Homemade Sriracha (fermented red pepper sauce)

If you have a garden, like me, and have more than a couple of pepper plants, chances are in the early fall you’re INUNDATED with so many chiles that you can’t give them away fast enough.  What on EARTH do you do when you’ve got pounds of hot peppers?

If you’re me, you preserve them by turning them into sriracha, that rich, sweet, firey red pepper sauce from Thailand that makes Tabasco taste like a spoon full of bad vinegar.  Sriracha is taking over the country…now you can buy it in any grocery store almost anywhere in the US.  The gas station near my house sells it.  If you’ve never tried it, you don’t know what you’re missing.

The signature aspect of sriracha is its fiery red color, which means you need red chiles to make it look authentic.  But if you have yellow or orange chiles, you can still make an incredibly delicious pepper sauce…it just won’t be red.  You can make this sauce with ANY chile, from the mild poblano to the painful habanero, to the bhut jolokia (or Ghost Pepper)…one of the hottest chiles in the world.  (My fabulous fan Rhonda shipped me a box of ghost peppers last year, and they are ageing as sriracha in my wine closet for another few years.)  Virtually all hot pepper mature into a flavor other than green, so wait until they have changed color on the vine, then pick them.

Wear rubber gloves while making sriracha, otherwise, your hands will burn for HOURS, as will anything your hands touch.  *ow*

3 pounds fresh red chile peppers (jalapeno, serrano, Fresno, red habanero, etc.)

1 pound red bell peppers, roasted and peeled

2 heads of garlic, cloves separated and peeled

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup white sugar

3 Tablespoons kosher salt (or 1 1/2 Tbsp sea salt, do not use iodized table salt)

What the puree looks like before fermentation

Cut the stems off the chiles, but leave the green “cap” where the stem meets the pepper.  Toss all the above ingredients into a food processor or blender, and blend away.  Depending on the size of your blender, you may have to do it in batches.  And you may have to add a bit of water to get them to puree finely enough.  Pour the puree into a large glass bowl and add:

2 packets yogurt starter (you can get this cheaply online or at most health food and brew supply stores…if you can’t find it, use 1/2 cup buttermilk or yogurt, but you’ll be adding dairy to your sauce, which isn’t very tasty)

Stir well and cover with plastic wrap and let it sit out on your countertop for a few days.  Eventually you’ll notice a change…bubbles coming up through the puree.  When this starts to happen, stir the puree every day with a clean spoon and re-cover.  Let the sauce ferment for 14 days from the first signs of fermentation, stirring each day.

Then strain the sauce into a large saucepan.  This is easier said than done.  You’ll need to work in batches using a rubber spatula, pushing the puree firmly through the finest strainer or chinois you have.  Discard the seeds, skins, and large pulp that remains in the strainer.

Add to the saucepan:

1 cup apple cider vinegar

Bring the puree to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer slowly 15-20 minutes to get rid of excess moisture and thicken the puree a bit.  When it’s as thick as you like, remove it from the heat and let it cool.  Taste it.  It may need a bit more vinegar or sugar/honey, or both.  It needs to have a perfect balance between sweet, sour, and hot.

The homemade sauce should be kept in the fridge and it will last about 6 months or so.  It won’t have the exact same texture as commercial sriracha, which is thickened with xanthan gum.  But it will taste a million times better!

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