For the first time in my life, i have grown chillies. I bought a 6-pack of seedling chilli plants from Mitre-10, at the same time as i bought a 6-pack of capsicum seedlings. I've achieved success with both (i've tried growing capsicums previously and failed), but suddenly i had a whole lot more chillies than i know what to do with. I could have just dried them, but decided to try something a little more adventurous - sweet chilli sauce. We use a bit of the stuff, and home-grown home-
made is always so much more satisfying than bought. Plus you have the bonus of knowing exactly what has gone into it, even if that just means an awareness of exactly HOW much sugar is involved in the creation of a favoured condiment, thus encouraging slightly more judicious use of said condiment.
I had a look on line for recipes - there are of course no shortage of them. Some use surprisingly few chillies( 3 or 4); i was looking for a recipe that used plenty. Several recipes called for the inclusion of ketchup/tomato sauce, which i don't tend to make because i don't like the stuff, and i certainly wasn't going to buy some for the purpose of this recipe - kind of defeats the purpose of home-made to my mind. So i went for the simplest recipe i could find that called for only 4 ingredients, being fresh chillies, garlic, white vinegar and (of course) sugar. I found a knob of 'fresh' ginger in the fridge that needed using, so decided to add that. I could also see that this combination of ingredients was going to take a heck of a lot of cooking to thicken, and upon investigation of other recipes, found many used a mix of cornflour (cornstarch) and water to thicken the sauce. However my workmate had also passed me her mother's chilli sauce recipe (we talk about all sorts of things during our trips away, and the subject of how i was going to make use of my chillies had come up), and although i decided not to follow the recipe (it was one of those that called for the inclusion of a can of tomato sauce), i noted that it included grated apple, which seemed like a good way to help thicken the sauce. The following recipe is what i came up with by picking and choosing bits from all the recipes, and the end result seems very satisfactory. It is hotter than most commercial sweet chilli sauces; you can vary the heat by adding more or less of the chilli seeds and veins (You can also substitute red capsicum for half the chillies if you want a more child-friendly version). I highly recommend wearing gloves when preparing the chillies (i used disposable latex gloves), as even with careful hand-washing it is hard to get rid of all the chilli residue, and i've had some bad experiences involving rubbing my eyes after handling chillies in the past.
SWEET CHILLI SAUCE
Makes about 1 litre
350 g long fresh red chillies (about 10 to 12 large chillies)
3 fat garlic cloves, peeled
large knob of fresh root ginger, roughly chopped (optional)
500 ml (2 cups) rice-wine vinegar
3 cups white sugar
2 large apples
Halve 100g of the chillies and place in the bowl of a food processor. Halve and de-vein and de-seed the remaining chillies (or do this for all the chillies if you prefer less heat). Roughly chop and place in the food processor. Add the garlic, ginger (if using) and sugar. Process to make a fine paste. Scrape this paste into a large heavy-based pot and add 2 cups of vinegar (i used rice-wine vinegar, but white vinegar, spiced vinegar, white wine vinegar or cider vinegar will all work). Simmer over a low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes.
Peel, core and grate the apples, then chop until very fine. Add to the chilli sauce and cook a further 15 minutes until the mixture is starting to thicken.
Pour the sauce into sterilised airtight bottles and seal.