I love a good hot sauce! Who could dream that it would be this easy?
My pepper of choice is the Pimento de Padron, originating from, you guessed it–Padrone, Spain. Green, this pepper is a bit like playing Russian roulette in that 1 in 10 is sizzlin’ hot. But allowing the peppers to ripen to a full red means that they’ll be hot, and when I say hot, I mean call-the-fire-department-my-tongue’s-on-fire hot. The Padrone Pepper plant is hugely prolific–the peppers are so abundant and so heavy that, in our garden anyway, the plant actually needs a small tomato support to stay upright. So even if you only grow a few in your garden next year, chances are you will have plenty for fresh eating, plus you’ll be able to make a few bottles of hot sauce.
For hot sauce, I begin by making a “slurry” of peppers with just enough water added to the blender to keep things moving. I funnel the pepper slurry into a clean container; this mixture will ferment for about 24 hours with the lid partially off the container.
Next I add white vinegar. I used a 5 parts vinegar to 1 part pepper ratio because I like my hot sauce pretty strong. Next I label the container with the date, put the lid on, and wait for one week, shaking the pepper and vinegar mixture every day. Why shake? 1) It deepens the flavor 2) It’s fun! Just make sure the lid’s on tight…
Next comes the really fun part–straining the slurry. I use a large ceramic bowl capable of holding all of the liquid, and a metal mesh kitchen strainer. With the strainer over the bowl, pour all of the mixture through the strainer. What will remain in the strainer is the “pulp.” Don’t toss it away– I have another idea for you. Ok, so now you have once-strained hot sauce.
Now I get out a funnel that will fit into the neck of the container we’ve already used to keep our hot sauce in for the past week. I put a piece of cheesecloth or a thin piece of cotton over the funnel, as above, and dipping out the once-strained hot sauce with a glass measuring cup (any waterproof container will do, actually), I pour the hot sauce through the cheesecloth, which will then drain into the large original container. I’ve made hot sauce without doing this second strain, and although there will be lots of sediment in the finished product, it will still be fine. This is just a matter of preference.
So now we have hot sauce that looks just like this–fairly clear and an orangey-red color.
Then it’s just a matter of pouring this hot sauce into clean bottles–I wash mine in hot soapy water, rinse well, then I boil them, just to be sure they’re clean–putting the lid on and storing the hot sauce in the refrigerator. My hot sauce lasts for a full year when prepared and stored this way.
Remember that pulp? Turns out it will keep in the refrigerator just as well as your hot sauce. I mix a spoonful with a dab of mayonnaise for a delicious sandwich spread, but this will add kick to whatever you put it in–like chilies and stews.
Peppers are full of nutrition–vitamins A, C, and carotene, for starters. And then there’s the little matter of capsaicin, a naturally-occurring element that revs the metabolism and buffers neurotransmitters responsible for communicating pain to our brains, which in the case of chronic pain, is a very good thing. Peppers can play a part in helping you to live a healthy lifestyle, so consider growing a pepper plant or two next year. I’ll get ’em started for you!