It’s finally (officially) fall. Cold and rainy, the temperature now drops below freezing at night, marking the end of the gardening season. A few plants were just hanging on, while some, like the eggplants and French strawberries were thriving in the end-of-season cool weather. I got a handful of tomatoes before the cold snap hit, they’ll continue to ripen on the counter along with a basket of peppers. I had several pepper varieties growing this year, all producing heavily at the end of the summer when the weather is the hottest. Usually the heat wears them out and they start to give out as the weather cools, but these were still going. Without the heat though, they were slower to change from green to the various shades of reds, yellows and orange that marks their maturity. Much like the tomatoes, bringing them indoors saves them from the frost and lets them develop their color.
Homemade hot sauce is a great way to use up all those garden peppers, especially when you find yourself with an influx extremely hot, hot peppers. This year my hot pepper was ghost peppers. The plant did extremely with a high yield all summer. In another version below, I used Tabasco peppers to make pepper sauce, a great alternative for a vinegary punch without as much heat. Tabasco peppers, as the name implies, are the same ones used to make Tabasco hot sauce. And really, you can follow either method for homemade hot sauce with any hot pepper adjusting to your taste or what you have an abundance of. If you’re looking to grow your own, I recommend both varieties. Habaneros also do really well and are more common, if you like the heat. The Tabasco peppers (pictured at the bottom of the post) come in the most brilliant colors!
Some notes on these recipes..
Garlic is key– don’t leave that out. It really enhances the flavor. Any (hot) pepper will work here, but use fresh, not dried. I’ve used everything from Thai finger peppers and jalapeños (less hot) to habaneros and Scotch Bonnets (very hot), even mixing them. I leave the seeds in, but you can take them out if you wish. If you want a smooth sauce you can strain the solids out, making it look more ‘refined’, like a store-bought sauce, just run though a fine-mesh sieve. If you choose this method (I never do), let everything sit for 8 hours (even for a few days) to develop the flavors and strength before straining. And finally, when storing, glass is your best bet. Recycled liquor bottles, particularly high-end bourbon or scotch bottles work particularly well. Look for something with a cork-stopper, as the acidity from the vinegar will eventually erode a metal lid. These Weck jars designed for canning are also a good option. My final word of advice is — this stuff is potent! It will make you sneeze.. and USE GLOVES. When prepping your peppers the oils can burn your skin, or worse, you could accidentally transfer them to your eyes or face! Avoid that and use gloves while cutting and jarring. Homemade hot sauce makes a great gift!
Homemade Hot Sauce
Letting the peppers sit with the garlic and salt for a day (or three) let’s them start to ferment, deepen and develop. This makes for a more complex flavor. (Pictured above)
3-5 Hot peppers
2-3 cloves fresh garlic
1 tsp course salt
2-4 cups distilled white vinegar
De-stem and roughly chop hot peppers; peel and rough-chop garlic. In a food processor, combine peppers, garlic and salt. Process until chopped finely and combined. Place this mixture in a glass container or jar with a tight lid. Keep covered for 1-3 days, allowing the peppers to ferment slightly. Fill mix with white distilled vinegar, the amount will depend on you preferred strength; adding less for a hotter sauce and vice versa. Strain solids if desired; if so, let the solids marinate in the vinegar for 8+ hours to flavor. Will keep for 3-6 months, refrigeration is recommended.
Homemade Pepper Sauce with Tabasco Peppers
A staple for southern bar-b-que and a key ingredient in some collard green recipes, pepper sauce is great to add a splash and a kick of sour and spice. Add to things like pulled pork or coleslaw where regular vinegar is called for. Use Tabasco peppers — the same ones that are used to make the brand name hot sauce– for an authentic version.
1-2 cups Tabasco peppers
4 cups distilled white vinegar
De-steam and pierce the peppers with a knife. Add to a glass jar or bottle and cover with vinegar. Let sit for a day before using. Will keep 3-6 months, on counter or refrigerated.