One of the best things about cruising at this time of year is that some of the public markets start selling delicious local farm goods. This is a great exchange — the local farmers get some cash for their products and you get the benefits of flavor, freshness and goodness.
What I really like is that some public markets are just a quick walk up the dock, like in Ganges on British Columbia’s Salt Spring Island. No matter where you are, now is the time to take advantage of locally grown produce and goods. Why settle for canned stuff when you can have fresh?
In June and early July, you can find fresh rhubarb and sweet onions in many markets or roadside stands. Rhubarb is always a favorite with pies and crumbles, but how about in a hot sauce? Peaches and mangoes are used in hot sauce, so why not rhubarb?
The slightly sour and tangy rhubarb would go well to temper the serious heat of habanero peppers, and sweet onions would balance out those flavors. So on a trip to Ganges, I bagged some rhubarb, onions, and garlic and made my way back to the boat galley.
As I walked I thought of the spicy and sultry Caribbean islands, and decided to make my own jerk sauce to marinate some chicken for dinner. A quick detour to the grocery store had me picking up the other necessary components – habanero peppers and spices. By then, my mouth was watering and my step quickened so I could start creating my NW Island Hot Sauce, a combination of Northwest and Caribbean ingredients.
First, I cooked the rhubarb with some water and sugar. Next I added the onions, garlic, chopped habanero peppers and spices. The sweet and spicy smell was filling the air as other boaters walked by, causing them to peer at my boat and smile. I taste-tested the sauce and it packed a punch. I decided to add some raisins and salt, let it simmer a bit and tasted it again. That was it! It had good heat, but the heat dissipated quickly and was contrasted by the sweet and tangy base sauce of rhubarb, onions, garlic and raisins.
After I let it cool, I smeared my NW Island Hot Sauce all over the chicken and let it marinate for the afternoon – about 4 or 5 hours. Then I grilled the chicken over low flame to avoid burning the sugar in the sauce. By then the marina was filled with sweet and tangy smell of my forthcoming supper.
I had plenty of extra sauce to go with dinner and for appetizers – cream cheese spread on crackers with a dollop of NW Island Hot Sauce. The chicken was tender and had a wonderful flavor that was not too hot and not too sweet. It was definitely a winner, not only with me, but also the crew.
Subsequent dinners had me serving my own NW Island Hot Sauce on grilled pork chops, which was very good too. It’s also good on fish. Make a foil boat, place fresh white fish fillets (lingcod, halibut, rockfish, etc.) inside, top with sauce and let sit about 15 minutes while the grill gets hot. Then grill the fish in the foil boat until done — depending on fish thickness, about 6 to 8 minutes. The sauce is also great as a dip for tortilla chips.
NW Island Hot Sauce is easy to make, doesn’t require too many ingredients and doesn’t destroy the galley with too many pots and pans and utensils. All that’s needed is a small pot and a wooden spoon. The sauce keeps well just being kept cool. Just remember when dealing with hot peppers to wear gloves. The recipe makes about three cups of hot sauce.
NW Island Hot Sauce
6 habanero chilis, cleaned of seeds and veins and chopped (wear gloves when handling)
5 to 6 chopped rhubarb stalks, about 3 cups
1 cup chopped Walla Walla sweet onion, about half a large onion
3 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup sugar (I used a sugar-free replacement as I am a diabetic — works and tastes great)
1/4 cup malt or cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
Dash ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
Put cut rhubarb into a pot with water, sugar and raisins, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered about 5 to 6 minutes until rhubarb is soft.
Add onions, habaneros, vinegar, garlic, and spices. Continue to simmer until onions and habaneros are soft, about another 5 to 6 minutes. Stir occasionally. Sauce should be thick. Add water if it gets too thick to keep from burning.
Let sauce cool before adding to a food processor or blender. Chop and mix until raisins and rhubarb chunks can no longer be seen, about 2 minutes.
If you don’t have a blender or food processor handy, stir and use the back of a spoon to mash rhubarb and raisins well.
Sauce is best the next day, after the flavors are allowed to set.