I like eating food so spicy it’s nearly hallucinogenic – who’s with me? I also like milder sauces for chilaquiles or tacos that build flavour instead of fire. There are so many hot sauces to love. I would drink green Tabasco if you let me. Ditto Franks and Sriracha. On a backpacking trip too many years ago, I have a clear memory of eating chili ketchup on my fries at a Singapore McDonald’s thinking, why hadn’t I thought of this before?
I go through a decent amount, so I’ve gotten into making it myself. Last March I made a one litre batch using a Grown and Gathered recipe based on fermenting jalapenos, salt, sweet white wine and sultanas. I just finished using it all and trust me I’m the only one eating it in this house.
I’ve planted a few chilli seeds with high hopes I’ll grow a crop to eventually pulverize. For now, I buy my ingredients. I have the sneaking suspicion buying the raw materials is more expensive than simply buying the sauce. Oh well. As I’ve said before, there is benefit in making your own, even if it’s not always about saving money or reducing packaging. It’s upskilling, and it’s keeping me off the streets.
How I made fermented chilli sauce
The main challenge with making your own hot sauce is finding the right chilis. Generally the smaller the chillies, the hotter the burn, so when I picked up some smallish ‘red chillies’ (thanks Woolworth’s for the unhelpful labelling) I had to assume they would be fairly spicy.
How lovely is this reusable bag by the way? I swapped with someone on the Crop Swap Sydney Facebook group for some pine rosin. She’d made the bags herself.
I wasn’t too concerned with how much I’d bought or how much it would make, since fermented recipes are based on simple ratios that can be adjusted. The recipe I used, from The Joy of Cooking, called for salt and a sweet white wine. I used 2% salt, which is to say 276g of peppers x 0.02 = 6g of salt. If you want to start fermenting, it’s essential to have scales. I got this one at Vinnies.
I washed the chillies and cut off the long stems, leaving some of the green end on.
Then I blitzed them, keeping the seeds. I could’ve removed them for a less spicy sauce. More on that later.
I packed the blitzed chillies into a clean wide mouth Mason jar with a 1.5 cup capacity and added some of the sweet wine to cover. The trick with all ferments is to keep the solids below the line of brine or liquid. Here I used a pickle pebble – a 2 cm thick piece of glass that fits into the mouth of the jar – plus a silicone piece called a pickle pipe.
The nipple has a slit at the top that allows gases to escape while keeping oxygen out. Yes, you can ferment without special equipment, and I did for years, but I find it extremely convenient to use these two adapters. The process is easier if I can avoid struggling to find the right little jar to jury rig inside to weight everything down. This set up also keeps out any little flies.
After four weeks on a kitchen shelf, I pureed the mixture until it resembled the texture of Sriracha. This created a cloud of pepper spray in the kitchen, be warned.
In fact I decided an old Sriracha bottle was the perfect vessel to store it.
And so you know how this story ends…. This sauce is hot AF, and I will probably go through it a bit slower than the last.
Happy weekend everyone.