The Enigmatic Datil Pepper: A Spicy Delight of St. Augustine

Are you ready to embark on a culinary adventure and discover the secret behind St. Augustine’s favorite pepper? Get ready to tantalize your taste buds with the unique flavor of the datil pepper. Join the locals as they celebrate the arrival of cooler weather each October, embracing the datil pepper in all its spicy glory. Let’s unravel the mystery and explore the fascinating journey of this fiery delight.

Unveiling the Datil Pepper

Picture this: St. Augustine, a picturesque town nestled in the heart of Florida, boasts an abundance of datil peppers. These small hot peppers, a local treasure, add a perfect kick to many dishes. But what exactly is a datil pepper, and why is it so important to St. Augustine?

The datil pepper, scientifically known as Capsicum Chinese, belongs to the species “yellow lantern chili.” Contrary to its name, this plant has its origins in the New World, not China. The mystery of the datil pepper’s true roots remains unsolved. Some theories link it to the island of Minorca, while others speculate that it arrived through the African slave trade. According to “The Complete Chili Pepper Book,” the earliest mention of datil peppers in Florida dates back to 1880 when a jelly maker named S.B. Valls introduced them.

When ripe, these peppers turn a vibrant yellowish-orange color, growing up to 4 inches in length. The datil pepper boasts a heat index similar to that of a habanero, ranging from 100,000 to 300,000 on the Scoville scale. However, what sets it apart is its delightful sweetness, delicately complementing its spiciness.

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The St. Augustine Culinary Fingerprint

For centuries, communities around the world have cultivated their signature delicacies. St. Augustine can proudly claim the datil pepper as its own culinary fingerprint. Just as pineapples are synonymous with Hawaii, the datil pepper symbolizes St. Augustine’s unique flavor profile. Although datil peppers can be found outside the city, they are a rare gem. Most datil pepper products available on the market originate from peppers grown right here in the nation’s oldest city.

Exploring the Datil Pepper Wonderland

Finding fresh datil peppers outside of St. Augustine can be a challenge. However, don’t despair! Local farmers’ markets are your go-to destination. Every Wednesday, the St. Johns County Pier hosts the Wednesday Pier Farmers Market, where vendors proudly showcase these hot peppers. Additionally, the St. Augustine Amphitheatre Farmers Market takes place every Saturday morning, offering a variety of datil pepper products, often accompanied by mouthwatering free samples.

If you’re feeling adventurous and want to grow your own datil peppers at home, you’re in luck! Maggie’s Herb Farm and The Feed Store on SR 16 offer an assortment of pepper plants, both sweet and spicy. And for those unable to find fresh peppers, fear not! Local sauce and jelly vendors might just be able to provide you with a taste of the datil pepper’s magic.

Datil Pepper Goodies at Your Fingertips

Looking to savor the datil pepper experience beyond its natural form? Look no further than St. Augustine’s local shops and vendors. Indulge in a hot sauce extravaganza as you browse through the extensive inventory available at Hot Stuff, located on Treasury Street. As the largest retail store in the United States specializing in datil pepper products, Hot Stuff offers an array of brands, including Datil Dew, A Frame, Cowgill’s, and Dat’l Do-It. If you prefer online shopping, Minorcan Datil Pepper Products offers a variety of datil pepper treats, including Devil Drops and Minorcan Mustard, perfect for gifts or personal indulgence.

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The Datil Pepper on the Menu

Prepare to have your taste buds tantalized by the creative ways St. Augustine’s talented chefs incorporate the datil pepper into their dishes. At Amici’s Italian Restaurant, Chef Freddy cultivates his own datil plants, infusing a touch of spice into their delectable soups, such as the tantalizing watermelon soup and the comforting potato chowder. Sunset Grille, with its breathtaking views of St. Augustine Beach, offers award-winning Shrimp and Grits, prepared using the beloved datil pepper. Another mouthwatering creation on their menu is the Dang Datil Shrimp – a spicy twist on Bang Bang Shrimp.

Craving some heat beyond seafood? Head over to Florida Cracker Cafe and indulge in their Dat’l Do It Chicken Wings. This local favorite combines the tanginess and spiciness of datil pepper sauce, creating a unique flavor that will leave you wanting more. Don’t worry, if you can’t get enough, you can take a bottle of their beloved datil pepper sauce home with you.

Create Your Own Datil Pepper Adventure

Feeling inspired to embark on your own culinary journey with the datil pepper? Look no further than Bottled Hell, a recipe that will add a fiery kick to your dishes. This datil pepper hot sauce recipe is a local favorite, and you can find it in the souvenir cookbooks available around town. Channel your inner chef and experiment with this tantalizing sauce to spice up your favorite meals.

"Bottled Hell" (Datil Pepper Sauce)

- 2 cups datil peppers
- 3 cups vinegar
- 2 large bottles catsup

Instructions:
1. In an electric blender, combine 2 cups of chopped datil peppers and 1/2 cup vinegar. Blend for 5 minutes.
2. Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and add 2 large bottles of catsup and 2-1/2 cups of vinegar.
3. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
4. Allow the sauce to cool slightly before pouring it into small bottles.

Note: Datil peppers have a high Scoville Heat rating. Use caution when handling and consider wearing gloves, goggles, and even a mask.

Embrace the Datil Pepper Experience

As you explore the world of datil peppers, immerse yourself in the vibrant culture and unmatched flavors of St. Augustine. Let your taste buds dance to the unique melody of sweet and spicy, courtesy of the datil pepper. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a curious home cook, the datil pepper promises a culinary adventure like no other.

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For all your datil pepper needs, browse the delectable offerings of Ames Farm Center. Discover a world of flavor and embrace the magic of this treasured ingredient. Happy cooking!

Ames Farm Center

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