Jam It, Pickle it, Cure It by Karen SolomonThis one, as well as several other recipes I've made, was inspired by the book Jam It, Pickle it, Cure It by Karen Solomon. This is a "must have" book for anybody who wants to make their own condiments, preserves or essentials for fun or for economic reasons. For me hot sauce is an essential.

There are plenty of hot sauces on the market. From your basic, everywhere Tabasco to Ass In Space, call the hospital, extreme hot sauce. There are even Kosher hot sauces and stores that sell nothing but hot sauce. So why bother?

Well it's fun and easy to make and you get to be supper picky. YOU get to choose how hot, how tangy, how sour, how sweet, how fruity, etc. There are many different recipes so come up with your own. The basics are simple: the heat, in most cases, comes from the capsaicin in the peppers (Capsicum genus) and vinegar is the preservative. So a pound of red jalapenos and a cup of vinegar blended and boiled would make a hot sauce - maybe not a very tasty one but still a hot sauce. Add some herbs and spices and you're getting the idea. One thing to remember - pepper spray is not a condiment - so if people end up crying after trying your hot sauce it is not a compliment.

I have a very productive, 3 year old now, bush of lantern peppers from the Habanero (Capsicum chinense) family so that is what I use for the heat. The only reason I know the name of my peppers was thanks to an article in the  September issue of Saveur that has a visual guide to all the peppers and a very informative story about their origins, spread and uses.

The household favorite store bought hot sauce is an all pepper concoction Cholula (just noticed they have expanded their brand, I only know the original). This is the general direction this recipe is going.

To make about a liter (4 cups) you will need:

  • 5 charred, skinned and seeded red peppers
  • 12 lantern peppers - this will make a very mild sauce. I ended up using about 36 of these. You can also use other hot peppers like cayenne, jalapeno, serrano etc. Start with a few and work your way up to the heat you want. I seeded my peppers because I don't think the blender handles seeds well. If you do not seed the peppers you will get more heat.
  • 350 ml (1.5 cups) of red wine vinegar (I make my own)
  • 4 TBSP of Honey
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • Some fresh basil leaves
  • the rind and juice of 1 lime
  • Salt to taste, I used 2 TSP
    peppers Peppers, vinegar, garlic, lime, basil, honey and salt to taste. bottled
    First prepare your peppers. Peppers, vinegar, garlic, lime, basil, honey and salt to taste. Small bottle for the table large bottle for the cupboard.

    On an open flame char the skins of your red peppers turning them when needed. Once they are blackened all around put them in a paper bag and let them cook and cool down for about a half hour. You should be able to peel the skins of easily. Get as much of the skin off as you can, cut open the peppers and seed them.

    Cut in half and seed your hot peppers. You can also use them whole if you want the extra heat and you think your blender will handle the seeds well. I hate to find whole seeds in my hot sauce. If you are using a different pepper for your heat the process is pretty much the same except for larger peppers - you might consider charring and peeling jalapenos.

    Put all the ingredients in a blender and puree. It's a good idea to add the vinegar gradually until you end up with an even, smooth, thickish liquid. Adding your hot peppers gradually may also be a good idea especially if this is your first attempt or you are using a new kind of pepper. Your sauce will mellow with cooking and over time so make it a little hotter than you like.

    Transfer the liquid to a small pot and bring to a boil over a medium heat stirring occasionally. Boil for no more than 3 to 5 minutes stirring continuously. Take it off the heat, cool for a bit and bottle. Your sauce will mature for about a week before it will reach it's stable taste and heat level.

    I have a liter bottle that I made last year stored in the back of the cupboard. It has held up fine without refrigeration. Because we are not using any emulsifiers the sauce will tend to separate so just give it a shake before use. I will have to try adding a little bit of xanthan gum next time. Remember that if you do notice any spoilage or mold throw it out - better safe than sorry.

    So how does my sauce compare to Cholula? The label is not as nice and I couldn't get it into the nice bottle with the wooden cork but apart for that I like it better. It's not as acidic and it has a more complex, slightly sweet aftertaste. Above all it is mine, all mine.


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