Thursday, August 30, 2012

Hickory Smoked Hot Sauce

I used cowhorn peppers to create this particular batch of hot sauce, but you could use jalapeños, habanero, or any combination of tasty hot peppers for this. Keep in mind that the hotter the pepper, the hotter the hot sauce, so choose according to your tolerance. While it's plenty spicy, this sauce is all about flavor, not just heat. The smoke and salt add a ton of great flavor to greens, tacos, cornbread, sandwiches, soups, and, well, the list is endless. It basically improves everything except, like, maybe an ice-cream sundae.

This is a great way to preserve the current harvest. The salt, smoke, and vinegar help to keep this fresh for months in the fridge or even longer if you freeze it or properly can it.

Hickory Smoked Hot Sauce

8 cups fresh chili peppers (de-stemmed)
1 large head garlic (broken into cloves)
2 tablespoons kosher or pickling salt
1 1/2 cups white vinegar (like Whole Foods 365 brand)

1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (optional)

Smoke chili peppers for 4 minutes using my easy and quick smoking method. Add 1/4 of the peppers to the work bowl of your food processor. Process until very finely chopped and then place them into a large, non-reactive ceramic or plastic bowl. Repeat with the rest of the peppers and the garlic. Add the salt to the mix, stir with a rubber spatula, and pack the mixture into a 1 quart glass jar. The mixture should just about fill the jar. With the top loosely set, leave the glass jar with the pepper mixture in it out on the counter for 24 hours to ferment. If the jar is particularly full, place a towel underneath it in case it bubbles over.

Place the contents of the jar back into the large, non-reactive bowl, mix in the vinegar, cover, and allow it to sit out on the countertop for an additional 24 hours to develop flavor. After that, use a fine mesh strainer to strain the mixture pressing out all of the liquid until all that's left in the strainer is dry pulp. At this point, place the strained mixture into a blender and add the xanthan gum. Run the blender continuously for 1 minute to make sure the xanthan gum is blended in well; this step will keep your hot sauce from separating in the bottle! (Makes about a quart, depending on how juicy the peppers are that you're using.)