Late summer and early fall is hot sauce season. Almost all the ingredients you need are available now from Vermont and New Hampshire farm stands and farmers’ markets.
Homemade hot sauce is easy and delicious. Also, it’s super cool.
My dad makes a sweet and vinegary hot sauce that can sit on the shelf for months, corroding the jar’s lid and getting more and more delicious. I grew up eating it on fried eggs and stir-fries. After spending a year working in a barbecue restaurant, I started making my own versions. Now I make a few different kinds each August and September with whatever hot peppers are around.
There are so many ways to make hot sauce – ingredients and techniques vary widely by culture and household. You can ferment it (like Sriracha and Tabasco) or use vinegar (like the recipe below). You can keep it plain or add sweeteners and other flavors (herbs, fruit, oils, and spices). You can cook the peppers or leave them raw. Make what you like! A quick Internet search brings up a huge range of hot sauce recipes if you are looking for a specific style.
Most of my hot sauces are secret preparations, and sometimes the peppers just tell me what to do. But here’s a very simple formula for making your own.
The first step is to put on a pair of disposable gloves. Hot peppers will burn your skin for longer than they burn your mouth. I have made hot sauce without gloves with mixed results. That habit ended abruptly after I spent most of one hot summer night lying on my bed, alternately clutching a cold washcloth with both hands and dipping my fingers in ice water while trying to catch snatches of sleep.
If you fear your hot sauce is becoming too hot, remove the seeds and white membrane that holds the seeds and just use the pepper flesh. Absolutely wear gloves for this.
Simple Fresh Hot Sauce Recipe
Makes about 1 ½ to 2 cups
10 – 15 chili peppers, any kind
1/2 sweet bell pepper (OPTIONAL)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
4 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon sea salt
1-2 tablespoon sugar or maple syrup
- Put on a pair of disposable gloves.
- Wash the peppers and cut off the stems.
- If you want a hotter sauce, leave the seeds in. For a milder but still hot sauce, split the peppers lengthwise and remove seeds and the white membrane.
- Puree peppers and all the other ingredients in a food processor or blender.
- Taste and adjust salt, sugar, garlic, and vinegar as needed. If it’s too thin, add more peppers and puree some more. If it’s too thick, add more vinegar.
- Pour into a clean jar and store in the fridge, and eat within a few weeks.
Shelf life of hot sauce
I don’t have one simple answer for this, but in general, if you have a lot of vinegar in the sauce, you can keep the sauce for a long time. What’s enough? Enough that it tastes pretty sour and is fairly thin, like commercial hot sauce. If you want to keep that fresh not-too-sour taste, use less vinegar and use up the hot sauce within a couple of weeks. If you ferment or cook the hot sauce and use a sterilized jar for storage, the sauce may last longer. Discard if the hot sauce grows mold, gets slimy or discolored or develops an off taste or smell.
– Bethany Fleishman
Photo credit: Julia A. Reed