siling labuyo for hot sauce

Simple Fermented Hot Sauce

If you’re a fan of spicy food, one of the easiest ferments to make is fermented hot sauce. I’ve shared this technique with many people during the lockdown, and it makes me happy to see them making their own hot sauces regularly since learning it.

I myself have not bought hot sauce since I started making my own in 2018. Back then a friend had a large harvest of scotch bonnet peppers and dropped off around two kilos’ worth for me! The variety has a heat rating of as much as 350,000 Scoville heat units (SHU), compared to jalapeño, which is at 10,000 in the Scoville scale, and our own siling labuyo, which has a heat rating of 80,000 to 100,000 SHU. Bell peppers have zero SHU.

The farmers in Bauko municipality in Mt. Province call this “diablo,” meaning devil, because of how hot it is.

There was no way I could consume all those chilies before they go bad, so I decided to learn how to ferment them and turn them into hot sauce. It may not be obvious, but chili peppers are actually rich in the sugars that the lactic acid bacteria love to feed on. This makes fermenting chili peppers easy to make.  Since then I have made hot sauce out of the many varieties of chili peppers I encounter in my CSA farmshare. In this recipe, we will use a blend of diablo and Taiwan chili varieties grown by organic farmers in Bauko, Mt. Province.

Diablo tree of Auntie Agnes, one of the organic farmers in Bauko

Another way to make your own hot sauce uses vinegar, but I find the idea of aging hot sauce using fermentation appealing on top of the depth of flavor and complexity that fermentation brings versus the one-note sharpness of vinegar.

Hot Sauce Hot Tips
  • Use fresh pepper rather than dried pepper. If you’re using the latter, it’s always good to add a few fresh ones, which have more beneficial microbes. 
  • It’s better to use peppers that are naturally grown without the use pesticides. 
  • You can use this recipe as a basic guide for any kind of chili pepper. Don’t be afraid to mix different kinds of chili peppers. 
  • Keep things submerged and airtight. Those sugars in the peppers also mean potential yeast formation. 
  • Lend a helping hand by adding leftover brine from your other ferments such as the liquid from Fermented French beans, burong mustasa, or burong ampalaya.
  • Make sure to wear gloves when making hot sauce, and avoid touching your eyes, face, and mouth with your hands. 
  • Once the brine and chili peppers taste acidic, your fermented peppers are ready. 
You can make the consistency of your hot sauce as thin or thick as you want
Yeast in your ferment?

Yeast formation is fairly common when fermenting peppers because of the high sugar content and it forms at the surface where there is oxygen exposure.  So don’t be discouraged or afraid.

If and when you see a thin white opaque layer on top of your ferment, this is usually Kahm yeast. While it is fairly harmless it can give your ferment off flavors, so it’s best to remove it at the first sign.

Be also on the lookout for growth that is black, gray, green, orange, or blue in color. This means that your ferment has been contaminated with actual mold and you must throw out the batch into your compost for safety.  

Ingredients
  • 250 grams of preferred chili pepper
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp salt
For this hot sauce, we used local peppers from Bauko, Mt. Province, that the farmers call diablo and Taiwan chili
Directions

1. Give your peppers a good rinse and remove the stems.

2. In a jar, add water and salt and stir until the salt has dissolved. 

3. If you’re adding brine from a previous ferment, this is the time to mix that in. Stir well.

4. Add your peppers and keep them submerged using a fermentation weight or a clean jar that fits inside your vessel. Seal with a lid. 

5. Leave your ferment on the kitchen counter over the next several days. Burp and stir once a day with a clean spoon or chopstick. 

6. Taste after several days. When it tastes acidic, the peppers have already fermented.  

7. In a blender, transfer the peppers and some of the brine and blitz until smooth. The amount of brine determines the consistency of your hot sauce. Use less if you want it thick, and more if you want it thin. 

Sake bottle reused as hot sauce bottle

8. Store in a bottle, and let your fermented hot sauce age in the fridge. 

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