Rincon Hot Sauce Contest (and my Award-Winning Sauce)!

Posted by Cassie

Living in Rincón is so fun because so many people are living self-directed (and often very unique) lives and when something sounds fun, oftentimes people will just go ahead and do it! That was the case when our friend Frances (and Greg) decided to put on a Hot Sauce contest at the balneario (public beach).

Frances Hot sauce contest
Official Poster of the contest

I have made fresh salsas before, but never a hot sauce. But hey, it was for fun and I love hot sauce and salsas and anything creative. The main difference (as far as I can tell) between a hot sauce and a salsa is that the hot sauce has vinegar in it and usually salsa doesn’t. Also it tends to be used much less liberally than a salsa dip. But in the end it really didn’t matter because at this event there was every type of sauce, salsa, dip, hummus, what-have-you.

As for my hot sauce, I chose to do two jalapeño based ones. In Puerto Rico, pique  as people call it, is often not very picante at all. I often miss the spicy foods and salsas we had at all the Mexican restaurants in Colorado because while some Puerto Rican food is very delicious, it is just not very hot and spicy. I have seen Puerto Ricans get red in the face over mild Pace salsa Ha! Wusses! :-)  Hot spice is just not a thing here. So it was fun to go to an event that set our faces ablaze! Wowza!

I used jalapeño peppers as well as a few poblanos for the base and spicy component of my two hot sauces. I can’t wait till we can do another annual garden for veggies, but for now I just had to get them at the store.

Lot sa jalapenos
Spicy jalapeño peppers

I also thought up a few different hot sauce names and drew out some designs. Here are the two that made the cut:

Hot Kiss Holy Jalapeno

Once the sauces were completed, we headed over to the balneario.

Me and hotsauces
Bringing the heat (they would probably be more in the “medium” category of spiciness)

The event was super fun and crowded! I was surprised how many people showed up with great sauces and food.

Hot Sauce contest
Hanging out under the flamboyan tree with a dj and of course hula hoops for kids of all ages

There were a few categories to enter and I entered Caribbean and Jalapeño. Others included Habanero, Freestyle, and Fruit-based. And there were different ways to win in each category. There must have been about 20 entrants in each category! Really great participation. I really didn’t expect much for mine since it was my first time ever making a hot sauce (and we arrived late, no surprise there), so the next day when the results were announced I was super shocked to find out that I had won in the Jalapeño category for best name (Holy Jalapeño). But more amazing was that Hot Kiss won for best overall flavor in the Caribbean category! Now I can say that I make award-winning hot sauces! Another lifetime first thanks to living in Puerto Rico.

Awards hot sauce Who doesn’t love winning an award or two?!

Some people love recipes, so here’s the basic recipe for Award-Winning Hot Kiss. As my family called my cooking growing up, it’s definitely a Cassie Concoction!

(to sautee/cook)
10-12 Jalapeño peppers (leave one or two to add raw for more heat)
1-2 Poblano peppers
1 cup fresh cut pinapple (sautee some and add some fresh)
tiniest amount of red onion (I am not a fan of onion)
5 cloves garlic (3 to sautee and 2 raw)
Sautee oil (coconut oil)

(to add in fresh)
1 fresh mango
1 fresh passionfruit
1 teaspoon or so salt
pinch or two cumin
dash of ground pepper
dash of ground cayenne
handful of fresh cilantro
juice squeezed from half a fresh grapefruit
juice squeezed from half a fresh lime
dash of chia seeds (thickener but not totally necessary for taste)
2-3 shots of distilled vinegar (about 1/4 to 1/2 cup)

Sautee in a high heat oil (I used coconut oil) about ten jalapeño peppers after seeding and and slicing length-wise, 3 cloves of garlic, half or 3/4 of the poblano, a little red onion, some pineapple and some salt. Sautee for about 5 minutes. Then add a bunch of water (maybe 1 1/2 cups?) and let it cook some more for about 20 minutes stirring regularly. Wait till it is about room temperature and then start the blending process.

Next take the raw ingredients including the leftover raw garlic, jalapeno/poblano and pineapple and add them with all the rest of the list in the blender with the sautéed/cooked items. Slowly add the vinegar until you like the taste. If you want it spicier, add more fresh jalapeño or poblano. Transfer to a jar of your choice. Refrigerate and then eat when cool! Will last quite a while in the fridge. ¡Buen Provecho!

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Puerto Rico’s 11.5% Sales Tax: Highest in the U.S.

Posted by Cassie

Puerto Rico will begin an 11.5% islands-wide sales tax July 1, 2015. This will make it the highest sales tax in the U.S. (see this chart for what other states/area charge) and doesn’t even include the municipal sales taxes that are charged additionally.

I have recently been reading a blog/site called War Against All Puerto Ricans about the influence of American politics on the island and it spells out a not-so-pretty picture of colonization throughout  Puerto Rico’s history up to the current economic issues facing modern Puerto Rico. Of course, the New York Times has a slightly different version and perspective on what should be done for the debt issues here. I have been trying to unravel what exactly is happening and what would be the best way to help, but I still don’t exactly understand what is going on nor how to fix it. For the most part, I try to steer away from politics and news (especially bad news).

None-the-less, we are people who live here and so therefore have a lot of “word on the street” conversations. And while most things take forever to happen, this sales tax increase from 7% to 11.5% happened very rapidly and took some people off guard. Most people we’ve talked to aren’t optimistic that it will solve anything and many think the entire government is corrupt and should be thrown out. The economic woes of Puerto Rico have been going on for a long time. Back when we first visited the island in 2005 there was no sales tax at all and shortly after our visit they instituted it for the first time ever. It was supposed to solve the then-economic crisis. Apparently it did not.

I am still trying to figure out why there would be tax benefits like Act 20 and 22 that give investors 0% capital gains tax that overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy and then institute such a hugely regressive sales tax (adversely affecting the poor) as this one without at least amending those Acts. I know they are also trying to set up a value-added tax so that items are taxed at all stages of production, but it just seems like kicking around in quick sand.

Buying stuff at Home Depot
Pre-sold paint and other supplies clogged up the store

This latest huge sales tax increase did have the effect on many people, including us, of going out and buying a bunch of stuff prior to the bump in price. It was like Christmas in June! The stores were packed even on a Monday in the middle of the day. At Home Depot where we tried as best we could to buy the things we would need for the cabin, the whole back of the store was filled with orders waiting to be picked up or delivered!

In general for us, we are looking at this tax increase as an opportunity to further hone our skills at limiting consumption and waste. An economy that is built on debt, exploitation of people and resources and mass consumption is sick and hurting anyway! So this gives us further reason to keep growing our own food, making our own things, trading and buying locally and using the informal economy instead of the box stores and corporations as much as possible this day and age.

And I don’t think we are the only ones. Puerto Rico already has a hard time just collecting the 7% tax as many vendors sell only in cash and don’t report or turn in any of the taxes. I can only imagine that collecting an unpopular tax like this one will prove to be even more of a futile endeavor to improving the economy.

Our yard economy is still doing great! These beautiful pomarrosas are fruiting

And the chickens are giving us 8-10 eggs a day that we can sell or trade locally

And there is nothing like home-grown bananas

Who knows what’s to come with the economy of Puerto Rico, but we are in it for the long haul. For better or worse, we love this island and we want it to succeed and prosper. Just maybe we need to redefine those terms to focus on the success of people and the planet rather than just the money. But hey, if all hell really breaks loose at least there’s plenty of abundance on the island if you just know where to look.

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Back to Work: Decking and Framing Triangles

Posted by Cassie

We had taken about 3 weeks off from working on the cabin, but we are back to work at a nice even pace now that the roof is on (and therefore everything is protected from the summer afternoon rains). Currently, we are on the deck and finishing the framing. Before the break, the guys worked on mini-columns to hold the 6×6 posts for the deck.

Mini colums
Mini-columns for the posts

Once they were cured, they set the posts in place and then installed the headers and ledgers.

Deck beams
Installing the headers to the posts

Next up, we needed to sand and waterproof the boards and then Britton worked alone to set all of the beams.

Sanding Boards(small)
We should have just used water proofer on the beams inside the house as these turned out great!

Britton Deck
Britton working on the Joists

We need to get more boards for the top of the deck and they need to dry out from being treated before using a waterproofer. So in the meantime, Britton and Waldemar worked on framing the triangles. We wanted to make sure the house has plenty of airflow and light, unlike the previous wooden house.

Framing triangles
Framing the windows of the triangles

Looking up at house

We are nearing the point where the shell of the house will be completed and then we get to do the fun stuff like connect it to electricity, water, the bathroom, kitchen and finishing work. Building even a small house like this takes many, many little steps, but we are getting closer every day!

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Miracle Fruit Taste Tripping

Posted by Cassie

As part of the tropical fruit video series we’ve been doing, I decided miracle fruit should be next on the docket. We have three small trees and recently two of them started fruiting!

Miracle fruit
Miracle fruit berries growing on the tree

Miracle fruit (Synsepalum dulcificum) is a little different from most of the other fruits of the tropics because the fruit itself is not really so much a food as a food enhancer or transformer. It makes nearly anything sour taste sweet after eating just one berry! The effect on the taste buds lasts a little less than an hour depending on the person.

When Britton and I first tried it, we were amazed and astounded that foods like lemons and limes tasted like lemon merengue and limeade. So we brought a couple of berries to a party and everyone who tried it was also wowed by the powers of this fruit. We did learn that not everything sour should be changed however! At the party wine changed to a flat Dr. Pepper taste and Medalla tasted watered down. The reactions people had to this amazing fruit gave me the idea to get a few friends together to try miracle fruit for themselves. This video is the result. Not only does the video demonstrate the magic of miracle fruit, but it also showcases some of the wonderful and adventurous people who live in/near Rincon. Enjoy.


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