This is the time of year when chile pequins turn up in Mexican markets and grocery stores. The tiny chile grows wild throughout southern Texas and northern Mexico. Because its seeds are spread by birds rather than cultivation, pequins are considered the oldest chiles in North America--all of the cultivated Capsicum annum varieties, from green peppers to jalapeños--descended from the wild chiles.
In northern Mexico, pequins are collected in the desert by wildcrafters--they fetch more than almost any other kind of chile because of their rarity. In Houston, you might find a pequin bush in your backyard or a vacant lot. Fifty years ago, every South Texan had a bottle of chile pequins in vinegar sitting on the table. The custom was to refill the vinegar as you used the pepper sauce. Then, in the fall, when there was a new batch of chile pequins available, you dumped your chiles and started over again.
Shaker Bottle Pequin Sauce 1/2 cup chile pequins 1/2 cup white vinegar Clean a previously used pepper shaker bottle with boiling water. Pack the bottle with chiles. Heat the vinegar in a small saucepan over low heat until it steams slightly. Pour the hot vinegar over the chiles to the top of the jar. Allow the mixture to sit for a day before using. The bottle can be refilled with vinegar several times. Keep refrigerated between uses.
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