Strange brew: Homemade Sriracha style Hot Sauce

Homemade Sriracha? It’s a thing? It’s worth it? The answer to both your questions is yes! I know, you can make Sriracha at home? It boggles the mind and fills you with joy, right?

One of my absolutely favorite things in this world is Sriracha hot sauce, a popular Asian style hot sauce. I go through the stuff like most people go through ketchup. It’s just so good. The simple mix of red Jalapeño chilies, garlic and a dash of vinegar and sugar makes it perfect for just about anything from your morning eggs to your late night marshmallow cravings (no, seriously, don’t do that, don’t mix marshmallows and Sriracha!), I hear there’s even Sriracha lollipops – seriously, it goes with anything!

With the standard recipe apparently being so seemingly simple, I’ve often been wondering what gives it its distinctive twang and thanks to Chef John over at foodwishes.com, I now know. Sriracha gets it distinct funky twang from fermentation! Which is a fancy word for the seemingly illogic process of blending fruits, adding sugar and letting it stand for a few days, allowing various bacteria from near and far to move in and have a bit of a party in the liquid. Yeah, doesn’t sound like too good of an idea, I’ll admit, but it does sound like a fun experiment!

So when Foodwishes.com posted an original video recipe for home-made Sriracha, I was all ears and decided to play along. Since I’m not too good at providing recipes myself, you can find the original recipe here, should you be attempted to play along at home!

Now, the original recipe calls for red (ripe) jalapeño chilies, also called Fresno chilies, and I just so happen to have been growing my own jalapeños this year, meaning I had plenty laying around. It also calls for a good deal of substantially hotter Serrano chilies which I didn’t have any of laying around. I did have something better, though! Thanks to my poker buddy Sune, I did have a fair supply of these little bad boys laying around:

Bhut Jolokia ChiliesBhut Jolokia, aka Ghost Chili. At one time the world’s hottest chili pepper. In my mind now the hottest chili pepper actually usable in cooking.

Yes, those are Bhut Jolokia chilies, also known as Ghost Chilies, at one point in time considered the world’s hottest chili pepper. Sune had been growing them himself and had been kind enough to drop by with a few, thinking I could probably make good use of them – or at the very least die trying (I kid, they’re not actually THAT hot!). I’d been scratching my head for a while, thinking of what to do with them and a hot sauce seemed as good an idea as any!

Homemade Sriracha: the process

To get started, I gathered up a few of the bad boys along with whatever red jalapeños I had, added a few other red chilies I happened to have laying around and got started.

Chilies for homemade SrirachaA mix of red jalapeños, ghost chilies and various hot little buggers, ready to be chopped up.

The recipe calls for the red chilies to be chopped up, seeds and all, and blended with a bit of water, some salt, brown sugar and a few cloves of garlic – and by a few, I really mean a lot, as I love garlic as much as the next guy! Again, you can find the basic recipe and measurements here, but I’m a really big fan of measurements being to taste, so I kind of just eyeballed and guesstimated things. You can remove the seeds and seed membranes from the mix if you so desire, but that’d kinda defy the purpose of a hot sauce. In other words: most of the heat is in the see membranes! Whatever you do, you’ll wanna start by pulsing things in the blender, then slowly upping the speed and blending it into a very, very smooth paste.

And you’ll wanna be careful, this isn’t the kinda stuff you’ll want flying all over the place and/or into your face. And if, like me, you’re a certified idiot and want to use really hot chilies, you’ll also not wanna breathe in too heavily or too frequently over the blender. Lest you really want to be sneezing a lot. Once everything is thoroughly pureed, move it to a glass, bowl or non-reactive container of some sort and prepare for things to get funky. What you have now is basically a mash, that is: blended fruit with sugar added.

The object of the game now is to cover your mash up and leave it relatively undisturbed in a cool place for at least three days, possibly longer. The point of the coverup is not so much to keep air out as it is to keep dust, dirt, or (presumably suicidal) critters out. In other words: don’t worry about air getting in – or bacteria for that matter, they’ll get wiped out by the fermentation process! Next step is to leave the mash standing for 3 days or so, stirring it thoroughly with a clean spoon every day. Foodwishes adds a word of warning to do this outside of the house if at all possible owing to the somewhat distinct aroma developing during the process. Having had some of the world’s hottest peppers fermenting away at home for just over three days, I can only agree – I used my downstairs hallway.

Fermenting Homemade SrirachaThe blended chili mash after three days. This one is in the fermentation state as visible by the bubbles popping up all over the place.

Anyways, when the mash is ready – and you’ll know easily as a ready mash will be bubbling away happily with small bubbles rising to the surface every few seconds or so – it’s time to move on to the last step of preparation. If after three days your mash is not there yet, leave it for another day or so, and it should be. It may take 4-5 days depending on the environment, but you’ll know when you’re there..

Homemade Sriracha: Final steps

Once the mash is ready, it’s time to kill the fermentation process and finish up the hot sauce. This is done by adding distilled vinegar to the party and giving everything another thorough mixing in a blender. Again, measurements are here, but I went down the “to taste” road again. I also used apple cider vinegar instead of regular distilled vinegar; partially because I was fresh out of distilled vinegar after my pickling experiments, partially because I like apple cider vinegar a lot. Once the vinegar is added, it’s time to strain.

Straining Homemade Sriracha mashStraining the mash into a sauce pan, discarding all seeds and weird little bits.

I poured everything through a fine meshed strainer into a suitable pot, making sure to push everything through thoroughly, leaving only the seeds and bits of skin behind in the strainer, then fired up the heat under the pot, bringing it to a boil over medium heat. A few things will happen in this process:

  1. The fermentation will most certainly come to a halt and any bacteria or other bad stuff that may have been left behind will most certainly be wiped out.
  2. It will take the raw punch off the chilies and the garlic
  3. It will, eventually, reduce the liquid, turning it from a watery liquid more into the constancy of sriracha.

Now is a good time to remember that you’re the boss of your hot sauce: If you prefer really runny (tabasco-like) sauce, you can turn down the heat and only let it bil for a few minutes, if you want a really, really thick mess, you can probably add corn starch or other such things to the mix. If it’s too hot, you can add more sugar or honey to the mix, if it’s not hot enough you can get creative with whatever powders or whatever you have at hand.

Either way, that’s it. If you’ve been playing along, you’re done, congratulations: you’ve made hot sauce! And yeah, I know, it sounds reasonably complicated, possibly even a little frightening, what with the fermentation part of the equation and all, but trust me, it’s really easy and kind of fun.

Homemade Sriracha Final StepsAdding vinegar and bringing the mix to a boil, reducing it to desired consistency. Once again, I want a gas mask for christmas!

I personally kept my sauce on the runny side and, having used four small ghost chilies, it was plenty hot enough, thank you very much. But not too unpleasantly crazy hot either. Sort of like the Sriracha we know and love with a pleasant afterburner kinda kick to it. I bottled it up on this little mason jar, I had laying around, but pretty much anything can be used, a squirt bottle probably would’ve been more clever, but what can I do?

Homemade SrirachaHomemade Sriracha-style hot sauce – done!

Applications? There are millions! I’m personally looking forward to my Saturday morning eggs, Asian/thai dishes would be another great call, potatoes, pizza, oatmeal (again, seriously, don’t!), stews, pasta.. The sky’s the limit!

What’s your favorite hot sauce application?

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