Making Delicious Authentic Fermented Hot Sauce

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About: I have spent most of my life accumulating skills to be a more self reliant person. I like making stuff and doing multidisciplinary projects using available resources. I view the world as a resourcescape of...

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)

Salt

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!

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56 Discussions

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Rod_Iron

9 months ago on Step 3

Hmm... well I don't know what went wrong but I didn't get any fermentation bubbling. I left the lids somewhat loose at first but tightened them later. I did get a piece of green mold in one jar. The other two are clear but I don't know about what's going on with them.

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hhots

1 year ago

Great Video! The one thing I was really hoping to see at the end was how the color of those yellow peppers holds up. Does it keep the vibrant color through the fermentation process? Would love to see some shots of the final product. Im working out a new yellow sauce recipe and want to know if a ferment is the way to go or not!

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trumprocks

2 years ago

thanks skillcult my fermented jars have a white thin layer on top guess its the lactobacteria is that ok ? should.i.remove it ? di you blend that as well ? cheers

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skillculttrumprocks

Reply 2 years ago

That is mold and stuff growing on top because the jar was not sealed well enough during fermentation or storage. If it is light, you can skim it off and use the peppers as long as they are smelling and tasting good. If there are peppers on top in the scum toss those out though. Seal the jars slightly more snug during fermentation and tighten them before storing. The jars won't break. Canning jars are designed to vent pressure.

That type of scum is actually common and expected in ferments that are exposed to air, but it is skimmed off and precautions are always taken to keep the food below the liquid. With jars like this, we can seal them and prevent that from happening at all because the fermentation pushes all of the air out of the jar. By sealing the jars up with a blanket of carbon dioxide, they are protected. IF you open them and let out he carbon dioxide and let air in, they will start to grow stuff on top and eventually spoil, even in the fridge.

So, to summarize, start the ferment with a light twist on the jar lids. After the most active fermentation is over, but they are still working a little, snug the lids down. The carbon dioxide formed as it finishes fermenting will push out the air. Don't open it after that point until you're ready to use the peppers or you let more air in. Just yesterday I opened one of the jars that I made in this video. The peppers were above the brine, but they are fine and there is no scum, because there was no air. In the old days, people had to use open crocks, but we have better options.

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trumprocksskillcult

Reply 2 years ago

many thanks for your answer i'll be more carefull next time :)

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rainingfiction

2 years ago

NICE FRESH AND SPICY, just how I like it

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Dwargh

3 years ago

Well explained and documented! I like it!

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jhawkins14

3 years ago

Exactly what I was looking for.

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GCone

3 years ago

I don't see any link to a video

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skillcultGCone

Reply 3 years ago

It's at the top of the page, it should be embedded and just play when you click on it.

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giorgia14

3 years ago

Very nice video! You could try to add some music though!

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skillcultgiorgia14

Reply 3 years ago

Thanks, noted. Some said they like the no music thing and the sound of working. different strokes I guess.

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giorgia14skillcult

Reply 3 years ago

Yeah it's a matter of choice but you can satisfy both putting low volume music so that the sound of working won't be covered! It will be like you listen to music while working! ;)

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skillcultgiorgia14

Reply 3 years ago

Yeah, I'm sure that could work too, thanks. There's also the copyright issue and the canned public license music is limited.

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Mihsingiorgia14

Reply 3 years ago

Play your own music Georgia 14

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giorgia14Mihsin

Reply 3 years ago

wow chill out...! What happened here, we can't tell our opinion now?

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nancyjohns

3 years ago

Excellent video. I really want to make hot sauce now!

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iboersma

3 years ago

Nice Instructable! One question - I do quite a bit of lacto-fermentation of veggies (and, yes, peppers!) at home and have never used any vinegar. It sounds like you add vinegar to lower the pH initially and to help preserve the hot sauce once blended. I agree with adding vinegar once the hot sauce is blended, but am wondering whether adding it to the brine at the beginning could be slowing down your ferment as my understanding is that the acetic acid in the vinegar can kill the lactobacillus bacteria you are counting on for lacto-fermentation... Any thoughts?

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skillcultiboersma

Reply 3 years ago

I don't find that it slows things down, at least not that I can tell. I'm not sure it really even helps that much either though. As I said, I don't always use it. Or sometimes I just splash in a little without measuring. I think I started using it with oilves because they are usually very slow to kick off and often pre-treated in alkali, unlike most veggies. The amount is small. I think the rationale is that by shifting the ph down, the environment is more conducive to friendly bacteria and less friendly to hostiles, the opposite of what you are proposing may be the case. I should just do a whole year without any and see how it goes. There are so many variables that it's hard to know what is going on. Taking a very controlled scientific approach would remove so many everyday variables that the information may not actually be that useful. Anyway, it works for me.

For the hot sauce it seems essential in order to be able to keep it opened at room temperature for long periods of time. Nothing will grow on the sauce with 50% vinegar mixed with the brine. As you know, most lacto-ferments will start forming colonies of stuff on the surface. Once those organisms gain some headway, they will begin to metabolize the lactic acid (I think for energy?) and the ph will start to go up paving the way for further spoilage. I'm not sure if its the total acidity or the qualities of acetic v.s. lactic that makes the difference. If you know anything about that, I'd like to know. I'm inclined to think that the qualities of acetic acid are more preservative somehow, or maybe just can't be used up by anything the way lactic acid can. I had outlined an experiment to boost the lactic acid by adding sugars to see if it would result in a ph low enough to act as a better preservative, but never tried it. What are your thoughts? What kind of pepper products do you pickle? I do mostly pepperoncini, and hot sauce, with some pimentos, which are amazing for cooking and in salads.