Fermentation is one of the oldest methods of preserving foods. Lacto-fermentation has existed in just about every society on record. Sauerkraut, kimchi, kvass, yogurt, calpis, curtido, pickles, salami, and many other traditional foods around the world owe their existence to lactic-acid-producing bacteria (LAB), namely Lactobacillus and Leuconostoc. These beneficial bacteria are present on the surface of plants and vegetables as well as within our bodies.
When given the right conditions, LAB will multiply and convert sugars into lactic acid and carbon dioxide. Lactic acid lowers the pH of the solution and is a natural preservative that inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria while increasing digestibility, as well as vitamin and enzyme levels. The carbon dioxide produced will further inhibit harmful mold and bacteria and helps to maintain the anaerobic (without oxygen) environment needed by LAB.
Fermented hot sauce has a vibrant and complex flavor. Any combination of peppers can be used to achieve your desired heat level and flavor profile. More depth of flavor can be achieved by fermenting with other vegetables, such as garlic, onions, or carrots.
- 2 lbs Fresh hot peppers of your choice; I'm using red jalapenos
- 3 Tbsp Non-iodized sea salt or pickling salt
- 4 cups filtered or spring water
- Optional - garlic, onions, carrots, herbs, spices, etc
- Quart mason jar
- Fermentation weight or clean stone
- Sharp knife
- Nitrile gloves
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Step 1: On With the Show! Chop, Chop!
- Use the freshest peppers available. Rinse the peppers under clean water and remove the stems.
- It is recommended to wear nitrile gloves to keep the pepper oils off of your skin. You'll thanks me later when you need to scratch your nose or use the bathroom!
- Slice the peppers in half.
- Remove the seeds and white membrane, if you desire. The membrane is where most of the heat comes from.
- Chop the peppers smaller if you like. It really doesn't matter because we will be blending everything later on.
Step 2: More Chopping!
- If you will be adding other vegetables to add flavor, now's the time to chop them too.
- I peeled and chopped garlic and onions to add to the peppers.
- Place all of your chopped peppers and vegetables together in a bowl and mix to combine.
- Pack the pepper mix into a sterilized mason jar.
Step 3: Brine Time!
- Whisk 3 Tbsp non-iodized salt with 4 Cups of warm water until combined.
- Place your fermentation weight on top of the peppers. I had to add a few large slices of pepper below the weight to keep some small pieces from floating.
- Pour the brine into the jar. Make sure everything stays submerged. Adjust as necessary.
- Place your airlock on top. If you don't have an airlock, you can use an airtight lid but you will have to "burp" it daily so the pressure doesn't cause your jar to explode.
- Place the jar out of direct sunlight and keep at room temperature. About 70°F in a kitchen cabinet will work just fine.
Step 4: And Now We Wait ...
- Allow to ferment for a minimum of 3 weeks, up to 3 months. The longer the ferment, the more complex and developed the flavors will be.
- Check periodically to see that everything is progressing as it should. You should see gas bubbles form and rise to the top. That's how you know it's alive!
- Eventually, the brine will turn cloudy as it gets populated with beneficial bacteria. You may also notice white sediment on the bottom. This is perfectly normal.
- You may notice a white film on top the top of your brine. This is called Kahm yeast and is not harmful. Skim it off the surface so it doesn't affect the flavor.
- Fuzzy white, green, black, red, or pink patches are mold and are not good. This is usually cause by not maintaining an anaerobic environment or not having a high enough salt content. This is why an airlock is highly recommended.
- If it smells bad, don't eat it. Your ferment should have a pleasant, sour smell.
The small batch in the pint jar is what I will use to finish out this Instructable; it's about 45 days old. I sampled a piece of pepper and it's ready to go! Experiment and try short and long ferment times to see the difference in flavor.
Step 5: Blend It!
- When your ferment is to your liking, strain off the brine and reserve it.
- Place your peppers into your blender and give it a whirl.
- Add some of the reserved brine to the peppers to help with blending until you achieve your desired consistency. Less and you will have a thick spoon-able consistency, add more brine and it will be more liquid and pour-able.
Step 6: Bottle and Enjoy!
- Use a small funnel and transfer to a bottle of your choice. If you prefer a thicker consistency, you can put it in a jelly jar to be spooned out as you desire.
- The rest of the reserved brine can be used as a mixer in a cocktail, added to salad dressing, mixed into cornbread, or any other recipe you can imagine. It is full of probiotics and has a nice spicy zing to it.
- Store in the refrigerator if you don't consume it all in one sitting.
Remember, this is living food! It will continue to ferment, even in the fridge, but at a much slower pace. Open the lid periodically to release any gas pressure that has built up.
I hope you enjoyed this Instructable, but more importantly, I hope you enjoy this sauce! It is delicious, full of probiotics, and the experimentation possibilities are endless!
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