Pickapeppa, the national sauce of Jamaica, is a complex, fruity, savory seasoning sauce. It's reminiscent of steak sauce, but with a tropical kick. Traditionally aged in barrels, it's not available with kosher certification. Luckily it's fairly easy to make your own completely kosher homemade pickapeppa sauce (minus the barrels).Yum
Key ingredients for pickapeppa sauce
Pickapeppa sauce has a long ingredient list, but that's what gives the sauce its signature complexity. None of the ingredients are particularly kosher sensitive, however. The sauce has a tomato and vinegar base. The type of vinegar used in the proprietary sauce is cane (sugar) vinegar. I was not able to find a kosher certified version, so I looked up its flavor profile and it's a mild-tasting vinegar. I substituted apple cider vinegar, which I saw a number of suggestions for online. I think it worked very well, although I've never had authentic pickapeppa to compare to.
Another important element in pickapeppa sauce is mango. For a batch of sauce, you'll need half a ripe mango.
Dried chilies and raisins are another important piece here. The guajillo chile is mandatory, but for the spicy pepper, you can go with either aji amarillo or chile de arbol (I used the latter). Just the one will add a tiny kick to the sauce, but it won't make it hot; this is a mild sauce. Add more heat if you like, of course.
The trickiest bit from the perspective of the kosher keeper is tamarind paste. If you can't find certified paste, you could always seek out whole tamarind pods which any Indian grocery will carry. My kosher market carries the pods as well as certified pulp and paste by Golchin brand.
Otherwise, the sauce uses regular and brown sugar, plus spices you probably have in your spice cabinet (notably: clove and thyme) and aromatics like onion and garlic.
Cooking pickapeppa sauce
Once you've gone through the hassle of sourcing the ingredients, cooking down the sauce is easy. You throw everything into a pot, bring it to a simmer, and let it cook away over a low flame for half an hour (until it looks like the picture above right).
Straining the sauce
Straining the sauce is mandatory for getting the right texture, and it's sort of a pain. Start by pureeing it with a blender. (It'll still have a lot of pulpy bits.) I like to strain it directly into the storage jar by putting a mesh sieve into a funnel, as pictured above. It's a viscous sauce, so slow draining. You'll have to press down on it extensively with the back of a spoon or firm spatula. The end result is a perfect, velvety, complex pickapeppa, albeit unaged.
How to use your kosher pickapeppa
Reminiscent of steak sauce, pickapeppa goes great with steak and even meatballs. It's a key ingredient in Jamaican meat patties.
Kosher Pickapeppa Sauce (parve)
- 1-2 jars, for storing
- Immersion blender or other blender
- Fine-mesh sieve, for straining
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 1 cup cane or other mild vinegar - I used apple cider vinegar
- ½ medium onion - diced
- 1 garlic clove - minced
- ½ ripe mango, cubed
- ½ cup raisins
- 1 small dried aji amarillo chile or chile de arbol
- 1 medium dried guajillo chile
- 3 Tbsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tsp tamarind paste
- ⅓ tsp dried thyme
- ⅛ tsp ground clove
- salt and white or black pepper
- Combine all sauce ingredients in a medium-sized pot.
- Bring the mixture to a full simmer over medium heat. When it is close to a boil, lower the heat to low and cover. Cook for half an hour, until the chilies and raisins are thoroughly softened.
- Remove the pot from the heat. Remove the chilies and place on a cutting boad. When cool enough to handle, cut off the stems and remove as many of the seeds as possible. Return the de-stemmed and seeded chilies to the pot.
- Using an immersion blender, purée the mixture thoroughly. Strain through a fine sieve, forcing somewhat through. Discard the solids.
- Place a funnel in a prepared jar. Into the funnel, place a small, fine-meshed sieve. Strain the sauce through the sieve into the jar, pressing down with a spoon to extract as much of the sauce as possible. There will be a fair amount of pulp left over, which should be discarded.
- Allow the sauce to cool and thicken, then store in the refrigerator for several weeks.