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There are condiments, like mustard, when made at home are delicious and can be flavored to suit your tastes and creativity levels. They are easy to make and the payoff is high, given the amount of work and cost that goes into making these things. Then there are condiments like ketchup, where what you get is hardly worth either the time or the effort, much less both. Homemade hot sauce lies in the middle. It is a condiment worth the limited effort to make it, but given that I am currently garden-less, the expense in producing a small bottle of the stuff stretches the limits of desirability.

Like mustard, however, the effort is low and you are able to customize as you desire. I love the fruitiness of habanero and was interested in the challenge of the ghost chili. The ghost chili is known as the world’s hottest chili, but I can only imagine that the varieties are affected by where they grow and a Midwestern ghost chili would be far more polite than where ever the record breaking chili grew. In any regard, I started out with equal parts (by weight) habanero and ghost chile, both grown by Vicki at Genesis Growers.

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This is basically your only expense, so if you pick inexpensive chilis or grow your own, the expense deterrent will not be there. The rest is salt and vinegar. The process is as simple as whirring the chilis and salt in a food processor, then putting that mixture in a jar, and letting the jar sit, covered with cheese cloth for a month or two (loosey, goosey, but I went 45 days).

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After a month, I added vinegar and put the cheesecloth back on the jar. Two weeks of doing nothing later, I strained the mixture into a bottle and tasted. The fruitiness of the habanero was crystal clear and delcious. The ghost chili could very well be fruity too, but to be honest, every time I taste one, I begin to sweat and swear, so any fruitiness is obscured by pain.

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The hot sauce is a big flavor upgrade over the novelty and grocery store sauces. It has the complexity and flavor that Tabasco or any sauce combining “butt” or “burn” or “pain” or euphemisms thereof could only dream of having. Real hot sauces like Crystal or the one made at Husk or by Co-op Hot Sauce have little to worry about. Their cost is still attractive and their flavors amazing.

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I have been grilling my chicken spatch-cocked under my hundred year old cast iron skillet all summer and, as a cook’s treat have been chomping on the neck and spine while letting the chicken rest. With the hot sauce, this delicious humble treat became something more. That is what essentially brings hot sauce out from under the ketchup territory and into mustard-land. And Mustard-land is one hell of a place to be.

As mentioned three months ago, I started three vinegars when the last set completed fermenting. I fermented an Imperial Stout from Central Waters Brewery and the famous Belgian Red from New Glarus as well as infusing muddled ramps into homemade white wine vinegar. The ramp-infusted vinegar is fantastic with mild vegetables or tofu. The imperial stout is a super malty vinegar with roasted chocolate flavors. It is really great on roasted vegetables. The Belgian red maintains the sour cherry flavors and is tremendous on raw vegetables. I also liked it drizzled over goat cheese. There are plenty coming down the line. Some far more interesting than beer flavors.

Ghost Chili and Habanero Hot Sauce

  • 150 grams ghost chilis
  • 150 grams habaneros
  • 10 grams sea salt
  • 125 mL white wine vinegar

Step one: Leaving the chilis whole and stems intact, blend them with the salt and decant into a jar, cover with cheese cloth, and let ferment for one to two months.

Step two: After one to two months, add vinegar and let sit for two weeks. Strain into a bottle through a cheese cloth.

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