Thursday, September 9, 2010

Home Made Tobasco Sauce

If there is one thing that grows in abundance here in the South Okanagan, it is with out a doubt, Chilis. A plethora of peppers, a complete spectrum of capsicum, if you will. These delectable treats come in all shapes sizes and vary in heat. There are the mild bell peppers that we see all the time, and the jalapeno that everyone is well accustom to, and for the most part tolerant to. Then there are all the bananas and the cayenne and the habanero and so on and so on. Then there is the Bhut Jolokia or Ghost Pepper. This is by far the hottest pepper in the world with a scoville rating of over 1,000,000. As a point of reference, a habanero clocks in at anywhere between 100,000 and 350,000 while a Tobasco chili hits a meager 2,500. This bhut jolokia is no laughing matter, as many of us a work found out recently. Come to think of it, it was a laughing matter. It was hot, bloody hot, fire and brimstone hot, if you catch my drift. None of us had the intestinal fortitude to chew on a seed or two and for the first time in my life, there wasn't a single person pulling the "sissy" card on anyone to do it either. Before the burn came a great flavor though, as with a habanero. All of these peppers grow in abundance here in the South Okanagan as I stated earlier, so, buy in bulk, save a few bucks, and stock pile on the hot sauces. People love hot sauce as a gift.

I didn't plant any peppers in the garden this year because I knew that I had visions of grandeur for my hot pepper mash. Last year was the Maiden voyage floating in the sea of fermenting capsicum and it was a smashing success. I made a 1L jar of pepper mash last year and 6 months later I yielded about 500mL of usable fermented hot sauce. That was all well and good but I had to use sparingly all year and that was not ideal for me. This year I went big, not too big, but big enough. I bought 50Lbs of chilis. What fun, what total glee. I was giddy the whole way home and upon arrival got straight to work. My goal was to make a habanero hot sauce for the spice lovers, a standard hot sauce for everyday use and about 15L of hot chili mash. All of which were accomplished in a few hours, even though while the habanero sauce was bubbling away it seemed like the riot police were firing pepper spray though my kitchen window with a fire hose.

Hot sauce is hot sauce. Generally, some onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, vinegar etc, all cooked together and pureed. Mmmmmmm delicious, nothing wrong with that. Hot pepper mash on the other hand is something that proves that delayed gratification is always sweeter in the end. Basically, you weigh your chili's and then measure out 10% by weight in salt. Chop up by hand or in a food processor or meat grinder your chili's, mix with the salt, add a touch of vinegar to prevent molding and your done. Put the mixture in a sterile glass jar or crock then cover with a few layers of plastic wrap right on top of the chili's. What you want to do now is poke a few holes in the plastic to allow for the gasses to escape during the fermentation. There is a problem with this, now that there are holes all sorts of tiny invisible living matter can enter and wreak havoc upon our precious chili mash. Salt makes a great fortification, it allows the gasses to move freely up and out of the pot but prevents any living matter from penetrating. Isn't salt magical?

Now comes the delay portion of our delayed gratification program. Let the mash sit in a cool dark place(like a teenagers heart) for a minimum of 3 months. Avery Island Tobasco sauce ages their famous brew for 3 years in oak barrels, but for most of us 6 months to a year is plenty. I pressed mine after 6 months last year and it was great, this year I did two pots so that I could press one after 6 months and try the other pot after a year of aging.

What is all this pressing that I'm talking about you ask? Well, much like wine, it is the juice you want not the solids. So, when your fed up with the delay and ready to get to the gratification part what you need to do is strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve or some cheese cloth. It's good to go. That's it. You can taste it and see if you want to add any more vinegar to it, I did with the batch I did last year, the salt should be fine. Oh, and don't let the color get you down. I used a mix of red and green chili and my mash looked like mud. I'm sure if you wanna get all anal and use just pretty red ones, you'd probably end up with a much more tobasco looking product.

So there it is, all you need to know about making hot pepper mash. Sooooooo, so simple and so damn good. Hope you all give it a try. Above is the two different pots of chili mash, hot sauce in the larger jars, habanero hot sauce is the little ones on the right and to make sure that there was no waste, I dehydrated the seeds and skin I strained out of the hot sauce to make my own chili powder. Good times.

Sean Peltier

1 comment:

  1. first of all, that's some fine blogging.

    second of all

    let the hilarity ensue!

    third of all, verily, using the methods described herein, a crock of my own pepper mash is sitting, fermenting, evolving as a comparison to your peppers doing much the same. These peppers I did grow, and because winter now starts in mid august in the Okanagan, most of my peppers were green. We'll have to have a tobasco tasting once it is time to 'decant.'

    Lastly, if there are any wine capitalists out there with access to barrels, maybe y'all could talk to the pepper capitalists (who often put their pepper overflow in large piles behind the farm to die of neglect) and "we" could have "our" own local tobasco product. (There's that ol terroir thing again...)

    I know this is crazy talk, so I'll stop here.

    Nice posting!