Habanero Hot Salsa

This one is for all you chiliheads out there: it's time to turn up the heat on Salsa Week!

Last summer, I made a very basic hot sauce with a little vinegar, salt, garlic, onion, and a handful of red and orange Santa Fe Grande hot peppers.  It was a beautiful bright orange color and deliciously hot, and a big driving force in planting more hot peppers in the garden this year.

I've been watching the beautiful lantern-shaped habanero peppers as they turned from a beautiful green to a bright orange, dreaming of another batch of hot sauce, when it hit me: throw in a few tomatoes and that hot sauce would make an amazing hot salsa!
And so I did just that.  I added a couple of carrots for sweetness (to balance out the intense heat of the habanero peppers), and a few paste tomatoes for body, and I love the results! It is thick, smooth, and hot - perfect for a hot option for chips and salsa or simply to be used like hot sauce when your dinner needs a little kick.

The flavor is really rich and very addicting.  It's always tough to describe the heat of a salsa, because one person's mild is another person's hot, but I think it's safe to say that this salsa has some serious heat that is nicely balanced by the tomatoes.  If the heat is too much, you could dial it back by either cutting out some of the hot peppers or adding more tomatoes.
Now, a word of caution about working with hot peppers:  wear gloves!  Even if you think you are tough and can handle it, don't do it; I guarantee you the capsaicin will make your hands burn.  Also, take care to stand back a little when removing lids from the sauce pan and the blender, as the first plume of steam coming off the salsa is petty potent.
Habanero Hot Salsa
6 Habanero peppers, with stems and seeds removed
6 paste tomatoes, quartered
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1" chunks
2 cloves of garlic
1 small red onion, quartered
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon salt

Combine vinegar, water, and salt in a medium sauce pan and heat until salt is dissolved.  Add all vegetables to the hot brine, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes to soften vegetables and meld flavors.  

Transfer to blender, and process until smooth.  When satisfied with the texture of the salsa, return to the sauce pan, and continue cooking until salsa has thickened (reduced by one fourth to one half, according to preference).

Yields about 1 pint

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