Over the years I have made my share of homemade condiments. Joe’s ability to produce an abundant harvest from our garden often has me looking for ways to preserve some of that bounty for the fall and winter months. I have made my own ketchup, chili sauce and tomato paste from the tomatoes in our garden. Not to mention homemade mustard, jams, chutneys and preserved lemons. In fact the first cookbook that Joe ever bought me, even before we were married was Better Than Store Bought, a classic to this day for the DIY cook.
The latest to be added to my homemade list is sriracha. As long time fans of Thai cuisine, sriracha has been on our food radar since the early eighties. We love the spicy, garlicky, slightly sweet sauce that was a table condiment at our local Thai restaurant. Back then I would have to travel to local Asian markets to find the thick red sauce that came in a squeeze bottle with a green cap and a rooster on the label. We, and obviously many others, were definitely on to something, over the years the popularity of sriracha has grown by leaps and bounds. Now it can be found in supermarkets everywhere and sriracha flavors products as diverse as popcorn, potato chips, beer and lip balm.
It was first produced in the United States by a Vietnamese immigrant, David Tran, who was unable to find a hot sauce he liked. He developed and named his sauce after one that he tasted in the Thai southern coastal city of Si Racha, where it was made for dishes served at local seafood restaurants. The success of Mr. Tran’s company Huy Fong Foods, named for the boat that brought him to the United States, is legend. Since 1980 sales of sriracha have increased by 20% a year without paid advertising. Unlike other hot sauces, sriracha is made with fresh chilies, Tran says this is what separates sriracha from the competition. So with a large crop of hot peppers in many varieties, I set out to make my own version of sriracha. I looked at quite a few recipes, some promising sriracha in twenty minutes, that might be fine for some, but I knew that fermentation is one of the steps that makes sriracha unique and since I had the time and an abundant supply of peppers, why take any shortcuts? I chose a recipe from Serious Eats, a blog that is dedicated to “definitive recipes, hard core food science, trailblazing techniques and innovative guides to essential food and drink anywhere and everywhere.” Sounds good to me.
My first consideration was the variety of pepper to use. The Serious Eats recipe used red jalapenos but in one of the reader comments I learned that serranos were the original peppers Huy Fong used to make sriracha until the late nineties. The change to jalapenos was due to production costs. Since I had more than enough serranos, I chose them for my recipe. Since the serrano pepper is hotter than the jalapeno you may want to adjust your recipe accordingly, I didn’t. The peppers are left whole with the stems are snipped with the crown remaining. This brings a floral component to the finished product. As with all hot pepper recipes, take the usual precautions, wear rubber gloves when making the recipe, don’t rub your eyes, and so on. The recipe is very simple with very little handling of the product, peppers, peeled garlic cloves, brown sugar and salt are pulsed to a fine texture in a blender or food processor.
The mixture is transferred to a clean jar, covered and sits at room temperature. I checked the mixture daily to check for little bubbles forming at the bottom of the jar, indicating fermentation. The recipe indicated that the fermentation would begin in 3-5 days, my peppers only began to ferment after 7 days. I will attribute that to the freshness of my peppers. Since my peppers were picked the day I tried the recipe, they were days fresher than any hot pepper purchased in a grocery store. My fermentation was complete in 10 days. I carefully transfered the chopped chili mixture to the bowl of a food processor, my blender is too small, added the distilled white vinegar and pureed it until smooth. The recipe suggests transferring the mixture to a mesh strainer over a medium saucepan and using a rubber spatula to push the pulp through. I wasn’t getting a thick enough consistency so I transferred the peppers to the food mill with a medium disc which gave me a product that resembled sriracha, though a bit more chunky. The mixture is placed in a saucepan, brought to a boil, then simmered until the sauce clings to the back of a spoon, 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer sauce to clean jars and store in the refrigerator for up to six months.
I am very pleased with the consistency of my sriracha, the food mill made that part of the process much easier than the strainer. Since we have other varieties of hot peppers I may try the same recipe with different peppers.
Recipe slightly adapted from Serious Eats
- 1 1/2 lbs red jalapeños (or serranos), stems snipped off, leaving green tops intact
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled
- 4 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
- 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
- Place peppers, garlic, sugar, and salt in bowl of a food processor fitting with steel blade. Pulse until chilies are very finely chopped, stopping to scrap sides of bowl as necessary. Transfer mixture to a clean jar, cover, and let sit at room temperature.
Check jar each day for fermentation, when little bubbles start forming at bottom of jar, about 3-5 days. Stir contents each day, continuing to let ferment until chilies are no longer rising in volume, an additional 2-3 days.
Transfer chilies to jar of a blender or food processor, add in white vinegar, and puree until completely smooth, 1-3 minutes. Transfer to a mesh strainer set atop of a medium saucepan. Strain mixture into saucepan, using a rubber spatula to push trough as much pulp as possible, only seeded and larger pieces of chilies should remain in strainer. I found that a food mill with the medium disc made this easier.
Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until sauce thickens and clings to a spoon, 5 or 10 minutes. Transfer to an airtight container and store in refrigerator for up to 6 months.