On Friday, October 21 Categories:

  • 10 of your favorite large fresh chilies

  • 2 cloves of garlic, pealed and halved

  • 3/4 cup white vinegar

  • Salt

There is a great satisfaction that comes from creating something yourself. So maybe I could go to the store and buy an expensive bottle of hot sauce, something called "Satan's Spit" or "Tonsil Torcher," but where is the sacrifice in that? To make my own hot sauce I have to put up with my entire body smelling like vinegar and pungent peppers for hours, my kitchen being trashed with pepper guts, and headaches from inhaling so much spice. The time of solitude in my kitchen is well worth the work.

My kitchen is small with only a single narrow doorway. If there were more than two people in there at once, it would reach its maximum capacity. The appliances all suck, but they are still functional enough to not be replaced. The stove is filthy with burnt char that has somehow melded and become part of the actual surface, the oven is missing a shelf and the light, the refrigerator door does not seal all the way and is also missing a light, the dishwasher door has to be slammed shut for it to latch correctly, and finally the toaster's timing setting is broken, so if you don't pay attention you ruin breakfast. The only positive thing about my kitchen is that the air conditioning vent is one of the best in the house, blowing cool air directly in front of the main counter. Despite all the negatives, I still feel like a master when I am there alone and with a mission. I become invincible with a recipe and a collection of ingredients.

Rule number one: Always wear gloves. Don't think you can skimp and go cheap with loose fitting plastic ones either, you must get the rubber ones that doctors or cooks wear. This rule is essential because the juice of the chilies can cling to your fingers for many hours after touching, and it will hurt if you touch a sensitive part of the skin.

Jalapeno, Serrano, Cayenne, and Habanero peppers all make delicious flavors for homemade hot sauce. Even fresh peppers of this kind have a natural heat and a unique flavor, but if you want the kind of heat that will punch you in the face, you need to broil or roast them. Heat intensifies heat.

I once put abnormally hot Jalapenos on a pizza I was cooking, thinking that I could cook some of the heat out of the pepper, and I was surprised when the juices from the Jalapenos set my whole pizza on fire with spice. I had to throw the whole thing away because my wife and I couldn't handle more than a few bites.

For your hot sauce, you must first turn your oven on to the broil setting and allow it heat up completely. Then prepare the chilies by cutting off the stems and slicing them in half long ways. You also need to cut them in such a way that the halved chilies could lay flat. Once they are cut you can gut them. Make sure you get most of the seeds and the ribbing out of the pepper. A few seeds here and there won't hurt though. Set the seeds aside because we will add them back in later. Now you can place them on the broiler with the cut side facing down. Then broil for five minutes.

Doing things yourself creates opportunities for leaning and growth. Everyone knows that, but why do we still insist on things being done for us? Sometime I'm just in the mood to be lazy or I only have time for the way, store bought jelly. Not only do I learn, but also I get a great sense of pride. I wouldn't go to the store and buy ten loaves of my favorite bread then bring them back to my neighbors. Although I would certainly share my homemade hot sauce with the folks in the apartment above me. I would want them to enjoy and recognize my efforts and hard work. I would want to be appreciated.

Rule number two: Open all the windows in your kitchen and the adjacent rooms. Once the peppers start broiling, the smell can be very overpowering. On my first attempt at broiling peppers, I could see fumes from the peppers and I swear the stench embedded itself into the walls. it was overwhelming. The smell actually went straight to my stomach and I nearly yaked up the leftover hot wings I'd had for lunch. So be sure there is plenty of ventilation and it is probably a good idea to have a fan blowing also.

I learned a special trick for roasting the peppers that the recipe never explained, and I found out the hard way. If you are broiling a set of peppers that are particularly skinny, you don't have to broil them for the full five minutes. You will end up burning them to a crisp and you won't be able to use very much of them in the actual sauce. Three minutes will blacken the skin enough to bring out the heat and pepper flavor yet still have soft pulp underneath. You want to avoid the flakey char. Likewise, a larger or thicker pepper will need to cook a few minutes longer.

Once the peppers have finished cooking, you need to place them in plastic bags and allow them to cool in the fridge for at least twenty minutes. Once they are cool you have two different options. You can either leave the charred skin on the pepper and this will give the final product a slightly burnt taste, which is actually very nice, or you can peel the skin off which will eliminate that burnt taste yet the spice will remain. It's completely up to your own preferences. I personally like the burnt taste, and I like to see the small black specks that float around in the finished sauce.

I put hot sauce on everything. It's the best in macaroni and cheese. I don't really like the fancy made-from-scratch kind of mac and cheese normally found at church pitch-in, but I love the kinds that come in a box. If I combine a liberal dose of hot sauce and cut up Vienna sausages in my mac, I would have a meal that i could eat every day until I die. Of course, if I did that i would probably dies well before I normally would, but I would be happy.

Once you have made your choice to peel the skin off or leave it, you can now combine the garlic and the peppers into the blender. I personally have a smaller blender that is used for single serving concoctions like smoothies or margaritas and this type of blender works very well because the final product is only about a cup. So blend for a few seconds to mince the peppers and garlic, and then slowly add the vinegar. To make sure you don't add the vinegar too fast, it is probably a good idea to only pour in 1/4 cup at a time.

Rule number three: Do NOT touch your face! Just in case your gloves get cut or if you were less than diligent following rule number one, do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth. I made this mistake a few months ago and my right eye burned for a solid ten minutes, and my wife refused to let me come near her in fear that I would "burn" her.

Once the hot sauce is fully blended, let it sit for about ten minutes to allow the bubbles to die down. After the bubbles have stopped popping you will be left with a light foam on the top of the sauce, scoop this out and throw it away because it doesn't taste good. Add salt to taste. Then pour into a container of some sort. I usually keep old hot sauce bottles or things of similar size to recycle for my homemade hot sauces, so be sure to have some handy. A fellow hot sauce chef actually used baby bottles for his hot sauce containers, so be creative. Now, refrigerate. Your new homemade condiment should stay good in your fridge for many weeks, however, mine are usually gone within a couple days.

Happy Saucing.

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Jonathan Degler is the author of the novel "Gone Astray," and more information can be found at http://www.jonathandeglerbooks.com

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