Ready to add some zing to your pantry?
A few years ago I had a less-than-sucessful attempt at homemade barbecue sauce. We didn’t have a food mill back then. That, coupled with the fact that I may have added ingredients at the wrong time, left me with a sauce that had a weird mouth feel and not much flavor besides tomato. Ever since we got our food mill I’ve been itching to give a homemade, tomato-based condiment another try.
I have a lot of jalapenos in the garden, and I already have an abundance of pickled jalapenos from 2013 in the pantry. So, I needed to do something different with them. I decided to take a few jalapenos and my meager crop of tomatoes and try my hand at a homemade hot sauce.
I modified the recipe from the Ball Blue Book – it called for 1 1/2 cups of “red hot peppers.” The USDA has a nutrient database so I used that to determine that 1 1/2 cups of peppers by weight is 135 grams. I didn’t chop my peppers, rather I weighed out about 135 grams of jalapenos for my sauce. I also didn’t seed my peppers because I wanted the sauce as hot as possible. Plus, it would have just added extra work because the food mill removes all the seeds and peels.
I should also mention I did my due diligence and I’m not just swapping peppers on a whim. I found a publication from the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources that indicates pepper varieties (sweet/hot) can be used interchangeably as long as you don’t alter the total amount of peppers.
The recipe should yield 4 half-pints. Want a helpful tip that I didn’t think of until after I processed my batch? Pour 1 quart of water in the pot you’re making your sauce in. Measure the depth with a ruler. Make a note of it so you don’t forget it. This is the depth you want to ultimately thicken your sauce to.
Now, let’s get started.
Add your jalapenos and 2 quarts of tomatoes to a non-reactive pot (The tomatoes were much easier to measure than the peppers- I just crammed them into a quart jar… twice). Add 2 cups (1 pint) of white vinegar. Simmer until everything is soft. It takes about 15-20 minutes. Your kitchen will smell like Tabasco sauce.
Once they’re soft, run them through your food mill. If you don’t have a food mill I’d recommend using an immersion blender then passing the mixture through a strainer lined with cheesecloth to remove any chunks (this is where I could have kept my aforementioned barbecue sauce from going awry… I should have strained and not just blended).
With my food mill, the skins and seeds get discarded out the end. I run that stuff though a couple times to make sure I don’t lose any of the good stuff.
At this point you’ll have a nice little bucket of juice.
Return it to your pot along with 1 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon of salt, and 2 tablespoons of pickling spices tied in a spice bag. I had to look it up, apparently spice bags are actually a thing. If you don’t want to buy spice bags you can just do it my way – in about 4 layers of cheesecloth tied up with some kitchen twine.
Simmer it until it’s thick, stirring occasionally.
Be forewarned, about the time it gets to the thickness you want it will get very spattery. And when the spattering vinegar hits your arm as you’re stirring, it hurts.
Once it is thick, stir in another 2 cups of white vinegar. Simmer until it reaches the proper thickness. Hopefully you caught my tip earlier in this post.
After you start this second simmer is a good time to start prepping your jars and lids for water bath canning. Again, we’re making half-pints.
Fill your jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. I will say, after pressure canning a ridiculous amount of corn and beans this summer, 1/4 inch of headspace is sort of shocking. Use your headspace tool or another nonreactive utensil to release any air bubbles and re-check your headspace. Wipe the rim with a damp cloth or paper towel, position your lid, and screw on the ring. The day I made the hot sauce I also made two different relishes. I was starting to get a little burnt out at this point and apparently I felt you didn’t need photos of this part of the process, because I didn’t take any. If you want more detailed instructions on filling the jars (with photos), be sure to browse my other canning and preserving posts.
Process the jars in a water bath canner for 15 minutes. Start timing when the water reaches a rolling boil. Once time is up, turn the heat off and let the jars cool for 10 minutes in the canner before removing them and placing them on a kitchen towel in a draft-free area to cool undisturbed for 24 hours.
After 24 hours check your seals. The lids should be firmly held down by the vacuum inside the jar. If the lid pops up and down when you press on it either re-process with a new lid for the full processing time or put it in the refrigerator and use it within two weeks. If the jars have properly sealed, remove the rings, label the lids, and store the jars in a cool dry place. Never store your jars with the rings on.
I over-thickened my sauce, so mine eats like a spicy ketchup, but if you utilize my tip to ensure you thicken it to the proper consistency you should be able to avoid that. My sauce isn’t extremely spicy because I used jalapenos, but of course you can kick it up even more by using hotter peppers. I would compare the heat level to about that of a medium buffalo wing sauce. It’s hot enough to have some kick but not so hot you can’t enjoy the flavor. However, I tried it the next day – it will be interesting to see what happens to the heat level over time!