I’ve always wondered about who makes money on all those hot sauce bottles arrayed in the condiment aisle of the supermarket. Especially when it’s easy to make homemade hot sauce.
Think about it: My local Raley’s carries several dozen varieties of hot sauce, and there are thousands of brands of hot sauce out there, ranging from the venerable Tabasco (one of the only hot sauces I still buy) to the ridiculous Dave’s Insanity Sauce, which is so hot it really ought to be a controlled substance. It’s simply a case of too much choice, and not enough difference in the sauces to matter.
I think one of the reasons there is so much hot sauce on the market is because it is so easy to make at home.
(If you’re looking for more of a challenge, I have a recipe for a fermented Tabasco-style hot sauce, too.)
I am imagining all these inspired home cooks in Texas or Florida or New Jersey who were happy making their own sauce, when someone said: “You oughta bottle that!” They do, hemorrhage money, then promptly go out of business a year or so later. Mercifully, I’ve never been tempted to sell my own hot sauce. But if I did, it’d be this one.
And since I am about to give you my recipe, I guess I won’t be making my fortune (or bankrupting myself) on “Hank’s Cray-zey Hawt Sauce” anytime soon. What makes my rendition of homemade sauce so special is the chile — I use wild chiles for this recipe.
Now before I go on, know that any chiles you want to use will work, fresh or dried. But my advice is to make your homemade hot sauce with a single type of chile at first, so you can really enjoy the nuances in that variety, whether it’s serranos, habaneros, poblanos, or any other type, even wild.
Yep. Wild chiles. They exist. Known mostly as chiltepin, pequin or bird’s eye chiles because, I suppose, they are small and round like a bird’s eye, these grow wild in much of Central America — and have the distinction of being the only chile peppers native to the United States. You can forage for them in southern Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, and they reportedly live in southern Florida as well.
I’ve known about chiltepins for years — I am a serious chile head — and I now finally grow them at home, so I have a stash now. You can buy them in Tucson, or in some Mexican markets, too. I’ve found fresh chile pequins in Mexican markets in Brownsville, Texas, for example. You can also buy chiltepin chiles through Gourmet Sleuth. Apparently when the harvest is on, locals drop what they’re doing to gather the little chiles because they bring such a high price — up to $30 a pound in some years.
You can also buy seeds online and grow your own, although the seeds are really hard to germinate; soaking them in chamomile tea for 2 days first will give you a better germination rate.
As for flavor, it’s smoky, hot and rich all at once. The closest store-bought equivalent I can come up with in flavor is Cholula hot sauce, which is another of my favorites. The chiltepin chiles whack you right up front, but then go away — it’s the opposite of a red jalapeno, whose heat can sneak up on you a few minutes later.
I use this hot sauce on pretty much everything: Eggs, Mexican food, cold chicken or pheasant, in tomato sauces, on clams… you get the point. Use it wherever you would use any normal hot sauce.
Homemade Hot Sauce
- 6 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/2 cup chiltepin chiles, or 2/3 cup Thai chiles
- 1 teaspoon smoked salt
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water
- Put everything except the xanthan gum (if using) into a blender and puree for 1-2 minutes. You really want everything blitzed here, so if your blender heats up too much in 2 minutes, stop, let it cool, and continue.
- Pour the xanthan gum that's been mixed with the water into the blender, cover and buzz for another 30 seconds.
- Pour into a bowl or large jar and let this settle for 1 hour to allow all the trapped air you introduced into the sauce while blending to escape. If you skip this step your sauce will not hold together as well. Bottle and store in the fridge for up to 9 months.