{HOT} Fermented Chili & Garlic Sauce

As the seasons are transitioning I am spending lots of time preserving organic seasonal goods for my family to have for the remainder of the year, and the year to come. It is an age old tradition that in today’s modern, processed world seems to practically be non-existent. I live in a pretty rural but “urban” area, and although we are a reasonably short distance from the big city (NYC) the Pocono’s don’t really have many well stocked grocers. We have no big natural and gourmet food stores,  and although some stores are really carrying more and more organic and unique items, many things are still very hard to come by. (organic especially) I’m taking what the earth has to offer, and I’m taking the time to stock up on what I can find from the farms I support.

A household staple is hot sauce. We are those people that have a different hot sauce for everything. Most of the more popular hot sauces are pretty clean ingredient wise, and many are even still naturally fermented. (with vinegar added for stability) For the longest time I have been a Sriracha junkie. I currently have FOUR bottles in my pantry, and that doesn’t include the chili-garlic sauce. The ingredients are pretty awful, but honestly speaking I hoard the stuff without even realizing it. I’m trying to break my habit but it is really not easy. I’ve kicked a lot of my sauce habits, but let’s face it… many I’ve just substituted the store bought variety with something homemade. (Like Thai Sweet Chili Sauce, or of course ketchup. Who can live without ketchup?) I’ve made plenty of fermented salsa’s (red and green mostly) but I’ve never really come across good quality, organic hot peppers.

Lucky enough The Raw Milk Farm is selling hot chili’s right now, and a few weeks back I ordered 12 with this hot sauce recipe in mind. After emailing the farm I have learned that the peppers I used are called “Rio Grande Hot Peppers.” They tasted sweeter than a jalapeno but are wonderfully wicked hot. Stephen is a pepper head, you know one of those idiots that try to prove their stamina by eating really hot junk?…yeah he’s one of them. Well these peppers almost made him cry… which was HILARIOUS! (I should have made a video) Seeds of change describes them as “slightly hotter than a jalapeno,” but they really do have the perfect burn to them. We’ve had Thai Chili’s that were a lot hotter but they don’t have much sweetness to them, these peppers are a well rounded blend of flavorful and spicy. I bought some sort of long Thai-like-Peppers from Rodale Institute that would probably be too hot to pickle for sauce but they would be perfect for pickled pepper sauce (Infused Pepper Vinegar). I recommend finding red jalapeno’s, or cayenne peppers if you can find them. You can make hot sauce with really any pepper. An Anaheim and Jalapeno blend would be nice, use sweet and hot yellow peppers for a pretty yellow sauce, go orange, or red, you get the point. Use all of one color for a pure and vibrant hued sauces.

Post Fermentation- The mixture will bubble and separate.

1. In the bowl of a food processor chop chili peppers until a chunky but “smoothish” sauce has formed. Combine with chopped garlic, water, sugar and salt. Place in a lidded jar such as a mason jar. Cover and allow to ferment at room temperature for 2-3 days. If your home is typically warm (70 degrees or warmer) be sure to check on day two. If you open the jar and the mixture foams and bubbles, then you are good to go.

2. Combine cider vinegar (or plain vinegar) with the fermented mixture. Add salt and honey to taste. Shake before using. For a smooth sauce, thoroughly strain the fermented mixture prior to adding salt, vinegar and honey. Straining may alter the final flavor, so be sure to add post fermenting ingredients a little at a time to your own tastes.

Note: Natural fermentation increases the vitamin content of produce, it also creates natural bacteria and enzymes that are beneficial to your health in various ways. By adding vinegar you are neutralizing these enzymes, but using raw vinegar and honey kind of keep the party going so to speak. Using vinegar helps to stabilize the product for shelf life. If you were to allow this mixture to ferment longer than a three day period you would essentially be making a pepper wine or vinegar. (or if it spoils- a firey rancid pepper concoction)

You may store this sauce in the fridge for quite a long time, as it ages it just becomes better and more balanced in flavor. You could maybe, theoretically even store your homemade hot sauces at room temperature. Typically the problem is the garlic. If you make a hot sauce or pepper vinegar as long as you do not add the garlic, (which spoils) the sauce is shelf stable. There are obviously variables, how much water, how much sugar, how much air… etc. (I’m not sure what the FDA would recommend so don’t take my word for it… but in my house if it isn’t furry it’s A-ok.)

Adapted From:  Bon Appetit Magazine’s Master Hot Sauce