I was excited to get this new Datil Pepper Sauce from the nice folks at Dat’s Nice Hot Sauce. You see, I grew up in the state of Florida. Yes, my rearing took place in the land of Mickey Mouse, fresh orange juice, wonderful beaches, a truckload of aging retirees, and tropical heat so extensive that you were sweating even during Christmas week. However, Florida is also home to a lion’s share of the production of the datil pepper. For those of you who may not know much about the datil pepper, let me give you a snippet from WiseGeek:
The datil pepper has been cultivated by the Minorcan community living in the city of St. Augustine, Florida since the 18th century. It has been speculated that the peppers originated in the Caribbean, although they only grow in Florida today. Fresh datil peppers and seeds can be very difficult to find outside of the St. Augustine area, although the plant can theoretically be grown anywhere indoors. Typically, the fruit and seeds are available only from datil gardeners.
The datil pepper is most commonly used to make a sweet but intense hot sauce, and recipes vary widely. One popular sauce is made with tomato paste and other sweet ingredients including brown sugar and honey. Datil pepper is also used in such St. Augustine specialties as clam chowder, pepper relish, and chicken or sausage pilau.
The datil pepper is a member of the chinense species of Capsicum, which includes some of the hottest of all peppers, such as habanero and Scotch Bonnet. All of these pepper varieties have Scoville measurements between 100,000 and 300,000.
Despite the datil pepper being nearly as hot as a habanero pepper, many of the datil sauces I have had really have been on the sweeter side of the spectrum. Judging by the ingredients list below, I surmised that this would be a sauce in the same vein as those were.
Ingredients: ketchup, onions, datil peppers, green bell peppers, sugar, cucumber, brown sugar, roasted garlic, rice vinegar, red pepper rice vinegar, natural rice vinegar, rice wine vinegar, garlic, salt, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper
First impression: Huge twelve-ounce freaking bottle of sauce. This is no five-ounce woosie bottle, and the contents will require refrigeration once opened. While the ingredients seem all-natural, I think the FDA would take a dim view of the fact that both ketchup and Worcestershire sauce are not basic ingredients and should have their exact contents spelled out. Once I get past the unmistakable dominant tomato-ish scent of the ketchup, it seems like the peppers (datil and green bell) are quite the nice touch. In the wide-mouth bottle, it pours both quickly and easily.
Taste: The old Wendy’s commercial of “Where’s the beef?” came to mind, except I was saying “Where’s the heat?” It is very tomato-ey (hope that’s a real word), with tingles of heat from the datils. The more I ate, the more I appreciate the nuances of the flavor. I’d not had too many sauces in which green bell peppers are used in this amount, but in this case it really works. The balance of sweetness from the ketchup and sugar with the peppers and garlic are well done. The heat is what I would characterize and mild to medium, perhaps 4/10 for level of heat with not much in the way of heat buildup with more consumption.
I just couldn’t get in to using this with cooking, as the sauce seemed to caramelize too easily. The best use we had was with a spicy meatloaf in which we used about a half-cup of the sauce to mix in with some ground beef for a tasty finished loaf baked in our oven. For the most part, I simply just poured it over everything…from hamburger to fish to french fries to other starchy veggies. For a dipping sauce, it also excels with its medium heat and datil-laden flavor.
Overall recommendation: It’s tough to call this a traditional hot sauce, due to its overall taste profile and utility. It’s more like an “everything” sauce that is more of an all-purpose condiment than a chilehead staple hot sauce that is mostly a vinegar-dominated concoction with added pepper solids and spices. I would almost think of this like what ketchup would be if it grew up on the
Island of Doctor Moreau. It is a tasty, if not overly spicy, sauce that you will have no shortage of culinary uses for, both in and on food. Enjoy!