My early experiments with pickling peppers and making hot sauce were total fails but in the end I prevailed! The great hot sauces of the world are fermented, not just preserved with vinegar like my early attempts. The unique flavors of hot sauce, pepperoncini and pimentos develop from bacterial and yeast activity during lacto-fermentation. I’ve been fermenting peppers since before it was hip to ferment things and am sharing this recipe that I have used every year for over ten years to make gallons of delicious hot sauce. Fortunately, it is easy to make and requires no special equipment!
This instructable is in both video and text form
You will need:
Water (I use my untreated, unfiltered spring water)
Vinegar ( optional. used to shift the ph of the brine lower)
Canning Jars (any size from half cup to half gallon)
Canning Seals (used seals are fine to use if they are not scratched on the underside)
Canning jar rings, or better yet these reusable white plastic lids for canning jars which don’t rust. I have tons of these for fermenting in canning jars.
Step 1: The Peppers
Use fresh, clean hot peppers. I’ve used a number of different varieties over the years. Cayenne is delicious and very productive. It has become my staple for red sauce. Beautiful Ho Chi Minh makes a delicious bright yellow sauce. The famous Tabasco peppers (yes, it's a pepper not just a brand) are a different species than most common peppers and don't grow well in all climates. Count yourself lucky if they grow where you live. You can also use peppers that aren’t hot, or blend hot and sweet peppers together to make mild sauce.
Wash the peppers and drain
If the peppers are narrow and small without with small seed cavities, there is no need to cut them. If they are large and very hollow inside, either cut off the stem ends, stab each one through once with a knife or just chop them into pieces to let the brine in.
Step 2: Jars and Brine
Choose the right sized jar. The jars should not be stuffed to the top, but there should not be a ton of room left either. Try to leave about an inch or so of space at the top of the jar. No size of jar is too small. Put the jars in an inch of water in a pan and bring to a boil along with the seals to sanitize them.
Pack the peppers into the jars.
The brine is made in these proportions
2 cups of water
1 Tablespoon of salt
2 Tablespoons of vinegar (again, this is optional. I usually use it, but not always.)
Mix until the salt is completely dissolved and fill the jars.
Step 3: Fermentationization
Pour the brine in the jars. If you cut or stabbed the peppers, it will take a while for the liquid to fill their cavities. Poke the peppers around with a knife to get some of the air out, and leave them for 20 minutes or more to fill with brine.
poke them again to get out as much air as possible and top the jar up with brine to within about 1/2 inch from the top. It is actually okay if the peppers are above the brine as long as the jar is closed, but try to push them down.
Put on the seals and rings, but just very lightly. Turn them just until you feel the very first resistance. See the video version of this instructable for an example of how tight to close the jar. Putting the lids on lightly like this will allow most of the pressure to escape so that when you open the jar it doesn’t fizz all over the place.
Set the jar in a little bowl or saucer to catch any spill over caused by fermentation.
The bacteria and yeasts that cause fermentation should already be present. Some like to add a starter culture, such as some brine from another successful batch of fermented vegetables, or some of the thin liquid whey the floats on top of yogurt. I rarely add starter, but it’s fine if you want to. You need very little to inoculate the brine. A 1/4 teaspoon should be plenty.
Allow to ferment at room temperature. It usually takes two weeks or more. Canning jars are made to vent when under pressure, but not allow air or liquids back in. The jars won’t break. I’ve done this hundreds of times and never seen a single jar break, even when fermenting with the lids pretty tight.
The fermentation will start slowly and then become rapid. It is normal for the brine to become cloudy and for a white sediment to form in the jar.
When the fermentation starts to slow down a little, within less than a week, snug the lids down a little tighter. You want to do this before fermentation is over. Don’t open the jar again until you are ready to use the peppers! By sealing the jars before fermentation finishes, you assure that the carbon dioxide produced during fermentation pushes out all the oxygen containing air in the jar and replaces it with a blanket of inert, preservative carbon dioxide. This creates a habitat that is very unfriendly to most spoilage organisms. I always do this, and regularly keep my peppers in the cupboard for over a year. This storability gives us a huge advantage over fermenting in open crocks and containers.
Step 4: Blend It Up!
If you didn't let any air in, you can store the jars in a dark cool cupboard and pull them out as needed to make batches of hot sauce throughout the year, or you can make the sauce as soon as they are done fermenting and store the hot sauce instead.
It is possible for the peppers to spoil, though it is uncommon. Use your senses and common sense. They should smell appetizing, clean and sharp. The flavor should be sharply acidic, clean and tasty! They should not be slimy or excessively smushy and the liquid should be liquidy, not ropy or snotty.
Next you blend the peppers with liquid. The mother brine is full of flavor and lactic acid, but it will not preserve the hot sauce at room temperature when it is exposed to oxygen. Mix the Mother brine with half vinegar which will act to preserve it. I prefer to use mild flavored rice or white wine vinegars.
Blend the peppers with the 50/50 brine and vinegar mix. You can add a lot of vinegar and brine, or a little depending on how fluid you want your sauce. You can also strain the seeds out or leave them in. I usually leave them in. If you blend for a long time, you may be able to blend the seeds up completely, which is fine too.
Step 5: Bottle and EAT!
Bottle the hot sauce and store in a cool dark place if possible. Light will degrade the quality and dull the color over time.
I eat a TON of my delicious hot sauce on eggs, in omletes, on half avocados, in tacos and burritos and all sorts of other places. There is always a bottle on the table. I hope you try this recipe and like it. It’s easy, healthful and it rocks!
Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions to make this instructable better. Check out my Website, SkillCult for more skills than you can shake a stick at!