Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fermented Pepper Hot Sauce

In November, as the farmer's market season was winding down, and as there were fewer and fewer vegetables available at farmers' booths, we bought the hot sauce that would change our lives. Jim, the creator of the hot sauce, had sold us some of his jalapenos, which were some of the spiciest I've ever had; he also usually had a good variety of peppers available. And it was just something about that cool and cloudy day that prompted us to try some of the hot sauce (he dripped a little onto our fingers with a pipette); after one taste, we were hopelessly hooked on the stuff. It had a pleasant spiciness that intensified after a few seconds, and a slightly sour/complex taste that often accompanies fermented things. The flavor was also bright and tangy, and slightly sweet. I couldn't imagine 1) that I'd gone through life without this stuff and 2) that I used to not like spicy things. 

I liked the hot sauce so much, I knew that I had to try making some of our own, so we got some Tennessee cherry peppers from Jim. At his instruction, we went and bought a decent bottle of riesling, made a brine using the wine, and fermented the peppers in that brine for two months. After two months, we split up the peppers into 3 groups: one was frozen for later use, one went into making a simple hot sauce, and the third was blended with peaches, molasses, mustard powder, and other delicious things to make a sweeter, more complex hot sauce. 
Hardly a savory meal goes by without us using one of the hot sauces. Even though we made at least a quart and a half of hot sauce, we have gone through half of it already, and I'm glad that we have some peppers frozen, should there come a day when we run out. 

Tonight, we doused our southern-themed (sauteed collards, barbecue tofu steaks, and pumkin cornbread) dinner in the plain hot sauce. If you've never considered making your own hot sauce, I suggest admonish that you at least give it a go--you won't be disappointed with the results.


radioactivegan said...

I was actually going to email you to get the details on this again! How much peppers did you ferment in a bottle of riesling? This stuff was amazing, and I definitely need it in my life, although waiting those few months would be killer.

zemmely said...

Waiting is always worth it.
Here are more details: we only got a handful of peppers (they were priced individually, and were really really tiny--the size of big corn kernels). I put them in a jar and put enough brine in just to cover (pint of wine+2 teaspoons of salt). Then, I weighed the peppers, as they kept wanting to float towards the top, and you want to make sure they're submerged. Covered the whole thing with a dish towel, and waited.
If you do this, I bet you could do it with habaneros--just be sure they're organic and unwaxed.

True story: the peppers were supposed to ferment for 3 months, but 1) I couldn't wait that long, and 2) they started looking suspicious, so I went ahead and made hot sauce.

Brooke - in Oregon said...

Oh I am sooo going to try this with my peppers this summer! I have a family of hot spicy lovers :) I have a couple of questions.
1)what did you weigh your peppers down with and
2)would you share your recipe for the other sauce with peaches? Which sounds quite yummy too.

zemmely said...

Brooke: I used a Weck jar that has a very wide opening, and pressed everything down with a smaller jar. You could ferment in anything that is food-safe glaze ceramic, glass, or food-grade plastic. You could even put everything into a bowl, squash down with a plate, and weigh the plate down with a jar--that's what I do when I ferment other things

Alas, I don't remember the recipe that I used for the other hot sauce, and I can't find it again. It was really improvised, as I only had a few things on hand. I DO know that it had apple cider vinegar, peaches and light peach syrup, mustard powder, garlic, molasses, and salt. I think you can play around with similar ingredients. As long as it's got enough liquid for the blender to blend up effectively, I think you'll be good. And keep in mind, that vinegar tones down the spice of the peppers, so make it a little spicier from the start. Hope this helps!

Katie Ries said...

This looks so good. Will you teach a hot sauce workshop this summer?

zemmely said...

I actually talked about and let people sample the hot sauce during the kimchi workshop--it was all part of the Fermentation Talk of the Day. Honestly, this hot sauce is too easy and involves too much waiting to effectively teach in a workshop. But I'll keep thinking about it.