I love lacto-fermented vegetables. Homemade sauerkraut and kimchi are fun to make and one of the first things I got into when I started this cooking blog. Along with bread making, vegetable fermentation has always been fascinating to me. Recently I’ve started experimenting with a broader spectrum of vegetables, spices, seasonings… the combinations are endless and the flavor profile that can be achieved are incredibly complex. Fermentation, aside from all the health benefits and the preservation perks simply makes things taste awesome.
It wasn’t until recently, after my article: the simplest hot sauce know to man that my blogger friend Enassar from oven-dried tomatoes mentioned fermentation in the context of hot sauce making. It took me a couple of days until it truly clicked. After some research, it was pretty obvious I had been missing out and had been completely ignorant of this simple yet incredible way of processing hot peppers. Hot sauce fermentation is actually pretty popular, at home or in store bought brands. I wish I had known this fact earlier. It’s never too late to learn something new I guess!
I’ve been making hot sauces using vinegars to get that nice brightness and acidity and they are really delicious. Hot peppers are awesome but fermented hot peppers are something else. Instead of acetic acid (vinegar), fermentation creates lactic acid which gives it its tangy unique kick. It’s pretty amazing, and what’s more amazing is that fermentation puts up this incredible visual display of bubbles and aromas that is hard to explain until you start making ferments yourself at home.
500g sweet peppers, chopped (yellow, orange)
3 habanero chiles (remove the woody stems)
6 garlic cloves (remove the woody bits)
15g kosher salt
The usual habanero warning.
Be careful with this little fellow. It ranks pretty high on the Scoville scale, meaning it’s hot hot hot. It’s so spicy it can easily irritate your skin, sometimes severely. Don’t even dare handling this pepper and then rubbing your eyes. Seriously, just be careful if you aren’t experienced in dealing with these guys.
I personally don’t remove the seeds which is called for in so many recipes. Most of the chile hotness is on a membrane surrounding the seeds. Taking out the seeds will tone down the heat in your sauce. It’s up to you. Maybe try one or two habaneros instead of three keeping the seeds. It’s all relative anyway. Or go nuts and add 4, 5… sky and your pain endurance are the limit.
Making this thing is so simple.
In regards to the ingredients, don’t blanche anything, don’t boil or cook anything, if anything, just rinse in tap water. You need that good bacteria in the veggies to be alive and well. Then, simply add all the ingredients to a food processor and blitz until well pureed. Transfer to a clean glass jar (I like to sterilize my jars in boiling water). Make sure you fill the jar leaving one inch before reaching the top. That’s about it. Close the jar but not tightly… in 1 or 2 days the sauce is gonna start to release fermentation gasses… which is awesome. Let the jar sit at room temperature. This sauce is meant to get better as it ages but give it at least a week or two before you taste it.
Let that lactobacillus do its thing.
You’ve done your part, now it’s time for this bacteria to get to work. One of the beautiful things about fermentation is the production of lactic acid. This acid is responsible for the wonderful tangy taste in lacto fermented preparations. The cooler the temperature in your house, the slower the fermentation process will be and the slower the acidification of your sauce will happen. Be patient and taste the sauce every few days (after that first week or two). You can transfer the jar to your refrigerator to slow down fermentation speed if you like. You can also pasteurize the sauce to stop any further bacteria activity but that defeats the purpose of home fermentation and I don’t really see the point in doing so. In my opinion, this sauce can ferment away for months and only get better. Again, remember not to close that lid too tight on those jars and if you do then remember to ‘burp’ the jars once a day! And that’s it guys. Happy fermenting! Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions!
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