To call Leda Scheintaub‘s new cookbook—Cultured Foods for Your Kitchen—inspiring is something of an understatement. I only opened it a week or so ago and already have a batch of kombucha brewing, a jar of buttermilk good to go, yogurt in a low oven, and some Live and Kickin’ Hot Sauce happening. Who knew I was such a fan of fermenting?!
I know cultured foods have been all the rage in recent years. I read. I eat. But still, except for a few batches of pickled vegetables every summer, I pretty much let this wave roll right by me. Until now. Somehow, these beautiful photos and uncomplicated recipes for all manner of food reeled me right in. I’m hooked. No special equipment required. No fancy ingredients. This hot sauce calls for just four items (and you can use pickle juice from your own batch if you’ve pickled this summer). The hardest part might be waiting for the fermentation process to work its magic. I don’t plan to use the kombucha and the hot sauce together, but I really want them both to be done NOW.
Vermont-based cookbook author and fermentation guru Leda Scheintaub adds “a note of caution” to this recipe.
“This sauce starts kickin’ from the moment the chiles start moving in the food processor,” she says. “To keep it contained, cover the machine with a towel as you process and avoid taking a big inhale of the fiery fumes as you open the container. And the first couple of times you reach for the bottle, open it slowly and refrain from shaking it, as it’s super-alive and can bubble over. If dairy is part of your diet, you could use whey instead of the pickle juice for your starter. Experiment with the type of chiles, from jalapeño to habanero, or mix and match chiles to make a signature hot sauce blend.”
- 1½ pounds (680 grams) your choice of chiles, stemmed but retaining green tops, seeded if you like a milder hot sauce
- 1½ tablespoons unrefined cane sugar (optional)
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons pickle juice or sauerkraut brine
- In a food processor, combine the chiles, sugar, if using, salt, and pickle juice and process until completely broken down, scraping the sides of the machine once or twice as needed. Transfer to a 1-quart (1-liter) glass jar, leaving at least 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) of space remaining at the top. Cover tightly with a lid or airlock, place the jar on a rimmed plate (a glass pie plate works nicely) to catch any potential leakage or bubbling over when you open the lid, cover with a clean dish towel, and set aside in a cool place away from sunlight to ferment for 3 to 7 days, depending on the season and kitchen temperature, until bubbly and fermented to your liking.
- As the sauce is fermenting, open the jar every day, holding the jar over the sink as you do so to release pent-up gases. When the hot sauce is ready, strain it through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, pressing on the solids with the back of a spoon to extract all the juices. Funnel the sauce into a bottle, cover, and place in the refrigerator, where it will keep for about a year.
VARIATIONS: Live and Kickin' Garlic Hot Sauce: Add 2 or 3 garlic cloves as you process the chiles.