Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Beginning my hot sauce journey

For the last five years I have been working on a variety of fresh and cooked salsas. I posted a series of articles titled, "My salsa journey," in February 2011. (Read the articles here, here and here.) Salsa ranchera is the most popular salsa recipe on 'Round the Chuckbox. Since that time I have featured the salsas at several jobs, including two summers at Oakland Feather River Camp in Quincy, California.

I'm now ready to explorer scratch-made hot sauce. My original thought was to duplicate Cholula brand hot sauce, which is my favorite commercial hot pepper sauce. After a brief Internet recipe search, I changed my focus. I figured that it would be wiser to develop a sauce than to attempt to replicate a commercial sauce. Commercial producers use a variety of production techniques that aren't available to the small producer.

I produced my first batch over two weeks ago. I tasted that hot pepper sauce after a 14-day ferment in the refrigerator. While I'm not entirely satisfied with the flavor, I can accept the hot sauce for now. The texture and spiciness are right on. However, I don't enjoy the sharp tingle from the vinegar. While acid is an essential ingredient of hot sauce, one cup of vinegar is overkill.

My next batch will continue to feature serrano chili peppers. They add a base of flavor to the hot sauce. I'll also hold onto the ground arbol chili pepper. I want to try adding ground pequin chili pepper and reducing the vinegar to less than one-half cup. The pequin chili pepper should compliment the arbol. I look forward to trying my next batch.


This recipe is adapted from chef Emeril Lagasse. I used his Food Network recipe as a starting point. I added ground arbol chili pepper for depth of flavor and to boost the rich color. As explained above, my next batch will reduce the amount of vinegar and introduce ground pequin chilies.

1 tablespoon canola oil
4 ounces serrano chili peppers, stemmed and sliced (about 20 chilies)
1-1/2 ounces minced garlic
3 ounces sliced onion (1/2 medium onion)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups water
1 teaspoon ground arbol chili pepper
1 cup distilled white vinegar

Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add serrano chilies, garlic, onion and salt. Saute 3 minutes. Add he water and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes, or until peppers are very soft and most of the liquid has evaporated. Ventilate the room with exhaust fan if necessary. Stir in ground arbol chili.

Puree mixture in a food processor or blender until smooth. With the motor running, add vinegar in a steady stream. Adjust seasoning with additional salt if needed. Strain sauce through a fine-mesh strainer, then transfer to sterilized half-pint canning jars. Cover with air-tight lids. Age 14 days in refrigerator before using.

Store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. This recipe prepares 1-3/4 to 2 cups hot sauce.

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