On Hot Sauce

My favorite method (and the one I used for the Lil’ Phil’s brand) for making hot sauce. Originally inspired by how Tabasco® makes their sauce.

Step 1. Make a pepper mash. Blend de-stemmed chilies with 4% salt in a food processor. You can also add other veggies (garlic, carrot) or fruit at this point (i.e. chilies from the habanero family do very well with tropical fruits and stone fruits). No need to add any water usually. If you're just working with thin-walled peppers that don't have enough water weight to supply their own brine, then make a little 4% brine and add just enough to this mash so that it's covered in brine while fermenting.

Step 2. Set up this mash to ferment. Let this go for at least a week or two (or much much longer) at cool room temps. Be sure to have a good cover sitting directly on top of the surface of the mash, like a sealed bag of water or food-safe weight. Watch the ferment carefully, pepper mashes develop kahm yeast very easily. Open up the ferment and give it a gentle stir often. If you do see kahm yeast, skim it off and continue to the next step.

Step 3. Add vinegar. What kind and how much is up to you. Even a small amount of vinegar brings the pH down enough to stabilize the mash and stop the lactobacillus from operating. Tabasco is 7 parts vinegar to 3 parts pepper mash I think (and then they blend the mixture for 3 weeks to completely break down the solids). I like to do ~3 parts pepper mash to 1 part vinegar so the sauce is really pepper centric.

So at this point, you have the flavors of a lacto ferment + some sharpness from acetic acid too, which I think is better than relying on vinegar alone. Also, the standard method of cooking chilies in vinegar kills that fresh flavor while this method is the best way I know to preserve the fresh feel of chilies.

Step 4. Let this mix marry for at least a couple of days

Step 5. Strain this whole thing through a sieve to remove skins and seeds

Step 6. Sheer in xanthan gum to adjust the body

Step 7. If you want this to last a really long time and prevent degradation of color and flavor, I recommend using potassium sorbate and sodium metabisulfite (which reminds me, if you’re looking for more tips like this, check wine and cider making forums, there is a lot more info like this about alcoholic ferments out there than lacto ferments). It seems like 150ppm for potassium sorbate and 50ppm for metabisulfite worked well for my hot sauces (so take the total weight of the hot sauce and multiply by .00015 and .00005 (get a drug scale for stuff like this - but even with a drug scale, these numbers might be too small to work with on a small home project, in which case, just very very small pinches will work, don't stress it too much))

Step 8. Refrigerate

Step 9. Put hot sauce on everything

I think chilies from the Chinense family are the best for hot sauce like this. I’d avoid using chilies from the annum family as the primary chili in a mash for the most part.