By Joy Johnson, Master Gardener
The men in my family love hot sauce. They put hot sauce on burgers and brats, eggs and ham, enchiladas and tacos, potatoes and pasta, the list goes on and on. They even give each other hot sauce for Christmas. Whenever one of them travels, they bring back sample bottles of hot sauce made in the city they visited. Since they often don’t care for all of the vegetables that I grow in my garden, I thought I would outsmart them this year. I planted a package of “Mixed Hot Pepper” seeds that I got from a Burpees catalog. I figured I’d finally found vegetables they would eat from my garden.
The peppers got off to a slow start in my basement under a grow light in February. A few of them grew to 3-5 inches in height. Most of them stopped growing at 2 inches and were very thin. I was not very hopeful as I gingerly transplanted them outside into the garden at the end of May. But I watered them and fertilized them. Then I completely ignored them for a month while I prepared the rest of the yard for our son’s wedding.
One day, weeks after the wedding was past, I walked down to the pepper patch and there were tall, healthy plants covered with peppers! I was delighted. I recognized the Jalapenos, because I’d grown those before. I wasn’t familiar with any of the others. After doing some research, I learned that I had Anaheim, Hungarian Wax, Cayenne and Ancho peppers. The colors ranged from red to orange to yellow to green. They were beautiful and I was so excited.
I decided to ferment my own hot sauce. I picked all the peppers and filled two 17-quart bowls. One tip my daughter had shared with me – don’t mix the red ones with the green ones. Your hot sauce will turn out a very ugly green-brown; most unappetizing. So, I separated the greens into one pile and the reds, yellows and oranges into another pile. The hot sauce turned out great! I gave bottles of it as Christmas gifts.
Here is the recipe. Oh, one more tip – wear gloves when picking, washing and slicing the peppers (and don’t rub your eyes, no matter what!)
Homemade Fermented Hot Sauce
1 ½ pounds peppers of your choosing (a mix of sweet peppers and hot peppers), tops and stems removed, halved
6 cloves garlic peeled
4 cups filtered water
4 teaspoons sea salt
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup, optional
Place the peppers and garlic in a clean wide mouthed quart canning jar. Set aside.
To make the brine, heat the filtered water and sea salt in a medium saucepan until the salt has dissolved completely. Let cool to room temperature.
Place the peppers and garlic in a clean glass jar. Pour the brine over the peppers and garlic, completely submerging them. If you run out of brine, you can make more by mixing 1 cup of warm filtered water with 1 teaspoon of sea salt.
Cover the jar with folded cheese cloth and secure with a rubber band. Place in a warm, dark spot for 5-7 days or until the brine looks cloudy and small bubbles begin to appear when you tap the side of the jar.
When the fermentation time is up, strain the brine, reserving it. Place the fermented peppers and garlic in a blender and add in 1 cup of the brine, plus the apple cider vinegar, and honey or maple syrup, if using. Blend until completely smooth adding in additional brine to reach the desired thickness.
Transfer to a bottle and store in the fridge for 3-6 months.
Bottles with stoppers are available at Hobby Lobby. The hot sauce turned out great! The men in my family love it. My son in law even said it is the best hot sauce ever. I ended up with a green sauce made mostly from jalapenos and underripe other varieties. And a red sauce made from all of the red, yellow and orange peppers. They taste quite different, but both are hot and delicious.