I just spoke with Eric Rochow of GardenFork.TV .(He’ll be our guest on the next podcast.) If you don’t know Gardenfork, you should. Eric has put together a lot of cool videos and podcasts. One of my favorite is this portable pizza oven. I’m thinking of building one for local events. For more info on Eric’s pizza oven check out his pizza oven page.
I’ve noticed we sort of drift in and out of some habits, or practices, or hobbies… or whatever you want to call them. In theory I’m big on all sorts of DIY, especially in the kitchen, because making staples at home can really help save packaging, money and food–and condiments, like mustard, mayo and hot sauce, are easy to make.
However, it’s also really easy to fall to temptation and just buy a bottle of something at the store. So here’s a confession: we’ve fallen into sin around here, and haven’t made our own hot sauce in a good while. We dodge the homemade when we know better. We know a thousand times better. And yet it happens. The jar ends up in the cart, and then in the fridge, and then in the back of the fridge, and eventually in the garbage.
What is appealing about the jar on the shelf? Why does our hand drift toward it? Perhaps we are enchanted by the evil hot sauce rooster.
Anyway, I just remedied the hot sauce omission. I made a chunky, fresh and not very hot sauce which brightens anything we slather it on, and I want to share the happiness.
Hot sauce is easy to make, yet it can be controversial. I actually hesitated to post this, because I didn’t want to step into the hot sauce minefield. People are passionate about their hot sauce, about what constitutes “real” hot sauce, and can be more than a little insistent that their way is the True Way of the Sauce.
For some people, it’s all about the heat, and the provenance of the peppers used. For others, the sauce must be made only of peppers, for others, it needs the earthy notes of onion and carrot and garlic and even tomatoes. For some it is fermented, for others, stewed, and for some, raw. For some, sugar is a necessity, for others, a blasphemy.
The basic technique I’m going to describe makes a simple sauce with nothing in it but peppers, vinegar and salt, and it is fermented to bring out the flavor. I don’t subscribe to any particular school of sauce, but this is the easiest sauce to make for my purposes.
The outcome of the recipe depends mostly on your choice of pepper, but also a bit on how much vinegar you put in it, and what type of vinegar, and whether you strain it or leave it chunky.
We used fresh red peppers labeled Anaheim peppers (kind of like a red New Mexico chile), which are mild, and also some dried California peppers, which are also mild, but a little smokey. These peppers make your tongue tingle–they don’t burn. Our sauce is more like a mild salsa–enjoyable on everything, by everyone. Later this summer if I get my hands on some good hot chiles, I’ll make a hot batch. Regardless of the heat, the technique is the same.
Hot sauce is improvisational and hard to mess up. I’d recommend not over-thinking it, but rather just throwing it together with whatever you have on hand, however it comes together. Trust me, it will be pretty good no matter what you do. It’s smart to take notes, though, so you replicate your successes.
(Root) Simple Hot Sauce
Makes about about 2 cups.
Takes up to a week to make, but only five or ten minutes of actual effort.
- About 1 lb of fresh chiles of any sort, or the same weight in re-hydrated dried chiles, or a mix of the two, stemmed and roughly chopped. (Rehydrate dried chiles by soaking them in hot water for 10 min.) Keep the seeds, unless you want to decrease the heat.
- 2 tablespoons of kosher salt or sea salt–salt without additives
- About 1 cup of vinegar. Many people use distilled white vinegar, because the flavor is not intrusive. Some people don’t trust white vinegar, thinking it far too industrial a product. I’d say just know your brand–they do vary. If you prefer to use another type of vinegar, just factor in how the flavor will effect the sauce.
Mix your chopped chiles with the salt in a covered jar or bowl and let it sit out at room temperature for about 12 hours to soften and ferment–being a ferment, it doesn’t have to be precisely 12 hours. Leave it out “a good while.”
Add the vinegar and blend:
Add your vinegar to the peppers and blend using a blender, food processor, stick blender or a mortar and pestle. Here’s where the art comes in!
Add the vinegar sparingly as you mix, watching for the texture you want and well as the flavor. (Flavor is a little hard to judge, though, because it has more developing to do.) There’s no right or wrong texture.
Remember, you can always add more vinegar later if the sauce needs to be thinner, or more vinegar-y.
I like thick hot sauce. Some people like it thin. If you like it very thin, you can strain out all of the solids after the second ferment.
Put the newly vinegar-ed sauce in very clean jar, put on loose lid on it, or rubberband some muslin over the mouth, and leave it to sit out for a few more days–and again, this timing is pretty flexible and will depend a lot on personal preference and ambient temperature. Two days is probably the minimum amount of time you should give it, and you could let it sit out for as long as a week.
(BTW, I used our fermenting jar for this project–as I do for all our ferments. )
Just taste it now and then, and when you like the way it tastes, stop the ferment by putting it in the fridge.
At this point you can also make all your last minute adjustments, such as adding more vinegar, or salt, or (gasp!) sugar, or blending the sauce more, or putting it in a strainer and taking out all of the solids.
Note that your sauce may separate after sitting for a while, because it doesn’t have stabilizers or thickeners added to it. This doesn’t mean it has spoiled. Just shake it before using.
Keep it in the fridge, and use it up within a couple of months.
One of the tricks popularized by Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread recipe is using a Dutch oven to bake the bread. The Dutch oven harnesses the moisture in the dough to create a steamy environment. This allows the dough to rise rather than toast immediately. Commercial bread ovens (and some high-end home ovens) have steam injection systems that serve the same purpose. A Dutch oven is a lot cheaper, of course.
The trick is to get a loose and wet dough into a 500ºF Dutch oven without either burning yourself or smacking the loaf against the side of the pot. Some people first transfer the dough to parchment paper and then transfer that to the Dutch oven, (See Eric of GardenforkTV explain this method). Two years ago I finally broke down and bought a Lodge Combo cooker:
To bake bread in it, you use it upside-down. The dough goes into the frying pan part and the pot goes on top. In order to get an evenly baked crust in our old oven I’ve got to turn the pot periodically in the last part of the bake. And that’s the problem. The handles make that difficult. It’s not a big deal (I can twist the loaf in the pot), but I’ve concluded that I would have been better off buying the Lodge casserole pot pictured at the top of this post since there’s no long handles.
Incidentally, trying to steam a home oven by spraying the inside with water or throwing in a wet towel does not work as well, in my opinion, since a lot of that moisture is lost out the vent.
We wanted to share this great comment by Mangofish left on one of our posts about prickly pear cactus:
Way back when I was just a lad, 40 years ago, My neighbor was a very old and almost completely blind Mexican. Good ol’ Sal Franco! In his younger days he lived wild and free, riding his horse in the deserts of Mexico. He actually briefly met Pancho Villa. He lived off the land, selling rattle snakes to earn some money, and ate what the desert provided. To eat the prickly pears he would gather a fist full of weeds to make a brush. Green weeds were the best since they held onto the tiny spines the best, but dried weeds worked OK but they allow the fine needles to blow in the wind. With the wind at your back dust the prickly pears with the weeds and knock off the needles. In bright sunlight you will see the needles glittering in the air as the wind carries them away, strong wind is preferred otherwise hold your breath so you don’t inhale the fine needles if the wind gently stirs around you. Once the needles are gone you can pluck the tunas off the cactus or use a pocket knife and slice the tunas open while they are still attached to the cactus and scoop out the inner fruit with your finger tips. I usually take them inside the house and enjoy them by slicing them in half and holding one end with a fork and with a spoon scoop out the flesh. But on a hot day working in the yard I’ll have a snack and using my pocket knife slice open the skin and access the juicy center while it is still attached to the cactus. I have 6 varieties now including the two which Sal originally gave to my dad. I can only wonder where Sal may have originally obtained those!
In episode 45, Kelly and Erik discuss whole grain baking, specifically a workshop the Los Angeles Bread Bakers put on featuring the very talented Dave Miller. The picture is of the bread Dave baked in the workshop. Clockwise from upper left: einkorn, sonora wheat, charcoal wheat and spelt/rye. Miller was featured prominently in Michael Pollan’s book Cooked. During the show we mention:
- Dave Miller (see this detailed profile by Farine)
- Josey Baker
- Mark Stambler
- Nan Kohler of Grist & Toll
- Lodge Combo Cooker
- Though it’s made with yeast and the dreaded white flour, this is the famous New York Times bread recipe that Kelly mentioned. Many people have been introduced to home baking and the no-knead technique via this recipe, and that is a very good thing.
If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.