Let me start by saying I’m not hot sauce expert but I’m familiar. In fact I’ve only been hooked on hot chiles and hot sauces fairly recently. I have only tried a few store brands and there are some good ones out there but I find an issue with most: A pretty high sodium content. That’s cool, I love salt too but mayo for example has a salt concentration of about 3% and tastes perfect, so is a high sodium content really necessary for making an awesome hot sauce? Check the following sodium concentration from a random hot sauce selection:
High blood pressure is an issue I’m familiar with and lately I have been making an effort to reduce my salt intake. It has had an incredibly positive impact on my health. I cut down on pickled stuff which I used to eat pretty much daily. I also like those yummy Lacto-fermented product but they also have a very high sodium content. I used to make kimchi and sauerkraut at home frequently so I cut back dramatically. I also stopped coffee but have recently slowly reintroduced some and my BP has remained normal.
Homemade to the rescue…again.
So instead of reading stupid labels or being subjected to one or two brands with acceptably low sodium content I decided to make my own stuff. And after the fist batch I couldn’t but regret not having done this before. If you think those hot sauces at the store have anything on homemade stuff, think again and the beautiful thing is: Hot sauces are extremely basic and easy to make. Just a few ingredients and cooking is really optional. In fact 1 ingredient is all that’s required. Fresh hot chiles, puree them and that alone is already a killer hot sauce. Add salt and you have a seasoned sauce. Add liquid and control the consistency. Add salt and season it… but is it necessary to have a salt concentration of 26%? hmm… trust me, 3% is more than enough.
I like this 3% salinity.
Why is 3% enough? well, it’s enough for me, that’s for sure… but I think you would probably agree that food seasoned to around a 3% salt content is just about right. That’s about the amount of salt concentration needed to say… season water for cooking pasta for example. Above that 3% limit… I believe things start tasting a bit salty which is not a bad thing necessarily. The salinity of the ocean is around 3.5% and for the sake of my own health I would not go above this as a rule. I keep this in mind when brining and seasoning. Ok let’s make some hot sauce!
Let’s go over this Q&A (inner monologue) on the simplest hot sauce known to man.
So grab some fresh chiles, remove the stems, puree and done?
yeah, pretty much.
What kind of pepper would you use?
I would say experiment with those you have access to being careful not to use ones that are too spicy. Some are actually dangerous (scorpion, ghost, stay away unless you really know what you’re doing) so do your homework and read about them.
The puree too thick to qualify as a sauce?
Time to start solving problems here. How about adding some water.
Using water the sauce is kinda boring and spoils too quickly
How about replacing most or all of that water with something like vinegar. It makes for a much interesting sauce anyways. The sauce will never go bad either.
Oh, that’s cool but what kind of vinegar?
I would say, up to you. I like sharp ones myself. Champagne, Apple cider, even distilled white is totally fine.
Ok, this is all great but I only have dried chiles.
Same thing add those to the food processor but make sure you have some liquid in there. Vinegar will also bring out that vibrant color we all love.
You don’t reconstitute them before using?
hmmm… no. They will re-hydrate on their own anyways.
But wait, don’t you need hot water to do this?
hot water, hot vinegar, sure…. helps speed things up but trust me. Don’t waste your time.
Why don’t you cook the chiles?
I could. That will change the flavor though, Not necessarily a bad thing. Up to you.
But wouldn’t cooking add more depth?
probably, specially if you get some browning. I like bright hot sauces though… otherwise, we’re getting into mole territory. You could smoke your chiles too.. I mean, you could even add liquid smoke to your hot sauce. See why I hate recipes? they keep you from trying fun things.
What about adding other ingredients?
Sky is the limit here. Tomato is pretty common as are sweet peppers. If your chiles are too hot, adding other ingredients can help cut down the heat by lowering its concentration.
How about fruits?
yeah, mango, pineapple, are common. We’re getting into chutney territory here though but go nuts.
What about garlic?
absolutely, Specially raw, talk about a double punch. Onions too? triple the fun!
yes, sure you can play with that but Mexican hot sauces are more about the chiles themselves and don’t usually have too many spices. Cumin and coriander seeds are common though. Again, you know I don’t care much for traditions. If you feel you need to add curry powder in there, up to you.
to your liking. Remember my whole spiel about 3%… but up to you.
I like adding sugar to balance the acidity and the sweetness goes really well with poultry and pork. Again, this is up to you.
So can we say that a hot sauce is basically a few ingredients blended together?
So how do I make the one in the picture?
well, start here:
Ingredients (makes one litre of awesome sauce):
100g dried arbol chiles
85g yellow onion (half an onion)
30g minced garlic (10 cloves, i love garlic)
300g crushed tomatoes (no idea.. tomatoes come in all sizes, I used canned)
350g white vinegar
30g brown sugar
Add all the ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth. If you don’t like the seeds you could strain your sauce but that will take away most of the heat. Another trick for dealing with the seeds: Dehydrate them or if you’re using dehydrated/dried chiles then you ready to go. Collect them and if you have a spice blender powder them and add them back into the sauce. No seeds but all the heat. Good luck to you and your hot sauce making endeavours!