Every few years I make some fermented hot sauce. We call it “Cold Snap” hot sauce as we harvest the ripe peppers at the time of the first frost. I greatly prefer to use ripe peppers rather than green for the flavor as well as the color. A few green ones do get included but if you add too many the bright orange/ red color will become brown.
This year we had: Mucho Nacho Jalapeno, Super Cayenne, Super Chili, Sweet Banana. Unfortunately my habaneros split in the recent rains and were mostly moldy inside, so there were only 4 to distribute among the jars.
Each quart jar has about 15-16 oz mixed chopped peppers (most seeds removed), 1/2 bulb chopped garlic. 2 jars were left as is. The other 4 jars also had 1/4 can – 3oz- of Minutemaid Limeade concentrate. Of these 4 jars, 2 jars had a pinch of Lactobacillus Helveticus and the 2 remaining jars had a pinch of Lactobacillus Plantarum powder. I use these for my kettle sour beers. The 6 quart jars started out as 3 gallons of mixed peppers before chopping, destemming and removing the seeds from the larger ones.
The jars are topped off with a glass weight and 4% brine. Lids and fermentation locks. The jars are placed in a plastic bin (to catch the inevitable overflow) and left in a dark place at room temperature for 3 weeks. The time is not critical but there is the risk of mold forming.
The Lactobacillus Helveticus kicked off the fastest by a day or 2. In the end it was also my favorite due to a slightly fruitier flavor.
Most of the jars had a layer of pellicle and / or Kahm yeast to some degree. This was scooped off and the inside of the rim cleaned with a spatula before adding to the blender. Approximately 4 oz of liquid was removed in the process.
Each jar is blended separately. When starting the blender, beware – the pepper pulp still has a lot of CO2 in it that will be released as you start the blender. Hold your hand over the lid as you start it! Each pair of jars of the same type were then blended and boiled for 15 min. This is IMPORTANT. There is still dissolved CO2 in the pulp. If you go straight from the blender to the jars and heat process the bottles will blow their tops! Blend until reasonably smooth 30-60 seconds. If you go too long, the seeds get ground up too, which is not desirable as they can add a bitter flavor .
All of the batches ended up very sour with pH in the range of 2.85 to 2.94. This a safe pH (<3.4) for shelf stable canning. I calibrated the meter right before use and checked it twice.
Run the pulp through a food mill or strainer to remove the seeds and skins. Pour the now cooked hot sauce into the jars. We use a measuring cup and funnel rather than a ladle. You can see my ever so patient wife, Teal, filling the bottles (she does not use hot sauce).
Process in boiling water for 15 minutes. Once they are cool add the labels and shrink bands on top for a finishing touch. We prefer to shrink with a heat gun or you can invert them into boiling water to shrink.
All 3 sets tasted great but I am partial to the Helveticus batch.
Facebook group: Fermented Hot Sauce Society
Book: Fiery Ferments
So did anything go wrong along the way?
We were short one of the glass weights as it was in a jar of fermented pickles we made earlier in the summer. We ere going to get it back and then forgot. We should have just placed a baggie of water in that jar. That jar was ruined by mold. Above, you can see the fuzzy result with white and green mold. This is a good reason to split up your ferment / experiment into multiple jars. That way if one goes bad there are still others to use. Basically for us we get one shot at this each year. The farmers markets and grocery stores just don’t have sufficient quantities of RIPE pepper, just lots of green ones.
We initially skipped boiling the hot sauce before hot water processing. 4 lids blew off and we had a good mess to clean off of the underside of the microwave and all over the cook top. We lost about 1 bottle (net) of hot sauce due to this. As the sauce heated up, the CO2 was released from the pulp and it rose up the neck of the bottles and blew the lids. This was an oversight that will not be repeated. We had to empty the bottles, boil the sauce, refill and then hot process. No more issues.
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