Hot sauce adds a welcome layer of hurt-so-good flavor and excitement to many dishes. This homemade hot sauce recipe holds its own and some would say even surpasses some of the more popular brands. Compared with store-bought, homemade has the same tangy richness but with a fresher flavor, a brighter color, and not a whisper of questionable additives.
So now, while red peppers of every variety are still at the market, make haste. The beauty of this recipe is that it allows you to make something entirely unique, designed to fit your taste. You may choose to make it with 100% Thai chilies for a fiery hot sauce or you could go the other extreme and only use sweet bell peppers for a pure pepper taste experience. The choice is yours.
This recipe starts with fermented red peppers. Fermentation takes time but little effort. I promise that the hullabaloo is kept to a minimum and effort exerted shall be paid back ten fold in the tangy heat enjoyed over the next several months or weeks—however long it lasts.
TIP FOR CHOOSING YOUR CHILIES: To help you gauge heat, you can create a mild sauce like Louisiana Hot Sauce or Frank’s Hot Wing Sauce using about 1.5 pounds sweet red bells and 0.5 pounds red ripe serranos or jalapenos. You may also choose to ferment your peppers separately—bell peppers in one vessel and habaneros in another for example. After fermenting and processing them both separately, you can mix the 2 peppers until you get the precise amount of heat and flavor you desire. That is a bit more work but not much and probably worth it especially if you’re looking for an exact level of heat.
STEP #1: Pickle your Peppers
- 2 lbs. red peppers–any variety from sweet to scorching (1 kilo)
- 2 quarts water (2 liters)
- ¼ cup salt—heaping (100 grams)
- Mix the salt into the water dissolving completely to make the brine.
- Wash and cut the peppers removing, stem, seeds and white pith. Depending on the size, cut them into halves, quarters or even smaller. Do not try to ferment whole peppers as the interior flesh must be exposed.
- Place the peppers in a clean, non-reactive vessel like a half gallon mason jar.
- Pour enough brine over the peppers to cover them. Pour the rest of the brine into a sealable quart or pint sized plastic bag and stuff it into the mouth of the jar so that all of the peppers are completely submerged in brine. If using a larger, more open container use a larger gallon bag filled with brine and lay on top of the peppers. All peppers must be completely submerged in brine or they will not ferment.
- Label the jar with the date and contents and place it on a plate or in a bowl to protect your counter from spillage.
- In a few days you will see the water begin to cloud and bubbles appear. This is the fermentation process.
- Keep it at room temperature for 3-6 weeks removing the bag periodically to clean off the white scum (yeast). Begin tasting the peppers at 3 weeks to determine whether they have become sour enough for your liking.
- Once they are ready you can do one of the following: filter the brine, boil it for 1 minute, cool it and then store the peppers in it in the fridge where they will keep for 1 year. Eat them; cook them; they are delicious. OR you can make home hot sauce.
Note: Brine, not water, is used to fill the “weight” bag so that if the bag accidentally springs a leak the salt water concentration remains constant and the fermentation process is not spoiled.
- Remove the pickled peppers from the brine (do not discard the brine) and puree them in a blender or food processor.
- Strain the pepper puree through a fine mesh colander, sieve of or food mill until the entire liquid portion of the pepper is squeezed out.
- Yield will vary depending on how enthusiastically you strain and the fleshiness of the peppers used. Jalapenos are very fleshy for example but scotch bonnets are quite thin. In this example 1 ½ lbs. red bells and ½ lbs. serranos yielded 1 2/3 cup liquid purée + ½ cup fermented pepper solids.
- Freeze or refrigerate the pepper solids in a freezer-safe container or bag. They make a great flavoring agent for beans, soups, stir fries—anything where you want a bit of heat and sour.
- Strain the brine through a coffee filter and boil for 1 minute removing any additional scum. Allow it to cool and store in the fridge. I use it in soups and stew. It adds a rich flavor that I find irresistible. It’s like using beer or wine in cooking.
Homemade Hot Sauce Recipe
- 1 cup strained, fermented pepper liquid
- ½ cup vinegar
- ½ teaspoon canning salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
- Combine all of the ingredients and store in the fridge where it will last for 1 year or more.
- You may adjust the seasoning to your liking with more or less salt or vinegar. You may also prefer to use the brine instead of the vinegar.
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