Homemade Hot Sauce from Fermented Peppers

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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.

Click here for a quick tutorial on the basics of fermenting.

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.Homemade Hot Sauce & Pickled Peppers

Homemade Hot Sauce & Pickled Peppers

STEP #1: Pickle your Peppers

Pickled Peppers

  • 2 lbs. red peppers–any variety from sweet to scorching (1 kilo)
  • 2 quarts water (2 liters)
  • ¼ cup salt—heaping (100 grams)
  1.  Mix the salt into the water dissolving completely to make the brine.
  2. 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.
  3. Place the peppers in a clean, non-reactive vessel like a half gallon mason jar.Homemade Hot Sauce & Pickled Peppers
  4. 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.
  5. Label the jar with the date and contents and place it on a plate or in a bowl to protect your counter from spillage.
  6. In a few days you will see the water begin to cloud and bubbles appear. This is the fermentation procesIMG_6118s.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

 

STEP #2: Make the Hot Saucefermenting peppers2

  1. Remove the pickled peppers from the brine (do not discard the brine) and puree them in a blender or food processor.
  2. 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.Homemade Hot Sauce & Pickled Peppers
  3. 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. Homemade Hot Sauce & Pickled Peppers
  4. 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.IMG_6173
  5. 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)
  1.  Combine all of the ingredients and store in the fridge where it will last for 1 year or more.
  2. 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.Homemade Hot Sauce & Pickled Peppers

     

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Deli-Style Kosher Dill Pickles–The Full Ferment

Revised on August 7, 2014:

Deli-style Kosher Dills, like the ones you get at any respectable delicatessen, are a “must” on my list of foods to make and preserve. Since gherkin cucumber season is winding down, I’ve got to get to the farmers market early to make sure I get enough.    Twelve pounds of gherkins will get my family through a winter of  “Sandwich Night Wednesdays”  plus the occasional packed lunch with a few more quarts to give away to those friends and families who prize pickles as much as I do. If you have attempted the Half Sour, be brave and take that next step— Deli-style Kosher Dills.   It’s actually quite easy— time and microbes do most of the work.  For a quick overview of the fermentation process, check out Fermentation Pickling Primer. Currants and leavesI add currant leaves to my kosher dills while they ferment.  Not only do they impart a unique and wholly enjoyable smoky flavor, but currant (grape and sour cherry) leaves also contain an enzyme which keeps the cucumbers crisp as they ferment.  If you don’t have a currant bush, grape vine or sour cherry cherry tree, ask your farmer.  Currants grow everywhere in Wisconsin.  In my postage stamp garden, I have 7 currant bushes.  They grow with little care and in the shade, which perfectly suits my gardening style and garden.

DIRECTIONS FOR FERMENTING PICKLES–DELI-STYLE KOSHER DILLSDeli-style Kosher Dills--Ingredients Equipment for Pickling

#1–Gather all the ingredients and equipment:

Ingredients for Fermenting

  • About 3 ½ lbs. pickling cucumbers (3 –5 inches), blossom ends removeBlossom-Endd
  • 6 large sprigs of fresh dill
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 T pickling spice
  • About 12-15 currant or sour cherry leaves (Optional)

Ingredients for the Brine

  • 1 gallon water
  • 3/4 heaping cup salt
  • 1/2 cup vinegar (5% acidity)

Equipment for fermenting

Equipment for Fermenting Pickles

  • 6 quart vessel– The picture above shows other vessels I like to use when fermenting more or less cucumbers. Any non-reactive container is fine.
  • Food-grade seal-able plastic bag (like a Ziplock storage) large enough to keep cucumbers submerged

#2–Scrub cucumbers and shave off the blossom-end with a knife or scratch off with your nail (See picture above).  The blossom-end contains enzymes which may soften the cucumber. Deli-Style Kosher Dills--Soaking cucumbers in an ice water bath

#3–(Optional) Soak the cucumbers in an ice water bath for 6-24 hours to maximize crispness.  This isn’t absolutely necessary, but if they are straight from the garden or farmers market, it does help to remove the field heat and keep them crisp.

Deli-style Kosher Dills--Preparing the brine and ingredients #4–Prepare a 5% brine solution–4 quarts water + 3/4 heaping cups canning salt + 1/2 cup flavorful vinegar (optional).  Thoroughly mix until the salt is dissolved.  Add a portion of the brine–about 1 quart–to a strong, food grade plastic bag and seal. I use 1 gallon Ziplock freezer or storage bag. This is your weight to keep the pickles submerged.

Weighted pickles with a brine filled bag #5–Add the cucumbers, dill, garlic spices and leaves to the vessel with the 3 quarts of remaining brine. Place the sealed bag of brine on top of cucumbers making sure that all of the cucumbers are completely submerged. It is necessary to keep them submerged so they are in an anaerobic environment.  Fermentation and lactic acid can only occur in an anaerobic environment.

#6–Check pickles every few days skimming off the white scum.  The pickles should be ready in about 2 weeks (no more than 4).  You’ll know they are done when they are a uniform olive green and taste like a pickle.Deli-style Kosher Dills--fermentation complete

#7–Remove the pickles from the brine and rinse off any yeast.  Strain the brine twice: First in a colander to remove spices and herbs. Second, through a coffee filter to reduce cloudiness. Store pickles in the brine in the refrigerator; they should keep for about a year.   (See directions for canning the pickles below).

Cooking with Kids: I let the kids do most of the work with making pickles. It’s perfect for them.  It involves lots of washing, water, mixing and measuring.  Other than measuring the correct amount of salt, this isn’t precision work, nor does it involve knives or fire.  I also let them skim off the yeast and mold over the 2 – 3 weeks it takes for the pickles to ferment.  They especially love this task for unknown reasons.  I’m guessing the “Yuck Factor” plays a role or maybe it is just the miracle of witnessing something appear from seemingly nothing.

 

If you want to can them for long-term pantry storage, read on.  You may also want to click on the  link for a quick tutorial in Hot water-bath can.

Deli-Style Kosher Dill Pickles

DIRECTIONS FOR CANNING YOUR FERMENTED DELI-STYLE KOSHER DILLS

STEP 1–Gather all your ingredients and canning equipment:

Ingredients for Canning

  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • Crushed red pepper flakes or whole hot pepper (optional)
  • Mustard seeds (optional)
  • Sprigs of fresh dill
  • Fermented pickles
  • Filtered brine or freshly made brine—¼ cup salt : 2 quarts water : 2 cups vinegar (5% acidity)

Equipment for Canning

Boil the brineSTEP 2–If you have not done so, filter brine through a coffee filter. Next, boil for five minutes. If you do not like a cloudy brine, you may make new by combining ¼ cup salt : 2 quarts water : 2 cups vinegar (5% acidity) and boiling this for 5 minutes. I sometimes use a combination of fresh and fermented brine. Pack pickles into clean hot jarsSTEP 3–Meanwhile, pack pickles into clean, hot, canning jars along with 1 – 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced and ¼ t crushed red pepper or 1 t mustard seeds and fresh dill. Pour Hot brine

STEP 4–Pour in hot brine over the pickles leaving ½ inch head space. Use a hot-water bath to can the pickles; process pint jars for 10 minutes, quart jars for 15 minutes. canning canned deli-style kosher dills

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Half-Sour Pickles: Fermentation Baby Steps

Half Sour PicklesI learned the art of fermenting pickles last year and quite frankly couldn’t stop.  Watching a crisp little Gherkin transform into a tangy crunchy pickle by simply submerging it in salt water for a few weeks, well, it seemed like nothing short of a miracle.  With each batch I made, I kept thinking, that was just dumb luck.  So I’d experiment, making another batch, and behold, more pickles. Like a baby testing the effects of gravity by dropping her bottle on the floor again and again, it never ceased to surprise and delight me.

Once I had mastered it, I took the show on the road sharing the joy of old-fashioned pickling with the world.  It might have been the most well attended class that I have ever taught, and the questions, so many questions.  It seems people not only have a hunger for pickles, but the DIY know-how to make them at home.

Well, I’m here to say, that you too can ferment pickles at home—the kind of pickles that would make any Polish grandma proud.  And it couldn’t be simpler.  If you have never fermented before, the half-sour is a good stepping-stone fermented pickle—it takes only a week to make, it requires very few ingredients, and any quart jar with a lid will do.

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Half-Sour Fermented Pickles
Author: 
Recipe type: Pickle
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 1 quart
 
Half sours use a brine with a much lower salt concentration--a fresher taste in exchange for a shorter shelf life
Ingredients
  • 12 oz. pickling cucumbers, blossom-end removed
  • ¼ t peppercorns, crushed
  • ½ t pickling spice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 sprig dill
  • 4 ½ t pickling salt
  • 1 T white wine vinegar
  • 3 cups water
Instructions
  1. Dissolve salt into the water.
  2. Pack all ingredients and spices into a sanitized jar and pour brine over the ingredients. Cucumbers must be submerged to ferment, so pack them tightly using a quart jar with a narrow mouth or stuff a pint-sized freezer bag filled with remaining brine into the mouth of the jar to keep cucumbers submerged.
  3. Check the jar daily and clean any scum off the top, rinsing the bag if necessary. This is just yeast.
  4. In 3 days, there should be fermentation bubbles. Once the bubbles have stopped forming in 7 or 8 days, place the jar in the fridge.
  5. Pickles will keep in the fridge for about 3 weeks.
Notes
Every cucumber has 2 ends--the stem-end on one side and the blossom-end on the other side. The blossom-end is where the flower transformed into a fruit. Shave off the blossom-end of each cuke before pickling. This will keep it firm as the blossom-end contains enzymes which soften the cucumber over time.

This Half Sour Pickles recipe was inspired the pickling guru Linda Ziedrich in her book The Joy of Pickling. for more information and recipes on pickling and fermentation see the following links:

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