Home fermentation may seem scary, but it doesn't have to be. And the payoff—Michael Hung's better-than-Sriracha chile vinegar sauce—is totally worth it.
Here are some tips: The temperature in your kitchen will have a big effect on how quickly the vinegar ferments. Keep your chile vinegar in a clean area and be aware of the temperature daily. At 78 degrees, the fermentation will be done in three days. At 70 to 71 degrees it will take about four days, and anything lower than that five days.
Use smell as your guide—after a few days, you'll start to pick up a little ripeness or kimchi-esque funk, and that's how you know it's ready. But if the vinegar is bubbling, has a slimy texture or any visible mold, toss it—that's a bad batch.
Refrigerated, the vinegar will last a few months.
Note: If you can't find Fresno or dried California chiles, use fresh red Serranos instead. If doing so, reduce the total amount of chilies by one quarter and increase the red bell pepper by the same amount.
To learn more, read "Michael Hung's Secret Weapon."
Chile Vinegar Sauce
Recipe from Michael Hung, Faith & Flower, Los Angeles, CA
Yield: 1½ cups
Prep Time: 15 minutes, plus 3 to 5 days to ferment
Cook Time: About a minute
Total Time: 15 minutes, plus 3 to 5 days to ferment
1 dried Anaheim chile, stemmed, seeded
1 fresh red Fresno chile, sliced ¼-inch thick
½ red bell pepper, seed, sliced ¼-inch thick
2 tablespoons roughly chopped garlic
¼ cup finely diced shallot
1 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons salt
1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Roast the Anaheim chile on a sheet tray until lightly toasted, about a minute.
2. Combine all of the ingredients in a non-reactive mixing bowl and allow to marinate for an hour.
3. Transfer the chile mixture to a blender and purée on high speed until smooth. Place the purée in a nonreactive bowl and cover tightly with one layer of cheesecloth. Allow the sauce to sit at room temperature for 3 to 5 days until the sauce takes on a natural fermented aroma. Once finished, transfer the sauce to an airtight container. Keep chilled in the refrigerator. The vinegar will last for a few months.