The Weekend Gourmet

Weekend Gourmet: Fall pepper bounty great for making hot sauce, but be sure to wear gloves

CorrespondentOctober 12, 2013 

Fred Thompson offers a hot sauce recipe to make use of the fall pepper bounty.

COURTESY OF FRED THOMPSON — Courtesy of Fred Thompson

It’s early fall, and peppers are coming in an abundance. A good signal is when Alex Hitt cranks up his pepper roaster at the Carrboro Farmer’s Market and the Pepper Festival showcases every known pepper, of every color and heat, that will grow in this region.

And I, oh, urban gardener that I am, realize that once again, I planted more pepper plants than I should have. Seems to me that jalapeño plants are like rabbits: they can reproduce in the blink of an eye. Other types are just as crazy. What do you do when your garden gives you a tidal wave of peppers?

In years past, I’ve taken the easy way out and roasted them, then divided them among freezer bags and thrown them in the freezer, which I did again this year for green chili cheeseburgers to come.

This year, I decide to think differently. I planted some Tabasco chilies and some red New Mexican chilies, along with my bells and jalapeños and had pretty good luck with them. I took 2 pounds of the jalapeños, which I sliced length-wise and seeded, along with a thinly sliced big onion and pickled them as I would a bread and butter pickle. They were kicking on a pimento cheese anything. But the Tabasco peppers were destined for a hot sauce.

The hot sauce is easy to make and keeps a really long time in the refrigerator. It has some potential for a holiday gift. There are a few words of warning I need to give you before you start the journey of hot sauce manufacturing.

First, go to a medical supply store and buy a box of un-powdered gloves. Or politely ask you medical professional for a few pairs.

You want tight fitting gloves, which make life so much easier when dealing with the peppers. Think you’re too manly for gloves? You may can get away with a good hand-washing when handling a few peppers, but once you’ve rubbed your eyes – especially with contacts, which you just ruined – and the pepper oil sets you afire, you’ll use gloves the next time.

Also, cut the exhaust fan in your kitchen to high and open a window to help with the fumes while cooking the peppers. I have failed to do both; it was painful, and that won’t ever happen again.

Using those caveats, the sauce is easy. It is a little thinner than commercial sauce, but the flavor is so fresh and lively that the thickness doesn’t matter.

Also experiment with the vinegar. Balsamic doesn’t work, but sherry vinegar adds a depth and sweetness that’s quite remarkable in a hot sauce. I regularly use it for this recipe. The most classic style would be white distilled. For a bit of fruitiness, use apple cider vinegar to make your sauce. Mixing peppers also lets you have a more personalized or “house” sauce.

So if you’re picking pecks of peppers or buying them at the farmer’s market, give this sauce a try. I believe you will be pleased with the result and quite frankly proud of yourself for giving it a shot. Remember: gloves and ventilation!

Homemade Hot Pepper Sauce Serve with anything you normally serve with hot sauce. Use it straight from the bottle or as a base for Buffalo wings or barbecue sauces. It’s also great with sushi. To drink: Ice-cold beer. 1 teaspoon canola oil 20 Serrano or Tabasco chilies, or 12 jalapenos – the red ones are better – stemmed and sliced into 1/8-inch rings. The total weight of the chilies is about 10 ounces. One medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic 1 teaspoon kosher salt 2 cups water 1 cup white, cider or sherry vinegar

ADD oil, peppers, onions and garlic to medium saucepan and cook for about 3-5 minutes over high heat. Turn on stove vent fan.

POUR in water and continue cooking for about 20 minutes, or until peppers are soft and most liquid has evaporated.

REMOVE from heat, and let cool to room temperature. Don’t jump the gun; peppers need to continue to steep.

SCRAPE mixture into a food processor and puree until smooth, about 20 seconds. With motor running, add vinegar through feed tube in steady stream.

STRAIN mixture through fine mesh strainer.

STERILIZE pint jar with airtight lid; then pour pepper sauce into jar. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 weeks before using. Will last in refrigerator for 6 months.

Yield: 2 cups

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