Fermented Hot Sauce

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.

chooped peppers in fermentation jars
Peppers at the start of fermentation

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.

Ferment with pellicle and some kahm yeast – normal
After scooping out the pellicle and kahm yeast.

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 .

Blending the peppers – note the bubbles

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.

pH checking hot sauce





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).

Teal filling the bottles

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.


Finished Hot Sauces

All 3 sets tasted great but I am partial to the Helveticus batch.


Facebook group: Fermented Hot Sauce Society 

Book: Fiery Ferments

5oz Woozy bottles with red bands

Hot sauce bottle labels

Dr. Meter pH meter  I bought this initially for beer making and is more accurate than relying on the acid range (0-6) pH paper that I had used in the past.

Mirro Foley Food Mill 

Lallemand Sourpitch Lactobacillus Helveticus

Lallemand Sourpitch Lactobacillus Plantarum


So did anything go wrong along the way?


Moldy Ferment – discard

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.

Splattered hot sauce-4 lids blew off

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More Cowboy Candy

We made our last batch of Cowboy Candy 2 years ago and are down to two 1/2 pints and one pint being left.  This impending shortage along with the first (late) freeze of the year meant I had to harvest my peppers. I ended up with 2 gallon buckets and then some of peppers. Mostly a long jalapeno but also a few Caribbean red  habaneros.  This is not enough to do a batch, so I went to the Waukesha farmers market and bought out 3 vendors.  One of them was surprised I really wanted all of the ripe jalapenos (ripe peppers are a critical ingredient).  A final vendor provided a dozen orange habaneros.

Sunday morning arrived and so did the kids, Jessie, Elyse and David came with children in tow.  We were arrayed around the kitchen table seeding and chopping the pile of peppers. I estimate it was 40-45 lbs overall, with about 30-35lbs when cleaned (we lost count of the 3 lb batches).

Almost done, just a few peppers to go

Duties were split with the kids doing the chopping, I was chopping and doing the hot  processing of the jars.   This was our second try at doing the hot / boiling water bath processing on the deck and it worked great!  We were also smart enough this time to don the gloves from the start.  Last time we had painful side effects for a couple of days (just think of every body part you may touch with your fingers that are soaked in capsaicin – ouch).

The Blichman Hellfire burner gets the kettle up to a boil quickly (>200K BTU/hr).   This burner is designed for home brewing and double duty for canning.  The Victorio canner also works well as a brew kettle.   So, when considering what you need for brewing or home canning, keep in mind the dual uses.  This would work with a turkey fryer and burner too.

The major advantages of brewing outside are just as rewarding for canning . Keep the steam,  mess and boilovers outside as much as possible.  The 4x4s under the burner are not so much a safety consideration but rather to help keep me from bending over quite so far. 

Teal did the cooking and filling of the jars.  She had 2 kettles going: one with the syrup for cooking the peppers and a second with the cooked down concentrate for filling the jars.

With the help and better sequencing of processing steps we were done in under 3 hours.  This halved the time vs 2 years ago for an equivalent amount.

Final tally was 36 half pints and 7 pints.  We “should” be set for another 2 years.  However, as the word spreads of this special taste treat, the stash of jars goes down ever more quickly.    For the recipe see: https://bronkalla.com/blog/2017/10/01/candied-jalapenos-cowboy-candy/