Tuesday, February 2, 2010

"Havana Mama" Candlemas Habanero Sauce

Today is not only the day Punxsutawney Phil predicts the weather, it is also my father's home town's biggest holiday! Growing up I remember having the opportunity to witness the celebrations in honor of La Candelaria, in the little town of Acala, Chiapas. In Santeria, the feast of La Candelaria is also consecrated to the Orisha Oya. Oya is a warrior princess, keeper of the cemetery and mistress of the wind.

Inspired by the feast of Candlemas lore, I created this "Havana Mama" hot habanero sauce! On a recent post about chiles I mentioned that the Habanero is probably the hottest chile you can find. I also talked about habaneros being originally cultivated in the Yucatan, not Havana. Not surprisingly the ingredients for this sauce are actually very similar to ones used on an ancient Mayan sauce called "Xni-pec", or "dog's nose". Why dog's nose? If you eat it, you'll have a runny wet nose just like a doggy. You may slobber a bit too!

Modern versions of the original Mayan recipe call for naranja agria, (bitter orange juice) but I'm using vinegar instead, since the orange may get too bitter if sitting in the refrigerator. To make this recipe, just follow the same instructions for making vinagre de chile, a recipe I posted last year. I made a few variations: I just added some orange bell peppers and carrots for sweetness, doubled the garlic, and omitted the onion. You can roast your bell peppers, carrots and garlic under the broiler for a few minutes in order to mellow the flavor. Make sure you check often, so they don't burn. As you can see, the texture and color of the vegetables also changes after broiling. Don't broil the habaneros, or your kitchen will be filled with hot, intoxicating fumes!

There is no need to marinate the peppers and habaneros for a week. You can puree everything right the way using a blender. You can strain your sauce, or leave a little bit of pepper and carrot pulp. Pour your sauce in a clean, desinfected recycled glass bottle and you are done! Cover your bottle with a cork stopper and refrigerate until ready to use.

You can decorate the bottle if you want to give it to a chile aficionado as a gift. I used a tapestry remnant and several ribbons to decorate mine. I also made a "Havana Mama" charm with polymer clay, then painted it with acrylic and metallic paints. You can find several cute handmade face charms on Etsy if you prefer not to make your own. You can also e-mail me and I'll be glad to make a charm for you.

More Candlemas Lore
The feast of the candles, or feast of purification is celebrated on February 2. According to wikipedia, in France candlemas is celebrated by eating crêpes. If the cook can flip a crêpe while holding a coin in the other hand, the family is assured of prosperity throughout the coming year. In other parts of Europe, the lore states that this was also the date when Christmas greenery had to be taken out of the home.

In Mexico, this is the day when families make their baby Jesus figurines (the same ones used in nativity scenes) "sit down". They create little chairs, crowns and elaborate costumes for their figurines. Also, whoever finds a little plastic doll inside the King's Cake (Rosca de Reyes) on January the 6th, has to throw a party on candlemas day. I posted more about the Rosca de Reyes tradition on my post "Let them eat cake...And babies?"

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