I stopped in at Compare Foods, as I regularly do. They carry foods and ingredients common to Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean. When I saw a bin full of ripe red jalapeños I had to fill a bag with them. It’s not often I run across that many. In the garden they ripen one or two at a time, and to make a red sauce usually requires mixing two or three varieties of peppers. Although there is no shortage of hot sauces at home from previous ferments I felt compelled to start a new batch purely of red jalapeños.
So, this is yet another of several posts I have done over the years on making fermented hot sauces. I can’t say enough how delicious they are. I will put my hot sauces up against Tabasco®, Texas Pete®, Frank’s® RedHot or any other brand. My hot sauce is just as good, and it being mine makes it better.
How lactobacillus fermentation works: Vegetables and fruit naturally have lactobacillus bacteria on their surface. Lactobacillus (good) bacteria thrive in salty conditions whereas undesirable and harmful bacteria do not. So, fruits and veggies submersed in a saline solution and unexposed to the air is a perfect environment for for healthy fermentation to take place.
The process is simple to understand and not that difficult to do. It takes place in two stages with an interim waiting period while fermentation occurs. The second stage involves a little more work but that will be as much as a month away, so why think about that now?
First of all I washed the jalapeños and cut off the stem ends. Cutting them into chunks was an unnecessary step. The food processor could have handled them whole.
By the way, the lines on the peppers are not a flaw. Like the lines on people’s faces they are a sign of maturity and increased sweetness (not always the case with people, unfortunately). Whether green or red, jalapeños with lines are thicker walled and sweeter. I deliberately seek them out. The commonly held belief that red peppers are hotter than green just isn’t true.
I decided on a 3% ratio of salt to peppers by weight (weight of the peppers minus the weight of the container). I often do a 2% ratio, but since hot sauce is used in such small quantities I’m not concerned about sodium content. It is important to use kosher salt or sea salt and never iodized or regular table salt.
Salt can be added before, during or after processing the peppers.
Processing the peppers into a mash only takes a few seconds. They don’t need to be ground real fine.
I transferred the mash into a clean 2 quart jar.
The salt draws enough moisture from the peppers to cover the top of the mash. I placed a sealed Ziploc bag of water inside the top of the jar to weigh down the mash and raise the fluid level to prevent exposure of airborne bacteria and yeasts to the pepper mash. I also placed a glass weight on top of the bag of water as an extra (unnecessary) precaution. A lid equipped with an airlock was another unnecessary precaution. Most of my ferments were successfully made with just the plastic bag of water and a cloth fastened over the top of the jar. The airlock allows gases to escape while preventing air from entering the jar.
So went the first stage of making fermented hot sauce. That’s all there is to it. Now the waiting period of anywhere from two weeks to a month or more, during which time I will try to forget about it. No need to peek or do anything with it. Length of fermentation time is entirely arbitrary. I no longer schedule completion dates because I rarely stick to them. I’ll look up one day and the fermentation jar will catch my eye and curiosity will decide, today is the day…