Cascabel peppers, also known as chile bola or rattle chiles, because of the way the seeds rattle around inside the small round dried pepper, grow wild on the Pacific coast of Central America and Mexico. In this country, you generally only find the dried peppers, or sometimes the ground powder. Last winter I bought a bag from Penzey’s, intent on making some recipe or other, which I apparently never made, so I had a mostly full bag of these little rattlers sitting in my cupboard.
Cascabels are rich, smoky and tannic, with a medium-low heat and a distinctive flavor. They are often used in classic Mexican cooking, in chile stews and moles, tacos or beans. The flavor is rich yet subtle and works well with the sweetness of summer peaches and local wildflower honey and the tang of apple cider vinegar and a dash of Worcestershire.
In addition to the delicious flavor, and the surprise of a barbecue sauce that does not contain tomatoes, this sauce is a great way to preserve the season’s peaches. Smoky and rich, sweet & tangy, with a subtle kick from the chile peppers, this barbecue sauce will earn raves at your next backyard grillfest.
Adapted from Zesty Peach Barbecue Sauce in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, J. Kingry & L. Devine
Peach Cascabel BBQ Sauce
- 5 lbs peaches (I used white peaches from Dressel Farms)
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 12 dried cascabel chiles (1 oz, or about 1 cup loosely packed)
- 4 dried Thai chile peppers, stemmed (optional)
- 1 and 1/4 cups onion, finely chopped (2 medium Cippolini onions)
- 1 cup local honey
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 4 tbsp minced garlic
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp sea salt
- Prepare canner, jars and lids.
- Fill a medium stockpot halfway full of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add 1 cup of vinegar to a separate, large stockpot and set aside.
- Wash peaches and slice a small X in the blossom end of each peach. Boil peaches, one or two at a time, for about 1 minute to loosen skins, then remove with a slotted spoon and immediately plunge into an ice bath. Once cool enough to handle, the skins should slip off easily. Peel, trim off any brown spots, then break peach flesh into large chunks, removing the pit, with your fingers and add to the vinegar in the large stockpot (or roughly chop with a knife, but I find that you lose a lot of delicious peach juice that way). Toss with the vinegar to prevent browning.
- Bring the peach/vinegar mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or until peaches are softened enough to puree. Remove from heat, and use your trusty immersion blender to puree, or puree in batches in a blender or food processor. Measure the puree; you should have 9 cups total. If you have less than 8 cups, adjust the amounts of onion, chile and garlic accordingly.
- Remove the stems from the dried chiles, tear peppers in half and shake out the seeds into a small bowl. I don’t chop the pepper skins, as they will be chopped up by the immersion blender, however, if you plan to leave your sauce somewhat chunky, you should roughly chop the pepper skins at this point. Add the seeds according to your taste for the heat; Cascabel are a relatively mild pepper (11,000 units), but the seeds can pack a bite. I start with adding about half the seeds, and add more along the way after taste-testing. Thai peppers are extremely hot and I add just a few to give added kick to the sauce.
- Return the puree to the stockpot and add the onions, garlic, chile pepper skins & seeds, honey, molasses, Worcestershire sauce and salt. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Blend once again for a very smooth sauce, or leave as is for a chunky sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Continue to simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is the thickness you desire, remembering that it will thicken some on cooling. I like a pretty thick sauce, so I simmer for an additional hour or more, tasting and adjusting spices or sweetener along the way. You can speed up the reducing of the sauce by boiling over high heat, but if so you must stir constantly to prevent scorching.
- Fill hot, sterilized, canning jars to 1/2-inch headspace and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes for both half-pint and pint jars. Cool, label and store.
Yields 4 to 5 pint jars of a thick sauce.
- You can make a 100% local version by using local dried chiles and omitting the molasses and Worcestershire.
- Chipotle and peaches marry well, so dried chipotle peppers would be a nice substitute. Chipotles (dried, smoked red jalapeno peppers) are somewhat spicier than Cascabel peppers, at 15,000 units, so adjust the amounts accordingly.
- For safety in canning, do not increase the amounts of non-acidic vegetables (onion, garlic and chile peppers) or decrease the amount of peaches or vinegar. You can safely increase the amount of peaches or vinegar should you choose.
Canned, store in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year.