Pique: Puerto Rican style hot sauce

This orange-y liquid hot sauce in a bottle is unofficially the national hot sauce of Puerto Rico. It’s vinegary, garlicky, and spicy to perfection–my kind of chilli pepper madness. Here’s my version of pique. Feel free to make your own combo of vinegar, chillies, garlic and spices that suits your palate. Traditional pique also uses the juice from boiled pineapple flesh and I’ve even seen a bit of mango added from time to time as well. My only caveat would be to use Bragg’s apple cider vinegar; with its distinctive orange colour and flavour, it’s the biz!

Overall, Puerto Rican food is not particularly spicy. But a little drizzle of pique on top of pollo al horno (aka baked chicken), vegetables, in soup, on a salad, beef or whatever is just what the doctor ordered. Standard practice, by the way, is to top off the vinegar as you work your way through the bottle for a nearly never-ending bottle of hot pique sauce.

PIQUE (Pee-Kay)
Puerto Rican Hot Sauce

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INGREDIENTS
2 c Bragg’s vinegar
1-3 Thai hot chillies OR 1-3 orange habanero chilli peppers
1 red jalapeños
1 green serrano chilli
6 cloves fresh garlic
2 t salt
pinch of sugar and/or 2 T olive oil
3 stems cilantro (with leaves)
1 bay leaf
12 whole black peppercorns, cut in half
juice from 1 lime
2 T rum (Puerto Rican of course)

STEPS
1. In a food processor, combine the chillies, garlic, cilantro, and about 1 cup of the vinegar. Pulse until well blended.
2. Transfer the mixture to a small sauce pan, add a pinch of sugar, and simmer for about 10 minutes.
3. Add the salt, the juice from 1 lime, 2 T of olive, the halved peppercorns, and rum if you are using. Using a funnel, pour the pepper vinegar mixture into a 16 ounce vinaigrette bottle, preferably one with a pour spout. (Or, to be really island authentic, repurpose an old rum bottle.)
4. Leaving a little space at the top, fill the remaining space in the bottle with more Bragg vinegar. Add 2-3 whole chillies and the bay leaf.
5. Set aside for 1-2 days at room temperature to let all those flavours develop. Season to taste: add more vinegar if too spicy, more chopped chillies if not spicy enough.
NOTE: Another very common PR ingredient in pique is the juice from a bit of pineapple flesh boiled down or a few pieces of mango processed with the chilli mixture. I don’t add either because the fruit doesn’t sit well with me.

So enjoy and experiment with ‘tu pique’! Feel free to mix up the recipe and infuse the vinegar with whatever flavours, spices and ingredients work for you!

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