RECIPE - Preserved Malagueta Peppers (Conserva de Pimenta Malagueta)

This simple recipe for preserving malagueta peppers in oil is typically Bahian - that is, from the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia. The cuisine of Bahia is often considered the most highly-developed and the most distinctive of all regional Brazilian cuisines and it brings memories of Africa and the Brazilian slave experience to the dining table. Bahian cooking is also, by any definition, the spiciest of all Brazilian gastronomic styles, and the presence of chili peppers in Bahian cooking is ubiquitous. Even of a meal consists only of white rice plus beans, as it often does for poorer Bahians, there is always hot chili pepper sauce to enliven the offering.

Most Bahian cooks - homemakers and professional chefs alike - make their own preserved peppers. The basic recipe is simple, nothing more than fresh chili peppers, perhaps some other flavoring ingredients like garlic or ginger, covered in oil and allowed to sit for some time so that they oil will take on the flavor and the heat of the peppers. At the table, the oil is spooned over a dish or plate of food but normally the peppers themselves are not eaten. Often the oil is topped up to assure a continuous supply of sauce.

This recipe is translated and adapted from an older post (2007) in a Brazilian blog called Um Casal na Cozinha (A Couple in the Kitchen). It's really more of lesson in how to make preserved peppers than a proper recipe. The recipe can be adapted using any variety of small hot chili pepper you might be able to find in a local market, or even a combination of chilis.

As this recipe will result in a jar of hot sauce to be used over a period of time, it's imperative to work hygienically, and to keep the sauce in the refrigerator once it's made. At the slightest indication of spoilage, discard the remaining quantity, and sterilize the jar if you intend to use it again to make preserved peppers.


RECIPE - Preserved Malagueta Peppers (Conserva de Pimenta Malagueta)

1 canning jar, any size desired, plus new lid and screwband

malagueta peppers, sufficient quantity to completely fill jar (or can substitute other chilis or a mix)

a few whole garlic cloves, peeled

one or two one-inch chunks of fresh ginger, peeled

kosher or pickling salt

1 oz. cachaça or brandy

olive oil, extra-virgin preferred

neutral vegetable oil, grapeseed or canola preferred


(Use plastic gloves whenever working with the malagueta chilis in this recipe, and when finished wash hands in hot, soapy water to remove any traces of capsaicin.)

Wash the chili peppers well in fresh water, and then poke one or two small holes in the flesh of each one using a toothpick or small skewer. This will allow the oil to penetrate into the chilis.

Sterilize the canning jar and lid following normal canning procedures. Pack the jar about one-third full with peppers, filling the jar tightly, but don't compress the peppers until they burst. Add half of the garlic and ginger, and sprinkle on a bit of salt. Add another third of a jar of peppers, top with the remaining garlic and ginger, sprinkle on a bit more salt and then fill the jar completely with peppers.

Drizzle the cachaça or brandy over the peppers in the jar, then fill the jar halfway with olive oil. Add sufficient vegetable oil to fill the jar completely. Tap the jar lightly on the countertop to remove any air bubble, and if required add a bit more oil to cover the peppers.

Tightly close the jar, turn it over once or twice to mix the oils, then set aside for at least two weeks in the refrigerator to mature.

When you want to use the sauce or to serve it at the table, remove it from the refrigerator a few hours beforehand to allow it to come to room temperature.

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