I’m not sure when or where I first discovered Sriracha sauce. It is likely I picked up a bottle at one of the local Asian markets, gave it a try, and liked it. For my tastes, what’s not to like? It’s hot, mildly sweet and garlicky, with a consistency of a thin ketchup, and good on so many things. Until recently, I always thought the Huy Fong Foods brand of Sriracha was imported. Perhaps it was the multi-language label that threw me off, but if I had looked at it a little closer I would have seen that it is actually made in the U.SA. And I guess you could call it a real American success story.
When David Tran left his native Vietnam in 1980 and headed to America on a freighter named the Huy Fong, he settled in the Los Angeles area. Once there, he started making some of his own hot sauces he had first bottled and sold in Vietnam. He decorated each bottle with his astrological sign, a rooster. Since then, his Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce (pronounced SEE-rah-chah) has become quite popular in this country, with over 10 million of the green-capped bottles being produced every year. Mr. Tran had initially hoped he could sell his sauces to other Vietnamese immigrants, but little did he know that his sauces would wind up a favorite of chefs and cooks of all ethnic backgrounds.
I recently picked up a big 17 ounce bottle of his Sriracha for under $3 at my favorite local Asian market. That’s pretty reasonable, so there’s no real reason to make it yourself just to save money. But like a lot of other things, I just wanted to see if I could make a similar sauce myself, using our own hot peppers, and skipping any preservatives. I found several recipes for Sriracha type sauces, but most are a variation on this one, which is what I followed.
Regular readers will know that I made a Basic Fermented Hot Sauce last week. That recipe lays the groundwork for this one, which is a little less basic and also includes garlic and sugar. I used palm sugar, which is available in most Asian markets, but you can use brown or white sugar just as easily. Most palm sugar isn’t quite as sweet as cane sugar, so it might take a bit more if that’s what you use. You can chop up the palm sugar with a knife, or even use a grater.
Huy Fong Foods uses only red ripe jalapenos for their hot sauces. I used a mix of ripe serrano, jalapeno and cayenne for my version, because that’s what I had ready in the garden, but any red ripe hot peppers can be used. The peppers get fermented for only four days, but that’s long enough to improve the flavor a bit. You might see some bubbling activity as the peppers ferment, but if you don’t see it, that’s o.k.
This sauce also gets briefly cooked after it has fermented, and then pureed in a blender. I chose to use an immersion blender, because its stainless steel parts would not absorb any of the hot flavor like a plastic blender jar might. This will make around 6 ounces of finished hot sauce. Refrigerated, it should keep for about a month.
12 oz red ripe hot peppers
2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced (I used a garlic press)
1-1/4 tsp salt
1 to 2 tbsp palm sugar (or 1 tbsp brown sugar)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar or cider vinegar
water, as needed
1. Wash peppers thoroughly and let drain. Remove stem from peppers, leaving the green ‘cap’. Coarsely chop.
2. Combine peppers, garlic, salt and sugar in food processor. Process until peppers are finely chopped into very small pieces.
3. Spoon pepper mixture into clean glass jar with tight fitting lid. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 4 days.
4. Put pepper mixture and vinegar in small saucepan. Bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
5. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Transfer to a blender and puree for about 3 minute, until a smooth, orange-red mixture forms. Add small amount of water if necessary to puree. Alternately, an immersion blender may be used.
6. Set a fine-mesh strainer or sieve over a mixing bowl. With a spoon, press the cooled pepper mixture into the sides of the strainer to extract the juice and as much of the pulp as possible.
7. Taste, and adjust flavor by adding more sugar, salt or vinegar as needed.
8. Transfer contents to small, clean glass jar or bottle and refrigerate.
Servings: 36 (serving size 1 tsp)
Nutrition (per serving): 6 calories, <1 calories from fat, <1g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 81.8mg sodium, 34.1mg potassium, 1.4g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, <1g sugar, <1g protein, 2.1mg calcium, 0g saturated fat.
I hope you all have enjoyed my adventures in making homemade hot sauces. I will continue to experiment with other recipes and peppers, and I will share the results if I come up with anything worth sharing.