Prickly Pear Hot Sauce in a bottle with a dropper
Image by Baxter Miller + Ryan Stancil

Fisherwoman and sea forager Ana Shellem brings Seabird lots of prickly pears that complement hot peppers with a subtle sweetness and help thicken the sauce as xanthan gum would. Prickly pears grow in beach areas around the Southeast. To harvest your own, wear sturdy gloves to pick them and handle using long tongs or a grilling fork. At Seabird, chef Dean Neff uses a butane torch to char the entire exterior of the prickly pears (similar to roasting red peppers). This burns down the spines, and from there, he slices the fruit in half and scrapes out the flesh. If you don’t have a butane torch, you can put the prickly pears on a hot grill to burn down the spines.

Seabird’s hot sauce is a cool-kid commodity. Packaged in a tiny dropper bottle, it’s served with the seafood tower on the menu and also used in a various dishes. Occasionally, a lucky regular may even score a bottle to take home with them. The hot sauce blend changes depending on the peppers available from local farmers, from red jalapeños and Fresno chiles to sweeter agrodolce and cheyenne peppers. Keep in mind that prickly pear can turn green peppers a murky brown color when combined in hot sauce, but adding a hint of ground turmeric to the hot sauce will keep the color green and vibrant.

Read more about Dean Neaff’s sea foraging venture with Ana Shellem and seaside bounty here.

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About 2 ½ quarts

    Aged Peppers
  • 4 pounds medium-hot peppers like Fresno chilis
  • 3 gallons warm water
  • 2 cups salt (3 cups if using flaked sea salt)
  • Hot Sauce
  • 4 prickly pear heads, spines torched off and peeled
  • 2 quarts cider vinegar
  • 1 cup salt
  • Strained Aged Peppers, brine reserved
  • Reserved pepper brine

Aged Peppers

  1. Add all ingredients to an airtight container, weighing down peppers to keep them submerged in salt solution. Allow to lightly ferment for 7 to 12 days at room temperature (longer fermentation will develop a tarter flavor).

Hot Sauce

  1. In a high-powered blender, puree all ingredients until completely smooth. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, separating liquid to use as hot sauce.
  • Recipe By
    Dean Neff of Seabird in Wilmington, North Carolina
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