Feeling Saucy

In this world of endless food media, homemade hot sauce is not news. There are plenty of hipsters peddling organic hot sauce full of spicy irony. You could give these people your money, or you could simply learn to make it yourself. In the aforementioned food media, you will no doubt find a lot of recipes out there with varying levels of heat and complexity. If you have been reading anything that I have written this year you will know that I am all about freedom from the tyranny of the recipe.

I truly believe that with a little backstory and technique, anyone can conquer a wide range of culinary delights that would be cheaper or more tasty than you can pick up at even high-end grocery stores. Hot sauce is no exception.

If you ask me, the only way to make hot sauce takes time. Fermentation is the name of the game when it comes to your own hot sauce. Sure, there are faster ways out there of making it happen. There are also slower ways then mine, believe me. As we’ve learned thus far, really good food comes with a price, that price is usually time. This is no exception.

Fermented hot sauce is all about acid, Lactic Acid that is. Lactic Acid Fermentation is a metabolic process by which glucose and other sugars (also, disaccharides of six-carbon sugars, e.g. sucrose or lactose) are converted into cellular energy and the metabolite lactate. In other words, its all about introducing the bacteria Lactobacillus into your food. This bacteria not only gives food an amazing taste, it introduces probiotics into your diet, which is always a good thing.

You’ve seen our friend Lactobacillus in such roles as Sauerkraut, Sour Beer, Yogurt, and the now famous Kimchi. Its about to take a leading role in your hot sauce as well. They may look scary, but their not.

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Now lets talk peppers, you can use anything that you like. You can even grow your own which is my preferred way of undertaking this project. Personally, I like Cayenne peppers for this sauce. This time however, I switched things up and used Fresno chilies and Scotch Bonnet to give it a little extra kick. Once again, play with the technique and make it your own. There is a wide world of peppers out there, explore them.

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Now you will need a vessel to carry your hot sauce to the finish line. I went all out and have a fancy fermentation jar, its awesome but unnecessary. You can use a large Mason jar with some cheese cloth over it if you need (reference my post on cultured butter for this rig). Whatever you use, make sure the pressure that is blinking up inside from the bacteria can escape. Mine has an airlock on it, but you may have to release some pressure every few days if your jar is sealed.

Now, the scary part, time for some math. You need to create a 6% brine in your jar. My jar is a Gallon or 128 ounces, 6% of 128 ounces is 7.68 ounces. So I added 7.7 ounces of salt to my jar. Note that all salt is not the same, Mortin’s Kosher Salt (My preference) is not the same in volume as Diamond Crystal or Sea Salt. Please, please weigh this out. So, calculate 6% of your jar and add that amount of salt to your jar. Done.

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Next, take half the amount of salt that you added, and add that weight of sugar. For example, 6% for me was 7.7 ounces of salt, so I added 3.8 ounces of sugar to the jar. Easy enough?

The rest is up to you. Add garlic (I did), spices, whatever you want in your hot sauce. Place a bit of water in your jar, just enough to dissolve the salt, sugar, and whatever else you added. This will make it easier to incorporate later.

Ok, for my large jar, I used 2 lbs of peppers. Adjust accordingly, large or more jars? More peppers. Smaller jar? Less peppers. But you know that.

Cut the tops off of your peppers. If you would like it less spicy remove the seeds and white membrane that is indie the pepper. You’ll notice that I left mine in, but I like the extra kick.

After your peppers are topped, place them in the jar and fill with water. Give it a nice shake to spread the love around and place somewhere out of the way. Ok, thats it, your done for now.

Leave your jar wherever you put it for at least two weeks. After a few days, you’ll notice little bubbles coming to the top of your jar similar to Champagne. This is how you know that the bacteria are happy and doing their microbial thing. You want this to happen, you may or may not notice a little white film at the top of the jar. Fear not, this is just natural yeast that you can skim off. No big deal.

I left mine for about three weeks until the bubbles are gone, the bacteria feeds off of the sugar in the brine, and the salt keeps the environment nice and anaerobic which is what Lactobacillus needs to thrive.

After at least two weeks, its time to fish out your peppers. Place them in a blender with just a little of the brine. Then blend until smooth. You can keep the rest of the brine, it is referred too as table brine and can be used like pepper vinegar.

If you left the seeds and membranes in, you’ll need to strain it, you don’t want the seeds in your sauce.

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Now, I like Vinegar. I like the flavor that it gives to things especially hot sauce. After blending and straining your peppers, I would up with about 2 cups of sauce. I added about another half of a cup of white vinegar to the sauce and gave it a mix. Feel free to exclude the vinegar if you like, but I recommend it.

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Find a fancy bottle that can fit in your fridge and fill it with your new amazing hot sauce. That’s it. Your done. How easy and amazing is that?

Homemade hot sauce makes a great gift at Christmas, people love that its fermented and home made. It’s also good to keep a little bottle in your car/purse, you never know when you’ll need hot sauce.

Cheers all, enjoy!

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