AGED HOT SAUCE & OTHER THINGS TO DO WITH CHILI PEPPERS
I am slightly obsessed with hot sauce (I mean, obsessed). I put that ish on everything. Sometimes, I carry a small bottle in my purse because, you know, you just never know when you’ll need it...Right now, the market is bursting with all types of peppers, and there are so many different ways to make hot sauce or spice up ordinary kitchen condiments. Making your own hot sauce at home really isn’t that hard of a task. You can do a quick stove top method (basic cooked), ferment in a salt brine solution for a few weeks (fermented/aged), or a quick pickle like my Haitian quick pikliz.
Fermented hot sauces might sound like something new, but they are in so many different cultures - super Southern (think Tobasco) and Asian (sriracha and kimchi to a certain degree) to name a few. I personally like to make a green sauce and a red sauce. My green sauce is always a mix of serranos, jalapeños, and poblano peppers, roughly chopped. I add some chopped onion, garlic and green bell peppers to round out the heat, pack it all in a jar and add a simple salt brine (1 1/2 cups water to 1 tablespoon salt). Everything should be submerged, so if you're doing this at home, weight down if you must. Initially, I cover the jar with muslin cloth, secured by a rubber band, and I let sit it sit on the counter for about a week to two weeks, stirring daily. You will notice little bubbles (fermentation), but if white mold forms, skim it off. You can ferment for as long as you like really - Tobasco takes 3 years! I have experimented from a week to 8 weeks, so it's more about personal taste.
For the red sauce, I use hot cherry peppers, a couple scotch bonnets, and other red chilies like Fresnos or thai chilies. Again, add onion, garlic and red bell peppers to round out the heat. Same finish as the green sauce. The hardest part is the waiting. Also, I highly recommend wearing gloves when dealing with all these hot peppers!
Another fun way to experiment is with the salts in the brine or spices. Think: a smoked, black Hawaiian sea salt or Himalayan pink. Spices like coriander, cloves, all spice, ginger, mustard seeds, and even herbs will add great flavor.
After the peppers have fermented, I like to strain the pepper mix, reserving the brine. Then, I purée adding back in the brine and a touch of vinegar until I reach the right consistency and flavor. You can leave it like this, slightly chunky, or strain for a thinner hot sauce. Note: If the sauce is a little too hot you can add some sugar to smooth it out. Finally, transfer to an airtight jar and store in the fridge.
Another great way to use up peppers from the market is to infuse them in vinegars or oils to make some kick-ass salad dressings! For vinegars, I like to buy the tall thin glass jars with the pour spout and fill them with Thai bird chilies or any skinny peppers, really, that fit in the jar. Then, it’s up to you which type of vinegar you want to infuse - no cooking necessary! Fill the jar and let it sit for a week or more to infuse. It's so simple - just make sure the chilies are covered by the liquid or they could mold.
For the oil, I like to simmer canola or grapeseed oil on a low heat with garlic and spices. Then, pour the hot oil over fresh or dried chilies and let sit until cool. Strain and voilá!