We’ve made a lot of hot sauce this year (and there’s more on the way). We’re big fans of heat, it’s easy to swap and store. Although fermentation takes passive time (this has been aging for a few weeks and some will continue to do so), it takes very little effort. Like all of our ferments, it’s stored in the fridge when complete.
Today’s post includes our best tips for fermenting hot sauce!
If you’re looking for the recipe, it’s simple:
- Hot peppers (trimmed and washed)
- Enough non-chlorinated water to cover (you must weigh the water). Some city water is chlorinated so you’ll have to leave it rest in a big bowl for an hour or so to let the chlorine evaporate (some town water now has other bacteria killing additions that won’t evaporate and, in those cases, you’ll need to use bottled or purified water).
- Salt (3% of the weight of the water)
You can make this by combining all of those things and letting them sit on your counter for a few weeks until you are happy with the final results. Blend with a hand mixer or food processor and try not to consume the fumes.
But that doesn’t make for a lot of learning on how to make hot sauce, so let’s get into the finer tips/ tricks that we use when making it.
As mentioned above, I weigh my salt. I know that we have many readers (the majority) who do not use the metric system but I need to make my plea for it here. If you’re uncomfortable with it, know that most of my life I continue to use Imperial measurements but for fermenting it makes a great deal of sense to use the metric system.
It’s important to know that metric is based on units of 10. You don’t need to know the following but it helps explain that point: 10 millimeters make a centimeter, 10 centimeters make a decimeter, 10 decimetres make a meter. This basis of 10 is really hand when calculating a percentage for a brine (i.e. I don’t know what 3% of a cup is but 3% of 100 grams is 3 grams).
Here’s another piece of trivia: 1 gram (that’s a weight) of water equals 1 millilitre (that’s volume) of water.
If you’re glazing over and are lost in all this metric; don’t be! Here’s the key: most scales allow you to switch to metric (grams). Instead of counting ounces and pounds, it will count grams and kilograms. A kilogram is simply 1,000 grams. so you can weigh your water and multiply that number by 3% to know how much salt you need.
This tip takes a bit of experience. I like to start the fermentation with salt before adding the water. I tend to mix the peppers in a large bowl and toss them with the salt to make sure everything has contact with the salt. When doing this I use my hands to break the structure of the peppers (by folding and crushing them with my hands). I then put them in a jar overnight before adding my water.
Why does this take experience? Because I like to measure my salt precisely – as a percentage of the water I’m going to use. This means I have to guess how much water is going to be needed to fill the jar (I used to do this without measuring which was fine but led to unrepeatable results).
I guess that a large jar (my biggest are almost 2 quarts/ liters) will take about 1 liter/ quart of water to cover the peppers (this depends on the pepper being used). Since a liter is 1,000 grams (per above), I weight 30 grams of salt and mix it with the peppers and add the liter the next day.
When learning to guesstimate, the key is being conservative: You can’t remove salt once it’s in so guess low and you can add more water – and more salt to keep the ratio if needed.
Per all fermenting, the use of chlorinated water is necessary as it will kill the fermentation process. If your water is chlorinated, let it rest in a large bowl for at least an hour before using and it will evaporate.
Stop the Floaters
The key to successful fermentation is keeping the ingredients under the surface of the water. I use a simple trick (a bell pepper with a hole cut in it) to keep them down. You can see that as part of this post.
If you look at the photos on top of this post you’ll notice there’s actually two different hot sauces. Here’s the ‘before’ picture:
The jar on the left contains the solids from the fermentation (seeds and peppers) which were combined with a small amount of brine before it was blended with a hand blender. The photo on the right is the brine. A lot of people who make hot sauce toss the brine, strain the solids and only use the liquids that result from straining. I think they are throwing out some of the best stuff.
If you insist on a thin hot sauce without seeds and solids, consider drying the solids to make a fantastic spicy powder.
I strain the solids and add the strained liquid to the brine (it is plenty spicy on its own). This makes the delightfully bright hot sauce that is void of seeds or other solids. You are also left with a much thicker sauce (think of sambal olek) that is just as awesome!
Hot Sauce as Concentrate
Each of these jars is fiery hot. I love hot stuff and will use some of the it as-is. But I won’t stop there.
Over the winter I’ll make mini-batches of custom hot sauce using this as the base. For example, I’ll mix hot sauce with any of the following (stored in the fridge or eaten the same night):
- BBQ Sauce
- Oil nut oils especially
And many more.
Mold isn’t the end of the world in fermentation (you simply scrape it off daily). I’ve found two keys to helping prevent mold:
- Keep everything submerged (per above)
- Use an airlock on a conventional mason jar (optional).
Check the consistency daily. Like most ferments, peppers can become slimy if left too long. Unlike most ferments this is less of an issue as the process of converting this into a sauce renders the texture of the whole pepper unnoticeable.
I find peppers are best converted to sauce between day 5-20 (a lot depends on the type of peppers and temperature they are stored in).
Tomorrow’s post will talk about how to age your sauce much longer.
You’ll have to come back tomorrow for information on this – one of the jars above isn’t done yet (even though it’s perfectly edible as-is).
Do you have any tricks that we’ve missed?