Homegrown Cayenne Peppers

Hot Pickled Pepper Sauce

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Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled cayenne peppers. A peck of pickled cayenne peppers Peter Piper picked. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled cayenne peppers, where’s the peck of pickled cayenne peppers Peter Piper picked? He made hot sauce, that’s where.

OK.  Way back when I first started this blog I did a post on Pickled Chipotle Chiles and pointed out I was a chilehead. Baby Lady & I love chiles, although she’s a little El Paso chilehead and likes her food hotter than me. In fact, she makes a chile de arbol salsa with the chiles, water, a little garlic, onion, salt and water. She blends it up and eats it with popcorn, chips and her eggs in the morning. It’s a tad bit too spicy for me. Someday we may post it but not today and I digress. We like chiles so much that we constantly grow them in the backyard. We plant jalapeño peppers, Serrano pepper, cayenne pepper, chile tepin, Anaheim peppers, banana peppers, Hungarian peppers, bell peppers and a wickedly hot little yellow pepper that I don’t know its name. These are great chile peppers that we use fresh when we cook. Each one has its own character, flavor and heat level. The cayenne peppers have done beautifully this year

© 2012 REMCooks.com

but they are the ones we have the most difficult time using and I refuse to waste them. I had toyed with the idea of drying and powdering them but that seemed such a waste. Then it dawned on me. We use a fair amount of hot sauce so why not make our own. So off to the internet I went trying to find a good hot sauce recipe. Everywhere I turned I found all sorts of recipes for cayenne chiles and vinegar. People claimed this was the same as Dave’s Insanity Sauce. Although it was tempting I wanted something that was aged. So I thought a little more and figured if I could brine cucumbers to make pickles then why couldn’t I brine cayenne chiles and make a hot sauce? The lactobacilli bacteria would give the peppers a nice tang and the peppers would keep their heat. Add a little garlic for additional flavoring. Why not give it a try? So I did and the results are in.

This produced a delightfully flavorful hot sauce. It’s very vibrant. It has a touch of natural sourness from the fermentation process; nice saltiness from the brine; and a nice bold flavor and kick from the cayenne peppers. Surprisingly, however, it’s not very spicy. Store bought Tabasco sauce has more spice to it. Nonetheless, this has incredible flavor, similar to Louisiana Hot Sauce. So if you’re looking at trying your hand at making a natural hot sauce, give this a try. Please note that there are 3 updates to this recipe because I keep tinkering with it. So, read all of the way through. This sauce is really fabulous.

Ingredients

  • Ripe cayenne peppers, stemmed
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbsp sea salt
  • purified water (not tap water)

Instruction

While some of our readers may think this is rocket fuel, this really aint rocket science. First, sterilize a 1 pint jar and lid.

Add the cayenne peppers and garlic to the pint jar filing it as best you can.

© 2012 REMCooks.com

Add salt.

© 2012 REMCooks.com

Cover the cayenne peppers with bottled spring water or water filtered through reverse osmosis. Now, some of you are asking why bottled water? Well my friends, tap water contains Chloramine to prevent disease causing bacteria and pathogens. Chloramine (as CI2) is formed when ammonia is added to water containing free chlorine. So if you remove the chlorine, the ammonia stays. This will inhibit the production of lactobacilli bacteria and create other issues when you pickle something. So don’t use tap water. If you must use tap water, add 1 tsp white vinegar to the brine to help “kick start” the fermentation process.

© 2012 REMCooks.com

Place lid on top and tighten securely. Place in a cool (68 – 75 F), dark place. Now, here’s the hard part. LEAVE IT ALONE FOR 2 WEEKS!

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After 2 weeks have passed, place chiles, garlic and brine in a blender and blend at its highest speed for 1 minute.

© 2012 REMCooks.com

Pour into cute jars for later use.

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Enjoy!

© 2012 REMCooks.com

UPDATE:

I have since made 2 more batches of this stuff and gave it away as Christmas gifts.

The Chefs Love this Hot Sauce
The Chefs Love this Hot Sauce

As you can see, one batch was another red hot sauce and the other was green.

After the first batch, I tried another batch using the same basic ingredients EXCEPT I got more chiles, cut them into 1 inch thick rings, added 12 dried chile de arbol for some added heat, added a couple more garlic cloves, used a 1 Qt jar, made a brine using roughly 3 cups water and 2 Tbsp salt, poured the brine over the chiles until covered, placed a weight on top of the chiles to keep them submerged, put the lid, ignored it for 2 weeks, ran it through the Vita-Mix and strained it. The results were wonderful! It had considerably more heat, was thicker and had tons of flavor.

The second batch was green because I was trying to use the remaining chiles before the first frost/freeze and they were green. This time, however, I used my Harsch/Gartopf fermenting crock and the following

6 cups garden fresh green chiles (cayenne & spicy Hungarian), stemmed and sliced
1/4 large white onion, peeled and chopped
2 chipotle mora chiles for some smokiness
1 tsp Mexican oregano
12 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 qt bottled water
2 Tbsp sea salt
1 Tbsp cider vinegar

© 2012 REMCooks.com
© 2012 REMCooks.com

Notice the 1 little red cayenne. He was lonely all by himself. 😉 Now, all we do is cover it and let it ferment for 3 weeks.

This produced an unbelievably flavorful sauce. The sauce, however, was a little thin for my tastes (too much water) and was not as hot as I wanted. Nevertheless, I am now hooked on making my own hot sauce and my friends loved their Christmas Gifts. 😀 We hope we have inspired you to experiment with your own pickled hot sauce.

UPDATE 2 – 9/7/2013

Well, I bottled the 4th batch of this hot sauce today and let me tell you, this is the best one yet!

4th Batch - getting better
4th Batch – getting better

Doesn’t this one look good??? It’s very thick, spicy and very flavorful. I did this one significantly different from the others. I learned from the 3rd batch that I really liked the flavor of the onion in the sauce, so I continued it in the 4th batch but used red onion. Red onions have a stronger, spicier flavor and their color will come out in the brine. Because we only planted 1 cayenne plant this year, I didn’t have as many chiles. Hence, I went back to the pint jar method but very thinly sliced the cayenne peppers to have more chiles per volume than the original batch. The ingredients are as follows:

  • 1-2/3 cup sliced, fresh cayenne peppers
  • 1 Tbsp sea salt
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup red onion, small dice
  • Bottled water to cover
  • 1 Tbsp Rice vinegar (after the brining process has completed)
© 2013 REMCooks.com
© 2013 REMCooks.com

Put everything in a sterilized pint jar.

© 2013 REMCooks.com
© 2013 REMCooks.com

Add bottled water to cover. Leave 1/4 – 1/2″ head space, place lid on top and tighten down. Now, someone in the comments asked me what to weight the veggies with to keep them submerged. You don’t. When you pickle veggies in brine, the veggies will release their own water. By leaving the head space, the liquid from the veggies are released and fills the void. Also, as the veggies pickle in the brine, they release CO2. Between the CO2 which is heavier than oxygen and the liquid released from the veggies, you establish an anaerobic environment (one without oxygen) which inhibits the development of mold & yeast. These are good things. 🙂 Now, like all of the other batches, let it sit for 2+ weeks. The longer it sits, the more it will sour. I let this batch sit for 2-1/2 weeks. I then put this in my Vitamix blender. You really need a very powerful blender to completely liquify the veggies and skin of the chiles. I also did not strain this one as I had the others. This had a wonderful flavor and was very thick. Because it was so thick, it need to be thinned somewhat but not a lot. Obviously, more water was simply out of the question. Because Baby Lady really likes the vinegary flavor of commercially produced hot sauces, I decided to add 1 Tbsp of rice vinegar. I chose rice vinegar because it is a lower acidity vinegar and has a milder, sweeter flavor. The result is truly remarkable. It is like nothing you have ever tasted in a commercial hot sauce. It’s thick enough to adhere to whatever you use it with be it eggs, fries, fish, whatever. You can look at the bottles and tell how thick the sauce is; yet it’s not too thick to prevent it from pouring well. It has a full, robust, spicy chile flavor coupled with the flavors of the onion, garlic and salt with a nice tang from the natural fermentation and rice vinegar added at the end. Hopefully, you will try this and give it your own spin. If you do, let us know what you did and how you liked it.

UPDATE 3 – 11/14/2013

I just started another batch. We had our first freeze warning so we picked the peppers remaining on the plant. I had hoped they would all turn red but if it actually froze (it didn’t) and I left them on the plant I would have been very upset with myself. Here is the bounty of the cayenne pepper harvest – approximately 2 lbs of chiles.

© 2013 REMCooks.com
© 2013 REMCooks.com

We also harvested the few New Mexico Greens (Big Jim) we had, some guajillo chiles, some remarkably mild jalapeños and some serranos. These chiles, however, will be used for something other than hot sauce.

This really is the 6th batch as we made another batch following the second update in October that is out of this world. The difference was we added some homegrown herbs to the recipe and a little more water so that it wouldn’t be too thick. We also let it ferment for a full 4 weeks. The results were stunningly good. The extra 2 weeks added a little more sourness to the sauce and was divine. We continued in this fashion with this batch. We’re really looking forward to this Christmas batch. 🙂

Ingredients

  • 1 lb cayenne peppers, thinly sliced (red cayennes for red sauce & green cayennes for green sauce)
  • 1 whole head of garlic, peeled and chopped (roughly 2.5 oz)
  • 1 medium red onion (white onion for the green sauce)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves
  • 4 Tbsp sea salt
  • Bottled water (do NOT use tap water) to cover (roughly 24 oz.)

Instruction

Now, these ingredients are for 1 lb. of cayenne peppers. Inasmuch as I had 2 lbs of cayenne peppers, to make the batch of red and the batch of green, the recipe is doubled. Put everything into a 2 qt jar. I like to layer everything because I put it in the jars as I go but you can do it anyway you want. Remember, in the end you’re going to run it all through a blender anyway. Put the lid on tightly and place in a dark place for 4 weeks. I actually waited 5 weeks this time. This made 6-1/2 cups of red and 7 cups of green. Very tasty, indeed. Once you try this, you may never buy hot sauce again. I won’t.

© 2013 REMCooks.com
© 2013 REMCooks.com

UPDATE 4 – 7/7/2015

This will probably be my last update on this post. I have continued to experiment with the technique. I have used more onion, less onion, different herbs and spices, and longer fermenting time, etc. I have varied the fermenting time to 6 weeks, 8 weeks and 12 weeks. The last batch was almost entirely diced green cayenne peppers and fermented 12 weeks. After 12 weeks the mash developed an unpleasant aftertaste and I threw the whole batch (2 Qts) away 😦 . I find that the best flavor from this technique comes with 6 weeks of fermentation. 2 weeks of fermentation is fine and will provide you the flavor of the cayenne pepper with little to no sourness/tang from the lactobacillus. Acidity/tang can always be provided with the addition of a little vinegar at the end. 4 – 6 weeks of fermentation develops the sourness/tang from the process and anything after that begins to develop an off-putting aftertaste.

If you try making your own hot sauce using this lacto-fermentation technique we would love to hear about your thoughts, process and results.

45 thoughts on “Hot Pickled Pepper Sauce”

  1. I’m a chilehead too! Hubs and I are always on the lookout for a good hot sauce, but it never occured to me to make my own (doh!). This looks great BUT we live in the Caribbean so it’s really hard to find a cool place in our kitchen. Any chance I could ferment this in the fridge or is that too cold for the delicate bacteria?

    1. Hi, Cat. Nice to see you. Unfortunately, fermenting in the fridge isn’t an option because it’s too cool. I did it this summer when it’s hotter than hell in Texas but we keep the house at 76 F. Thank God for air conditioning. I put it in a cabinet in the kitchen. You just want a dark place because it is always cooler in dark places. Give it a try. The worst that can happen is it creates a different type of science experiment. 😉 You will know if it doesn’t work because after 2 weeks the chiles and garlic smell wonderfully aromatic. 🙂 If it doesn’t smell good, has developed white powder or slimy stuff, it went bad. 😦

    1. Thanks, Conor. This was fun. You should try it and when you watch a movie, give the wimps their own bag of popcorn and you and the other chilihead can have hot sauce with your popcorn. 🙂

  2. I dunno, Richard. This may be beyond my tolerance level. I pickled som cherry bomb peppers and opened the first pint last night. The 1st and 2nd pepper were just hot enough and I enjoyed them. The 3rd had my eyes watering as beads of sweat appeared on my forehead and my mouth was on fire. And you want me to make sauce out of cayenne peppers? “Ha!” I laughed. 🙂

    1. Thanks for dropping by and commenting. We found the little statues at a store called Harvest Ridge. I fell in love with them when I saw them. We have roosters and little Chefies all over the kitchen.

  3. I have a garden full of a hot peppers of all kinds, and was looking for a pepper sauce recipe. This one sounds perfect!

    1. Mimi, I missed another of your comments. 😮 I have no idea how or why. This is a fun way to make hot sauce. We have a bunch of chiles growing in the garden again this year but only 1 cayenne plant. 😦 I’m waiting for them to ripen and turn red. It will be another month or so. When they do, I’m going to make another batch or red as I’m completely out. I still have some of the green and it has the best flavor of all of them. It’s just too thin. I’m thinking about dicing everything so I can get more chiles per volume. This should give me 1) more heat and 2) a thicker consistency. I will either post a redux or simply append this post. All I can say is I’m hooked on this stuff. You seriously need to give this a try. 🙂

  4. Hi! I just found this recipe on Pinterest and I must say that it sounds easy, tasty and perfect for me to make for my husband but I have one question- what did you use to weigh down the chilis in the quart-sized jar? I haven’t made my own hot sauce before so I’m looking forward to trying this out! Thanks for your help!

    1. Hi, Iva. Thanks for finding us. 🙂 In the pint/quart jar method, just pack the chiles and garlic in as tightly as you can. Add the salt and pour the bottled water over the salt making sure there is enough water to cover the chiles. The salt will dissolve in the water. Put the lid on and tighten it down securely. Don’t worry about weighting the chiles down. What is occurring is a slow fermentation process. This will give off CO2 which will displace the O2 and prevent spoilage. The lactobacillus grows in an anaerobic environment. So, keep the jar closed at all times for the next two weeks. If some of the chile float above the water, it’s OK. Just leave the chiles alone. After 2 weeks, pour everything in a blender (liquid, garlic & chiles) and blend at the highest speed for 1 – 2 minutes. I have a Vitamix so I only blend for 1 minute. A typical household blender would need the full 2 minutes. Strain and refrigerate. You may can the hot sauce but you will kill the lactobacillus. It will keep in your fridge for 6 months. Also, keep the pulp and refrigerate it as it is a great addition to eggs, soups, stews, sauces, etc. It will be a tad hotter than the sauce. I hope this helps. 🙂
      One last thought, if it smells bad, it is. I have yet to have a batch go bad but there is always that possibility.

    2. Iva, I have recently re-made the recipe. While all of the batches were good, my favorite was the second batch because all of the others were too thin. Then I made the 4th batch in the Second Update. This is the best of all. In this second update I used more chiles per volume by thinly slicing the chiles. It makes a world of difference in flavor and texture. I also added 1 Tbsp of rice vinegar at the end. I’m very pleased with this hot sauce although I’m sure I will keep playing with it as I am never satisfied. 😉 If you do try this, please let us know what you do and your thoughts. Thanks. 🙂

  5. Great idea updating a previous post Richard. Particularly this post. I laughed as I read the first paragraph, with an image in my head of you humming this to yourself as you decide on the brine, the rice vinegar and other ingredients. Lovely stuff and yes that lat photo is definitely a keeper.

    1. Mimi, I’m not sure what balsamic would do. It would obviously be a little sweeter in flavor. I actually thought about it but opted for the rice vinegar because it is a lighter vinegar and I wanted the flavor of the cayenne chiles to really shine through, which they do. Also, this really isn’t a vinegary hot sauce like a commercial hot sauce, i.e. Tabasco or Louisiana Hot Sauce. It has just a touch of tang to add a little depth of flavor and character to the sauce. This post is as much about technique as anything else so play with it and see what you come up with. 🙂 It’s really easy and fun to play with and the results are very tasty, indeed. 🙂

  6. I tried the top(original) recipe and it turned out really well. I want to try it on everything! I put some on/in some boiled spinach from my garden with some butter and salt and pepper and it was really tasty. I have more peppers and I’m wanting make more but I have a question. How long does it keep in the fridge? If I make a bunch will it go bad before I can use it? Should I can it or does that mess with the flavor? Thanks.

    1. Hi, Ryan. Thanks for checking us out. We’re glad you enjoyed it.
      As to your question, I haven’t been able to keep the red very long at all. It’s always gone in less than 6 months. Now, I have some green that has been in the fridge for a year and it’s still very good (just too thin for my liking). It’s a live culture (so it’s actually good for you, i.e. yogurt) but refrigeration slows the process. It will, however, change the flavor over time ever so slightly.
      I also have stopped straining the pulp. It’s just too good to lose and helps make it a thicker sauce. I keep playing with it and it’s definitely the best hot sauce I have tried. It’s also a lot of fun. 🙂
      You should be able to can it but I have no idea what it will do to the flavor. Also, I’m not certain there is enough acidity to keep it from spoiling over time unrefrigerated. If you do can it, let me know the results as I am very curious.

      1. Don’t take the post down whatever you do. I’ve been coming back and seeing your updates every year when I’m making my hot sauce. This has been fun experimenting. I’m about to start a batch of with red cayennes but I am putting in a couple red jalapeños and one big red bell. I’ve found that the different varieties of peppers add more depth of flavor and a slight sweetness that we’ve enjoyed. I also agree that 3 to 4 weeks is the best. We made a huge batch last year and gave it to our friends and family for Christmas.

        1. Thanks Ryan. I doubt I will ever take the post down. I just won’t do any more updates unless I fall upon something that is really different. I’ve thought about using some food grade wood chips, i.e. oak, and trying that with the fermentation process to see if it makes a difference. Sadly, our chile production was significant.y off this year with all of the rains we had in May. It has been such a poor year we have yet to harvest any chiles. 😦 Perhaps this Fall will provide us a good yield.

      2. Also, I never tried canning it but it has lasted over a year in my fridge. It may get a little spicier but the flavor and look are still good!

        1. I canned a batch ast Fall and it canned very well. I needed to can it because we produced 2 gallons of hot sauce last year. We just opened one of the jars and the hot sauce was perfect. 🙂

  7. So I tried this recipe and just a few days into it the lids was bulging and ultimately bent and it leaked. I opened the bottle and the liquid fizzed out at a high rate. 1) what did I do wrong? 2) was it ruined or could I have done something with it? I threw it out. Food born illness was my fear. Help

    1. Lorin, which version did you try??? I’m actually working on another batch right now from more homegrown cayenne chiles. It has been fermenting for 3-1/2 weeks. I have never had a problem with this recipe. Did you use tap water of bottled water? How high did you fill the jar?? There must alway be head space because the chiles macerate in the brine and release their own liquids. Also, I don’t tighten the lids down super tight, just snug. The fermentation process does produce CO2. If you tighten the cap too securely it will not allow the CO2 to escape which would cause the brine and contents to become carbonated, i.e. champagne made in the bottle. Another factor could be temperature. Fermentation is best between 68 – 75 F. Too high of a temperature can cause the fermentation process to go awry. If it were bad, it would have reeked. Nevertheless, I never play loose and free with foods and probably would have thrown out the batch, as well.

  8. Thanks. I used bottled water, but I don’t think I left enough space in the bottle. I’m trying another batch today. It smelled fantastic. The garlic was very strong. Should I not tighten the lid too tight?

    1. I just snug the lid down but not as tight as I can get it. The release of CO2 is highest in the early stages of the lacto fermentation process, i.e. in the first 3-4 days. My guess is you tightened the jar to tightly and did not leave enough headroom. On a couple of batches I had some seepage. Now, I put a small plate underneath the jar.
      If the sauce goes bad you will definitely smell it. Also, you will see the liquid become discolored and perhaps some whitish scum.
      The garlic in the last batch was VERY prevalent but oh so tasty. The beauty of this recipe is its simplicity AND you can play with it to get the flavors you want in a hot sauce.
      Let me know how your second batch turns out.

  9. Richard,
    Just wanted to know that we tried the 2nd recipe with dried red cayenne and pequin chilies with a few dark green over ripe jalapeños. After the 2 week fermentation period, we puréed it and served it with our chili last night for our Halloween guests. It was a huge hit! The flavor of the sauce is like a fresh sriracha! We brew beer too so we are hooked on trying new variations of ingredients and fermentation times. Since we are right at our first freeze, we are gathering up all of our chillies to plan our next batches. Thank you for your creative approach and your great communication!
    Ben & Amy

    1. Thanks Ben. Glad you tried it and it was a hit with your guests. We love this stuff and haven’t bought any hot sauce since I began making this. It’s fun, a great way to use chiles, allows you to experiment with various flavors and just tastes incredible. I’m now toying with the idea of getting some food grade oak chips to place in the brine with the chiles and letting it ferment for 90 days or so to see if I can extract some of the wood flavor. This stuff brings out the mad scientist in me. 😀

  10. Hi! I have also experimented with homemade hot sauce this year and it’s awesome! Your post is great!
    Curious how long you keep it in the fridge for? I was going with about 3 months. I am the kind that worries about getting sick from it spoiling but I was feeling like it could have lasted longer?

    1. Hi Allison, hot sauce doesn’t last long at our house. The last batch has been in the refrigerator for a little over a year. We tried it the other day on eggs and it was still quite tasty.

  11. I just blended my first batch after 6 weeks of fermentation using the update at the bottom of the page. It is waaay too salty for us. I’m starting on pickling batch #2 and will cut down on the salt.

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