It always tempts us: that clear, glass jar stuffed with peppers, carrots and onions, drowned in vinegar. We know it’s going to hurt, but it’s one of those things we can’t help but eat when we’re on some island in Central America. The coasts of Belize, Costa Rica and most recently, Nicaragua, reminded us that African slaves were imported by the Spanish to fulfill their labor needs. Slave traders supplied the colonies with their human cargo, and as they intermingled, they formed ethnic groups like the Creoles. The settlers adapted to their new homes and passed on their beloved cultures and histories to the next generations.
Scotch bonnet pepper is just one of the ingredients that make Creolan food livelier than the rest. They are related to habaÃ±eros, only they “cause dizziness, numbness of hands and cheeks, and severe heartburn” when eaten raw. When I made jerk chicken, I had to wear disposable gloves before I handled them to avoid trouble. But there is no gain without the pain, so I attempted to make my own and relive our time on the islands. A day later, I served it on the side with roasted pork ribs on the bone, and the rest of the night was, well, spent at home. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
2 palm-fulls of scotch bonnet peppers, some halved
1 large white onion, thinly sliced
1 medium carrot, cut in matchsticks
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small knob of ginger, peeled, sliced thinly
1. In a sauce pot, simmer the garlic and ginger in the vinegar with some salt. Add carrots and peppers. Keep the fire low and stir ocassionally to avoid the vinegar from boiling.
2. When vinegar is somewhat reduced, remove the garlic and discard. Taste the liquid at your own risk. Season with some salt. Turn off the heat and let cool before transferring to a glass jar. Keep in room temperature for at least eight hours and then refrigerate to preserve. Serve a small portion when needed.