Prepare to feel the burn. Sunday is the Miami Marathon, but you don’t need to run 26 miles to feel something mighty like a runner’s high. Friday is National Hot Sauce Day.
That hot sauce tingle — or burn — comes from chiles, rich in vitamins C and A plus capsaicin, a natural anti-inflammatory and analgesic (painkiller).
Slather on topical capsaicin creams post-marathon to warm and soothe sore muscles. Or get your capsaicin another way. Ingesting chiles releases endorphins in the brain — chile rush. The hotter the chile, the bigger the capsaicin hit.
From jalapeños, rating a mere 2,500 SCUs (heat units on the chile-rating Scoville Scale) to scorpion chiles, which can hit 2 million SCUs, South Florida grows chiles to suit your pain-to-pleasure ratio. It’s a hot spot for hot sauces, too.
Locals to love
These four hot sauces are all-natural, offering Florida fire and flavor. Run out and get yourself some:
▪ Blackie’s Best (8 ounces, $4.95): Thick and slow-cooked with locally sourced cayenne (averaging 40,000 SCUs) and other chiles, this vinegar-based sauce tastes sharp by itself but makes friends with food. Miami’s Ron “Blackie” Blackburn has just launched his product commercially. It’s available at local indie outfits, including Epicure and Robert is Here.
▪ Tabañero (8 ounces, $6.99): Tampa-made and vinegar-free, combining Mexican tabascos and habaneros (both around 50,000 SCUs) with South Florida Key limes. It’s got a thin consistency, no vinegar bite, just pure chile heat. It’s the house favorite at Margaritavilles and my house, too. Coming soon to Publix, find Tabañero now at Living Green Market in Fort Lauderdale and Peppers of Key West. Available in original, sweet and spicy, and, for maximum capsaicin kick, extra hot.
▪ Datil Do It (10 ounces, $3.75): Sweet, fiery, fussy and rare, Datil peppers grow only in St. Augustine. Feel the burn here with this St. Augustine-made sauce that’s like killer ketchup: thick and dark with mango, molasses and tomato for sweetness, and datil and habanero for heat. Available at some Publix stores and at Peppers in Key West.
▪ Crackerman’s Pickled Habanero Chili Sauce (8 ounces, $7): Chunky with local habaneros and ginger, this hot sauce spins Latin or Asian. As Miami artisanal baker Crackerman, aka Stefan Uch says, “Chile reigns supreme worldwide.” At Coral Gables, Legion Park, Coral Springs and Parkland farmers markers.
Ellen Kanner: @edgyveggie1
Recipe adapted by Ellen Kanner. It’s a sauce, it’s a relish, it’s a veg-intense condiment you’ll find in almost every Haitian home and restaurant. Pikliz (pronounced pik-leez) makes the most out of Haitian crops like carrots, cabbage, chiles and onions. It looks like cole slaw. Be not deceived. It packs a Scotch bonnet sucker punch. It seems easier to bung all the vegetables in the food processor, but if possible, resist the temptation. Hand chopping the vegetables results in crisper, more authentic pikliz. This fuss-free pickle will be ready to eat after 48 hours, but flavors will bloom the longer you keep it. And you can keep it indefinitely. Adding a second Scotch bonnet also makes it truer to the Haitian ideal. Unless you can truly stand the heat, start with one. Avoid Scotch bonnet burn. Wear rubber or latex gloves when mincing them. Wash your knife, cutting board and hands when you’re done.
2 cups cabbage (about half a pound), thinly sliced
1 carrot, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
1 to 2 Scotch bonnet peppers, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
2/3 cup fresh orange juice
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1 cup cider vinegar
4 whole cloves
4 garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
In a large bowl, mix together the sliced cabbage, diced carrot, pepper and onion and minced Scotch bonnet. Sprinkle in sea salt and toss to combine. Pour in the orange juice, lime juice and cider vinegar. Vegetables should be just about submerged. Give them a stir and drop in the cloves, garlic cloves and peppercorns. Pour everything into a generous 1 quart container with a tight lid. Refrigerate for a couple of days, giving the jar an occasional shake when you think to.
Enjoy a spoonful or two of pikliz on just about anything that needs a little interest, including basic potato salad.
Yield: About 3 cups