I have always loved Sriracha brand hot sauce, its a staple in any respectable international city’s cuisine. I live near Houston and, for a season, worked in Houston’s corporate scene among Fortune 100 companies for 20 years. I’ve been introduced to many international foods. Some foods and ethnic cuisines have been introduced to me by friends cooking their mother’s recipe; some by taking me to “their part of town,” where I was the minority and needed an interpreter. Halal meat markets with Qur’an verses on the wall were not out of the question (spicy!), and my favorite was always the “special lunch,” a slice of Barbecue pig at the Asian lunch cart in a downtown Asian grocery store. Vietnamese side catch (read “trash fish”) specials have proven tasty, and a two-table Thai restaurant where the mama cooks out of a portable shack have all been on my lunch plan. Houston is truly among the more international and varied cities in the world when it comes to a melting pot of cultures. I even had homemade Moroccan Blood Sausage at one place and had Iraqi dates given to me three days off the palm in Fallujah. This means there are folks from everywhere here, and that means good food everywhere. Including the ever-present, green capped, rooster-emblazoned, Sriracha hot sauce.

Named for a city in Thailand, this sauce is not just a brand name but a particular type of fermented hot sauce. When I discovered I could make my own, I rejoiced. When I realized I could use home-grown Jalapeños, I rejoiced again. When my own Jalapeños were not yet flowering, I ran to the store and bought 2 pounds (40 peppers) of ripe red jalapeños. I had to make my own.

I am using the recipe found in Jim Long’s book ‘Preserving Your Bountiful Harvest – Make Your Own Hot Sauce” by Long Creek Herbs. This is a very useful book. I modified the recipe – instead of using 3 tsp of brown sugar to feed the fermentation, I used 4 tsp of Steen’s Pure Cane Syrup, hoping to benefit from the robust flavor of my favorite cane syrup. This is the stuff my dad introduced me to, and he made everything with it.

Gather up your materials - 30-40 ripe Jalaeños, 6 cloves of garlic, brown sugar or equivalent, and sea salt or equivalent.
Gather up your materials – 30-40 ripe Jalapeños, 6 cloves of garlic, brown sugar or equivalent, and sea salt or equivalent.

Here’s the step by step in pictures. First, acquire 30-40 Jalapeños that are bright red and ripe. You could use other peppers depending on taste, or make your own custom variations. I did not have 40 from the garden yet but could not wait. I found them at my local grocer.

40 or so RIPE jalapeños are called for. Wear gloves, get the stems off. I removed about half of the seeds too.
40 or so RIPE jalapeños are called for. Wear gloves, get the stems off. I removed about half of the seeds too.

Peel six cloves of garlic as well. You will need a tablespoon of sea salt (I used pink Himalayan salt since that what we use, just don’t go with iododized salt) and three tablespoons of brown sugar. Instead of brown sugar, I used four tablespoons of Steen’s Pure Cane Syrup, which is essentially brown sugar before it is crystalized, but with more flavor and character. This stuff has been a family tradition from my earliest years and its delicious. I hope my Sriracha sauce will have a slight flavor shift toward Louisiana because of the Steen’s.

Chop the peppers roughly (wear gloves unless you like pain) and then put all this stuff in a blender or food processor.

14167730198_9005f75cf2_bPulse until its well chopped, has some good liquid in it, and everything is well mixed. The sugar (or the Steen’s Syrup) will feed the microbes responsible for fermentation. You want the same process that gives heart to Kimchi and to Sauerkraut to give heart to your hotsauce. Empty the blender into a sterile jar, I used a mason jar “borrowed” from our local dairy (I’ll give it back when I am done).

Chopped/blended peppers, salt and sugar base ready to go in the fermenting jar.

Once in the jar, seal the top loosely with plastic wrap and loosely screw the lid on. Don’t tighten things down, you want fermentation gasses to escape instead of build up. I used a Mason jar ring and some plastic. Each day, from now on, I will come swish the stuff around until fermentation is complete. The recipe says leave it a week, I may opt for two weeks if I can muster up the patience. Label your jar with a date to keep you honest.

All done, now for patience…

Once fermentation is complete, there will be a puree process, straining, adding vinegar (I’ll use cider vinegar) and boiling until reduced. That will come in part two!