Bottled hot sauce is good. Homemade hot sauce is better. But when you introduce fermentation to hot sauce (you know, the process that transforms cabbage into sauerkraut and fresh sausage into salami), you produce a hot sauce with complex umami flavors--a condiment worthy of your best grilling.
Which brings me to Chicago barbecue fanatic Lou Bank. I met Lou at a book signing for Man Made Meals (Workman, 2014) at the Old Crow Smokehouse near Wrigley Field. Lou was, er, ablaze with excitement about a new hot sauce he recently concocted that owes its intense complex flavor to fermentation of the pureed chiles.
So I asked Lou to share his wisdom on home-fermented hot sauces with us.
"If you like heat, keeping a variety of store-bought hot sauces on hand is probably enough for you. But if you love heat--if that burst of sweat on your head brings a grimace of pleasure to your face--then you won't be satisfied until you make your own. And there's no satisfaction as great as fermenting your own hot sauce.
When you ferment a hot sauce, you're basically converting the sugars of the chiles into alcohol, which then converts into acetic acid--vinegar. Like Gene Wilder in the movie Young Frankenstein, you'll scream, 'It's alive! It's alive! It's alive!' when you witness the first sign of bubbles in your blazing brew. And when you taste it, you'll be amazed by the depth of flavor--unlike anything you can purchase commercially.
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Steven Raichlen is the author of the Barbecue! Bible cookbook series and the host of Primal Grill on PBS. His web site is BarbecueBible.com.