It’s somewhat hard to explain the “story” behind the sauce. As a boy growing up in the south, people were always planting things in their own gardens. The weather in the south is very condusive to numerous plants and vegetables. My mother was one of these people. Once she started growing her own plants and vegetables, she started experimenting on numerous ways to serve them at the dinner table. Her squash and zucchinni casseroles were some of my personal favorites. These were her favorite crops, the ones that gave her the most satisfaction, seeing how everyone would always want more at the dinner table. She was very proud at the enormous size of the vegetable. The larger, the better, as she always would say! She started planting red and green peppers when the first “crops” were planted. These always ended up on our salads, of course, along with carrots, peas, radishes and so forth. I’m sure many people lived through those times as well.
Mom worked for a construction company and it was through her talks with her coworkers, as such, that she learned about hot peppers. Many of the foremen made their own concoction of pepper sauce, or pepper juice, as many of them called it. She learned how to combine peppers with other veggies to make a vinaigrette type dressing. The more peppers, it didn’t matter what kind, the better. She let them sit for weeks in a bottle with vinegar. She’d add more peppers as the bottle was used and depleted. A number of guys at work were always talking about the “datil pepper.” It soon became apparent that this was the pepper of choice for any sauce of dressing many or dressing many of the guys made. Soon she was planting her first datil pepper plants. The soil in the South is just what these little fellas like.
Her first crop consisted of a couple of bushes. She treated them like gold, and soon in the heat of summer, picked her first batch of peppers. She would put them in many things to add “heat” to the dish. (Some of these dishes are on the recipe page. The spicy boiled peanuts are one of my favorites — need plenty of cold beer — and also, the datil pepper chili is great during football season, and you’ll never find a better corn bread with a few datils added!)
As time went along and she was prodded by her coworkers, she set out to make a datil pepper sauce for her friends and coworkers. She asked for many of their recipes and found that many recipes were somewhat different, but yet very similar. The more datils, the hotter the sauce. I remember my brother, sister and myself. Being my mom’s “test lab”, we’d come home from the beach on the weekends and the whole house was permeated by the smell of datil cooking. It became apparent that too hot was just that — too hot! Sometimes we couldn’t use the sauce. It was just too hot to consume.
After what seemed like forever, she came up with a sauce that worked. A hot but yet sweet sauce, good on just about anything. She made this sauce for years for friends and family, especially around Christmas. She would grow peppers in the summer, freeze them, and make the sauce for gifts. We couldn’t wait for our Christmas basket with our sauce and crackers. That’s how I learned to love datil pepper sauce — crackers, cream cheese, and a dab of datil sauce on top. My brother and I would sit at home during football season and eat that staple through two games.
My mother passed away some 11 years ago and I started making the sauce for my friends and coworkers. I had planted numerous datil bushes over the years and picked enough peppers to take care of everyone. I have about ten bushes now, and one bush is five years old. They are very durable plants. Because the winters are slight here, it’s not too much trouble to “save” them during the winter months. They just need (a lot of) sun and water.
My wife and I often wondered how much trouble it would be to bottle mom’s sauce. After all the paperwork and with the help of numerous people, we finally succeeded in doing just that.
Our mother would be proud.