Friday, February 7, 2014

Fermented Lemon Drop Hot Pepper Sauce

I finished the fermented hot sauce I started back in October in time to give a bottle away as a Yule gift and keep a bottle for myself. When I made my previous post, the peppers were still bubbling in their jars, and I was unsure of how long to wait.

It turned out that about a month after I first mixed up the chopped peppers, wine, and salt in the jar, the bubbling stopped. After waiting a couple of days to make sure it had really stopped, I decided that it must mean the peppers were done.

I drained the peppers, reserving the brine (to use to jump-start my next fermentation), and pureed them in the blender. Then I strained them with my food mill to get out the seeds and skins. I ended up with a nice smooth bright yellow pepper puree. I took a little taste, and the fruity taste of the Lemon Drop peppers had been preserved... along with a LOT of heat that hits you right afterward!

I finished off the sauce with some white wine vinegar, to give a little bit of bright acidity (and it will probably help the shelf life too), and some honey to take a little bit of the edge off. I put in about a quarter cup of vinegar and two tablespoons of honey for a little over a pint of pepper puree.
But these amounts are all "to taste" and I think they might need some tweaking. After refrigerating the sauce for a while (I'm not sure if it's acidic enough to be kept in the pantry, so I'm playing it safe), it got so thick I couldn't get it out of the bottle. It was like ketchup. I ended up adding some of the reserved brine back in, and some more vinegar until it was thin enough to pour out of the bottle, but not so thin that it pours out too fast.
By the way, I'm using reused bottles that held other sauces or vinegars. I just wash them in the dishwasher and peel the labels off. You can buy new hot sauce bottles, but this seems to work fine for the small amounts I've been making so far. Plus it's one of the three R's.
I'm pretty happy with the hot sauce I got, but I'll do some more experimenting with my next hot pepper crop. My Lemon Drop plants are covered in frost blanket, but I'm not sure if that's been enough, since we've had a colder winter this year than last year. They look pretty dead right now, but maybe they'll come back once it warms up out there.
I started some Habanero and Serrano pepper seeds to grow this year. Both should make good hot sauces.
I even found a recipe for making your own fermented Sriracha sauce that I'd like to try some time. You're supposed to use red jalapenos, which are hard to find unless you grow them yourself. I had a couple of jalapeno plants that I'm also trying to overwinter, but just like with the Lemon Drops next to them, I worry this winter was too hard for them.
I wonder if red Serranos or maybe even some other varieties would work too.
I wonder what Sriracha with Lemon Drops would be like.
A lot of fermented hot sauce recipes, including that Sriracha recipe, call for garlic. I didn't put any in my Lemon Drop sauce, but I'd like to try it in a future batch.
I hope my peppers do well in 2014 so I can try some more hot sauce variations!

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