Frank’s Hot Red Peppers

by Garry Enns 

This is how I remember father describing the genesis of his Russian hot red peppers. Some time in the 1950’s, after moving to Gretna, Mom and Dad were visiting “the Siemens’” in Altona (it would be great to be able to claim this was the J.J. Siemens, but Dad I think just assumed I would know which Siemens.) It was spring and Mrs Siemens was preparing to transplant her bedding plants.

 Among these seedlings was a collection of Hot Red Peppers, that Mrs Siemens stated were descended from seeds brought to the Prairies from Russia in the 1870s. Father’s special interest in the peppers resulted in Mrs. Siemens insisting that father take a dozen of the small plants with him. Which he did gladly.

 Only half of the hot red peppers survived the summer. Mom and Dad especially enjoyed using the hot red peppers in the Kompstborsch we all enjoyed. It did not require a full pepper to heat up the soup. The red peppers dry very nicely and retain their “heat” once dried. They keep for years without losing any of their potency.

 The seed from the harvested peppers was saved and planted the following spring. And thus a Frank F. Enns tradition grew. In addition to the bright red peppers, the hot red pepper plants have very dark green leaves and are quite attractive on their own. Their flowers are quite inconspicuous and can easily be overlooked.

When Mom and Dad moved to Winnipeg, of course the Hot Red Peppers made the trip as well.

Sometime in the early 1980’s I stumbled across a German book of homeopathic remedies – think I found it at Old Fashion Foods in Regina – and made this Dad’s Christmas present that year. Purchase was made because of the many stories father told us about his father’s second career as a homeopathic healer in the Russian Mennonite villages he served as Minister to these churches in the Molotschna region.

The book included a liniment recipe that we experimented with the next summer. A simple recipe. Ingredients list: thistle, stinging nettle, and hot red peppers – steeped in ethyl alcohol. My river lot near Aubigny always produced a healthy crop of thistle and stinging nettle – father had the hot red peppers.

 Dad’s process – I can’t remember specifics on the recipe itself, but the following would produce 16 litres of Frank’s liniment:

In June – before thistle and nettle go to seed –

(1)  harvest a couple of wheelbarrows of each. NOTE: Long sleeves and gloves are essential equipment. Use pruning sheers to cut plants close to ground. Do not pull up roots since this will result in some dirt entering the mix.

(2)  Strip off the leaves (can be dried and used as medicinal tea) and run the stalks of thistle and stinging nettles through a pasta maker to break up the pulp of the stems.

(3)  Stuff a somewhat equal amount nettle and thistle into glass jars – think Dad used five one-gallon jars that he once used to get milk from a dairy bear Winnipeg.

(4)  Add the alcohol to the jars – I remember four or five 4-Litre containers of alcohol filling the five one-gallon jars.

(5)  Set the jars in a somewhat cool space – basement works fine – and allow the alcohol to draw the greens out of the crushed stems. Keep the 4-litre jugs the alcohol comes in – the finished product will be stored in them.

(6)  The hot red peppers will have been planted before the thistle and nettle are processed.

(7)  In fall, once the hot red peppers are their glorious ripe dark red colours, strain the now very green alcohol and return it to the original 4-litre containers. If you are thorough in this straining (cheesecloth works fine) you will recapture almost all of the original volume of alcohol.

Thick Latex Gloves are essential equipment when handling the Hot Red Peppers! They are not ever to be handled by bare skin, or brought anywhere near your face.

(8)  Into each of these 4-litre jugs place a number of hot red peppers. Four to six at least depending on the desired potency in each jug.

(9)  Remove the seeds from the hot red peppers before adding them to the mixture. You can cut them a little if you wish, but don’t cut up too small. Save the seeds – here is next year’s crop and more.


 After a month or so, the hot red peppers’ ingredients will have been absorbed by the alcohol/nettle/thistle mixture and the liniment is ready for your aching joints and muscles. Father’s bed-time routine – for at least the last decade of his life – included a good rub-down using the liniment.






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  1. Jen Funk
    Posted November 27, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    So is someone still collecting these seeds?

    • Victor
      Posted November 29, 2012 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

      I’ll find out when my brother is in town in December. I don’t know if he has any left, or whether the nursery on St Mary’s road still carries them. Reimer Seeds (google) has something that looks quite close.

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