One of the ultimate joys of summer is the abundance of fresh produce. Whether it be from our home gardens or a weekend farmer’s market haul, the bounty of herbs, fruits, and vegetables overflows this time of year, and many are trying to find new, delicious ways to use these local gems. This is where fermented foods, including sauces, can be our summertime kitchen stars. Making sauces from scratch using fermentation can add new flavors, textures, nutrients, and probiotics that store-bought versions can’t compete with. There are a handful of sauces I consider must-haves for summer eating, which can be made with local ingredients this time of year and take even the simplest dishes to the next level; one of these sauces is my Pickled Pepper Hot Sauce.
This hot sauce is full of gut-healing probiotics, making it more nutritious than typical hot sauces that are made acidic only using vinegar. It is fermented in a salt water brine along with other flavorful veggies, then pureed with a splash of vinegar after the fermentation period, creating a spicy, bright sauce that is good on just about anything. Tacos, steaks, burgers, hot dogs, fried eggs, sautéed veggies, and roasted potatoes can all benefit from a splash of this sauce. You can use your favorite hot pepper here, such as jalapeño, aji rico, cherry bomb, habanero, to adjust the heat level to your liking, or feel free to use a combination of peppers for a more complex flavor. You can use a starter in this recipe, such as whey strained from yogurt or kefir, or brine from already-fermented sauerkraut, kim chi, or fermented vegetables. While a starter culture is not totally necessary for the fermentation here, it does speed up the process and decrease the chances for the growth of mold or yeast, but it will also work great to do a wild ferment instead.
Pickled Pepper Hot Sauce
Prep time: 20 minutes, plus 1-2 weeks fermentation time
Yield: about 1 quart
- 2 cups hot peppers, de-stemmed and sliced (seeded if desired)
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 8 to 12 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1/2 cup carrots, sliced
- 1 Tbsp. sea salt
- 2-3 cups filtered water
- Optional: 2 Tbs starter culture (such as liquid whey or brine from fermented vegetables)
- 1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar, or to taste
- 2 Tbsp. raw local honey
1. Pack the peppers, onion, garlic and carrots into a quart-sized glass jar.
2. Dissolve the salt in the water and add to the vegetables. Add the starter culture to the jar.
3. Place a glass fermentation weight or a half-pint jar filled with water on top of the vegetables to keep them submerged in the brine. If using a weight, cover with a non-reactive lid, such as a BPA-free plastic lid or a regular canning lid with a piece of parchment as a barrier underneath. For the jar-in-a-jar method, cover with a tightly-woven cloth and secure with a rubber band or piece of string.
4. Let sit at room temperature for approximately 1 week if using a starter and 2 weeks without, allowing more or less time depending on how “fermented-tasting” you would like your sauce to be. While the sauce ferments, check the jar regularly for mold or yeast, as peppers tend to mold more quickly than most other vegetables. In the case of mold growth, discard the batch and start over with all new ingredients.
5. When ready, transfer the fermented mixture to a blender, straining off up to 1 cup of liquid if you prefer a thicker sauce. For a thinner hot sauce, leave in this extra brine.
6. Add the vinegar and honey. Blend until smooth and adjust seasonings to taste. Return to the jar and refrigerate. This hot sauce will keep for several months stored in the refrigerator.