Not Just Another Hot Pepper Sauce.
Two words that get MY heart all a-twitter (small “t”).
There a whole lot of us out here for whom hot sauce is a way of life; many of us are always on the scout for the next great sauce. Me too.
Quick anecdote: I was taught most of my culinary skills at the elbow of an amazing Filipino chef named Martin Betonio at my family’s gourmet market on South Beach in Florida. He had previously been the executive chef at the legendary Fontainebleau Hotel on Collins Avenue in Miami Beach, and came to us after a dispute with hotel management. Marty was a lifelong aficionado of all things spicy, and rigorous in his mentorship. Marty taught me the principle of repeatable recipes–the ability to reproduce recipes exactly every time, so that flavors never vary.
Marty instilled in me the one single rule for making food spicy: “Any boob can make food spicy,” he always said. “It takes no talent to make food incomparably spicy. All you have to do is be able to pour. What takes talent is making very spicy food tase good.”
It has been one of the driving principles of my entire cooking career, and I DO like my food spicy.
And so, hot sauce.
I was asked my opinion of some of the sauces one finds in the grocery stores and specialty stores these days; it seems that there are more and more every week. I like some of them, I don’t like some, and some make no impression on me at all. But one conclusion I’ve come to is that it has become an arms race to make sauces hotter and hotter, flavor be damned.
Does the sauce make you sweat? Mission accomplished!
To that I say, FOOEY.
So I went about the challenge of making a sauce myself that was both scintillatingly hot AND memorably tasty.
I think I’ve got it.
And so can you. Make it yourself. This recipe has it all, and I promise you’ll remember it.
Jeff’s Kitchen hot sauce: Thalbasco!
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup water
1 cup diced carrots
½ cup diced onion
3-4 hot red cherry peppers, stemmed, seeded, veins removed
4-8 Tabasco peppers, pickled. (See Note*)
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Heat a heavy-bottom fry pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot add the oil and the carrots, onions, cherry peppers, and garlic, and sauté, stirring frequently, until the carrots are soft and the onions are translucent, 4-5 minutes. Be careful not to let the onions and garlic burn. Turn the heat off and allow to cool completely.
When completely cooled, place the carrot mixture in a blender along with the vinegar and Tabasco peppers, and blend on high speed until completely smooth, with no vegetable pieces.
Slowly drizzle the water into the sauce and continue blending until it is as thin and runny. The sauce should be just barely viscous or completely liquified, as you wish.
Pour the blended sauce, along with the salt and honey, into a heavy-bottom saucepan and bring to a slow simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While the sauce is simmering, prepare sauce bottles or jars and lids by washing with hot soapy water, rinse thoroughly, and place in a 215-degree oven. Bring a canning pot filled with water to a slow boil. In the last five minutes the sauce is simmering, place the bottles or jars and lids in the boiling water.
After 30 minutes, ladle the sauce into the bottles, ensuring that there are no bubbles, leaving ½-inch headspace. Wipe the bottle threads to remove any sauce and afix the lids, closing to finger tight. Place the bottles in the boiling water, with at least an inch of water over the lids, cover and process for 20 minutes. The sauce will keep unopened for 1 year, 6 months after opening.
Remove the bottles when finished and set on a towel or cooling rack for 24 hours without moving. If any of the bottles don’t seal ( look for the lids to be indented inward), refrigerate. They will keep refrigerated for 6 months ( but the sauce won’t last that long).
Alternately, if you don’t wish to can the sauce, refrigerate once they have reached room temperature. The refrigerated sauce will keep 6 months.
* I was given pickled Tabasco peppers by a neighbor who grew and pickled them himself. You can buy these peppers from online specialty sites or grow and picks them yourself. Most good garden centers sell the pepper plants in the spring, and pickling them is simple. Directions are on line. Don’t substitute other hot peppers; Tabasco peppers have a very specific flavor. If you can’t find or grow them, substitute original Tabasco sauce at the simmer stage, a teaspoonful at a time and tasting for heat. The sauce won’t be exactly the same, but close, and better than Tabasco Sauce alone. Flavor is everything.