Last year I grew a big batch of Cayenne peppers, thinking I would dry most of them. I did dry a bunch, but I had enough left over that I thought I’d try making a pepper sauce out of them. I found this recipe and really liked it because it was both simple and easy to extend/modify.
Well, last year’s pepper sauce didn’t last very long, so this year I decided not to dry my extra peppers, but to make sauce from any peppers I wasn’t going to use right away.
Here on the table you’ll see a variety of peppers harvested from the garden and (for a few) picked up at the local farmer’s market. There are Poblano’s in the lower right, Pimiento de Padron’s (center) that have gotten too big to fry up, in both red and green colors. There are a few Corno di Italia Italian sweet peppers (lower left), and some Anaheim’s both from the garden and from the market. And of course, there are the stars of the show: Carolina Cayenne peppers (that big pile of red peppers near the center of the picture). Go here if you want to get more information on different pepper varieties.
The first step was to remove the tops from the peppers and chop them up into smaller pieces. I didn’t worry too much about removing the ribs or seeds (where most of the heat resides) because
- I like the heat
- it’s a labor-intensive job
- they all get strained out at the end
Once that was done, I loaded them into a saucepan. You’ll see I also added some tomatoes from the garden, since I was already concerned that I had a lot more of the hot peppers vs. mild peppers in the mix.
At this point (departing from the order in the recipe I quoted above), I added the white vinegar to the pan and let the mixture come to a low boil. Then I added the kosher salt. This mixture then simmered for about 20 minutes. At some point I tasted the mixture and decided it was still too spicy. So I tossed in some carrots (a garden first this year!) to add a little sweetness. Here's everything simmering nicely. Be sure to use your vent fan when cooking the peppers, unless you like searing your lungs with hot pepper vapors.
Once the mixture had simmered and then cooled, I blended it in batches. When I had the whole mixture blended, I started the process of straining the mixture through a sieve. This is where all the bits of any size get strained out. You can see from the picture that the mixture is thick enough that it wouldn't just run through the sieve by itself. So this is a thicker sauce than a red pepper sauce like Tabasco.
I then took a wooden spoon and carefully scraped down the sides of the sieve, pushing the contents through into the bowl underneath and capturing the solids. I knew I was done when I felt like I was pushing around a golf ball-sized hunk of seeds and skins.
At this point I would normally check the sauce for consistency and adjust, but I liked the consistency just as it was. If I had wanted it thinner I could have added some more vinegar. Last year, to thicken the sauce, I simmered a sweet potato in the vinegar and blended up some of that to give the sauce more body. That also helped curb some of the sauce's spiciness.
As you can see that saucepan of peppers yielded about a quart and a little more of pepper sauce. Happily, I was able to give some of the sauce to my favorite pepper lovers and still have some for myself. The other cool thing is that I discovered that the remaining vinegar used to cook the peppers had plenty of flavor. So I strained all the seeds and solids out of that and bottled it, like Tabasco.
In fact, an easy thing to do is to just pop a couple of peppers into a bottle of vinegar, with a little salt and maybe a garlic clove. It will infuse the vinegar with pepper flavor and you’ll have a great accompaniment for your next batch of sautéed greens. So go out and grow some peppers, so you can try your hand at making some killer pepper sauce!