More Fermented Hot Sauce (and a few tricks)

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!

More Fermented Hot Sauce (and a few tricks) Pepper (Hot) Hot Pepper

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.

Measuring Salt

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.

Using Salt

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.

Straining

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:

More Fermented Hot Sauce (and a few tricks) Pepper (Hot) Hot Pepper

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):

  • Honey
  • BBQ Sauce
  • Oil nut oils especially
  • Ketchup
  • Salsa

And many more.

Mold Prevention

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:

Aging

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.

Re-fermenting

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).

Learning More

You may want to check out our other posts on fermenting or all of our hot pepper recipes (including dehydrating, cooking with and canning them).

Do you have any tricks that we’ve missed?

Comments

  1. I’m confused on the chlorinated water issue. Tap water is chlorinated. You say that will kill the fermentation process, so let it set for an hour. Is that so it will UN-chlorinate? So can you use filtered water?

    Do you lose some of the precisely measured salt in the bowl (sticking to bowl) when you toss the peppers?

    This is very interesting. My husband and son LOVE all things super hot and use lots of sauces. I have jalapenos coming out my ears and have used several of your recipes, but am thinking of trying this.

    • Janet,

      thanks for the kind words! I made a typo – I meant unchlorinated water. Filtered water (or chlorinated tap water that’s been left to rest for an hour or so) will work fine. :) I have edited – thanks for the second set of eyes! :)

      If you want to try fermenting jalapenos, any of our hot pepper fermenting recipes will work (i.e. this one but we also have one for slices of hot peppers, sauce with onions and garlic, others with whey and more that add vinegar at the end). I love them all – fermentation is awesome, in part, because you can make a bunch of small jars and try different things easily and quickly. It also helps deal with serious medial issues like hot peppers coming out of peoples ears. :)

      Let us know how it goes – because of how easy, quick and near effortless this is, I can’t recommend it enough. They can taste it as it ferments and when the taste is what they like, make the hot sauce. :) Joel

  2. I think you’ve meant to say you need non-chlorinated water? Trying to follow along it got a bit confusing. Super interesting post otherwise.

  3. I think you have still missed a typo: “Per all fermenting, the use of chlorinated water is necessary as it will kill the fermentation process.”

  4. Hey Guys,

    you mentioned slimy ferments in the post, and I’m wondering if this is caused by the whey. I can’t recall the source, but I believe it was another blog of off here, that mentioned that whey may be responsible for the slime.

    I’m currently fermenting some jalapenos, they’re only on day 7 or 8 now, and they wont be fermenting much longer as I need the sauce by friday, but I may be able to experiment with a batch longer.
    The point is that I don’t use whey, and can report back if they turn slimy anyways.

    Any reason why you typically use whey? I understand that it acts as a kick-starter, but why not use some pickle-brine from a previous batch?
    Or, better yet, since you leave parts of the stems on anyways, no starter at all.

    p.s. I’ve found the post I mentioned above:
    http://www.deliciousobsessions.com/2012/02/by-the-whey-side-why-ive-stopped-using-whey-in-my-vegetable-ferments/

    • Hi Romesaz,

      I’ve run into slimy ferments a few times – once with whey and twice without. Once ws a batch of cucumbers that stayed too long and I can’t remember the cause of the third.

      I don’t always use whey – about half of my hot peppers were done with them this year and the others without. I do find that it adds a more sour profile but it’s merely preference/ experimentation. I rarely use it in any other ferment (i.e. kraut or kimchi) that I do without it.

      Cool link shared above too, thanks so much! Love the crossover of the bacteria; some good food for thought and really well thought out.

      Let me know how your jalapenos go – I need to pick up some more before winter.. :)

      Joel

  5. Regarding Mold Prevention; (If you don’t have an airlock)

    You can also stir the ferment everyday. This is especially easy with something like a sauce or kraut. I found this works for me when experimenting with kraut in small batches (750ml – 1L or so).

    Easier than scraping.

  6. StevieAnn Nance says:

    Love this! Amazing!

  7. Hi why not blend the peppers with the salt? Seems the finely chopped peppers would ferment faster. Ed

    • Hi Ed,

      You could for sure. Speed isn’t something I worry about when fermenting but it could help.

      The main reason I don’t chop them up is that it’s easier to keep whole peppers submerged with the weights I use than pulverized peppers. The only other benefits (and these are stretches): I pull some out for slices before they ferment completely and I think the blender would make the pulp smoother when it’s fermented and soft than fresh.

      Having said all that, it should work fine either way. :)

      Joel

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