Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fire from the garden

I have a rule that I try not to break...EVER!

It’s a simple little rule that requires me to have respect for those hot little gems of glory that come from the garden we call hot peppers! The rule: DON’T WASTE THEM!

This can be challenging when you have a friend give you a grocery sack full of  the hottest Jalapeños to ever curse the plains of Eastern Colorado!

Normally, Jalapeños are easy enough to deal with around here. Can them, pickle them, chop them up in the morning hash browns or leave them on the counter for fresh munching. But not this batch!

I knew something was up when I was told to come take what I wanted. “Just get them out of there,” he said. To the garden we went and cleaned off the plants. All total we had about 4 pounds of fresh, plump, green jalapeño peppers in a plastic grocery sack. (No, I didn’t pay $0.10 for the plastic bag!)
During the ride home, the kids kept complaining of smelling burnt plastic. I think the peppers were trying to burn their way to freedom! (That didn’t really happen)

Over the course of the next three days, I tried every method imaginable to make these things eatable, all with no success. I even tried soaking slices in pickling lime, then soaking in white vinegar for three days before canning with a lot of sugar and salt. I had hoped that the fresh baths of vinegar would leach some of the HOT out of the peppers, but I was wrong.  And before anyone asks the obvious, yes, I tried seeding and de-veining them. I also tried fire roasting, freezing and soaking in Gasoline... Which resulted in a small fire. (That didn’t happen either)

While brainstorming about the potential large number of peppers that were certain to go to waste if I didn’t think of something quickly, I decided to make hot sauce!

Using the skills I learned from making sauerkraut for the last few years, I chopped the peppers and salted them. I figured that being an alkaline food, the peppers could use a little more salt than the cabbage. I usually salt cabbage at 5% by weight. I decided to go 7% for the peppers. They are also a bit less juicy than the cabbage, so I figured the extra salt would help draw out some more water.

I then poured the fiery mix into a glass 2 qt. Container as tears streamed down my face and it became hard to breathe. These are some serious peppers. I’ve dealt with habanero peppers that were not as hot as these jalapeños.

The following morning, I am very pleased to see some bubbling activity! This tells me that there is some biological activity beginning in my jar! SUCCESS... well, assuming that it isn't the peppers eating away at the glass jar.

I will be adding oak cubes at some point in the near future. Wish me luck and hope the peppers don't immediately ignite the wood!

We will be letting this age for as long as I can possibly manage to leave it alone.

When all is said and done, the mixture will be strained and mixed to a normal heat level with white and apple cider vinegar.

Have you made hot sauce? Have you made fermented hot sauce? I’d love to hear your stories!

~Cheers

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