Fermenting My Own Hot Sauce Take 2

Hey there, everyone. Welcome back to my blog. I’m doing something a little different today. I have plenty more hot sauce reviews to work on, but along with seeing what other people are able to make, I’m trying to make my own as well. I’ve tried it once before with… mediocre results. Though I’m going to claim user-error and give it another go. Since we’re still in Quarantine, I’ve been wanting to once more get Fermentation Station with something in it. However, for that, you need really good produce. The produce at my local Kroger is… hit-and-miss this summer. I’ve been wanting to make pickles again for several months, but no good cucumbers were ever apparent. However, one thing they tend to have in excess are hot peppers. I don’t know if the produce manager knows a pepper farmer, but there’s almost always a giant bin of habaneros and more. So, I figured I’d give making my own hot sauce a try again.

I’m following along with Brad’s formula from Bon Appetit. And yes, I know the issues that the channel has had. Brad’s videos are still informative and from what I’ve seen, it’s all the higher-ups that were less-than-savory individual (pun… somewhat intended) while the chefs in the kitchen were fine. So, that bit of politics aside, let’s get to it.

Here’s a look at what’s going into this sauce:

I’ve got black peppercorns, salt, onion, garlic, jalapenos, habaneros, and some serrano peppers. The recipe also uses sugar (not pictured) and while there’s 2 serrano peppers in the picture, I had 4 and decided to just go ahead and use all of them.

And no, I don’t have an exact weight on how much hot pepper I have there. I just kinda grabbed as much as I thought I’d need and left it at that. But, you can see, it’s like 7 jalapenos, 14 habaneros, and the aforementioned 4 serranos, plus one bulb of garlic and one medium sweet yellow onion.

Now, I know that I could have roasted these peppers in order to add new dimensions of flavor. However, I decided against it for a couple reasons: 1) I have electric, not gas, for my stove and doing it on electric is just a lot harder and 2) my smoke detector is extremely sensitive in my apartment. And with all the warnings about how much charring peppers smokes up your place, I didn’t want that going off for hours at a time. But, if you have the ability to char your peppers, it couldn’t hurt for a couple of them.

So, the procedure isn’t exactly difficult for this. Step 1: wash everything thoroughly.

Considering that this isn’t going to be a cooked product, you want to make sure that whatever’s going into the jar is clean. Everything got a good wash in water. The jar I’m using (the same one I used for pickles before) got a very thorough wash and an even-more-thorough rinse (I don’t want my final sauce to taste like soap). After everything was washed well, I chopped up the peppers and removed their seeds, placing them in a bowl.

Removing the seeds and ribs will make the sauce overall less-spicy, since that’s where most of the heat lays. I would highly, highly, highly recommend gloves while doing this. I didn’t have any around and have paid the consequences (which I will get into later). As you can see, there’s still a few seeds around, but a couple here and there won’t be as bad as having all of them in the jar. However, if you want a rocket-hot sauce, by all means, leave them in there.

Also, I didn’t go too crazy with the chopping, obviously. Pretty much everything just had its top removed and split in half. The serranos got roughly chopped up, but this isn’t exactly something we’re looking for a fine dice or anything.

One thing I did do while picking out the peppers and then did again while chopping them up was I was on the lookout for any bad spots on the peppers and garlic. Any discolored parts, soft spots, or otherwise were carved off and removed. I want as good of ingredients going into the jar as possible without carrying any stray mold or other microbes into my ferment jar.

Next, I added one roughly-chopped onion and an entire bulb of crushed garlic.

Very longtime readers may remember my attempt to make “garlic hot sauce” by just basically making really garlic-infused Buffalo Wing Sauce and not really succeeding with that, either. I’m hoping that a whole bulb of garlic in this ferment will do the trick. I aaaalmost put in 2 bulbs, but I realized I needed that garlic for other projects (which you’ll read about soon). Otherwise, yeah, in retrospect, I might have gone with 2 or even 3 bulbs (seriously, I like garlic, yo).

Anyway, after everything was chopped up, it was time to turn to the jar. It’s a 1 gallon jar and I started with 2 cups of water and the 6 tablespoons of both sugar and salt that the recipe called for, as well as a tablespoon of black peppercorns.

That got shook up a whole bunch so the salt and sugar could dissolve.

Then, in went the peppers, onions, and garlic. I finished everything off with 6 more cups of water (totaling 8 cups, or 2 quarts). That all then got a good shake, leaving us with this:

And there it is. I’ve set it in a cool place in my kitchen and I’ll be checking in on it daily for the next couple weeks.

Now, as this ferments, it will be creating gas. That gas can build up in the jar and turn the whole thing into a bomb if you’re not careful. Since I don’t have a one-way valve lid, I will need to release the pressure on this daily. The technical term is “burping” it. By that, I’ll just open the lid to let the pressure off and then seal it back up again. I’ll also daily give the whole thing a good shake so that everything gets its chance deep in the brine.

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt suggests putting some wet paper towel over the top of the vegetables or adding a wet towel. I’m not going with that because 1) the paper towels I currently have disintegrate in high humidity, let alone being put in a brine jar and 2) my towels I don’t trust to not add stray microbes that I’m not interested in adding to the party. Sure, they’re washed, but we have a community washing machine and dryer and I don’t trust them to leave my clothes bacteria-free enough to add them to something I’m trying to ferment (see removing any bad spots on the vegetables above).

So, yeah, I’ll keep these in a quiet spot in my kitchen and check in on it daily. It should take around 2.5 to 3 weeks for it to really be considered “done” and ready for the next steps (which I’ll write up when I get there, of course). But, until then, it’s just kinda crossing my fingers and hoping everything turns out alright.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention my hands: So, as I said, I didn’t have any gloves for when I was cutting up the peppers. Next time, I won’t make that mistake again. Capsaicin is a tough, little molecule. It gets everywhere and it doesn’t like being washed off. The palms of my hands were mostly ok, but after thoroughly washing my hands, it had migrated onto the back of my hands and between my fingers where it started to burn. It wasn’t extreme-searing-hot, but it was definitely like what a very spicy hot sauce does to my mouth, except on my hands. Several more thorough washings later and the sensation was still there. It’s eventually died away, but it wasn’t until after this morning’s shower that it seems to finally be gone. So, yeah, I’ve been very careful about what I’ve touched since I chopped everything up yesterday. And yeah, I’d definitely be getting gloves for the next time I plan on making hot sauce on my own.

So yeah, that’s my next try at making my own hot sauce. Thanks for stopping by and I’ll see you next time.

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