Rain and persistent cold weather have slowed the peppers to a crawl. There’s still a few left on the plants, but not enough to hold off on moving the hot sauce to its resting stage.
To enhance the flavor I add a couple of oak staves to the pepper brew and let it sit for another 8 – 12 weeks. American oak happens to be high in a compound called vanillin, which is why things that age in American oak barrels (like Bourbon) have subtle vanilla aromas and flavors. Toasting the oak helps make those flavors more pronounced, so I split and roasted my staves on the barbecue before adding them to the pepper mixture.
A dried oak branch with the bark removed and the wood split
Toasting the oak staves on the barbecue helps bring out the flavor
Toasted oak ready to be added to the pepper mixture
Oak submerged in the pepper brew
Hot Pepper sauce with oak wood added and ready to return to aging.
Once the staves are in the mixture, I push them down to fully submerge them (the weight of the peppers will keep them from floating) and return the container to the cool, dark confines of a corner in my garage to continue aging.