It’s back to the beginning with the 2021 edition of my fermented hot sauce
“Hidden Lake Hot” – Cayenne/Thai hybrid hot peppers are the base for 2021’s hot sauce
For my 20th anniversary fermented hot sauce last year, I decided to get a little wild and split the pepper varieties 50/50. Half was my usual cayenne/Thai pepper cross, Hidden Lake Hot. The other half was a Honduran pepper called Culebra Negra, a black cayenne-shaped pepper about which I knew very little other than my Honduran friend said it was very hot.
The results were, in my opinion, a mixed bag. There was some heat up front, but it faded quickly and left behind a tangy green “grassy” flavor. The funk from the fermentation carried well, but without the heat it just tasted, well, like funky sauce.
For this year’s sauce, batch #21, I’m going back to the basics with 100% Hidden Lake Hot for the first time in over five years.
Hidden Lake Hot Cayenne/Thai cross hot peppers before picking
In early spring I planted two beds, one with seed saved from 2019 and another with last year’s. Summer has been a little weird this year. Cool all the way into July, then hot and dry for a month before settling into the hot days (upper 80s) / cool nights (upper 50s) cycle we’re currently experiencing. As a result, the better part of the summer we’ve seen lots of leafy growth, but no flowers or fruit. Now, however, the peppers are now kicking it into overdrive and we’re harvesting ripe peppers pretty much every other day.
Mine is a long-ferment hot sauce, made by starting a small batch of peppers in brine, allowing it to ferment for a week or two, then adding fresh peppers to the ferment weekly. We can usually depend on the HLH peppers to continue producing up until mid-to-late November, at which point we make our last addition and move the peppers to a cool dark place in the garage to rest until bottling in March.
Starting the ferment with 12oz. of hot pepper and half a gallon of brine.
Other than starting a week earlier than last year, we’re following the same steps as always. 12 ounces of fresh peppers added to a weak brine made of half a gallon water (8 cups) and a cup of kosher salt. Add a weight to keep the peppers submerged (in this case a jelly jar on top of a plastic lid), and send it off to a dark, warm shelf in the garage.
Just put week 4's fresh peppers into the fermenter for Batch 20 of the fermented hot sauce. With the brine, looks like we're about 2/3rds of the way to getting a full 5 gallons before we send it off to spend the winter aging with oak
It's the first day of Autumn and the peppers are coming in hot and heavy. I'm picking around one pound every couple of days right now, which means I'll be moving the peppers to the five gallon fermenter this week. The weather has been very warm so the initial ferment is off to a good start. It smells spicy and yeasty, which tells me the lacto ferment is happy. Once I pitch it to the big fermenter, things should really take off.
2nd addition of peppers was a full pound split between Hidden Lake Hot and Culebra Negra (see photo). This should be more than enough to get a good ferment going before I pitch it to the barrel and add 10 - 15 pounds of fresh peppers over the next 10 weeks.
I’m just a guy with nearly an acre of dirt, a nice little mid-century ranch house and a near-perfect climate. But in my mind I’m a landscaper survivalist craftsman chef naturalist with a barbeque the size of a VW and my own cable TV show. I like to write about the stuff I build, grow and see here at Sage's Acre.