Fermenting hot sauce first attempt

scott123456(5)August 4, 2014

I have read through many threads on this subject but this will be my first attempt.
Here is my plan tell me if you think it is ok or if I am missing anything. Any changes or recommendation would be greatly appreciated.

1. wash and food process peppers
2. cook to sterilize peppers
3. sterilize mason jar
4. smash peppers into mason jar
5. add salt ( not sure how much?)
6. add water if needed to cover
7. add lacto-bacteria Kefir?
8. add a few drops of lemon juice
9. put on airlock and wait 1 month
10. poor off liquid
11. run mash through mill
12. add back liquid until I get the consistency I want
13. boil for 10 minutes
14. bottle into sterilized hot sauce bottles and refrigerate


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I did my first ferment late last fall with cranberries, pears, and Congo Trinidad chiles. Be prepared for all the funky white stuff that develops on the surface and grows down into the liquid. It looks ugly, but it's normal, apparently. I let it ferment for about four weeks. It turned out OK.

On another subject my Santa Fe Grande plants, from your seeds, are producing well. The pods are a pale creamy color now, suppose they will eventually turn red.


    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 10:52AM
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Thanks Tom. Glad to hear those sante fe s are doing well for you. I have already made a few jars of pickled peppers and have had a hand full of fully ripe fresh pods. Yep, they will turn orange and then a deep red. Heat seems to vary quite a bit even on the same plant.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 12:31PM
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david52 Zone 6

I've been fermenting peppers for years now.

1. wash and food process peppers - yup.

2. cook to sterilize peppers - no, you don't need to do that - I try not to, however if I'm fermenting roasted peppers, well there ya go. Fresh veggies have naturally occurring yeasts that will augment the flavor.

3. sterilize mason jar - yup

4. smash peppers into mason jar - yup

5. add salt ( not sure how much?) - this varies, the 'rule of thumb' is to follow along at the same ratio as sauerkraut, eg 3 tablespoons of salt per 5 pounds of vegetables, or 2 teaspoons per pound. I often use 10-15% less, but hey. Just don't use too much, it will slow or even stop the fermentation.

6. add water if needed to cover - the salt should pull out enough moisture, I wouldn't add water. There is no need. If after a few days you see that quite a bit of mash is dry below the weight, then add brine to cover.

7. add lacto-bacteria Kefir? - slosh in a couple of tablespoons in a qt container. Best before you put in the peppers.

8. add a few drops of lemon juice - no, let the acid form naturally. Add flavorings later.

9. put on airlock and wait 1 month - I go 6 to 8 weeks. Personal preference, and the warmer the ambient temperature, the shorter the time. Bubbles will stop forming.

- see if you can get a weight to put inside the jar and hold the peppers under their own liquid. I use a flat rock thats been run through a dish washer to get off any dirt, then sterilized in boiling water, but at the link are glass ones you can buy.

10. poor off liquid - you can just leave it with the rest of the mash and run it through the mill.
11. run mash through mill - yup
12. add back liquid until I get the consistency I want. - sure, but you're losing flavor. Maybe a thickener later, like frozen concentrated mango juice, bit of tomato paste, etc? What I've done on occasion, and this is with quarts at a time, is use a food dehydrator and plastic picnic plates to dry out a few quarts then add the dried stuff it back in with the rest. Others have simpler suggestions.
13. boil for 10 minutes - be sure to do this to kill off the fermenting beasties.
14. bottle into sterilized hot sauce bottles and refrigerate. You can do this, I waterbath-can mine and store them outside the fridge. It will separate, but nothing to worry about and easy to fix by shaking it up. But then I make about 10 - 12 quarts a season, and that would fill up the fridge quickly.

Good luck! This isn't rocket science, and the result is fantastic. Each batch will taste slightly different. As mentioned above, you might find some bits of white fungus floating around, just spoon 'em out. You'll know pretty easily if it worked, it smells and tastes great. If something went wrong, its going to be pretty obvious.

Keep in mind that humans have been fermenting food for thousands of years, even before the internet…:) As a final note, after its fermented and run through a mill and boiled, I really like to add some fruit concentrate, usually frozen from the store. Mango is the best, however peach juice works as well. Something about the combo of heat and fruit.

Edited because I can't type so good

Here is a link that might be useful: link to weights

This post was edited by david52 on Mon, Aug 4, 14 at 23:07

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 10:25PM
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Why would you want to kill the bacteria? Those are beneficial to you.

Is there a taste difference by killing bacteria?

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 11:34PM
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David52, thank you so much for all the help! I have a couple more questions that I can’t seem to get answered. I know botulism toxin can be formed in an anaerobic environment within 24 hours. Because of this, wouldn’t the ph have to be below 4.2 within the first 24 hours? The pH at the end of the ferment is meaningless if it took weeks to get below 4.2. This is why I was going to add lemon juice. Also, when is it safe for me to open the jar to start scooping and taking the pH? Also, am I able to add pepper throughout the process? If so, when can I start adding pepper?

Melikeeatplants- I am not sure if you are referring to killing at the beginning or killing at the end. My plain was to sterilize everything (even the peppers) before I started and then add my own bacteria so I know what is in their. I was treating it like a home brew beer, but I guess there is no need for that. Killing at the end is so you don’t have bombs of hot sauce. Fermenting causes gases to be released, if there is no where for it to go, like say in a bottle, it will build up and eventually … kaboom!

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 1:49AM
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david52 Zone 6

melikeeatplants, you're correct, the live beasties are pro-biotics, good for you, and a live culture will live happily in your fridge until you consume it. I always keep a couple of 'live' quarts in the fridge then boil and can the rest. I should have clarified that boiling is kind of an essential step prior to canning or you end up with a real mess on your hands with jar contents going everywhere. Ask me how I know ….:)

scott123456, Thats an interesting question. Botulism poisoning is extremely rare, I think there were 4 cases in North America last year. ,Almost all the cases here stem from non-acid canning with too low temperatures/times - its usually something pretty head-slapping like trying to can salmon using a camping stove, or water-bath canning your Great Aunts' asparagus, mushroom, and potato casserole dish from the 'Olde Country'. From Google, the last case was from prisoners trying to make home brew. You wonder what they were doing, can't find out the details.

I've never heard of a case arising from home fermented food such as traditional brine home pickling, sauerkraut, kim chee, baking bread, making beer, wine, etc. The closest we can get to fermented pepper is following the standard process for making sauerkraut - which is officially approved by the very strict gurus at the USDA (or where ever they reside).

Not that it couldn't happen, I suppose. However, according to the World Health Organization, heating any food at 180ºF for 5 minutes will destroy the toxin, the USDA suggests 20 minutes at normal boiling temps, but then they follow a different and far stricter statistical standard than elsewhere in the world. Which, IMHO, is a bit of overkill. I think they cater to the lowest denominator.

Point being if you're worried about it, your 10 minute boil would destroy any toxin. Or 20 minutes if you're more comfortable with that.

I've linked to somebodies blog who discusses the issue - hey, its the internet and somebody's blog. Try a google of 'botulism and sauerkraut', 'botulism and fermented foods'. Probably scare you off - I hope not.

My personal opinion is that an exaggerated fear of the minuscule threat of botulism poisoning is keeping people from enjoying a lot of great food. My sister won't can peaches, for example, which is about as low risk as it gets. Statistically, you're far and away more likely to get food poisoning or botulism from a package of hamburger at the grocery store or eating in a restaurant.

Edited to add that this is one reason to add kefir - you inoculate your mash with the good guys, who proceed to multiply so fast that the bad guys never have a chance.

Here is a link that might be useful: link

This post was edited by david52 on Tue, Aug 5, 14 at 17:04

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 4:55PM
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David, Thank you again for all your help! Do you suggest mixing a variety of peppers or strictly sticking to one type per mash. I am wondering because if I am able to add peppers as the fermentation process goes that I should have enough ripe peppers of the same variety at the end. If not I will probably have to mix varieties to get the quantity I want.

Thanks again,

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 11:51PM
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david52 Zone 6

Scott, I grow 5-6 varieties of peppers, sweet and hot. I do two sauces, green and red. For the red, I clean them as they get ripe, pull off the stems, cut them in half and into a ziplock, and put them in the freezer. I use any pepper thats turned red - sweet, hot, doesn't matter. Then when the growing season is over, just thaw them, saving the juice, and proceed with the ferment. For the green pepper sauce, I smoke the green peppers then proceed.

You can mix the green and red, but the resulting color is kinda yuk - but it still tastes good.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 12:05AM
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This may be too simple but last year I did my first fermented sauce. Simply chopped the peppers, put in a 2 cup pyrex, added salt and covered with cheesecloth. I mixed every third day or so, added more salt occasionally. After about a month it smelled good. I put in blender with garlic, lime juice and pepper. Ended up with a sauce very similar to sirracha. kept in fridge, it didn't last long.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 9:43PM
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Just found this.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fermented Hot Sauce ��

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 8:19PM
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I just started fermenting some peppers last night, for the first time ever. Most of what's described above fits with what I did. However, instead of adding salt based upon the weight of peppers, I mixed up a roughly 5.4% pickling brine and covered the chopped (not blended) peppers in that. (I plan to add more peppers as they continue to ripen). 5.4% brine is three tablespoons of salt per quart of water, which seems a lot saltier than what you folks are describing. And since I didn't have water kefir, I just pitched a package of freeze-dried milk kefir starter. Now my mash is milky.

In any event, I'm worried that the brine maybe too salty for the lactobacilli to grow. On the other hand, since this is a traditional pickling brine you'd think that wouldn't be a problem. Any thoughts? I could pour half the brine off and replace it with clean water.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2014 at 4:05PM
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judo_and_peppers(Tampa FL)

Scott, it's been a month. how's it going?

    Bookmark   September 4, 2014 at 9:17PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

I will prolly try a small batch this way.
I can imagine that instead of vinegary taste of traditional sauce, it will be salty, like sour kraut.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2014 at 6:07AM
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We ferment a lot of hot sauce. 4-5 gallons a year. We don't cook them, because, like cabbage, all vegetables have natural yeast which starts the process without starter.
It's okay to add starter. I sometimes put a little of a previous batches juice in with them to get them going.
We've found that if we let peppers fully ripen to bright red or whatever color is ripe for them that the fermentation starts quicker.
To improve storage, add a little organic vinegar, which also has fermentation microbes. About 1/4 cup per quart adds a lovely flavor. We've used both apple cider and organic red wine vinegar for this.
Next time I ferment a batch, I'm going to try fermenting all the salsa ingredients. Right now, we use the sauce as the pepper component to a fresh salsa. The lime juice and acidity of the ferment allow the salsa to stay fresh in the refrigerator for about 3 months, sometimes longer. My husband makes 4-6 quarts of salsa at a time.
We've found that the hot sauce can stay good for a very long time. I have several quarts sitting on the counter in my kitchen along with some preserved lemons.
You can also can the hot sauce. See the National Canning and Food Preserving guidelines for canning fermented vegetables.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2014 at 6:24AM
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