So, you want to make amazing hot sauce but don't know where to start... that's fine. A few years ago I was in a very similar position, like you I turned to the internet for some inspiration and now I have a whole range of daring sauces.
You have to think of making hot sauce like brewing beer. The ingredients are simple but it's the quality and balance of those ingredients that really matters. Here's how to make a small batch of delicious cooked hot sauce, just the way I do it, in 10 easy steps:
1. Grab a beer and stick on a podcast.
Ok this isn't technically essential but it is important to me. Making hot sauce is fun and you should set the scene and then enjoy yourself. I love listening to a podcast for company but music works just as well. No such thing as a fish is my go-to.
2. Choose your base
The base of the sauce is the vehicle for all the other flavours and heat. In some cases this might actually be the chillies themselves, as long as they have enough flavour, but often it will be something else like tomatoes or even fleshy things like pumpkin.
In this instance, I'm using tomatoes and balancing that with some savoury garlic and onion. Just like making a really nice tomato sauce.
3. Pick your chillies
Next it's time to choose your chillies. All chillies are different and it's not just about heat. Obviously there's the flavour to consider but also the kind of heat they give. For example, a scotch bonnet has a medium heat the comes on quite fast and a very distinct perfumed fruity flavour, whereas a Carolina Reaper (pictured) has a slow-building but very intense heat with an earthy flavour.
Condimaniac sauces will generally use at least two types of chilli to give a spectrum of heat and flavour.
4. Weigh and prep your ingredients
Time to get prepped. How much you use of each thing will generally depend on your own taste and how much you want to make, but as a guide for a basic sauce:
Makes approx 700ml of sauce
100g base chilli
10g speciality chilli
Spices to taste
It's worth getting the chillies, onions and garlic chopped first ready for the next step.
5. Fry onion, garlic and chillies
Start by frying up the onions, garlic and chillies in a big pot until soft. Make sure you keep stirring so it doesn't burn.
6. Add your base
Chop up that base and mix it in with the rest, cover so that the ingredients start to sweat.
7. Top up with vinegar
Chuck in the vinegar. Feel free to experiment with different types. Quality is everything here as it makes up the lion's share of your sauce. Bring it to the boil.
8. Find your flavour
Time for some fun. As with all Condimaniac sauces I focus on three areas. Base, heat and character. This is what gives it the character. There are a lot of herbs and spices out there and combinations of these can really lift the sauce and make it your own.
You can explore our flavours on the homepage.
9. Boil and blend
Bring that lovely mix up to the boil and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes. Allowing all those flavours to meld into one another. Once cooked, allow it to cool and then blend.
You can use a stick blender or a conventional one, just don't over-blend. You want to make sure there's still a few lovely chunks in there.
Once that's all done it's time to bottle. Boil your bottles before and after adding the sauce to ensure everything is nice and sterile - also make sure to bottle whilst your sauce is still piping hot. Your sauce's shelf life will depend on how much vinegar you add as well as other ingredients - get a digital pH meter to find out exactly how acidic your specific sauce is. If in doubt, store in the fridge and it should last a good long while.
And that's it! Pretty simple to make, but delicious and healthy. The art to a great hot sauce is finding that perfect balance of flavours and quality ingredients so that no single element overpowers the rest. Jen and I make hot sauce with the aim of changing how people think about it.
Hot doesn't have to be all salt and sharp vinegar, it can, with a little love, be elevated to an art form.
Good luck and don't forget to check out our range of sauces if you want to taste how this turned out.