Lee’s (not so secret) Pepper Sauce 

It was a Sunday, much like any other Sunday.  What made this different was that I had made up my mind on Friday that it was time for a new batch of fermented pepper sauce.  Much like many of you, I have a bottle of Tabasco in my pantry.  I also have at least 5 other types of hot sauces in the fridge.  about 18 months ago, I found a recipe for a fermented pepper sauce on Tasting Table.  Since then, I’ve played around and developed my own take on it.  Mine is not some watery  heat.  It is complex, deep and rich.  It balances subtle heat with a hint of sweet.

It is never exactly the same, but it is always in the same realm of deliciousness.  Being the callous man I am, I thought I’d share my secret (not secret) and process with you.  Now let’s be honest, I have a secret weapon. Living in the bay area, I can go to Berkeley Bowl and grab more chilies than you can imagine with ease.  I also tend to have 3-5 types of dried chilies in my pantry at any time.  Below you can see my selection for this batch.

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Clockwise from upper left:

2 mini sweet red bell peepers

1 Jalapeno

3 Fresno chilies

1 Anaheim Chili

1 medium Shallot

8 or 9 cloves of garlic

1 dried guajillo chili

3 dried New Mexico chiles

2 dried Ancho chilies

2 dried Cascaabel peppers (the little round ones)

5 Habeneros

7 red Thai chilies

1 Poblano Chili

2 long funny named chilies whose name I forgot

Yes that is a mess of stuff.  Highly unscientific.  Many of the dried chilies came from Rancho Gordo, whose products you already know I love.

The dried peppers are roasted for 2 minutes or so at 375 until fragrant.  This deepens their flavors.  The seeds are discarded and stems removed.  then they are ripped up into 1/2″ chunks in a non reactive bowl.

The fresh chilies and peppers are seeded (and veins removed)  and chopped roughly into 1/4″ pieces.  I did not seed or vein the Jalapeno, Habeneros or Thai chilies as I wanted heat.  The garlic was roughly chopped and the shallot was diced.  Everything went into the bowl with the roasted dried chilies.

To the bowl I added 1 1/4 cup of white vinegar, 1.5 Tablespoon salt and 3 Tablespoons of sugar.  Everything was mixed up, laying happily in their bath.  I stirred it every 30 minutes or so for 2 hours, let the marinade help the flavors meld.

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After two hours, everything went into my super de duper blender.  I have one of those fancy Ninjas, perfect for Margaritas, smoothies and pepper sauce.  I let it puree on various speeds until it seemed highly liquefied and smooth.  I washed the bowl and then put the liquid back into the bowl, covered with a layer of cheese cloth.  The  bowl went to the corner of the kitchen counter, out of the sun, to ferment.  I like 5 to 7 days.

Nothing terribly exciting about the bowl covered in cheese cloth is there?  I gave it a smell test a few times during the week and could tell the fermentation was in motion.  On Saturday, I removed the cheese cloth and peaked, stirred and tasted.

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The evil brew had a brown tinge on top.  It had small fermentation bubbles popping constantly.  After stirring, it looked like this.

img_3912Now it was a deeper red.  It smelled wonderful.  It tasted delicious.  A nice subtle heat that rose steadily after the bite.  Sweet and layers of flavors, staying with me for several minutes. 115 minutes later I still had a delightful afterglow, similar to that morning after smile.

This made about 3/4 of a quart.  Kept in an air tight container, it lasts for a few months.  Probably longer with the salt added, but I always run out before it goes bad.  Honestly, this might be the best batch I’ve made.

I use a few tablespoons in my hummus.  Sometimes it goes in my BBQ sauce when I’m looking to up the mysterious heat factor. This really is a great condiment to add to your arsenal.  All it takes is patience and the desire to make something wonderful.  Go forth and make sauce.