A Little Datil Just Might Do It!

Datil Peppers. My dad used to rave about the Datil Pepper Sauce made by his friend Luther. I don’t know why because Daddy isn’t really into cooking but he was always happy to have a bottle of sauce in the fridge. Perhaps he mixed it into his special sauce for smoked mullet? Luther passed on but his sweet wife and her (undocumented keeper of Southern tradition) son-in-law, Frank, continued putting up batches of the famed family sauce. Oh how happy was I to be a recipient on occasion.

At some point, the gardener/cook in me got to wondering about datil peppers ~ closely connected to the Minorcans of St. Augustine. I wanted to grow the peppers. I wanted to cook the sauce, put up datil pepper jelly, dine on Minorcan clam chowder! I wanted to know more, more, more. More about this famous pepper from St. Augustine, more about Minorcan cuisine. I searched the Internet to find datil pepper seeds ~ without luck. It has been said that datil peppers came from Spain with the Minorcans. Yet some researchers claim the peppers did not grow in Spain but came to St. Augustine via indentured Minorcans who had stopovers in the Caribbean on their way to Florida. It has also been said that to be true datils, they must be grown in St. Johns County soil (like Vidalia onions in Georgia?). I’ve heard that the people of St. Augustine who are happy to sell datil pepper products are traditionally very reluctant to share seeds. One seldom sees the plants outside the area.

Contrary Mary to the rescue. A couple of years ago on our Spring visit to Contrary Mary’s Specialty Plants, we purchased our first datil pepper plant. Based on a recommendation from a customer, she had planted seeds (I’m sure from a very secret source). That plant proved to be prolific even though datils are an annual in these parts.

 And then joy of joys, Luther’s daughter, Frank’s wife, Gloria (one of my best forever friends) and her mother, shared the treasured recipe just in time for our first harvest. That bottle barely made it through the winter. This past year we planted again and put up three bottles. Next year? On to Datil Pepper Jelly!

Sweet and Spicy, it is a great condiment. A touch mixed with melted butter as a sauce for oysters! A must in Cocktail Sauce! A very important component of barbecue sauce ~ even Captain Romance who is not a fan of sauces complimented a datil bbq sauce on his country ribs last week. What’s your favorite datil dish? Minorcan recipe? Please share ~ A little datil might just do it ~ at The Sidewalk House. Hugs, y’all!

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