Homemade Hot Sauce
Here is an excellent recipe for a homemade hot sauce. This one is made with dried red chillies, sugar, salt, garlic and lime juice, and nothing else besides water. There you have a blood red, spicy homemade hot sauce that tastes so good it will ruin your palate for everything else.
There are so many hot sauces on the market you might wonder why you would ever bother making your own. The problem is most of them are filled with rubbish. They are often filled with preservatives, over sugared, or are adulterated with a dose of MSG (many brands of Sriracha sauce are guilty of this).
The best thing about homemade hot sauce is how fresh it tastes, something factory made ones find difficult to achieve. You can really taste the chilli pepper, so the flavour is much more complex than simply fierce heat. It is fun to play around with different varieties of chillies as well. Every variety of chilli has a unique taste and smell, so it is interesting to see the different results they produce. The other great thing about making your own hot sauce is that you can decide exactly what goes into it. You can decide exactly how hot, sweet, sour or garlicky you want it to be.
There are, however, a few hot sauces that are worth buying and deserve some respect for generally making our lives better. Tabasco is of course the most famous of all. This pungent hot sauce has been made by the firm of McIlhenny since 1868. I had no idea how much effort goes into making it, and how long the whole process takes. The first stage takes three years, where they ferment the Tabasco chillies with salt in tightly sealed oak barrels.
Another Louisiana classic hot sauce is Crystal, made in New Orleans since 1923. Even though Crystal is not so well known in Britain it is sold all over the world. It is made in a similar fashion to Tabasco but tastes quite different. I still find it astonishing that both of these sauces contain only three ingredients – chillies, salt and water. As for Sriracha sauce, the brand to look our for is Shark, a brand widely used in Thailand, which also contains no preservatives or MSG.
The fundamental difference between this homemade hot sauce and the ones mentioned above is that the chillies are not fermented. Fermented hot sauce is a project for another time. This homemade hot sauce is, however, incredibly easy to make and provides instant gratification if you are impatient like me.
I like to eat this hot sauce with crispy fried chicken wings (served with ice cold beer). It also makes a good accompaniment to Hainanese chicken rice, here you can add some ginger, as well as a few drops of sesame oil which takes it to another realm. The wonder of chilli sauce is that it has the ability to liven up bland food instantly so you can use it in almost anything.
Homemade Hot Sauce
30g dried red chillies (I used a mixture of dried Indian chillies with a few dried Thai chillies)
50g castor sugar
juice of 2 limes
1 medium clove garlic, peeled
Put the chillies, sugar and salt in a small saucepan and add 500ml cold water. Bring the water to a boil and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, cover with a lid, and leave the chillies to cook for 30 – 45 minutes.
When the chillies are very soft take the pan off the heat and transfer the contents of the pan to a blender, or a tall container if you are using a hand blender. Add the garlic and lime juice and blend until it is extremely smooth.
Now is the time to taste it to check if it needs more more salt, sugar or lime juice. It can be difficult to judge this when it is hot (temperature wise) as well as extremely spicy. You may want to taste it again when it has cooled down.
When this hot sauce is freshly blended you will think you have made something inedible, as it is violently hot at first. However, it settles down after a few hours. When you are happy with the results you can bottle it. I keep mine in the refrigerator and it lasts a good few weeks.