Saturday, September 21, 2013

Popcorn Peppers and the Habanero Hot Sauce Happiness


Popcorn!
There were some white habaneros growing in the garden. Well, they weren't growing for a lot of the summer. Melons came and went, we replaced our kale and lettuces. Jalapeños were picked, pickled and eaten. The white habanero plant grew. The peppers did not appear.

Finally, after months of waiting the large plant had a breakout of tiny yellow and white peppers all at once. It was going to be a pepper bounty, or so we'd thought, but while we were off on a trip the peppers, still tiny, had started to wither and drop. Realizing that they'd needed more sun than the rosemary bush, melon vines, jalapeños, and green pepper plant were allowing I knew that I had to act fast or lose them all. Picking one of the popcorn-sized peppers from the plant I cut it open and tasted the flesh. It was good ... and HOT! Quickly picking the remaining peppers, (say THAT five times fast), as well as some jalapeños which had wilted from the hot days during our absence, fallen from the plant, or were just ready to go I set to work saving the peppers.


The Ugly

After washing the peppers I separated them into three categories: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. The Good, since for all I knew the clock was ticking, were pickled à la Symon and Ruhlman via David Lebovitz with my own tweak of using less sugar and some quite fresh Lev's Original Green Tea Kombucha Vinegar straight from The Kombucha Man's Treasure Island source. Lev's vinegar brings a great flavor to the pickle. The Bad peppers went to the green waste. The Ugly? Hot Sauce City, buddy!

Pulsed to a Pulp
Using the classic method I pulsed the ugly peppers with a couple of tablespoons of kosher salt. After letting them sit on the counter in a loosely-lidded jar overnight, to begin fermentation and to let the salt draw out some liquid from the peppers, I then filled the jar with Lev's Green Tea Vinegar and, leaving the lid loose for off-gassing, let the seven day road to hot sauce begin.

When the time comes I'll purée the pulp and then strain the flesh and seeds from the liquid and my hot sauce happiness will be complete. I've been tasting the liquid as I've stirred it up each day. It's mouth-numbing hot but has a great flavor too. A little of this sauce will go a long way.

Wonder Woman had made some great salsa verde last year and ever since I'd been wanting to do a tabasco-style hot sauce myself. I'm having a lot of fun with this little experiment, and actually chuckle maniacally as I stir the batch. I'll be back next week with the spicy results.

The Waiting is Hard. The Tasting is HOT.