Barrel Aged Hot Sauce (updated!)

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This post is going to be a little different, mainly because I haven’t finished the sauce yet. I’ve done a little research and I’ve put together a recipe I’m hoping will work. While you can find plenty of hot sauce recipes on the web, I’m fermenting mine in a charred oak wood barrel for a month. So far the fermenting process has been going two weeks. I pulled a sample this morning and it really smells like smoky Tabasco.

My goal is to test the process before I begin to tinker with the recipes. This first batch is simply peppers, salt and water to this point. I’ll be adding vinegar in a couple of weeks and letting it rest in the barrel for 7 more days before I pull it out. I’m excited to see how the wood reacts with the sauce and even more excited to try it with a meal!

Let’s get started….

10 lbs Fresno Chilies
¾ cup kosher salt
1 qt. warm water

You’ll need a few items that are a little more difficult to come by, such as a barrel. Used or new is fine, in fact, a used barrel, depending upon what was previously in it might even be better. I went with the new barrel because like I said, I wanted to prove the process first. If you’re looking for barrels, I found a few places online you could get one here, here and here.

You’ll also need a food processor of some type to process the peppers so they release their liquids, I used a juicer. Lastly, you’ll need a funnel to get your pepper mash into the barrel. A turkey baster or large dropper helps to remove periodic samples.

First thing you want to do is inspect your pepper for rotten spots or mold, remove those from the process.

Remove any stems that are on your peppers, making sure to leave the seeds intact. Depending upon how you are going to process your peppers to mash, you may also need to rough chop then at this point.

Process your peppers. If you’re using hot & spicy chilies, make sure the area is well ventilated and no kiddos are around. The oil from the peppers can get into the air and cause coughing fits, trust me, I found out the hard way. Once I had juiced all my peppers, I combined the juice I had extracted with the pulp.

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After juicing my peppers, I still had a few large chunks of pepper so I used an immersion blender to puree the last remaining bits, mainly so it would fit through the narrow bunghole (snicker…) in the barrel. I had roughly a gallon of pepper mash after processing all 10 lbs of the Fresno chilies. My original thought was to add 25% water to the mash to a) make sure there was enough liquid to withstand 30 days in the barrel; b) easily incorporate the salt; c) tone down the heat, if only slightly.

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I was going to use a 30 to 1 ratio of liquid to salt by volume for the fermentation. Including the mash and the water, that brought me to just over 5 qts. I dissolved 6 oz (3/4 cup) kosher salt in the water and combined that with the mash.

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Once the salt had fully dissolved, I ladled the mash into the barrel. I covered the bunghole with a cloth as I wanted the mash to have access to the air to help with the fermentation. As I mentioned earlier, it’s been two weeks. Today I drew a sample and rolled the barrel. I wanted to make sure what had settled was remixed after two weeks. I’ll do the same thing when I add the vinegar.

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If you don’t want to go through the hassle of the barrel, this could also be done in glass or mason jars.

Check back in a couple of weeks when I add the vinegar!

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Updated 04/30/2013

After the chiles had fermented for four weeks, I added 2 cups distilled white vinegar and set the barrel back to sit for 7 more days.  As life would have it, I got busy and didn’t pulled the sauce out until it had reached day 10 since the vinegar addition.  I removed the sauce, pureed it again with a stick blender and passed it through a fine china cap, not a chinois mind you, that would remove too much of the pulp with would take away the body of the sauce.  After an initial taste, I wanted a little more acid and a little more salt.  I added another 1/2 cup of vinegar and a 1/2 cup of tamari.  I didn’t want to use more salt.  Perfection!

In total, the full batch yielded 3 qts after aging and straining and the addition of the vinegar and tamari.  The heat is good and upfront, which means it won’t keep on making you suffer.  I’m getting ready to start the second batch, this time with 10 lbs of cayenne chilies.  I’m expecting a good deal more fire on this next one.

If you get the chance to try your own, I’d love to hear how it comes out!

5 Responses

  1. Christopher says:

    Hey Paul, Sorry for the late reply, I have been dealing with tons of spam lately. I left the barrel in the corner of my kitchen, it maintains a steady 75 degrees in there, Colorado is pretty dry so not much in the way of humidity. If you had an air conditioned room that wasn’t too cool you should be ok, you want a slow ferment so cooler is better than hotter.

  2. Paul says:

    Where did you store the barrel? What climate? I live in Houston and wonder about fermenting vs. rotting???

  3. PJ Ward says:

    Thanks for posting. I’m going to do this in the next couple of weeks. I’ve got a couple of barrels that I’ve used for aging cocktails. I’ll probably use a one liter barrel that I’ve used to age Manhattans.

  4. ilva says:

    This is really interesting, I’m looking forward seeing how it goes and maybe even try it for myself but on a smaller scale maybe.

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