I decided I wanted to come up with a homemade cranberry sauce recipe that was spicy and that I could use more than 1 day per year. So I had this idea for using chiltepins. Never heard of the humble chiltepin? Neither had I a few years ago, but the chiltepin is native to the Sonoran Desert that covers much of Arizona where I live and we’re in the food business so somehow it got on my radar. Chiltepins have a good amount of heat, but they also have a really nice, almost smoky flavor. So I thought this would be an easy way to make my cranberry sauce recipe a little more interesting and a lot more versatile – not just a once a year food.
Chiltepin edged its way onto the food scene a few years back when food challenges were the new spectator sport and nothing could be hot enough. My husband and son participated in the ‘spicy food challenge’ craze (as only boys can), but in the comfort of their own home. As a result I became very familiar with most of the really spicy peppers – habaneros, moruga scorpions, and ghost chiles (one day I will tell you all about the habanero pizza story)… Trust me when I say I am very familiar with the Scoville Scale.
What’s the Scoville Scale? It is the scale on which every pepper’s heat is measured. At the very bottom is a bell pepper and it registers at zero. An anaheim pepper registers at 500-3,000.and a jalapeno, 3,500-8,000. At the top of the scale is the ghost chile pepper. It registers at 900,000-1,500,000 and under it is the habanero at 200,000-350,000. The chiltepin is just under the habanero at 100,000-250,000 on the Scoville scale. It’s a small pepper, but packs a hefty punch, and helps make the best cranberry sauce even better. I don’t use too much because I just want a little of the heat from the pepper and a lot of the flavor. Chiltepins are a little red pod (pictured below) that can be easily crushed and used to spice up a homemade salsa or sauce or homemade cranberry sauce. What I like most about it other than its flavor, is that it is small, effortlessly crushed and easy to incorporate into any dish. Luckily, I live in Arizona, so this little red pepper is readily available. Your local specialty store should carry them, but if not you can get them here on Amazon.
I made this chiltepin cranberry sauce recipe for my kids and they loved it. The combination of the sweet from the sugar and the heat and smokiness from the chiltepin were balanced by the zest from the citrus. And the combination makes it friendly to all who want to eat it. It’s a wonderful alternative to the usual Thanksgiving cranberry sauce and complements the turkey rub and sausage stuffing recipes I gave you from my Southwest Thanksgiving series. But the best thing? I have been pairing it with other things at dinner like pork chops, pork loin, and roasted chicken and it has been a winner. It’s a really nice counterpoint to the white meats and is something a little different.
Be brave and give this recipe a try, you won’t be disappointed. And don’t be shy, leave me a comment on Facebook and tell me everything!
Homemade Cranberry Sauce with Roasted Chiltepin & Lime Zest Recipe
- 4 chiltepin peppers*, crushed, 2 more for for garnish
- 4 cups of cranberries
- 1 lime, zested, 1 more for garnish
- ½ orange, zested
- 1 ¼ cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp ground ginger
Heat a saucepan on medium heat and add 4 crushed chiltepin peppers. Cook for 30 seconds. Add the rest of the ingredients to the saucepan, except for garnish lime and garnish chiltepins. Continue cooking on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it comes to a boil then reduce heat to low, maintaining a simmer for 10-15 mins. Remove from heat. Transfer to serving dish and let cool. Homemade cranberry sauce will thicken up as it cools. Zest a lime to garnish. Crush the last 2 chiltepins and sprinkle on top. Serve.
** You can reduce the amount of chiltepins for a milder flavor.