Homemade Fermented Hot Sauce

As with so many of my recent kitchen projects, the inspiration for this hot sauce came from one of Brad Leone’s videos on Bon Appetit. But as with just about every one of those projects, by the time I get started, I’ve tweaked just about every part of it based on available ingredients, tools, and how to fit it into my tiny kitchen. 

For this recipe, I headed to my local market, which serendipitously had an excellent selection of peppers. I ended up buying fresh manzano and chilaca peppers and some dried chipotles. I wasn’t familiar with manzanos, but I really liked them and decided to make them the base of the sauce. They’re yellow/orange and apple-sized, and have a really great spicy but fruity flavor. I tried a bite of some raw manzano and it was pretty hot, but somehow still conveys great flavor while your tongue is melting. 

Based on Brad’s recipe, I poured an unmeasured amount of salt and white sugar (I actually ran out of salt, to my eternal shame) into my mason jar. I added whole black peppercorns, an unholy amount of crushed garlic, and lime zest and juice.

The solids (with some blue garlic!)

Time to add the peppers. First, I put gloves on, because getting pepper residue on your hands (and eyes, or anything else you touch) is bad news. I then sliced up four or five manzanos and one chilaca (they’re big) into quarters and scooped out the seeds and threw them away, then chopped up the peppers into decent-sized chunks. I sliced the dried chipotle and threw that in too. I filled the jar with water until the solids were submerged, put the cover on, shook the jar really well, and set it on my counter. 

Then came the waiting game, which was the hardest part. Without yeast or another culture agent, there wasn’t much fermentation or bubbling action, but it’s important to open the jar and “burp” it once a day to release the pressure. Another alarming thing was when the garlic turned blue. This is, apparently, normal and totally safe if a little disconcerting.  

After two long, excruciating weeks, I poured the jar through a strainer (save the liquid!) and put the solids in the blender with a bit of the liquid. I added more and more and more liquid until the hot sauce got to the desired consistency, which for me is close to pureed, not quite liquid but still pourable. I poured the hot sauce through a funnel into 5 oz woozy bottles and immediately ran out to buy a burrito to try it on. It was great!

Also, as an added bonus, try using the leftover liquid as a brine. I soaked chicken breast in it for a few days and it worked out great (story to come). 

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