Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Making Your Own Hot Sauce -- Freshness and Intensity Win!

There are lots of recipes out there for making hot sauce at home -- most use a food processor or a blender -- and most require that you heat or cook your ingredients, partly for safety and partly for room temperature storage.

That's no good. Bad for flavor. Also, it's more like making a salsa, with all the skins and chunky bits. So let's use a juicer instead.

Without getting into a big discussion about cooked or pickled versus fresh flavors, let me just say that I find most bottled sauces have diminished the flavor of their ingredients in the bottling and preserving process, and often attempt to make up for that with heat, vinegar, and spices.

Anyway, I'm going to tell you today how I like to make hot sauce, Fresh Hot Sauce, in much the same way that you can make Juice, using a home juicer. Lots of home juicers will do a pretty good job of juicing, and the best ones will separate only the dry, high-silica indigestible skin and pulp from the micro-solid bearing juice, which is what you want. The better machines will also do it at low speed -- under 200 RPM -- so as not to flash cook the juice, which alters the flavor.

There are a couple of added steps to the process beyond simple juice making, which include allowing for settling, that is the separation of the juice into 2 layers, one fairly clear and the other the color of the fruit and containing the micro solids, and also the adding of some sea salt -- not a lot -- and some rice vinegar, to prevent spoilage or fermentation during settling.

Like any fresh juice this Hot Pepper Sauce NEEDS to be Refrigerated, since it is only minimally stabilized with salt and vinegar.

You can use this method to make ANY Hot Pepper Sauce, of course -- if you want to make a sauce like the spicier Caribbean Sauces with fruit and mustard, go ahead. Just modify the basic sauce and add Papaya, or Mango and Hot Mustard and Spices, as you please. Copy a sauce you like, or make one up.

But you have to begin someplace, so let's start with the a simple one.

Let's say we want to make a Cayenne Hot Pepper Sauce, in some ways like the classic Louisiana Vinegar Sauces we are all familiar with, but not with so much Vinegar, and mostly Pepper flavored.

We want it it be Hot, naturally Sweet from the Peppers, Sour/Bright from the Peppers and the Vinegar, and a little Salty, all in balance.

Here following is such a recipe that allows you to control the amount of Heat, and adjust the Sweet, Salty, and Sour components to taste.

Red Bell Pepper
Red Cayenne Pepper
Red Cherry Pepper -- optional -- adds additional depth of flavor
Fresh Sweet Onion
Fresh Garlic
Japanese Style Rice Vinegar
Sea Salt

Juice the peppers in sequence, and in separate bowls -- you can add the onion and garlic juice to the same bowls and combine with the hot pepper juice, but keep them separate from the Sweet Bell Pepper Juice.

You will have to decide how much you want of each ingredient -- there is no "correct" way.

Most often you will want 4 or so times as much juice from Sweet Red Bell Pepper as you do from Hot Pepper.

Combine All of the Hot Pepper Juice, the Onion and Garlic Juice, 1/2 the Rice Vinegar, and Sea Salt in one large bowl with room enough for the additional Red Bell Pepper Juice.

Now comes the Manly (or Womanly if you are a tough Chick) Part, where you taste what you've made and decide how much you want to lessen the kick, or not,with the addition of the Sweet, and Non-Hot, Red Bell Pepper Juice.

So do it! Taste your Hot Sauce and see if it's Just Right, or Too Hot! I find a 1/4 teaspoon to the middle of the tongue is just right.

Whatever the heat, I think you will be surprised at the intensity and bright flavor of the sauce, and by intensity, I do not mean Heat, but Pepper Flavor, enhanced by Onion and Garlic.

Most often I find the straight Red Cayenne and Red Cherry too hot (peppers vary in heat) and I like to cut it with the Red Bell Pepper Juice, but, hey, if you are a mensch, or the female equivalent, please yourself.

OK, now you have added, or not, the Red Bell Pepper Juice to achieve the heat level you want, you can taste again for Salt, and Acidity. You know you've added enough salt when the pepper flavor seems to pop and the sweetness of the juice is enhanced. It should not taste Salty. The salt is necessary for 2 reasons -- to bring out the flavor of the Pepper Sauce, and to preserve it. The Vinegar provides more Acidity and also adds to flavor and preservation. Add to taste, remembering that you need about 10% by volume for stable cold storage.

Great. Now you need to store the Almost Hot Sauce. I find that the flavors develop over time -- weeks or months in the fridge, but the Sauce is good right out of the Juicer and mixed.

One good way to store the Hot Sauce is in well-cleaned clear Gallon Milk Containers, and you can pour off your mixing bowls into the gallon containers using a kitchen funnel. The standard pressure fit cap is a good idea, too, 'cause if you didn't add enough salt or vinegar and fermentation begins, the cap will just blow off! Check it each day over a week or so.

I personally allow my sauce to sit in the refrigerator for a couple of months since I find that the flavor develops over time, but like I say -- you do not have to.

Do refrigerate the sauce a week or so to see if you have added enough salt and vinegar to prevent fermentation.

That's it. Bottle it, jar it, whatever you want. Remember, you still have to refrigerate it.

I think you will be amazed at the difference between this High Intensity Hot Sauce and any other you have tasted.

Just for fun, do a side by side comparison with your (previously) favorite sauce.

If you do, or do not agree, with me that this is a better way to get big flavor, let me know!

Yours in heat and flavor,


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  1. Well, what can I say? You've got the - IMHO - right opinion on heating and vinegar.

    No heating and as little vinegar as possible.

    I'm sure your homemade sauces are great!

    I often use piri piri in my own sauces, btw., where the piri piri seem to remove some bitterness from the jalapenos, if those are among the ingredients.

    Ever tried something similar, or any opinions on that in general?

    Anyway... 'nuff said.


  2. Well.

    Removing bitterness or mitigating it, with Jalapenos?

    I make a one Green Unripe Pepper Sauce with Jalapenos and Poblanos, as well as Garlic, Sweet Onion and Rice Vinegar, and interestingly enough, in this green sauce, bitterness is not a problem.

    It's only when I try to use ripe Jalapenos that bitterness is an issue, so I use another pepper instead, such as a Fresno, Tabasco, or Cayenne.


    PS I have an email response from a Thai Food Importer, and if you would like to see it drop me an email using my address per the Blogger profile and I'll send it to you; it's pretty funny, as well as informative and interesting.

  3. That is interesting indeed. Thanks for your insight on the matter. Unfortunately, where I live, we have a more limited access to alot of those peppers you are privy to.

    I think the green vs. red jalapenos issue is very interesting, though.

    Interestingly enough, we have access to some of the hotter peppers here. Go figure!

    I guess it's just one of those things?!


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