guyanese, they’ve managed to maintain one of the most pristine jungles in the world. Two-thirds of the country is still untouched and largely unexplored rain forest. With the beautiful Amazon weather, there are lots of opportunities for for solanine nightshades in the genus capsicum to develop ever higher levels of capsaicin. As the expression goes: the hotter the weather, the better the pepper.
Say 'wiri'-what, now?
There are quite a few hot peppers native to the Guyanese lands. Their hotness would vary based on Scoville Heat Units (units used to measure the heat generated by a pepper). One of the best (and most popular in Guyana) to make a traditional pepper sauce is the wiri-wiri. It’s a species of the Capsicum Frutescens like the chili pepper; comparable to the Scotch Bonnet. So how hot is hot exactly when talking about this pepper? Surely you’ve tasted a jalapeño, which measures approximately 2,500 – 10,000 SHUs depending on its maturity or ripeness. Based on Scoville Heat Unit measurement the wiri-wiri is a scorching 150,000 SHUs when mature – a whopping 15 times hotter than the ripest jalapeño. Now is it the hottest pepper in the world – no. We leave that to peppers like the Bhut Jolokia from India, measuring in levels of 1,000,000+ SHUs. Why? Because we aim to make a flavorful pepper sauce and not pepper spray. Though I must say I've seen amazing things done with the ghost chilli to rave reviews. Now with the wiri-wiri you will feel the heat, taste the flavor, and still live to tell the tale. So if you’re looking to climb to the top of the backyard barbeque throne with a home-made pepper sauce to rival the pit masters, the wiri-wiri pepper in a good Guyana pepper sauce may be just what you’re looking for.
· wiri-wiri peppers (1 cup, 8 oz.)
· 1 Onion
· 1 Clove of Garlic
· ¼ large Ginger Root
· ½ cup/4oz. of Honey Mustard
· 1 tablespoon of Vinegar (preservative)
Step 1: Wash the peppers and remove the stems. Peel and wash the onions and garlic cloves. Remember to peel the ginger root as well.
Step 2: Place all ingredients in a food chopper and then add the honey mustard with approximately one to two tablespoons of white distilled vinegar. Cover and blend. This can make approximately 2 cups of pepper sauce. The honey mustard can be improvised to your taste. The vinegar acts as a preservative.
Step 3: Place in a container. A glass jar is most likely the best storage for this pepper sauce and for lasting freshness keep in the refrigerator when complete.
Note: you don't need a super-expensive food processor to do this. My favourite is the mini prep plus because it packs a pretty heavy punch. Having burned through multiple choppers this one finally made the cut, has held up for 3 years, & is still going like new. But any little chopper that holds approximately 16 ounces should do the trick in one easy step.
Yes, it comes in mild...slightly.
The secret to any pepper’s heat is in the seed (or rather the pith surrounding it). To make a milder version of this pepper sauce, simply remove the seeds before blending with the rest of the ingredients ingredients. Be careful, though: because the wiri-wiri is 15 times hotter than a jalapeño, removing the seeds will not tame the pepper. Removing the seeds only makes it slightly milder than its full 150,000 SHUs. So choosing to inflict this little pepper on your dinner guests might just be a case of ‘go hot or go home’.
One last tip: water is not enough to cool the tongue after eating this pepper. Milk (100% whole milk, not skim or light) will become the nectar of the gods if you need to ease the burn quickly and effectively. Have fun and good luck.
Other Guyanese Recipes
© 2011 Guyana Masala