There are three main reasons we hear from people on why they don’t preserve:
- They don’t have time.
- It’s scary/ they don’t know how.
- It could be expensive.
I hope we’re doing our part to debunk all 3 items above. Today’s recipe makes the absolute best hot sauce using fermentation. You do require a bit of special equipment (a jar and an airlock) but the total cost is around $5 and everything can be reused. The total active time is less than 5 minutes (elapsed time is about 3-5 days) and the cost of ingredients is less than $2. And it’s virtually impossible to mess up.
Here’s a few primers that people new to fermentation may want to start with:
- The difference Between Wild Fermentation and Lactofermentation
- Airlocks for Mason Jars (you don’t need to use one of these but it makes the process almost foolproof and helps prevent mould with no effort)
- How to Strain Yogurt to Make Greek Yogurt (this is where the whey is from)
- Other uses for whey (I include this as you’re likely to end up with extra)
We store the whey in a jar in the fridge for a few weeks at a time and use it for fermenting small batches.
Hot peppers aren’t available locally this time of year but I’m a big fan of practicing my technique and recipes in the off-season so that I don’t ruin a bushel of local product during the actual season. I happened to have a half-cup of Thai Chiles (they are small, long and red) and was on the verge of losing them, so I decided to test a new version of last years hot sauce by experimenting with whey.
The final product is extremely hot and has tremendous flavor that only fermenting can provide. There’s a sour kick to it that most can relate to when they think of eating kosher pickles. It’s earthy, sour, acidic and very potent. This is a similar style to Tabasco (which is fermented in woods barrels) or Franks Red Hot but its way hotter. If you’re scared of heat, here’s a handy article explaining why you might actually prefer a HOTTER hot sauce than others you’ve tried. I’ve had a lot of different fermented hot sauces in the last few years and I’m more excited about this one than any other I’ve made in that time.
- 1 cup hot peppers, washed and stemmed (include the seeds)
- 1.5 teaspoons of salt
- 1 tablespoon of whey (the link to the Greek yogurt article above shows how to get this)
- Water (if you're using chlorinated tap water, pour it into a bowl and let it rest for an hour or more to evaporate the chlorine)
- White wine vinegar (needed at end; day 3-5)
- A spice grinder, blender or other fast immersion blender is handy (I suppose you could pulverize manually if you had to)
- 1 mason jar (not wide mouth) large enough to fit your peppers comfortably
- 1 airlock (link above; you can find them at wine or beer home-brew places)
- Place hot pepper, whey, salt and enough water to cover in a jar.
- Place airlock on mason jar. Place in a warm-place in your house (around 70 degrees is optimal).
- Over the next 3-5 days, gently agitate the jar 1-2 times a day. The airlock will keep the air out. You'll notice the brine will become cloudy.
- When the brine is good and cloudy, strain (and reserve) the brine into a bowl.
- Blitz the peppers and seeds in the spice grinder (be careful not to splash; a well-ventilated area is best for this!). Adding a little brine willhelp in this process.
- Pour the brine and pepper puree into a jar (I'm a fan of using all of the brine but that's up to you).
- Add white wine vinegar until you are happy. I would guess we split it almost 1-to-1 with the brine and pepper. Taste as you add it.
- Place a lid on the jar, store in fridge.
The taste will slowly evolve in the fridge – although it’s ready to serve right then and there. It’s AWESOME!
Note: watch for mold. If there’s a lot of head space (i.e. ‘air’ between the surface and the airlock), there will still be oxygen in the jar. If you watch out for it, you can pulverize the sauce before mold occurs. If mold does happen, you can remove it the day it appears (in theory you can do it several days after but the texture will change) but you’ll be adding oxygen back into the mix. It’s not the end of the world, you’ll just need to watch it closer.
The final sauce has a thicker consistency than the two commercial brands which strain the solids out. You can strain the solids if you’d like too but be sure to reserve them and use them as paste. I just happen to love the texture.
This is a very easy recipe that yields results that are better than store-bought at a cheaper price. I hope you’ll give it a try and let us know what you think!
If you’re a big fan of the hot stuff, you may be interested in our entire series of Hot Pepper Posts where we tasted a whole bunch of different dried hot peppers and shared their heat and profiles (I am still in love with the Morita Pepper).