Today let’s time travel back to 1998. I was trapped in a job that did not make me happy. I answered phones for the cable company. I am still at this company. I love the company I work for, don’t get me wrong but answering phones for any company can be a trying experience. At one point, I loved answering the phones. When I first joined my employer we were very focused on customer service. I loved customer service. Back then I was a sweet and kind person, not yet coarsened by years of abuse by strangers who don’t care how they treat the disembodied voice on the phone. After a couple of years, my company went from being a privately held company to a publicly held company. We went from a pure customer service focus to a heavy sales focus. I am in no ways a sales person. I have a hard time getting into the mind set that making someone spend money on something they did not ask me for is in their best interest. All good sales people need to believe they are doing what is right for the customer. I couldn’t do that. Once the focus of the job changed, I became miserable and wanted to find a way out. A friend and coworker took computer classes and managed to escape into our Information Technology department. She was very happy there. I decided it was time for training.
I have always thought of myself as having a creative bent. When I was young, I wanted to be an actress and my first attempt at college took me to drama school. I went back to school in 1997 to take computer classes and discovered that our junior college was starting to heavily get into multi media. Computers and art! Sign me up! Alas, I found out that at the time, fledgling webmasters were a dime a dozen and they were getting paid less than I could make answering phones. I live in an expensive resort community so I had to buckle down and take the less exciting sorts of computer classes that would help me get an information technology job, which I did. I moved to a department were the work is still stressful but much more rewarding. I am happier now.
In 1998, before I became practical, I took a web design class. The web was still getting off the ground at that point. Some people were still putting together websites by hand with HTML code. I put together a chili pepper website for the class that I was very proud of. The site is no longer live on the web but it still lives on my hard drive. Here is the home page. Recognize the chili banner? I drew that. I still like it so much I used it on my blog.
Here is the fancy part. I have java script that causes the links to glow a fiery red when you mouse over them. I was very, very proud of that. 😀
At the time, I was looking everywhere for content to put on my web page. I was talking to my Mom one day and I told her about my project for school. My Mom suddenly starts telling me how to make a jalapeno hot sauce. I sit there a little stunned while I quickly try to write it down. My Mom is from Guatemala but the whole time I am growing up she rarely cooked Hispanic food. We ate like any other American family on our block: Spaghetti, soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, roast chicken, steak, hamburgers, etc. She would also make plenty of non-kid friendly food that my New Yorker dad who grew up between the 30’s and 50’s would like such as grilled liver and onions and baked trout.
Needless to say, on those days I would hover over at my best friend’s house like a homeless waif at dinnertime until someone would take pity on me and invite me to stay. Sure we would sometimes eat beans and tortillas if money was tight and I can remember her making chili rellenos and chilaquiles. Avocados and salsa were not strangers. But she never made these things on a daily basis like most Hispanic moms would. When she rattled off this hot sauce recipe, all I could think was, “she never made this for us! How does she have this memorized?” My Mom cooks without recipes. Her food is good but not fancy. I wish I could do that. I am getting better, but I can’t dictate a recipe to you off of the top of my head. Anyway, I was a little skeptical about how this salsa would turn out. I went ahead and made it and it was really good! It is especially nice on scrambled eggs nestled in a warm tortilla. I went ahead and published my website online in order to pass my class (the teacher wanted our final projects to be live) and my Mom’s hot sauce was good enough to share with the world.
I hadn’t made it in years but every fall when the Jalapenos are red, I mean to make it. Last week at he farmer’s market, one of my favorite farmers had red jalapenos for one dollar a pound. I scooped up a pound of them. He was shocked; most people buy a couple of pennies worth of jalapenos at a time. He wondered what I would make. I declared: “Hot sauce!” I amused him, I could tell. This hot sauce is worth the work.
If you decide to make this hot sauce there are rules. Please do not break the rules. They are for your own good.
- Make sure to run the fan above your stove and open a window or two. Fumes from the chilies and the vinegar will make you sneeze, cough, and may give you watery eyes.
- Evacuate anything or anyone you love from the area. Significant others, children, pets, Herbert. The fumes and smells will cause complaints
- Wear gloves when working with chilies.
- Whether you believe me or not about #3. (#3 is the rule I always break. I have also been known to use caustic household chemicals without gloves. Do as I say, not as I do). Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with your gloves or your naked hands if you refuse to listen. I repeat, do not allow jalapeno juice near any mucus membranes!
- This sauce will splatter, be careful not to get burned.
- Don’t be scared. Make this hot sauce.
Carmen’s jalapeno hot sauce
1 lb ripe (red) jalapeno chilies, seeds removed and coarsely chopped
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
5 whole garlic cloves
1 small onion, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
1 – 2 tbsp fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
Place all of the ingredients except for the oil in a medium sized saucepan and simmer until soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool slightly. Remove the bay leaves and carefully, transfer the jalapeno mixture to a food processor. Puree until smooth. Wash and dry your saucepan. Heat the oil in the saucepan over medium heat and then carefully add the puree. The sauce may splatter when it hits the hot oil. Stir. Heat the sauce over medium heat to a strong simmer and then reduce to a low simmer. Simmer for up to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, to thicken the sauce. During this time the sauce may splatter. I use a splatter guard but it really doesn’t help. Try to cook this on the lowest simmer you can while still having the liquid evaporate and the sauce thicken while minimizing the mess and chance of getting burned. Cool the sauce at room temperature and then store the sauce in an airtight container in the fridge.