Making chilli sauces

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My January detox isn’t going toooooo badly, although the other day I spent much of the afternoon lusting after a packet of Salt ‘n Vinegar Pringles spied in the kitchen of the flat opposite my office – made it completely impossible to concentrate on ANYTHING. Damn you, Pringles. So with this detox thing, sugar is off limits. And even condiments such as chilli sauces and ketchup are full of it, so I need to avoid them. My husband N and I have a bit of a thing for chilli sauces. We get through a heck of a lot of the stuff and have about six bottles on the go at once – some are good for breakfasting with, others are suitable for any time of day. I’m a bit of nerd about them. But nothing compared to N, who, when I first met him, would consume the best part of a packet of Jacob’s Cream Crackers spread with hot Encona chili sauce as a favourite snack. Weird, I thought, but then I tried it…

Seeing as we get through so much hot sauce, our habit can get a bit expensive. I paid £5 for a bottle of ‘Holy Fuck’ Ribman chilli sauce recently, and it lasted barely a week.  So we decided to make our own. We’re kicking ourselves for not trying this out sooner. It’s really bloody easy to do, and you feel pretty smug afterwards knowing that you have a stash of the good stuff waiting for you during the weeks (or months, depending how slow you are at getting through it) to come.  Even for us chilli monsters, the cost of ingredients is very good value compared to buying tiny bottles of the stuff. We bought 1kg of Scotch Bonnet chillies (about £7) from our local Costcutter*

What beauties!

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We decided to make two kinds of chilli sauce. The first type is a more traditional method, where you simmer the ingredients, blend then bottle, and the second method involves fermenting a chilli mixture in brine, which you leave for about three months for the flavours to develop.

Recipe 1.

This makes a demon hot and really fruity chilli sauce you can eat right away. Amazing slathered on cheese, fried eggs, and just about everything you can think of. A really easy recipe.

500g fresh Scotch bonnet chillies

4 medium onions

6 large carrots

1 head of garlic

1 pint cider vinegar

The recipe makes enough for 5 – 6 large jam jars.

Get your food processor ready, with its largest, sharpest blade. Just remove the stalks from the chillies, skin and roughly chop the onions, skin the garlic cloves, peel and roughly chop the carrots and put all of it into the food processor. Pulse until you get very small chunks, but not quite a paste.

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Now open the windows in your kitchen, and seal off the door to prevent the mace-like effect of the chillies reaching all corners of your home. You may need to stand next to the window inhaling frequent gusts of fresh air while you cook the mixture. Don’t try and have a phone conversation for the next hour, you’ll just cough. Place mixture in a heavy bottomed saucepan, add the pint of cider vinegar and then enough water to make sure the chillies are just covered, then put the lid on. Sweat the mixture over a medium heat, then bring to a simmer and cook for two hours, until it’s all really soft. Stir intermittently to make sure nothing is catching on the bottom of the pan.

When cooked, put the mixture in a blender and liquidise it until it’s smooth. Then put the mixture back in the pan and bring back to a simmer for 20 minutes. Then while the mixture is still really hot, put it into sterilised jam jars. IMPORTANT: it’s mega important the jars are sterilised and that you store the sauce in the right way – you don’t want to get botulism from lethal bacteria! Get safety tips here on how to safely bottle and store your sauces here. Once this particular sauce is in its jar, I think it’s best to store it in the fridge, both before and after opening.  The flavour is kick-ass hot, tangy and very fruity, and it mellows beautifully as the days pass. We have eaten nearly a whole jar’s-worth in just three days – it’s totally addictive! The finished product – we call this one ‘Molten Lava’:

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Recipe 2: to make fermented chilli sauce:

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This is a very different kind of chilli sauce, where your chilli and veg mixture ferments over a period of months in brine, with the aid of some live bacteria (Lactobacillus, from an Acidophilus capsule). We are waiting three months to try ours – I’m told the flavour will be really incredible. Tabasco ferment their chilli sauces for three years, but we can’t wait that long! Apparently it’s really good for the digestion to eat lacto-fermented pickled vegetables…google it! Here are two flavours to make within the same batch – one with carrot and onion, and the other with some apple.

You will need:

2 x 3 litre glass jars (or smaller ones, to make up a total capacity of 6 litres)

For Jar 1:

250g fresh Scotch bonnet chillies
50g salt (use good quality Maldon or other sea salt) dissolved in a litre of still mineral water (don’t use tap water as the chlorine can affect the fermentation)
1 carrot
2 medium onions
3 medium apples
6 cloves garlic
1 acidophilus capsule

For Jar 2:
250g fresh Scotch bonnet chillies
50g salt (use good quality Maldon or other sea salt) dissolved in a litre of still mineral water (don’t use tap water as the chlorine can affect the fermentation)
3 carrots
3 medium onions
6 cloves garlic
1 acidophilus capsule

For each batch, the method is the same. Get your food processor ready. Remove the stalks from your Scotch bonnet peppers and throw them in whole, along with the peeled and chopped veg and fruit. Crack open your acidophilus capsule and sprinkle the powder over the veg, then blitz until everything is very finely chopped. Wash and clean your glass jars – you don’t need to sterilise them at this point, as the jars are just being used to ferment the chilli mixture. (When the chilli mixture is fermented, then you would bottle it in sterilised jars in several months’ time).

Put the blended veg/fruit mixture into your jars then top up with the litre of water you have dissolved the salt in – add as much water as it takes to make sure that the chilli mixture is just covered at the top. Place the lids on your jars – no need to vacuum seal as you need air to be able to escape. Put your jars in a warm, dark place and DO NOT OPEN for three months! Any air that gets in will ruin the fermentation process and let in oxygen and nasty bacteria that will destabilise the mixture.

I used these jars, ones that my Mum had in the 1970’s – they are a real British kitchen classic:

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I will post instructions regarding what to do once your chillies have fermented, once our sauces are ready…come back here in three months!

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*Not all Costcutters are equal, but our local one (Crystal Palace) has all kinds of amazing goodies – Iranian pastries, Bulgarian cheeses, Turkish honey, crazy pickles and surprisingly good fresh produce such as these jewel-red Scotch bonnets…

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