Every summer, Howard Lev’s mother, Lil, planted a crop of Hungarian Goathorn peppers at their Youngstown, Ohio, home.
Come harvest, she’d pickle and marinate them in a vibrant mixture of oils and aromatic spices based on a recipe given to her by a Serbian friend. They were the family’s ubiquitous condiment, a jar of the sweet-and-spicy mix always at the center of the table. Later on, Lev’s frustration with being unable to find anything comparable eventually prompted him to launch Mama Lil’s, which sells his mother’s recipe. Unlike similar jarred peppers, which typically are picked and pickled when young and green or yellow, Lev uses peppers that have ripened to orange and red, allowing their natural sweetness to better balance their fiery kick.