Lacto-Fermented Hot Sauce
I've made lots of versions of hot sauce, trying to find the perfect combination. After trying this recipe, you may find a reason to put it on everything. It's so easy. The hardest part is waiting for it to be ready! Even my daughter who doesn't like hot sauce likes it. Hope you do too!
Make sure to wear gloves when preparing this... did I mention to wear gloves?! The oil from the hot peppers can burn your skin and if not, it'll burn your eye's when you rub them and believe me, you touch your eyes more than you think. I've had a few people in classes think it wasn't necessary and they regretted it!
Lacto-Fermented Hot Sauce
4 Garlic cloves, smashed
14 oz. total red peppers. *see notes
1/2 small onion
2 cups non-chlorinated water
3 tsp. non-iodized sea salt
1 tsp. of lime zest, lightly packed
2 Tbsp. lime juice
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. cilantro leaves, lightly packed
2 Tbsp. honey, or to taste
1 1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
Black pepper, optional
Quart mason jar
1. Add garlic cloves to a quart jar.
2. Wearing gloves, remove stem and de-seed the peppers. The hot pepper seeds contain most of the heat. You can leave a few of the seeds in, depending on the desired heat level.
3. Cut the peppers into 1 inch chunks and pack down tightly into the jar.
4. Cut onion into 1 inch chunks and pack down tightly into the jar.
5. Mix the water and salt together. Cover jar contents with the brine, leaving at least 1 inch of headspace. Press down on the jar contents, to release any trapped air bubbles. Add more brine, if necessary.
6. Place a lid on the jar and turn back just slightly, so developing pressure can escape. Place the jar on the counter, at room temperature, with a plate under the jar to catch any bubbling over that may occur.
7. One to two times a day, tighten the lid and turn jar upside down, or push the jar contents under the brine. The salty brine keeps nasty bacteria from developing. Everything under the brine is protected from bacteria, but food exposed to the air is more susceptible Coating the surface ingredients with the salty brine discourages surface mold growth- even though surface ingredients will float up again. Afterward, turn back the lid just slightly to let the developing pressure escape.
8. Ferment at room temperature for a minimum of 4-5 days in the summer and 8-10 days in the winter. Fermenting is a bit faster in the summer than in the winter. Thinner slices also ferment a little faster. The brine should turn from a clear to cloudy liquid. It should also taste tart, rather than just salty. Cloudy brine and tartness are your cues that the good bacteria has taken over and done it's job.
9. Drain and reserve the liquid. In a blender, blend drained contents of the jar, 1/2 cup of the fermenting brine, lime juice, lime zest, vinegar, cilantro, honey, salt and pepper to taste, until very smooth.
10. Strain the hot sauce through a fine mesh colander into a container, for a smoother, thinner sauce. When just the pulp remains, press the pulp against the sides of the mesh colander and scrape the puree off the bottom of the colander into the hot sauce. Repeat until the pulp is very dry and no puree comes out on the bottom side of the mesh colander. You can dehydrate what's left in the colander for a fermented chili powder.
11. Store hot sauce in the fridge for up to a year. The hot sauce is acidic and tends to rust metal lids. For that reason, I recommend a plastic lid for long term storage.
You can play around with the pepper ratios. Just keep the weight to 14 oz. total weight after cutting the stem out and de-seeding the peppers. I do a mix of red jalapenos and red bell peppers. I usually use 5-7 oz. red jalapenos and 1-2 red bell peppers for a total of 14 ounces. If you'd like it more spicy, add more hot peppers and/or seeds; for less spicy, add less hot peppers and more bell peppers.
Before you buy the peppers, weigh them and get a few ounces more to account for removing the stems and seeds.
Check out a Scoville scale for heat levels. I typically use de-seeded red jalapenos.
I've fermented this for much longer, but I don't think it's necessary. You'll get good complexity and probiotic quality with the minimum time listed above. You'll notice that the recipe does not call for vinegar like non-fermented versions do. That's because the fermenting process produces the acidity; it's a bit magical, really. The added lime juice is for flavor and is optional.
Some people use fancy fermenting jars; I've tried them, but I've found that shaking the jar 1-2 times a day is sufficient to keep bad bacteria in check. Keep things simple. It's been done for thousands of years, you don't need any fancy equipment.
My husband likes the Cholula brand chili lime flavor, so I was going for something similar. You can adjust lime, zest, sweetener, and vinegar to taste, or leave it all out.
I've left the jar in the fridge for several months after fermenting, before getting around to blending it. This is a low stress kind of a recipe. You get to it, when you get to it!
Don't throw out any unused fermented brine. It's great to drink if you feel a cold coming on, or have been exposed to someone who's sick. The garlic, onion, and capsaicin in the probiotic brine packs an immune boosting punch! You can also add it to soups and sauces for extra flavor. Store it in the fridge for up to a year.
After blending, the mixture will look lighter because of the oxygen pumped into it while blending. As it settles, it will turn a lovely hot sauce red.