Alrighty, kiddos! Today we’re making hot sauce. Yusssss! I did a bit of research, paired it with existing knowledge, and came up with this little spot of education.
Turns out that making hot sauce is a pretty inexact art, which makes it very easy to customize to your own liking. Different methods include aging, fermentation, starting with a mash, and then what I picture here, which requires thinking ahead a scant 2 hours instead of 3 years. With my lacking “planning ahead” skills, this is the only method that could possibly prove useful to me. Also, this makes a very thoughtful but inexpensive gift for most dudes.
Even “quick method” hot sauce is versatile. You can add ground spices, different mixes of peppers, unique vinegars, and create different textures all according to your preference. I went with a very simple recipe that uses jalapenos, as they are the most readily available hot pepper in my area, roasted garlic because it’s delicious, and red wine vinegar to give it some personality. My aim was a sauce with the simplicity, texture and versatility of Tabasco Sauce, but different because why else would you make your own, am I right?
To begin with, we need to lay down some food safety rules. This is not the kind of food safety where we worry that we might undercook the egg the 1 time out of 20,000 that it contains salmonella. No no, we’re talking the kind of sure fire situation where “you’re doing it wrong” quickly becomes “fuck, my eyes!” so you want to be a little careful.
Here’s some totally excellent, completely free advice.
Vinyl, unpowdered gloves which can be found by the hundred at your local drug store. I use these any time I cut a hot pepper ever since that time I had to dunk my nose in yogurt after a mistouch mishap. They’re cheap and disposable and well worth the investment. Without gloves, I find that fieriness has made its way under fingernails, on eyelids, in the corner of my mouth . . . pretty much anywhere I ever get a little itch. You’ll find yourself far less likely to itch with the gloves on, and when you’re done your nail beds won’t burn either. Be sure to be wearing these when you clean the knives and cutting board you use, and clean these well. End advice.
Now that we have that boring bit out of the way, we roast garlic, which takes about 45 minutes. I don’t think I have to tell you that roasted garlic is always better than garlic of any other kind.
It makes your house smell good and your breath smell bad. Interesting dichotomy, garlic.
Now crank on up to broil and burn up some jalapenos! Five to ten minutes each side under the broiler should do the trick, but what you’re really looking for is the skin to blister, turn black, and pull away from the body of the pepper ever-so-slightly.
Roasting the jalapeno brings out a little more flavour in addition to deepening the efficacy of its spiciness, and is worth the effort. After doing so, don your gloves, peel the skin, remove the seeds, and artfully arrange with the garlic head in a florally-reminiscent display of Springtime enthusiasm.
Okay, you don’t have to do that really, but it’s an option. What you do need to do is chop these veggies up and dump them in a pot with some vinegar.
The story doesn’t change much for the next hour, while the mix simmers slowly with the cook’s eye upon its liquidity. If it gets too chunky, add more vinegar. In all, I used 1.5 – 2 cups of vinegar. And here’s the result.
Strain as much as you like, if at all. I strained with cheesecloth in a mesh strainer 3 times for the texture pictured.
And here’s our final product. The flavour is mild (about Tabasco strength), but pronounced. It comes on quickly, then recedes almost immediately, with practically no lingering. If any hot sauce enthusiasts happen to be reading, feel free to correct my terminology.
Oh, and what good is making your own hot sauce without a little sassy branding?
Think of this as more of a method than a recipe. You can effectively make any variety of amendments to the ingredients, add extra things and substitute others. This is just a jumping-off point. Here’s a sample list of ideas—think hot sauce fusion.
“Sweet But Not Innocent” > Habanero, mango, white vinegar
“Italian Stallion” > Basil, Italian peppers (mild), cherry peppers, tomato, balsamic vinegar
“The Asiatic” > Thai chili peppers, rice vinegar (mirin), dash soy sauce
So tell me, what would your signature hot sauce be? Make it interesting. Give it a cutesy name. Any neat packaging ideas? And if you follow through and make it, let me know, I promise I’m dying to hear about it.
Aleta’s Bad Breath Hot Sauce
brought to you by Omnomicon’s own singular ingenuity
1 head garlic
10 jalapeno peppers
1.5 c red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt (two pinches? I did two pinches)
Roast the garlic by drizzling with 1 tsp oil, wrap tightly in foil, then bake at 325o for approximately 45 minutes. If you have a better way to roast garlic, then by all means, do it that way.
Char the jalapenos. Immediately after removing the garlic from the oven, flip the heat up to broil, then char each side of the jalapenos for 5-10 minutes. See pictures for reference, but the goal is black skin that is wrinkly because it has pulled away from the pepper.
Moving along, peel and de-seed the peppers, being sure to remove the light green veins to which the seeds cling. This prevents the seeds and veins’ bitterness from marring your lovely lovely batch. Pop the roasted garlic from its papery head, using a fork or toothpick, and chop, along with the cleaned peppers.
Dump peppers and garlic into a small pot with vinegar, sugar & salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and lightly simmer, uncovered & on low, for about an hour. If the sauce begins to look too chunky, add more vinegar, but note that the more you do this, the more diluted the flavour will be. If it’s cooking down too quickly (like you want to add vinegar after the first 15 minutes), try lowering the heat further.
Strain a few times with a cheesecloth-lined mesh strainer into a small bottle. I used a Johnny Walker sampler for mine, and it looked just darling. For gift-giving purposes, nip bottles make excellent, cheap packaging, with the added bonus of a shot that first requires your sip. If strained, this should last a solid 3 months—I’d recommend refrigeration just to be safe.
Makes enough for one household over the course of 3 months, a few ounces or so. As a frame of reference for larger batches, my 10 jalapenos weighed about 10 oz.