Sauce Chaude

Fermentation is hip. All the kids are doing it. It’s not like you’ll save a lot of money making your own hot sauce, it’s more about diving into the process and learning a new trick, or just reminding yourself of something useful you once did. Next thing you know you’ll be designing a label and rhyming words with “inferno”. What you will have is the condiment I use more than any in my home kitchen, because in front of my meal, every meal, is always a bottle of hot sauce. It’s a beautiful Southern tradition to have that hot sauce and pepper vinegar at every table, because everyone treats those cooked collards a little differently. It slathers roasted chicken, hypes up poached fish, it even has a place on my ham and cheese sandwich at lunch. All you need is a big Ball jar, a blender, some salt, peppers, and vinegar. If you want to make it fancy with some wine you can, but that’s just fancy talk. What you do need are some local cayenne, tabascos, serranos, or ghost peppers to name but a few of the many peppers that pop up at markets this time of year. Go on. Get thee to market and make some hot sauce. Recipe after the jump. Hot Sauce Makes 1 quart or 2 pints 4 cups fresh cayenne peppers (about one pound) 1/2 cup water 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt 2 cups cider vinegar Stem the peppers and pack them in a food processor with the water. Pulse until they form a chunky mass, with pieces about the size of a BB, and then add the salt. (You are going for about 2.5 percent salinity in your initial fermentation.) Place the peppers in a large mason jar, cover it with a square of paper towel, and secure the towel with the jar’s O-ring. Store the jar in a dark spot that hovers around 70°F (a kitchen cupboard is good) and let it do its thing for 48 hours. Skim off any accumulated mold and stir the peppers. Cover again with the paper towel and O-ring, and repeat the skimming and stirring every day or so, for 5-10 days, or as long as the pepper mixture looks restless. Once the peppers are fermented, place the contents of the jar, skimmed one last time, into the food processor and pulse a couple of times. Add the vinegar, blend well, and then strain the hot sauce through a fine mesh strainer before storing in clean bottles. It will stay good in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a year! If you want to stabilize the texture you can add some Ultratex 3, which is a modified tapioca starch. you can buy it online and for this application you need about 1/2 teaspoon. (Photos: Hugh Acheson)

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