Category Archives: Fermentation

Making green hot sauce

A followup to the  post.

Since I got a new blender*, and the peppers were well pickled, I decided to whiz them into hot sauce today.

The pickled peppers, with the brine bags out of the top and any scum and dried salt wiped off the neck of the jar.

I held the peppers in the jar with a fork, and drained the brine off into a cup. It’s not as hot as I was expecting, but it should still be useful in cooking.

The peppers were barely covered by the brine, and it picked up a lot of color and flavor. Yes, those mugs are super-cutesy, but I couldn’t resist. 😉 There are cows and sheep, too. They feel good in my hand.

Not really related, but I had to move this leftover fresh homegrown tomato salsa I made yesterday (with a green chile off the same plant 🙂 ) out of the blender cup before I could use it for this sauce. (The storage lids are very handy.) The color mostly turned out light because I accidentally totally puréed the onion in there, and I had to finely hand-chop some more tomato to add for chunkiness. But it turned out delicious!

Appropriately, it went into a salsa jar. 🙂 And it is pretty hot.

Time to purée!

I wasn’t sure how much vinegar it would need, so I started off with about 1/4 cup/65mL. It took another tablespoon/15 mL or so, judging by repeated taste testing. I used white wine vinegar, because I thought cider might overwhelm the flavor. It did also end up needing a pinch of salt (on top of what it picked up in the brine) and about half a teaspoon/2.5 mL of sugar, to round the flavor out with the green chiles not having developed the ripe hint of sweetness yet. Just that little bit really helped bring out the flavor of the peppers.

Whizzed!

It didn’t look nearly that green in reality, but very yellow. I guess I need more practice in adjusting color levels so that the end result doesn’t just turn out looking weirder, but I didn’t even try with these photos. All of them look much greener than they really were. But, besides the phone camera factor, the lighting in our kitchen is really freaking bad; not only is it all overhead fluorescent, one of the two tubes needs replaced.

I didn’t much like the yellow color, so I added a little bit of totally optional green food coloring.(The only kind we have! I have yet to see one of the boxes with small bottles of different colors here, but for some reason I picked up a bigger bottle of green several years ago, for one use.)

I took the container to natural light to try to get a better view of the actual color after adding a bit of green. It still looks too vibrant, but you can get a little better idea of the consistency after blending.

The texture looked OK, so I went ahead and put it in a jar to heat process. It probably wouldn’t mold or anything, stored in the fridge, with that amount of added vinegar, but better safe than sorry. We don’t have any suitable empty bottles right now, so I just poured it into a jar so we can put it into a bottle later.

I started out putting it in a “closed up tightly right after it dried from the dishwasher” peanut butter jar, but that would have meant using our biggest pot to make sure it was totally covered for the water bath. (And me still without jar tongs…) Plus, it had more headroom than it needed, so I moved it into another jar the same as the salsa one above.

Adjusted so it’s overexposed, still lurid green…

Yes, we can still get glass peanut butter jars** here, with metal lids. I prefer that to plastic, especially for something as fatty as peanut butter, which might get more crud leached into it from the plastic container.

I wasn’t sure how long to give it in the water bath, but I figured 20 minutes at the boil would probably be good. Especially with it starting out room temperature; otherwise, maybe 15. Again, better safe!

Just tighten the lid, and put the jar in a pot of water to bring it up to the boil, then time from then. You’d probably have to turn the burner down some to keep the jar from dancing around as wildly, and keep a kettle of hot water in case you need to top it up to make sure the water level stays over top of the  jar(s). In the interests of safety, here is a more complete description from Virginia Cooperative Extension (based at my old university 🙂 ): Boiling Water Bath Canning – Including Jams, Jellies, and Pickled Products.

Note: They say not to use other than jars with two-piece lids. You may want to follow that, to be safe. As long as I inspect the lids to make sure the seal is good, I don’t worry about reusing pickle, mayonnaise, etc. jars, especially for higher-acid things like pickled items and jams which are less likely to grow really dangerous stuff. (Yes, I am semi-paranoid, and water bath process jams instead of using an open kettle method. I did grow up eating a lot of pickles and jams/jellies done that way, and nobody ever got hurt, but yeah.) If they seal properly as they cool down, it’s OK by my standards. That also goes for reusing some two-part lids, if they’re not bent at the rim from prying off and the seal rubber still looks good. I’ve also never had a jar break while being heated or anything like that. But, it’s your choice.

A while back, I ran across a tip to add a splash of vinegar to the water if it’s hard enough to leave mineral residue on your jars. We have liquid chalk, so it seemed worth a try. And it worked! 🙂 (I grew up on limestone karst, and seriously never saw any water as hard as what comes out of the spigot from the London Chalk basin. And I’m used to seeing spring and well water that will have actual flakes of lime floating around in it when it’s cold. Our toilet tried to grow stalactites around the rim here.)

At this point, about halfway through, I’d usually expect a white scum of lime on top of the water in the pot. The water is that hard. Bad photo with all the steam, but you can at least see that there’s no scum at all.

I still need to get a taller pot than our biggest one, for canning bigger than pint/500mL jars. But, this is a pretty good illustration of one of my points in the  post: you don’t have to do the kind of overwhelmingly big batches at a time that I grew up seeing. You can stick something in a single small jar and use any pot tall enough that the lid is safely covered by an inch/2.5cm or so of water, without it threatening to overflow the pot.

The sauce did a weird separation thing from the boiling. I’m guessing that shaking will take care of that. The color here is particularly weird, though the watery stuff at the bottom really is showing more of the added color.

And, that’s my first try at making a hot sauce. 🙂 Like other pickled items, we’ll probably let it sit for at least a couple of weeks for the flavors to meld and mellow before trying it.

But, with the taste tests while making it, removing most of the seeds and membranes did seem to take the heat down a lot. I was half-expecting super-super-hot results from the little Thai peppers, even so, but it came out milder. Still with a pretty good bite, of course. 😉

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* I’d been wanting a new blender for a while, since the stick blender we were using got some kind of short and started shocking me. 😐 That one went away, but it took a while to remember to get a replacement; I also put it off, because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to bring a blender/food processor combo in to take up space in the cabinets. Not long ago, I was watching some excellent, mostly Punjabi food cooking videos, and was impressed at how well the Magic Bullet blender seemed to be working for him. Pureeing onions, garlic and ginger for a smooth sauce? Very quick and easy-looking. Cooking for two, in a small kitchen, I also liked the idea of its having small blending containers and a small enough footprint that I can just leave the base unit on the counter, instead of wrestling the whole thing in and out of a cabinet every time I want to use it. (Bending down is still a problem for me, with the celiac osteomalacia. If we had other storage space for pots and pans, I wouldn’t even keep them in the bottom cabinets.) It does also have a full-sized blender container, which I haven’t even washed to use yet.

So, I decided to try it, and ordered one (not from JML). After several days’ use, I really like it. The mugs with handles are particularly handy for making icy smoothies–often banana and some ice cubes, with a splash of orange juice–which I had missed with lunch or for a quick snack. (The stick blender wasn’t up to that, either.) We’ll have to see how it holds up. But, so far, I would definitely recommend this model.  I usually avoid “as seen on TV” products, but this one actually seems to be a good one.

** This really didn’t fit in the post at all, but I just had to throw in a shot of the house brand we’ve been getting at LIDL:

Screamingly “American”, all right. 😀 I guess you can’t just call it “McDonald’s” or “Kennedy”, but the weird mashup probably sounds great if you are making “American” food in Germany. It’s not quite as funny as some of the “American” packaging on the Japanese market, but… (Shame I couldn’t track down one post with photos of some of that which had me laughing, a couple of years ago.) At some point, I should probably do a post with some of the “American” stuff  here in the UK. Unlike with the peanut butter, I usually would not have figured that out without all the stars and stripes, I tell you what.

I can’t resist laughing, but it’s really good peanut butter of the 96% actual peanut kind. And cheap. I haven’t actually seen any for sale in the UK which is so heavily bulked out with shortening and sugar as most of the stuff back in the US, which is fine by me. (Other than imported Skippy, etc.)

Brine pickled green chiles

In the last post, I talked some about pickling in general. Now I’m finally getting around to what I had intended to write about then: putting up a jar of pickled green Thai bird peppers off our heavily producing plant, with a batch of hot sauce in mind.

What you need:

Peppers, a clean jar, a knife, something to put the discarded stem ends and seeds in, some salt, a measuring cup for making the brine, and last but not least: rubber gloves for handling the peppers! I forgot to put the garlic out for this photo, and the cherry tomatoes were just sitting there. 🙂 Salsa making will probably come later, though.

I already mixed up the brine there, using about 2 tablespoons/30 mL of coarse sea salt per US pint/little under 500 mL of water. If you’re using finer salt, you may want to use 1.5 tablespoons for that amount of water, as suggested here. You can use any salt that’s not iodized (things will keep fine with iodized, but it may taste odd), but I like to use sea salt now, for the extra flavor. The brine concentration isn’t that critical, as long as it tastes saltier than something you would want to drink–even if you like salty flavors as much as I do. 😉

Since I’ve been making small batches of pickles, I have just been mixing up the brine in a Pyrex measuring cup, either by microwaving it until it boils or by topping it up from the electric kettle, then stirring to make sure the salt is dissolved. You can heat it in a pan on the stove, if you want to. I’ve also been using filtered water, though ours doesn’t smell or taste strongly of chlorine. (Unlike back home, where the stuff coming out of the spigot smells and tastes like swimming pool water most of the summer, when it’s dry and the rivers are down.) Still, better safe than sorry, to avoid maybe killing off the bacteria we want. Boiling should also help drive off some of the chlorine, though you’d want to let it boil at least 5 minutes.

I haven’t been sterilizing the jars in a pot of water, but just running them through the dishwasher. You can also add some bleach to the load if you like, but the detergent we’ve been using already has plenty of oxidizers in there, judging from the bleachy smell when the machine empties.

While the brine was cooling to lukewarm at hottest, I got the peppers ready. Since it was a nice day, I took them outside to sit on the patio and get a little evening sun.

The first one.

These small peppers are very fiddly to work with, but it’s worth it. Larger ones should be less trouble to deal with. This variety is so hot and thin-walled that, besides cutting the stem end off, I also cored most of the seeds and membrane out with the paring knife. For something like jalapeños, this isn’t really necessary. You will be very, very sorry later if you don’t wear gloves for this!

Don’t worry if you split some of them down the side with the knife, especially since these are going to get blended up for sauce anyway.

A handful down, most of the tray to go!

I just put them into the colander I was planning to rinse them off in. Better to do that after the prep (at least if they don’t have pesticides), rather than try to handle a bunch of slippery wet tiny peppers!

Finally done, and ready to go into the jar after a good rinse.

A few small cloves of garlic in the bottom of the jar, for extra flavor. This is a good way to use up those teensy little ones at the middle of the bulb.
This is just a saved mayonnaise jar. It doesn’t really matter what kind of jar you use for this, as long as it’s clean and has a lid.

Peppers packed into the jar. It’s a little big, but this was the smallest one I had ready.

Brine poured in, with some reserved to double-bag and put in the top to hold the peppers under the brine, and keep air from getting to the top of it. (Mold prevention, in other words.) Make sure the brine is lukewarm at most before you pour it in.

Double-bagging the extra brine in sandwich-sized zipper bags, for extra leak protection. You’ll want to squeeze most of the air out of them. I ended up having to make a little more brine, but that is no problem if you use the same proportions and let it cool down before pouring it in.

The photo of the finished jar seems to have disappeared, but here it is days later, with a cut up yellow sweet pepper added. (The colors should blend well when it’s whizzed into sauce, and that should have a mellower flavor to help balance out the slightly bitter greenness.)

You’ll notice that the brine has gone cloudy, and the peppers are taking on a pickled (or cooked) color. Sediment and cloudiness are what you’re looking for, there’s nothing wrong. 🙂 It will also get a little fizzy, from the lactofermentation.
Please ignore the counter clutter, BTW; that’s what I’ve been trying to do.

It wasn’t on the drip tray right then, but you will want to use some kind of container under it to catch the brine that bubbles out over the top. (Note the wet paper towel underneath…)

If you have another jar of something pickly going, you can use a spoonful of that brine as a starter. This jar definitely got going faster than I was expecting. Here’s the jar of dilly cucumbers I used for a starter with this (there shouldn’t be enough spice/herb flavor in a spoonful to make any difference), on the same day I put the chiles up:

This is in a plastic takeaway container, and you can see a little better how the brine bag approach should work. Also the color difference between what I just added there, and the ones that have been pickling for a little while. As you can tell from the reddish brine color, maybe I went a little overboard with the little dried peppers. 😉 (I have since fished some of them out.)

BTW, that was one thing I wouldn’t have thought of before reading Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation: it works perfectly fine to incrementally add things to the jar, just as long as you stay clean about handling it and don’t go poking dirty fingers down in the brine, or something. (Ewww…)

The one I added to the jar that day, actually. The blossom end hung up on the trellis, so it grew curved. My hand looks very, very purple there in contrast to all the green.

We only have three cucumber plants going, and they’re just really starting to produce over the last couple of weeks. It’s been working fine to add cucumbers as they get big enough, periodically topping up some fresh brine if necessary and pouring some out of the baggies to make up for the rising level in the jar. Just as long as they stay covered in brine, it’s cool. You don’t need to fill the whole jar at once, just wait a little longer for the newer additions to pickle.

That jar was actually finished today. (I added one more I spotted on the vine after taking this photo.) I wedged in the last couple of cucumbers so they were well below the top of the brine, fished out any floating spices with a spoon to make sure that wouldn’t mold, wiped the brine off the jar threads with a paper towel, and put the lid on it loosely. I’ll probably let it continue to work for a week or so–still in the drip tray–before tightening down the lid and putting it in the fridge. Then comes the fun of trying to pull out the older ones first, from the bottom of the jar. 😉

Another thing I put together, which I hope to post about soon: some green beans and carrots. But, you can use this basic technique, plus whatever seasonings you like, for pretty much any vegetable or combo of vegetables.