Hot and Saucy–Really: Homemade Hot Sauce

It’s official, folks.  Halloween has come and gone.  There’s frost on the ground overnight.  Today was a high of 51F.  Starbucks has switched to its Christmas cups.  Yep.  It’s begun.  The Wintering.  And with the Wintering comes the Colding, the Freezing and the inevitable Wanting to Hibernate.

But never fear, Random Internet Person.  All is not lost.  I mean sure, it’s mostly lost for about the next oh, seven months or so (I do live in Michigan), but there are a few hardy, rugged things that will help you get through the winter.

1. A bearskin rug.  Just looking at it will make you feel warmer.  Even better if the bear is still attached.  I mean, hey, nothing warms you up like cardio, right?  Run faster!

2. Comfort foods–lasagna, chili, stew, pulled pork, short ribs, cookies fresh from the oven—warm foods to heat your insides…and after all, after all that exercise running away from the bear, clearly what you need most is high-carb, high-fat, heavy foods to gently gel your insides into organ butter.

3. A heater.  Really people, pay your heating bills.

4. Hot sauce!  Hot sauce can go on anything.  Eggs, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, pastas, ice cream…and sure, there are fifty gazilliion different hot sauces out there you can buy but if you were going to do that, then why bother reading this recipe blog?  It surely can’t be just my witty repartee.  Clearly you have the desire to create.  So go ahead.  Satisfy your inner primal human nature and build fire…in your belly.  With hot sauce.

According to my Evernote, I first found this recipe for hot sauce on Saveur over a year ago–July 2009, to be exact.  And of course I quickly snipped it away into my digital notebook where for the next 15 months I would occasionally look at it longingly but mostly forget about it until my farm share ended in October this year and I amassed a good pound of Habanero chiles from the good folks at Needle Lane Farm.  Much like instincts tell the great grizzly bear that it’s time to hibernate, or eat a camper, I knew deep down that the time had come for me to make my own hot sauce.

I love spicy food.  I don’t eat it obsessively or anything and I’m not one of those people who goes all crazy trying to make things as hot as they can possibly stand.  I like actual flavor too.  But sometimes you just need a bit of a good kick.  Case in point: everyone knows that Zingerman’s has amazing mac-and-cheese. You know what makes it even better?  Ask for a side of their house hot-sauce.  I’m pretty sure it’s 1 part hot sauce, 2 parts butter but you know what?  It works.  And that was my goal with this sauce: create a delicious spicy sauce that you can then dilute down with massive amounts of melted butter to replenish you after your high-energy run from the bear!  Or something like that.

As odd as it seems, making hot sauce is actually ridiculously easy.  It takes a few days, yes, but that’s all down-time.  The only thing you really need to know about this is:

WASH YOUR HANDS AFTER HANDLING HOT PEPPERS.  NO SERIOUSLY.  Don’t make the mistake of certain people I know (you know who you are) who handle hot peppers, think you wash your hands enough and then go to remove your contact lenses.  That’s a bad idea.  Wash your hands thoroughly with milk, alcohol, something, even if you’ve been wearing gloves.  And keep them away from your face.  For a while.  If not, you will regret it. The only burning sensation should be in your satisfied tummy.  Remember that.

Anyway, making this was pretty easy.  So easy I’m going to try it again soon, see if I can deepen the flavor; it’s hot but I want to bring more characteristics out in it, so I may try a blend of chiles next time. What I ended up with was one bottle of  sauce, which admittedly is pretty thin as it’s just vinegar with chiles, and about 3 cups of what I can only describe as “chile paste,” which is the leftoer chile solids that the recipe instructs you to discard but I will not, good sir, because it is delicious and I have been putting it into everything.  Except chocolate sauce.  But now that I’m thinking about it…

Homemade Hot Sauce
from Saveur

1 lb. mixed medium-to-hot fresh
red chiles, like fresno, holland,
or cayenne, stemmed
3 tbsp. kosher salt
2 cups distilled white vinegar

1. Rinse the chiles in a colander under hot running water; pat dry. Transfer chiles to the bowl of a food processor along with the salt. Process, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, until finely chopped, about 1 minute.

2. Transfer the chile mixture to a glass jar. Cover and let sit in a cool place to ripen for 2 days, without stirring.

3. Uncover and stir in the vinegar. Cover and let sit in a cool place for 5 days to let age and allow the flavors to meld.

4. Set a mesh strainer over a bowl. Pour the chile mixture into the strainer and press it through the mesh screen with the back of a spoon. Discard solids. Pour sauce into a glass bottle with a tight-fitting lid. Refrigerate for up to 6 months. Shake before each use.

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