The mint lures you in. After that first bite, you think, this isn’t so hot, as the cooling quality of mint gives your mouth that feeling of a cool breeze. Then, wham! — the heat lands on your tongue like stepping barefoot into hot sand. Ouch. It hurts so good. In this recipe we use green Thai dragon chiles, partly because as gardeners we don’t want to wait out the long ripening period, and partly because the green pepper hasn’t turned sweet yet and still has a nice vegetal flavor that pairs well with the herbs. If you don’t have access to fresh green Thai chiles, use serranos (not as hot) or dried red Thai chiles; you will still get a wonderful juxtaposition of flavors. And, as always, feel free to add more chiles for a higher heat.
- 12–15 green Thai dragon chiles (or serrano or dried red Thai chiles)
- 3 bunches cilantro (about ½ pound)
- 3 bunches mint (about ½ pound)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Combine the chiles, cilantro, and mint in a food processor and process to a paste consistency. Sprinkle in the salt. The paste will become moist right away and will look juicier than some pastes.
- Pack the paste into a jar that is just the right size for your ferment, pressing out any air pockets as you go. Leave about 1 inch of headspace.
- Press a piece of plastic (or other cartouche) against the surface of the ferment, being careful not to trap any air beneath it. Screw the lid down tightly.
- Set the jar in a corner of the kitchen to ferment, and watch for air pockets forming in the paste. If you see any, open the lid and press the paste back down. If the lid starts to bulge, simply open it for a moment to burp the ferment.
- Allow to ferment for about 7 days. You will know it is ready when the verdant green mixture becomes a dull olive color and the brine layer on top is a cloudy green. It will smell of minty cilantro, with a pickled edge. The flavors will have mingled.
- When it is ready, place a clean small round of plastic or parchment paper directly on top of the paste. Tighten the lid, then store in the fridge, where it will keep for up to 8 months.
This recipe is an excerpt from Fiery Ferments, © by Kirsten Shockey and Christopher Shockey, photography by © Lara Ferroni, used with permission from Storey Publishing.