Homemade hot sauce keeps for months – and you can control the heat.
Everyone has their own idea of what makes a great hot sauce. Some like a mild tang, while others prefer a burn-your-face-off HOT that leaves your tongue stinging well after the last bite. The best part about making your own hot sauce is that you control the fire content!
Selecting Your Peppers
What makes a hot sauce, well…hot, is the type of pepper you use. Most sauces start with a tomato base and add fresh or roasted peppers to taste. So, what kind of peppers are best? That depends on how fiery you want your sauce to be.
A pepper’s hotness is measured by Scoville heat units, named after an early 20th century chemist Wilbur Scoville. He developed a scale to determine how hot a chili pepper is.
For example, a regular green bell pepper measures “zero” units, while the Naga Jolokia, or “Ghost Pepper” tips the fire scale at more than 1 million units… very hot! Common chilies fall in between. The Jalapeno ranks between 2,500 and 8,000 units on the Scoville scale, the Serrano between 8 and 22 thousand units, and the Orange Habanero burns between 150 and 325 thousand units. There are many different kinds of peppers to choose from, but where you live can determine what’s readily available in the market. You may want to play around with the strengths, or combine different peppers to come up with the heat and flavor you want.
Once you have your peppers selected, choose the other ingredients for your hot sauce. For the base, you can use fresh or canned diced tomatoes. If using canned, try to get the best quality tomatoes possible and make sure there are no additional ingredients. You will also need some distilled white vinegar and some salt.
These are the basics, but you can also add lime or other citrus juice, fresh garlic, onions, carrots or herbs such as cumin, mustard powder, oregano or anything else you can think of…this is your sauce! In fact, you can ditch the tomatoes all together and simply use the peppers if you like.
Preparing the Peppers
Before you get to cooking, you’ll need to prep your peppers. For this, you absolutely want to wear protective latex gloves. The oils on chilies are what makes them sting. You don’t want to get those oils on your hands and then mistakenly touch your eyes or nose!
Everybody has their own method of preparing peppers. Some people like to roast them in the oven, some like to cook them whole, and still others like to slice them open to remove the stem and the seeds before cooking. Each method produces a different flavor. Experiment and have fun!
A Basic Recipe
For a basic hot sauce recipe, put two cups of diced tomatoes in a saucepan. Add one cup of vinegar and a cup of chili peppers. Add the rest of your ingredients and cook over high heat for two or three minutes. After three minutes, turn the heat down and let the mixture simmer for 20 minutes. Turn the heat off and cool it down. Once it’s cool enough to taste, pour the sauce into a food processor and blend until smooth. You can also use a hand blender for this process if you have one.
That’s all there is to it! To allow the flavors time to blend, you may want to let the hot sauce sit in the fridge for a few days before using. Enjoy!