How to Make Hot Sauce
One of our chefs is often heard to say, “This needs hot sauce.” And it’s true: many, many things of the savory and sweet variety are better for the bright heat of hot sauce. Of course, there are a million kinds of hot sauce these days. They can be so incendiary that your taste buds wither and a nasal flood is unleashed. They can also be mild and flavorsome, from tangy and vinegary to smoky and sweet. They can be thin; they can be thick.
For this recipe, we’ve lacto-fermented peppers and garlic, the base of our sauce, so that they develop a rich complexity. When they come out of the brine, we add a little vinegar, which gives the sauce a classic, tangy brilliance. Overall, it’s a nice, mild hot sauce: it’ll give your huevos rancheros a pleasant kick, but it’ll also let the other flavors in the dish shine. We love its gorgeous, fiery-orange color and its texture — perfect for drizzling.
Basically, this is an all-purpose hot sauce. It’ll be magnificent spooned over your pulled pork pizza, grilled cheese sandwich, potato leek soup, and grilled mushroom taco. Swirled through mayo? Yes, please.
Our tip: The world is mad for hot sauce at the moment. Be a kind friend and make an extra quart of peppers, so you can leave a few jars on your friends’ porches. Start thinking of fun names for the stuff now!
Yields: 1 quart
1 lb red jalapeños peppers (or hot chile of choice), rough chopped, with seeds
3 garlic cloves
4 tsp salt
4 cups purified water
⅛ cup white wine vinegar
Special equipment: a 1-quart Mason jar
Preheat the oven to 250º.
To sterilize the jar: wash it with soap and water, dry it, and put it on a sheet pan in the oven for 10 minutes.
In the sterilized jar, pack in the chile peppers and garlic cloves.
To make the brine: In a small pot, combine the salt and purified water and warm the mixture over medium heat, stirring until the salt has dissolved.
Allow the brine to cool to room temperature, and then pour it over the peppers and garlic, making sure the vegetables are completely submerged in the brine. Note: if needed, you can put a small ceramic or glass dish filled with water on top of the veggies to keep them submerged.
Screw the lid of the jar on tightly and place it on a small pan (to catch any drips) in a cool, dark place for up to 7 days or until the brine is bubbling and cloudy. Note: You will need to “burp,” or open the jar, every 24 hours or so. This will release some of the air that builds up, so the jar doesn’t burst.
Strain the contents of the jar, reserving the peppers, garlic, and brine. Note: If you want the peppers to have even more flavor, you can hold off on straining. Instead, transfer the jar to the refrigerator, and allow the veggies to slowly ferment for up to 8 more weeks.
Place the peppers and garlic in a blender with ½ cup of the brine, and blend until smooth.
Add the vinegar and pulse to combine.
Transfer the sauce to a jar, and store it in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.