The Datil pepper is grown almost exclusively in the Northern Florida city of St. Augustine. St. Augustine is considered to be the oldest city in the United States, founded in 1565. The state of Florida was claimed for Spain in 1516 by Ponce de Leon in what is now the city of St. Augustine. This is where he is said to have found the famed “Fountain of Youth“. Who knows, maybe it was really the peppers!
The datil peppers didn’t come along until much later, actually. Minorcans, descended from the tiny island of Menorca off the coast of Spain, brought the seeds with them to Florida when they settled in St. Augustine in 1777.
It is thought that they probably discovered the peppers during a stopover in Cuba and brought the seeds from there. Since the datil pepper is a variety of the species Capsicum chinense, the same as other caribbean chile peppers such as Habanero and Scotch bonnet, this theory makes the most sense.
The Minorcans have used the Datil pepper in their daily cooking since settling in St. Augustine. Dishes such as chicken pilau and homemade sausage are a favorite of many Minorcan families. For the past 20 years this pepper has been used as a main ingredient in several commercial hot sauces. The pods are yellow/orange in color and rate at around 300,000 scoville units, and along with that heat they bring a very distinctive flavor.
Minorcan Datil Pepper Products (www.minorcandatil.com) has been one of the leaders in bringing the datil pepper to the mainstream. They currently produce nine products including hot sauce, marinade, and vinegar, along with seeds, dried peppers and powdered datils. According to Marcia McQuaig, company owner, “the datil is the kind of fella’ that will put a snap in your step and curl your eyebrows.” Now, I don’t know about you but with that kind of endorsement, I just couldn’t resist.
Datil Dew Products (www.pepperproducts.com) is run by Byron Bates who helped develop a unique product that won’t spoil in the oppressive Florida heat. His sauces and mustards stay fresh without refrigeration and with no preservatives. They also carry spices, rubs and pickles.
Chris Way, owner of Barnacle Bill’s restaurants in St. Augustine, developed his sauce as a condiment to go with his seafood. After serving it to his customers, they convinced him to bottle it and sell it so they could take it home. Dat’l Do-it (www.datldoit.com) now produces barbecue sauce, relish, hot sauces and Datil Dust, a datil powder.
I used Dat’l Do-it Barbecue Sauce and Hot Sauce to make a sweet and spicy glaze for the following rib recipe. I hope you all give this very special pepper a try and enjoy it with your favorite foods.
Datil Dipped Barbecue Ribs
4 lbs. pork back ribs
2 Tbs Dat’l Dust, powered datil peppers
1 Tbs ground black pepper
1 tsp course salt
1/2 cup Dat’l Do-it Barbecue Sauce
1/2 cup Dat’l Do-it Hot Sauce
– Combine Dat’l Dust, salt and pepper to form rub. Thoroughly cover all surfaces of ribs with mixture. Refrigerate the ribs, covered, for up to 2 days, at least 2 hours.
– Combine barbecue sauce and hot sauce.
– Remove ribs from refrigerator, place over indirect heat with a medium hot fire. Grill, covered for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, turning occasionally and basting with sauce mixture, until tender.
Makes 4 servings.