10/14/2010 09:49 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Make Your Own Hot Pepper Sauce

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Chile peppers are in season and there are a scores of hot peppers on the market. There are also gazillions of hot pepper sauces on the market. The problem I have with most of the bottled sauces is that they all about the heat. Well I'm all about the flavor. So here's my recipe for a fiery sauce with multiple dimensions, complexity, and depth of flavor. It will not overwhelm the food or the wimpy Meathead because sauce too hot makes me cry like a Cubs fan.

I know you have your favorite commercial bottled hot sauce, but I have long believed that once you reach a certain age, you should have a handful of signature recipes that you can proudly call your own. Among them are a house barbecue sauce from scratch, a Bloody Mary recipe, and a hot pepper sauce. You serve them, and when, inevitably, you are asked for the recipe, you can just smile wryly and say quietly "It's my secret and it will go to the grave with me". Then you can give them a bottle as a very personal gift. Alternatively you can use the recipe as a bargaining chip.


I call this my "Controlled Burn Hot Sauce" because it has a serious kick, but it also has strong pepper flavor, it is very complex, and it works well as an ingredient in barbecue sauces or other dishes. Use it in chili recipes. Drizzle it on eggs, clams and oysters, burgers, fajitas, burritos, pizza, hot dogs, burgers, in baked beans, or anything Cajun or Creole, and a lot of Chinese and Mexican dishes. Mix it 1:1 with fresh chopped tomato and a little cilantro for a killer salsa. Mix it 1:1 with catsup to make a killer shrimp cocktail sauce. Add Worcestershire, soy, oil, and honey for a smokin' wing sauce. As you can see, it is chunky, but it can easily be run through a strainer to make a pucketa pucketa sauce. You get the picture. It is a building block.

For another great source of heat, check my recipe for Harissa Hot Pepper Paste. It is easy to make and I use it on more and more foods all the time. For more info about hot stuff, read my article on the Zen of Chiles. For more hot sauce recipes and ideas, check out the website Pepperfool.

Controlled Burn Hot Sauce Recipe

Makes. About 1 quart, enough to give some away as gifts

Preparation time. 1 hour

Cooking time. 40 minutes

1 pound of pepper blend (see below)
1/3 cup sweet Kansas City style barbecue sauce
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup triple sec (orange liqueur)

4 medium cloves of garlic
1 small onion
1 (4 ounce) can chipotle in adobo sauce
1 tablespoon freshly peeled and grated ginger
1/2 tablespoon of black pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt (no iodized salt)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 cup pineapple juice
juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Red Pepper Blend
1/2 pound fresh sweet red bell peppers (about 1 large one)
1/4 pound fresh habanero or Scotch bonnet peppers (100,000 - 350,000 Scoville Heat Units)
1/4 pound fresh red jalapeno (5,000 - 10,000 SHU)
1/4 pound fresh red serrano peppers (about 25,000 SHU) or cayenne peppers (30,000 - 50,000 SHU)

Green Pepper Blend
Coming soon...

2010-10-13-red_peppers.jpgAbout the pepper blend. The recipe calls for 1 pound of pepper blend, but the raw components weigh more than 1 pound. After you remove the seeds and stems, you should have about 1 pound remaining.

Stylin'. I encourage you to stick close to my recipe at first, and then riff on it. Make it your own to suit your taste. If you want afterburner heat, increase the habaneros content. Sweeter? More pineapple juice. More garlic? Go for it. Try adding lemon juice, orange juice, orange marmalade, mango, papaya, pineapple, molasses, honey, Worchestershire, tequila, roasted carrot, tomatillo, cumin, cilantro, or curry powder. Try grilling the peppers, garlic, and onion. Switch the triple sec to Grand Marnier, or Bourbon.

About the vinegar. You can use cider vinegar, malt vinegar, sherry vinegar, rice vinegar, or balsamic vinegar, but they will each give a much different flavor. I like the neutral flavor of distilled vinegar because it lets the peppers shine. The vinegar is needed to extract flavor and act as a preservative.

Do this
1) Put on rubber gloves. Don't attempt this without them. You might even want to wear safety glasses. Habaneros are no foolin', mister. That's pepper spray. Start by cutting off the stems of the peppers. Slice the peppers in half lengthwise. Pull out the seeds, but leave in the white veins. Cut out any soft or rotted sections. Rinse them inside and out, and chop them into chunks about 1/2" each. Put them into a food processor with the barbecue sauce. Turn it on and let 'er rip for 2 to 4 minutes until it is pureed and slushy. Dump into a 2 quart non-reactive pot. Add the two vinegars and triple sec.

2) Peel and chop the garlic and onion into pea-size chunks. Put the garlic, onion, chipotle in adobo, grated ginger, black pepper, salt, oregano, mustard powder, pineapple juice, lime juice, liquid smoke, and vanilla extract into the food processor, puree, and add to the pot. Stir.

3) The next step is cooking, and I do it outside. This pot puts out some strong, but not objectionable, vapors. But surely someone will complain. So use your grill, or your grill's sideburner. Bring to a boil, then dial back to a simmer and let it burble with the cover on for about 30 minutes.

4) Put in a clean tight lidded bottle and store in a cool dark place. To preserve its fresh brightness, store in a refrigerator. If you prefer, after aging it for a week or more, you can run it through a fine mesh strainer and bottle it without the chunks, like a commercial hot sauce.

All text and photos are Copyright (c) 2010 By Meathead, and all rights are reserved