The secret to making perfect hot sauce at home, according to a golf-club chef
Welcome to Clubhouse Eats, where we celebrate the game’s most delectable food and drink. Hope you brought your appetites.
If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen, because we don’t want you cooking for us, anyway.
We love heat, after all.
Especially the heat that comes from hot sauce, the piquant condiment of a thousand faces, found in countless permutations around the world.
At the Club at Carlton Woods, in Texas, executive chef Wes Tyler’s killer house-made hot sauces tilt toward Texas or Louisiana-style, but Tyler often tweaks them in creative ways.
That’s the beauty of hot sauce: versatility.
The accessibility is appealing, too. Anyone can make it.
We asked Tyler for hot tips for doing it at home.
1. Cooked or Fermented: The Two Main Methods
The first is quicker. The second produces a greater depth of flavor. The choice mostly comes down to time and personal taste.
For cooked hot sauce, toss chilis into a saucepan with water and a splash of distilled vinegar, bring the mixture to a simmer and cooked until the peppers are tender. Puree. And serve. You can modify the profile to your liking by adding other ingredients from the start, such as garlic, onions, cayenne, smoked paprika. The list goes on.
For fermented hot sauce, which Tyler prefers, he soaks the chilis in a saltwater brine, using a ratio of 1 1/4-teaspoon salt per cup of water. Sometimes, he adds onions, garlic and other aromatics. It all depends on what he’s trying to achieve. Typically, he lets the chilis ferment in the brine for anywhere from 30 days to six months, at which point he strains the brine, reserving the liquid, and purees the peppers into a paste, adding a splash of apple cider vinegar, herbs and spices. He then reincorporates the brine to get the consistency he wants.
2. Pick a Peck of Peppers
Heat levels span the spectrum from mellow to sadistic. If you can swing it, Tyler recommends growing your own peppers. You don’t need a deep-green thumb, and the possibilities, he says, are boundless. But a good grocery store will also do.
For milder sauces, Tyler suggests young, fresh jalapeños, banana peppers, cherry peppers, cubanelles or poblanos, all of which, he says, will “generate lots of flavor while mitigating the heat factor.”
For medium-range sauces, Tyler looks for jalapeños that have been left on the plant until they show vertical lines, almost like cracks, on their surface. “That’s when they’re at their spiciest, but still manageable,” he says.
For nuclear-grade sauces, habaneros are a good start, Tyler says. But you can stretch the limits of the Scoville scale (the standard measure of spiciness) with ghost peppers, Trinidad scorpion peppers and Carolina reapers, among others so intense that you’d swear they “were grown by Satan himself.”
3. Handle with Care
When you’re working with chilis, make like Tommy Gainey and wear gloves. Be sure to wash your hands immediately after, and avoid touching your face and eyes.
4. Storage tips
Depending on the acidity level, Tyler says, hot sauces can be shelf-stable, especially if you add preservatives. Properly stored or refrigerated, they last for months, even years. With fermented hot sauces, Tyler refrigerates them uncovered, as the fermentation process produces gases. Left in a sealed container, a fermented hot sauce can explode.
5. Bottle and Gift It
Now that your sauce is finished, the real fun begins. Bottling and labeling are great creative outlets, Tyler says, that yield distinctive gifts for family and friends. And you don’t have to look far for stores that carry all the tools you need.