The Soaking Tip To Keep In Mind When Making Homemade Hot Sauce

Chili peppers are a native Mexican crop that serve as the foundation of countless Mexican salsas and stewed meats. They've also traveled and proliferated throughout many global cuisines, from Asian chili oils and sambals to harissa and zhug in the Middle East to Cajun Tabasco sauce. If you're considering making your own hot sauce, soaking the chili peppers is a crucial step. Soaking chili peppers in a vinegar and salt or vinegar and sugar solution is a longstanding practice that both pickles the peppers and tempers their heat. In Mexico, soaking fresh or dried peppers in vinegar and sugar is one of many steps that fall under the preparation practices known as "desflemar," translated literally as "to remove phlegm."

Soaking chilis in vinegar or brine for anywhere from 12 hours to a week is a passive way to tenderize fresh chilis and rehydrate dried chilis, add tangy vibrant notes, and develop the flavors of the chili peppers. You can then transfer the pickled chilis and liquid to a saucepan to simmer, further developing the sweet, tangy, and spicy trifecta of flavors before blending into a smooth, velvety hot sauce. You can also add aromatics like shallots, onions, or garlic to the pickling solution for more depth of flavor. This quick-pickled foundation will extend hot sauce's shelf life for up to three months in the refrigerator.

Other tips for controlling spice and flavor

While soaking peppers in vinegar will soften their heat and bring a tangy complement to their spicy flavors, you can control the heat level of homemade hot sauce with other simple methods. The spice level depends on the amount of capsaicin found in a chili pepper, so you can start by choosing peppers based on their capsaicin content. The amount of capsaicin each chili pepper contains is measured in Scoville units, with mild peppers like bell peppers, poblanos, and cherry peppers containing 2000 or less, and super hot habaneros containing over 250,000. Furthermore, capsaicin concentrates in the pith that anchors the seeds to the chili pepper flesh, so removing these parts will significantly reduce heat.

If you like mild hot sauce, you can use poblanos or Anaheim chilis with the seeds removed to soak with garlic and onions in a vinegar and sugar solution. The garlic and onion will provide a spicy bite to enhance that of the mild peppers, while the sugar and vinegar will temper any residual heat. If you enjoy the heat of hot sauce, you can soak jalapeƱos or Fresno chilis with their seeds and piths. Simmering the pickled chilis and garlic will bloom their flavors and thicken the pickling liquid for a more velvety hot sauce texture, and you can add powdered spices or fresh herbs to the pot for more depth of flavor.