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Chiles at Rushy Springs Farm

One of the most iconically-American (and especially Southern) condiments is salt-brine-fermented hot pepper sauce. Usually made from tobascos (the pepper variety, not the brand), this kitchen staple and table condiment is a snap to make, especially if you have a glut of chiles on hand. Here in East Tennessee, chile season is still in full swing, and many varieties thrive here. Despite, or rather because of this easy abundance (chiles were our most dependable crop this summer and last, outperforming our tomatoes by leaps and bounds), many chile growers do not know how to keep on top of utilizing their crop before it disappears.

Pickling, drying, and smoking are all very good options for preserving your garden's chile harvest, but each has special (and often prohibitive) requirements: shelf space, a dehydrating apparatus, and a smoker, respectively. Salt-brine-fermenting needs none of these, requiring only a tiny bit of counter space for a fermenting crock or jar, some salt, a stir every now and then, and some patience. As for the chiles, tabascos are great, but there are so many varieties out there. As long as they are yellow, orange, or red, ripe, and appropriately spicy for your palate, use whatever you have or can get your hands on.

Luckily, in addition to our harvest of red jalapeños and yellow aji limos, we have had the good fortune to become acquainted with Jim Smith, a local chile farmer and producer of fermented hot sauces. Jim inspired us to try our hand at this simple and rewarding process after many chats under his tent at the Market Square Farmer's Market in downtown Konxville. At any time, Jim has up to 14 different varieties of chiles for sale, ranging from the mild and unusual to the punishingly hot (Ghost and Scorpion chiles are his best sellers). He also offers a completely unique hybrid cultivar, the Tennessee Cherry Chile (a much more complexly-flavored cousin to the Yucatania and Tabasco varieties). In addition to having all of these available fresh from his farm every week, Jim keeps even busier with his growing salt-brine-fermented hot sauce business. If that wasn't enough, he also dehydrates a portion of his harvest, turning it into highly aromatic chile powder (including one made out of Boldog Paprika peppers).

Jim was kind enough to let us tour his operation in Talbott and give us some insight into how he ferments his sauces. One of the immediately unique standouts to his procedure: after stemming the chiles, they get brined in a mixture of unrefined salt and Reisling wine. The wine, of course, increases the amount of sugar available for fermentation. As for the unrefined salt, Jim claims fermentation is much more vigorous and complete when he uses it (which, he thinks, is due to the high mineral content). As for fermentation time, Jim has a very personal relationship with each batch. He tends them daily (sometimes hourly in their most active stages). If peppers rise to the surface, they get mashed back down. If any yeast starts to develop, he adds salt. As the chiles soften and disintegrate, he adds more chiles and more salt, continuing the fermentation until he feels it is complete. This can take four to six weeks, but each batch is different.

Since Jim and his delicious sauces and chiles have inspired this blog (as well as many a fine meal), we want to return his kindness and generosity by calling upon you, our readers, to help support Jim as he continues to sustainably grow chiles and turn a profit while complying with Tennessee's requirements regarding domestic food production. Acording to state inspectors, Jim needs to have a certified kitchen and meet many of the same requirements much larger, corporate-owned food producers are held to. In order to continue selling his sauce, Jim will have to spend money he does not have to abide by these regulations. All of this despite the fact that his sauces, by their very nature (highly acidic, capsaicin-rich) are antimicrobial and safe, and Jim himself oversees the entire process, from planting the chiles to bottling the sauce. The overhead required to convert a home kitchen into an approved domestic kitchen is prohibitive for small producers like Jim.

The beauty of Jim's Kickstarter campaign is that, if we all contribute a small amount, he can meet his goal in no time. For those of you unfamiliar with Kickstarter, it's an site where entrepreneurs can raise money with the help of their community, and contributors to the project receive a gift in proportion to the amount they pledge to the project. Think of it as venture capital 2.0. The entrepreneur picks the goal he wants to reach, and if he doesn't meet that goal, he gets none of the money pledged. If, however, he does meet the goal, the money that has been pledged becomes available for use by the entrepreneur for their project.

If you are in the Knoxville area, we emplore you to visit Jim's Kickstarter page, read about his plans to expand his business, and contribute to the campaign (even a dollar makes a difference!) and visit him at Market Square on a coming Saturday. For those of you who do not hail from East Tennessee, we hope you can identify with the plight of Jim's business, his dedication to quality, and his tireless search for the perfect capsacin rush. Please take a moment to make a difference in the life of a small farmer, and therefore, in his community.

Other articles you might enjoy: Brine-Fermented Sauerkraut, Fermented Half-Sour Pickles, Worcestershire Sauce

Fermented "Louisiana-style" Hot Sauce
varies according to amount of chiles

As our pepper fermentation expert says above, a lot of this is best done "by feel," and since the quantity of peppers a garden yields will vary widely (not to mention the width of fermentation vessels) we have decided to write this recipe using a simple weight ratio and a few instructive photos. As for the type of chiles to use, any kind will work as long as they are fairly hot and not green.

So, first you should cut off the stem and a little bit of the base of each chile and roughly chop them. We do this with gloves and a pair of kitchen shears, since it means minimal contact with the peppers and no surfaces to clean. Some of you might want to seed the chilies to get more flavor and less heat from them. Jim includes seeds in his method, we did not for our first go around. Either way is fine, just keep in mind seeding will expose you to more capsacin, which you should try as hard as you can not to get on your hands, eyes, or anywhere on your skin.

So snip off the stem-ends in the trash or compost, seed if you want, and then weigh the chilies in a bowl on a digital scale (I suppose you can just use the starting weight of the chiles if you do not choose to seed them). Remember this number and snip the chilies a slice at a time into your jar or crock. Now, take the weight of your chilies and weigh out 2% of that amount in salt, preferably sea salt (thanks Jim!). Add this to the jar/crock, along with enough white wine (prefereably a high-sugar Reisling or Gewürstraminer that is free of sulfites) to cover by a half inch or so. Mix and mash thoroughly with a pestle or wooden spoon (be sure to wash thoroughly).

Cover the crock or jar tightly with a cloth (I screwed on the ring of the mason jar I was using) and set out on the counter where you will see it. Now, when you're making coffee in the morning, check for white mold (this is where glass jars are clearly superior) and remove with a spoon, stir the chile mixture, and cover again with cloth. Do this every other day. You will eventually see bubbles forming either on the surface or in the pepper mash. This means it's working.

Jim and others ferment this mixture for as long as it takes for the fermentation to stop, up to 4 or 6 weeks. Our very successful batch of hot sauce took only 15 days to mature into a fruity, well-balanced sauce. I suppose you should play it be ear, but for those who are too impatient for the longer fermenting times, if you have noticed fermentation bubbles, you can and should take a risk somewhere around or after the two-week mark.

Now that the pepper mash is fermented to your liking, patience-level, or whim, all you need to do is run it through a food mill. Place the food mill over a bowl, pour the pepper mash and brine into the mill, and work the flesh and seeds, rotating the handle in both directions to push as much juice from the mash as possible (discard whatever is left). Measure the volume of the brine liquid and add half that amount of vinegar. Jim uses brown rice vinegar for its neutral flavor profile, but feel free to experiment here with a little addition of something more flavorful, like sherry or apple cider vinegar. You shouldn't really need to add salt at this point, but do so if it tastes a little one-dimensional. Bottle and refrigerate, adding to anything that needs a nice fruity shot of heat or salt. Enjoy!

Comments

Gette's picture

But won't the vinegar kill the good probiotics created during the fermenting process? Or is that the only way the state will allow it to be sold to the public?
john's picture

Actually, Jim's fully-fermented pepper mash has a surprisingly low pH level even before he adds brown rice vinegar (some of his latest batches are below 3.5, which I think coincided with him switching to unrefined sea salt). Though I do not know the particular regulations Jim is having to follow with respect to pH, canned goods and pickles are generally considered shelf-stable at or below pH 4.6. It is also worth noting that most vinegars have a pH between 2.4-3.4, which is quite mild when compared to the pH range of human stomach acid, which ranges from 1.5-3.5 on the pH scale. In other words, if vinegar doesn't kill it, your stomach will. Honestly, if you are after live, probiotic-rich fermented foods, there are much more cost-effective ways to go than pepper sauce... cabbage is MUCH cheaper than chiles at the farmer's market, or anywhere else for that matter. I personally love sauerkraut and kimchee, neither of which needs vinegar to be delectable. This style of hot sauce definitely requires an acidic component to give it that characteristic Louisiana twang. All of this aside, if you're determined to make a live, fermented pepper sauce, try modifying our newly-posted sriracha recipe (http://www.thejoykitchen.com/recipe/fresh-sriracha-chile-sauce). We actually tested a fermented version of it that was quite delicious (but not significantly better-tasting than the easier, fresh version). Just ferment the peppers in some water with the salt, sugar, and garlic and wait a week or three, using the guidelines given above. If you're still worried about the vinegar destroying all of the mash's probiotic goodness, add sparingly when the ferment is done (lactobacillus thrives in the 3.7-4.3 range, and since they get destroyed by heat, don't bother simmering everything together). Needless to say, this is not shelf-stable and you will need to refrigerate it afterward. Happy experimenting! John.
Ron's picture

Thanks for this! You mention "this is not shelf-stable and you will need to refrigerate it afterward". Why is this the case? Isn't a ferment inherently shelf-stable once the lactobacillus culture takes hold?
Chris Hollobaugh's picture

Hi Ron. I know that Tabasco is not cooked and the product is shelf-stable. It has to do with the pH. By the time the hot sauce is bottled, it is so acidic that not even lactobacillus will live there.
Camille's picture

I have SO been wanting to try a fermented chili sauce! Thanks for this post, the recipe looks amazing.
john's picture

It's definitely worth it... I've got two more batches going right now. Only one more week to go!
lori's picture

My hubby and I were just talking last night about what to do with the bounty of peppers we have right now. This looks like a good project for this weekend...I was led here by Food In Jars blog. Yay! A Joy blog, makes me happy.
Angela 's picture

I have been wanting to make a hot sauce in this style. BUT with the amount of peppers I have and the amount of sauce I would end up with I would need to seal the jars by processing in a water bath canner. Our friends love to get our canned goods as gifts. Have you tried canning this recipe instead of refrigerating as a means of preservation. I am certainly not worried about preserving beneficial bacteria in this case.
john's picture

I'm doing up a batch for gifts too right now! I'm sure pressure canning would be fine Angela. Good and safe (process for 15 minutes). One thing: if you strain the brine really good and have things properly acidic --pH of 3.5-3.8-- this stuff is pretty resilient (though I would hesitate to call it shelf stable). Personally, I plan to get some bottles, fill them, and send them off... you can always tell them to put the stuff in the fridge when it arrives in the mail (or when they get home). Most important for gifting this stuff: the sauce tends to separate a little bit after a few weeks, a slight cosmetic flaw. To avoid this, you can add 1/2 teaspoon of xanthan gum (which many grocery stores now carry in the gluten-free section of the baking aisle) per quart of sauce. If you can't find it, Bob's Red Mill has it available for online purchase. Be sure to whisk it with a small amount of sauce before adding so that it disperses nicely. That should keep the sauce looking a nice uniform red indefinitely. If you don't want to bother, just ink "shake well" on the label. Good luck! Let me know how it works out. Just out of curiosity, how much chile pepper are you putting up? John.
JessicaH's picture

I started this for the first time to experiment for what I hope is a bounty of peppers from my garden this year. I'm really pleased with it, but wondered if it would be acceptable to continually add more peppers to the mash as it is fermenting? With these home gardens, you can't always count on having the amount to need when you need it.
john's picture

I totally understand why you're interested in adding the peppers over time... few can produce the pounds of peppers required for making this stuff before the older ones start going bad. The answer is yes, but within reason. Jim, our resident sauce guru, would continue adding peppers as they became ripe to the fifteen or so jars he had bubbling away at any given time. If I remember correctly, he would: - let the initial load of peppers ferment for approx. one week - press them to the bottom of the jar (they shrink as they ferment) - add as many new peppers as will fit while still being submerged in the brine - add "a pinch more salt" ... and let it go for another week or two, after which he might add yet another batch of peppers following the same procedure. Remember: after the last addition you need to let the most recently added peppers finish their fermenting (i.e. stop bubbling). If any white stuff starts forming, scrape it off and add a little more salt. Unfortunately, this can't continue for the entire pepper season. Jim said he never let a fermentation go for longer than eight weeks. This is all assuming the fermentation process is bubbling right along. Jim would often get back from picking peppers to find his fermentation jars overflowing from all of the activity. During peak season, he said the jars required stirring two or three times a day! Needless to say, he got to know those jars on an intensely personal level... If you want, I can contact him for (hopefully) more exact numbers when it comes to adding salt, etc. I'm sure he'd love to share whatever he knows.
JessicaH's picture

Thank you for your fast and informative response! Jim sounds like a fascinating man, and I appreciate you sharing all of this. I've got my pepper plants started, and I can't wait to try this with my own peppers. Thank you, again!
Dan Wood's picture

I'm wondering why you said that the peppers all have to be red, yellow, or orange? Is it because green peppers aren't ripe and don't have enough sugar to support fermentation, or because green peppers have something in them that inhibits fermentation? Or is it just a cosmetic suggestion so that the sauce doesn't end up brown colored?
john's picture

I have to admit to never trying the ferment with green chiles... I called for ripe ones simply because I wasn't sure if green chiles would ferment in the same amount of time. You can mix and match red, orange, and yellow chiles in the same batch, but green ones should probably be done alone since they will probably take longer. I don't think sugar content would be much of an issue, though browning might be. I just sent my chile guru a message on Facebook... I'm sure he's tried it and can provide us with some tips. I'll post anything useful as soon as I hear back. Thanks for the questions!
Mike Broderick's picture

Green ones ferment just fine. I've done plenty of sauces with green jalapenos with a few hot seranos, some garlic and onion thrown in and it tastes pretty much like the 'green' tabasco.
john's picture

Okay... straight from Jim Smith of Rushy Springs Farm, a prolific fermenter of pepper sauces: "The issue with green chiles is that they don't seem to break down as readily as ripe ones (obviously). This creates a problem separating the pulp from the seeds and skins and also results in larger and thus heavier particles which makes it harder to emulsify, thus a suspension problem. You can add more xanthan gum. From my experience this year I know that by stirring the fermentation twice a day the potential for mold growth is considerably reduced, resulting in much longer fermentation times. This would theoretically result in more efficient breakdown. Whether this would overcome the stronger fibers in green chile only trying it would know for sure. Separation with a food colander rather than a food mill would solve the separation issue but with less efficiency. A juicer with a centrifugal basket might work very well. I have tried juicers that expel the pulp as well as liquid- loose too much chile and don't efficiently extract all the liquid either. If the fibers aren't successfully broken down, this might be a drawback with centrifugal baskets as well."
TheApsylum's picture

Hey all, wild-edible-forager/food-preserver/farmers'-market-Vet/all-around-foodie from Canada here: just wanted to let you know your comments and suggestions have helped me from making a terrible mistake... just finished separating my ripe from green chillies and am converting my 1 gallon glass brewing jug into a fermenting one! Including experience and tips from another blog, I'll be using an airlock on it. I was touched to read about Jim's plight and campaign on Kickstarter and will check out if he ships to my area but will try to donate regardless. Best of luck to you and everyone else reading this in your local and heritage food ventures!
meg's picture

Glad you found us! Unfortunately, Jim didn't meet his Kickstarter goal--the campaign ended a couple years ago--but to our knowledge he is still making his pepper sauces. I wish you could see some of his pepper plants. He overwinters them--many of them are huge. More like shrubs. When we spent an afternoon at his farm picking chiles, it took us hours to pick all the tiny peppers off one plant. Pretty remarkable.
ChrisD's picture

Thanks so much for this information. I have wanted to try a fermented pepper sauce for some time but could never find clear, accurate information. I appreciate Jim sharing his wealth of knowledge. I just bottled my first batch of cayenne sauce and have some habaneros bubbling like mad! I live on the other side of the Smokies from Knoxville but will be making a trip across the mountains soon to get peppers and sauce from Jim. Again, thanks for all the excellent information!
john's picture

Awesome! Glad this page helped you out... sounds like you got the hang of it. Jim's a great guy with some great product. At least during market season last year, you could find him every Saturday at Knoxville's Market Square Farmer's Market. He should have nice tomatoes, garlic, and herbs this time of year too. If you haven't had it, try some of his papalo... it's like cilantro but stronger and less "soapy." Thanks again for the feedback!
Drew's picture

If I wanted to add fruit or herbs, when would be the best time to add, during fermentation or after? As well would there be a way to reduce the possible oxidization that would occure if addiing such ingredients? Thanks!
meg's picture

Hi Drew, I'd say you have two options. One is to add the fruit at the beginning of fermentation. The advantages of this are that the fruit ferments along with the peppers, so the final product will be way more shelf-stable than if you add them at the end. The sauce will not be sweet, though, since the lactic bacteria will consume the sugars in the fruit over time. Your other option is to add the fruit at the end. I would purée the fruit in this case. But bear in mind that this will reduce the shelf stability of the sauce, and you'll probably have to keep it in the fridge. Adding fruit will increase the pH of the sauce (over time, the sauce becomes safely acidic thanks to the lactic bacteria, which prevents the growth of unwanted/dangerous bacteria), so refrigeration will be necessary and even then you'll probably want to use the sauce fairly quickly. The fruit will also add a lot of water to the sauce, diluting it. Wait, there may be a third option. You could start the fermentation with just the peppers, then add the fruit after several days of vigorous fermentation. Then, continue to ferment the sauce until active fermentation stops. That way, you'd be adding the fruit to an already acidic sauce, which would cut down on oxidation. As for herbs, I would say that you could add those at the end without much ado. You might want to purée the herbs with some of the hot sauce to get them small enough so they won't clog up your hot sauce bottle (this will also help distribute the flavor). Make sure the herbs have been washed well so as not to introduce any unwanted bacteria into the sauce. Hope this helps!
Mike Broderick's picture

Just throw it all in the mix :) I just finished a mango/ginger/habanero sauce that turned out awesome :) I had to really keep an eye on it though as the higher sugar content made for a really active (like volcanic) fermentation process. P.S. I just found this blog and LOVE the subject. I've been fermenting my own sauces from my garden here in Baltimore for a few years now and really enjoy the entire process. From starting the plants from seed in February to tending them as they grow, through harvest and into the jars in the fall :) I just wish I had as much success drying the peppers but they always seem to rot :(
Brian Challender's picture

Curious if you wouldn't mind sharing your ratios/recipes of mangos to habenaros? I have a ton of habenaros that I literally just pulled out the ground this week that I need to do something with. I am currently fermenting some other hot peppers that are milder than habenaros and they keep rishing to the top of my gallon jar, this is normal right? I am new at fermentation.
mr pepper's picture

That sounds awesome. I have a quart of fresh ghost peppers from my garden that I need to make something with. Please share your fermentation process. Ginger / ghost pepper sauce sounds like a killer! Did you add salt or anything else to the mash? My ghost peppers also rot before drying. Thanks
R. T. West's picture

I have noticed that even Tobasco darkens in color eventually. Is there any way to preserve the bright red color? I used ascorbic and/or citric acid as a color keeper when making beer.
john's picture

Ah yes... the grayish-brown bottle of Tabasco is an unloved bottle of Tabasco. My father say he inherited a bottle from his mother Marion, that was super-oxidized--so seldom did she use it. I'm sure ascorbic acid would slow down oxidation in the sauce, as it handily does for cut, leafy herbs and vegetables. That being said, Tabasco is such an acidic product! If it oxidizes, I doubt a homemade, fermented sauce could ever last much longer. Quick answer: use more hot sauce. :-)
Tim Miller's picture

If you don't have a food mill what can you use?
john's picture

Food mill is really your best bet, but you could try draining the brine and squeezing as much liquid from the mash as you can by twisting it in a flour-sack towel and pressing it against a sturdy colander. The sauce might not be as flavorful, since the food mill not only extracts moisture from the mash, but actually separates the pepper's flesh from the skin and seeds. Let me know how things turn out!
Mike Broderick's picture

Agreed on the food mill. Most useful implement in my kitchen. Williams Sonoma has one that isn't too expensive and it works great (its the one I use) and it's not just for peppers. Home made tomato sauce/paste really cant be done without a mill and once you've tasted home made you will KNOW what all the fuss is about ;)
Fred Bloggs's picture

I have followed this recipe, but the mash has not started working after two weeks (other than a small effervescence in the first 48 hours). Is there anything else that I should be doing?
meg's picture

Hi Fred, sorry your hot sauce isn't working out so far. There are lots of reasons why this could be the case. Are you sure you added just 2% the weight of the chiles in sea salt? Over-salting can prevent fermentation from happening. Also, you're sure there's nothing except chiles, salt, and wine in there? I know you said you followed the recipe, but I'm just double checking. Also be sure you have the jars covered with breathable cloth and not an airtight lid, as the bacteria need oxygen to ferment. Is the sauce growing any kind of film or mold? How does the pepper mash smell? Sour at all? It could just be a lazy ferment that's going on. If it's just not working at all, you can try adding a spoonful of plain yogurt with live cultures, some kefir, or even sourdough hooch. These all contain bacteria that can help get your pepper sauce fermenting. Or, you can even go pick a few wildflowers and add them to the mash--wildflowers have all kinds of wild yeasts growing on them, and I've used them before to get my ferments going. Same goes for berries--organic blueberries, blackberries, grapes, and raspberries are generally covered in wild yeast (that's what the white film on blueberries and grapes is). Just add a few berries to the mash and see what happens. I'm just throwing out ideas. I would say, though, that if your mash doesn't start fermenting in a week, toss it. Sometimes, through no fault of our own, ferments just don't take.
Fred Bloggs's picture

Thank you for the prompt reply! I live in Hawai'i and it has taken a while to get hot peppers of any variety to take here (white fly love them, and it wasn't until I found that they love tomato plants more that I was able to get a couple going), so I was particularly fastidious following your instructions (peppers, salt 2% and a Gewürztraminer). Luckily my successful plants appear to be extremely productive. I am using a glass mason jar with a silk covering held in place by the screw top lid. There is no film or mold of any kind. The scent of the contents is very clean - much like hot pepper water. No sour quality at all. I like the idea of using ginger flowers from the garden if you think that may work to kick things off. If, given the information above, you think that there is a better course please let me know - thanks!
meg's picture

Yes, I would try adding a few wildflowers and see how that goes. My best guess is that the ferment is going very slow because you live in a dry climate (I'm assuming that you live in a dry area, although I could be wrong). Basically, what you want is to jump start your ferment with some yeasts and bacteria. The ideal bacteria is lactic acid bacteria--the same kind of bacteria found in yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, etc. Can you get unpasteurized sauerkraut where you are? Maybe try adding some of the brine and see what happens. A spoonful of yogurt with live cultures would also be a good thing to try. As long as the peppers aren't molding or going bad, I would just try a few different tactics to give the ferment a boost. Good luck and let me know how things turn out!
Ellen's picture

You are probably using wine with sulfites. The sulfites used to stop fermentation in wine do the same in anything the wine is used for.
Carl's picture

I have about 250 pepper plants of all heat levels. I have been cutting off the stems, chopping them in a blender and adding them to a plastice beer fermentation bucket for the last three weeks and now I am full. I added 1/2 cut kosher salt per gallon of chopped peppers. I seal it with an air tight cap and leave a bubbler on top so the CO2 can bubble out. I have mayn questions. Is there a problem with fermenting hot peppers this way? I plan to grind the seeds and stems out of the mixture after about 12 weeks (or when it stops bubbling). Then I will add vinegar ... not sure how much ... it was said above to add half of the brine solutions volume in vinegar at the end. I was going to let it bubble wih the vinegar an additional three weeks for flavoring. Then I wanted to put these in tabasco style woozie bottles for freinds and family. Do I need to refregerate this after bottling with just peppers, salt and vinegar? Does anyone see any potential problems I may run into?
meg's picture

Hi Carl. We're pretty impressed at your hot pepper supply. It sounds like your fermentation method is just fine. As long as you've got enough salt (sounds like you do) and your mixture is bubbling away, you're good to go. As for the vinegar--exact amounts aren't as important as getting it to taste the way you like it. Of course, in order to be shelf stable, you'll want to make sure the pH is below 4.6 at minimum, preferably closer to 4.0 or a bit lower. You can get pretty affordable pH meters online or at your local home brew shop. Of course, you can process the sauce in a hot water bath (pasteurize it)--a gentle pasteurization technique is to hold the hot sauce at 165 for 30 minutes, then cool it down as fast as you can. Most folks don't want to pasteurize hot sauce because you're going to lose a little bit of flavor--not much, but some. Bottom line, though--make sure the pH is low enough.
Carl's picture

So when using no wine or yogurt (just peppers and salt) in my fermenting bucket how long before I start seeing bubbles? Nothing is growing so I know there is CO2.
meg's picture

It all depends--it may only take a few days, or it may take a week or more. Usually, fermentation occurs faster during the summer months. I would give it at least a week--if nothing is happening, consider adding some yogurt or active sauerkraut brine to jumpstart fermentation.
vic winkler's picture

It could well be that your peppers came from a source that irradiated them.
Brian Challender's picture

If my mash is risnig to the top of my gallon jar and I'm mixing the mash which does has bubbles 2-3 times a day, is this what the normal process of fermentation? As you can tell with my questions, I am new to fermentation.
meg's picture

Yes! That's perfectly normal. What's happening is the carbon dioxide bubbled being produced are forcing the mash to the top of the jar. Just keep pushing the peppers down. Eventually, when fermentation slows, this won't happen anymore. Congrats, though! Your pepper mash is fermenting like gangbusters!
Brian C's picture

That's great to hear!!!! Thank you for replying so promptly
Tom's picture

Hi Fred, I'm working on my first attempt, had a similar problem. I blended red peppers and scotch bonnet peppers up fairly fine with seeds, mash weight 1 lb 10 Ounces, used 2% by weight sea salt, and a bottle of Riesling wine. After 4 days no action. I stirred in 1 tsp fresh Greek yogurt and a tsp of the whey. On day 5, still no action, and I was impatient, so I stirred in 1-2 TBSP liquid of a fast bubbling batch of Kim Chi I had going. BOOM. In 12 hours it looked like a soft drink -- It was bubbling so much that it floated the pulp to the top of the semi-clear wine. The floating pulp had so much gas in it, it looked like the side of a kitchen sponge. I've been stirring it up every 6 hours or so and it will separate to a sponge again and is still bubbling on day 10. I tested the pH and it's lower than the 4.5 my pH strips will go. I tried 2-3 drops on a spoon and it made my cheek bones sweat. Can't wait to see what happens! Good luck, I hope you get yours working. Tom
carrie's picture

Does the wine have to be white? Could you use a cabernet sauvignon, one that is sweet-ish? I have an abundance of Czechoslovakian black peppers that I would like to try this with, but no white wine in the house...
john's picture

Why not? The wine is there for the sugar and flavor (you can do the ferment with water alone). If you think the cab and black peppers will go well together, by all means try it and tell us how it goes. Never had Czechoslovakian black peppers... jealous!
Cohen's picture

Red wines generally contain very little to no fermentable sugars at bottling. However, commercially produced wines have hydrogen sulfide [often referred to as a "sulfites"]. While useful for controlling microbiologic critters and keeping your corks from blowing out and making a mess, it *could* slow down or prevent your ferment from taking off if you were too generous with it. Sweeter whites and desert wines might be a better choice, but I would wonder if\when the alcohol content could become an issue? Don't foget that sulfites at the right dilution will limit the lactobaccilicus while having no effect on other, perhaps less desirable, neighbors from moving in... My advise would be to consider skipping the red wine until the ferment is over. Then simmer the mix for a good long while to kill any residual microbiological growth before refrigerating or (pressure) canning the sauce. Unless you're testing the ph, you won't know if your recipe is suitable for shelf storage anyway, and that is not something you want to find out the hard way. (Plus, let's be honest: you've almost certainly got plenty of probiotics crawling about and doing unmentionable things in your intestines already anyway...) Please feel free to take my thoughts and toss them out th window. My only qualification is that I ferment lots of stuff, I even culture my own yeast strains for brewing and wne making, and they haven't gotten me yet! Cheers!
ryan's picture

What are your thoughts on keeping the fermentation in the dark or in a light filled area? Preference, and why either is chosen would be helpful. Ive started one recently and have left it on the kitchen counter. A friend has also started one and is keeping his in a dark space except to check up on it. Both seem to be doing well but are only a week old.
john's picture

Cool and dark is preferable, but I never forget to check the ferment if it's on the countertop.
Cara's picture

A question about the fermenting stage: Once the bubbles start to form I should wait another couple of weeks before bottling? I made an error in the first two weeks of the "mashing" stage. I put the wine, salt, and peppers into a glass jar with a thin cloth over the mouth and then sealed it! It sat like this for 2 weeks until I realized my mistake. I popped the top, stirred in a teaspoon of yogurt, and 1 week later I'm seeing bubbles. By now (since I'm at the 3 week point) the pepper flesh has melted away from the skins and it smells wonderful (tastes mighty good, too!) Do you suggest that I let it ferment for another week or can I already bottle? Thank you!

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