Wednesday, September 19, 2012

In a Pickle: Fermented Red Jalapeño Pepper Sauce, Part 1

These lactic fermented jalapeño peppers will turn into
 an unbelievably good hot sauce.
Of all the things to do well in a shabby gardening year, it had to be the hot peppers. We have pounds of of red ripe jalapeños, and have given away as many as we can. Still they are coming off the plants at an alarming speed. Just like last year. I pickled so many pepper rings last September that we are still eating them, and they're searingly hot, considering they are jalapeños, it is unusual. Same deal this year; it was a very hot, dry summer, and the jalapeños are again very hot for a basic jalapeño chile. I'v tried a few home brewed hot pepper sauces before, and even  another lactic fermented version, but I found the flavor very one-dimensional. So there is no actual recipe here yet, until I have a good finished product.

I use quite a bit of hot sauce, and as you all know, my all-purpose, general favorite is Cholula, because the predominant flavor is pepper, not vinegar. I want to make a deeper flavor hot sauce, with some backbone instead of just plunking peppers into vinegar and calling it a day. Some texture, too. Searching for help in making a fermented sauce, I found a lot of help and information on the web, especially from Well and in Michael Ruhlman and  Brian Polcyn's book "Charcuterie".

This is a work in progress.  Am trying this batch on a small scale, and if it turns out well, a big batch will use the rest of the jalapeño peppers still bursting out of the garden this season. I started this jar of peppers last Friday in a basic 5% (salt) brine, and have been skimming off the wee bit of scum forming at the top each morning. Since we grow garlic, too, there is some homegrown garlic in the jar fermenting along with the peppers. You may remember, earlier in the spring I gave you a basic recipe for homemade herb and chive vinegars. When these peppers are ready to turn into a sauce, I'm planning to use some of one or both of these seasoned vinegars in the finished product in conjunction with the some of the fermented brine. Many recipes use whey to jump-start the process, but since I like to keep the process completely vegetarian or actually vegan, there is no whey in my recipe. Even though i do have some of the liquid from my sauerkraut, I've chosen to start from scratch.

With any luck, this sauce will be ready to write a recipe for by the end of the week, or the end of the weekend at the latest. There is no hurrying Mother Nature when it comes to fermentation. Am guessing these jalapeños will be just right by Thursday or Friday, and that I'll be eating a truly dynamite sauce this weekend. And you'll have a great recipe to start on this weekend.

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