We’ve forayed into pepper sauce making in the past and it turned out alright, but certainly not how we expected. Having done little research into hot sauce recipes at that time or even having gone far enough to check out the real names of different pepper varieties let alone the one we were using (those weren’t bird’s eye chiles, but Thai) we were pretty much flying blind. Since then though, my tolerance and preference for spicy foods has gone from raw jalapeno all the way to ghost pepper, which I now enjoy as much for it’s flavor as I do the burn. A few years ago we were having a hard time even tasting and seasoning the Thai chile sauce properly… not so much anymore that I can easily enjoy a good habanero paste with breakfast!
Having been very successful growing last years’ jalapeno plants and the subsequent sales of our awesome hickory smoked Chipotle powder we decided to grow them on a larger scale. We also expanded our pepper collection a bit this year (18 different varieties and 44 so far for next year) and built a hoop house to extend our growing season. You can check out the building and start of our hoop house garden earlier this year on our sister site here, here, and here. Here is what the hoop house garden looked like a few weeks ago. Since then we had a major windstorm that collapsed the support structure for our tomatoes but we propped them up again pretty quickly and found that fortunately most of our paprika and jalapeno plants on the collapsed side are okay. In the last few days we’ve been particularly busy harvesting the now ripening peppers from the fruit (or more technically, berry) laden plants.
I’ve always enjoyed the tang and mildly complex flavor of authentic Louisiana hot sauce so we decided to try to make some of our own. The experiment was so successful, in fact, that we’re now using the same procedure to create some other fermented pepper sauces with a range of heat levels. Enjoy the photos and recipe below!
Louisiana Hot Sauce
Red Ripe Jalapeno Peppers
Enough water to cover the mash
2 percent salt by weight of mash
white vinegar according to finished sauce volume
salt to taste
honey to taste
You need to ensure your peppers are fully ripe for this recipe. Clean peppers and carefully trim most of the green tip at the end, leaving the small ‘starry’ bit which will add additional flavor. Process in a blender or food processor to your desired consistency. Calibrate your scale with an empty sterilized glass jar and add your pepper mash to it. Add water if required just to cover the pepper mash. Weight the mash and add 2 percent sea salt. Cover with cheesecloth. Check and stir the pepper mash completely a few times a day. Within a few days you will notice the mixture separate with solids on top and liquid on bottom and when you stir there will be many bubbles… this is a sign that the fermentation is working as it should. Continue to tend to the mash every day until the bubbling subsides or desired sourness is achieved it could take up to a two weeks. Important note: If a white mold starts to form on the insides of the jar or on top of the mash that is okay. Scoop it off and throw it away. If you find it is growing faster than you can tend the mash you may want to either try to stir it more frequently, attach an airlock after the ferment is started, or transfer to a new clean jar every few days.
When the mash has finished fermenting it’s time to strain through a cheesecloth, measure the volume of the now separated pulp and sauce, and add vinegar. You can use any vinegar you wish the only thing to keep in mind is that some vinegars are less acidic than others and the finished pH level is very important. You want something that is ideally 4.3 or below. For this sauce, we added 50 percent of the finished sauce/pulp volume in white vinegar (so about 1/3 vinegar.) At this low pH level the sauce is inherently shelf-stable and will continue to mellow and age for as long as you wish but our first batch was better than store-bought after just two weeks in the pantry!