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Fermentation February: Lacto-Fermented Hot Sauce

Fermentation February: Lacto-Fermented Hot Sauce

Ever since one of my favorite brunch restaurants in LA closed a few years ago (RIP Trois Familia), I have craved the incredible lacto-fermented, carrot hot sauce they made in-house. It was vinegar-y, sweet, tangy and had just the right amount of heat. Here’s our attempt at recreating that special sauce. But first -

WHAT IS LACTO-FERMENTATION?

Lacto-fermentation uses the bacteria already existent on the vegetables themselves as the catalyst for the fermentation - meaning you don’t need to add a starter culture to get things going. If you think about it, this makes a lot of sense - good bacteria are fed by the prebiotic fiber that exists naturally in fruits and vegetables, both outside and inside of your digestive system. 

Since we want to allow the good bacteria to thrive and inhibit the bad bacteria, we create a salty environment for the ferment. For hot sauce, we will use a water brine. Bad bacteria don’t love salt (think about salt-cured meats and fish), but good bacteria like lactobacillus are resistant to it. Creating a salt brine for your hot sauce fermentation will allow good bacteria to thrive, and will kill the bad stuff.

Without further ado, here’s our recipe for Lacto-fermented carrot hot sauce. Holler if you try it out, would love to hear how it turned out for you.

You Will Need:
  • salt

  • purified water

  • fresh chili peppers, with seeds and stems removed (we used habaneros)

  • sweet peppers, with seeds and stems removed

  • 2 carrots (keep the peel on)

  • 5 garlic cloves

  • 2 shallots

A note about the peppers: you’ll want 6-7 cups of sliced peppers total, but since we were using habaneros, we used about half and half, sweet (bell) to hot peppers.

How to make a saltwater brine:

Use about 1.25 teaspoons of salt per 1 cup of water to create your brine. Using warm water will help the salt dissolve faster and more fully. To fill our 2 quart glass jar, we used 5 cups of water and 6.25 tsp of salt.

Make the sauce:

Slice all ingredients and add them to the jar. Cover with cooled water brine. Push everything down so that it is fully submerged below the water line. You can use a fermentation weight or a cabbage leaf to hold it in place. Cover with an airtight lid and place on the counter in a cool, shady place for 3-5 days. The pressure will build up as the fermentation gets going, so don’t forget to “burp” the brew a few times during the process to allow excess CO2 to escape. 

When it is finished fermenting:

Strain out the ingredients, saving the water brine to the side. Place all ingredients into a blender and blend slowly, adding in brine until you achieve the desired consistency. Here’s where you can add some herbs (oregano, cilantro or celery leaves are great options), and spices (cumin, chipotle powder, smoked paprika could be fun to try). You might also want to add a few tablespoons of vinegar for extra tang or honey or sugar to make it a little sweeter. 

Let us know what you think!

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