UPDATE 2: Good news, everyone! I’m not going to kill you with my hot sauce! Well, at least not with botulism; I can’t make any guarantees about the capsaicin. I popped open a jar this afternoon and tested it with my new pH meter: it ranged from 3.3 (when calibrated with the pH 4.0 solution) to 3.5 (when calibrated with the pH 7.0 solution) well below the safe water bath canning pH of 4.6. Now, I’m not sure why this is, given that all of my internet research indicated that it would be a very difficult proposition to boil off the water without boiling off the acetic acid: there were words like “controlled laboratory conditions” and “titration” and “lab-scale thermometer.” I used regular, grocery store white vinegar in the brine, and then let it boil merrily away on the stove for about 20 minutes with nary a glance. Maybe what happened was that, in the week I let the vegetables sit on the counter in the brine, they soaked up most of the vinegar, while exuding water, leaving the vegetables already quite acidic, while the brine was mostly water? I don’t really have an explanation. But what I will say is this: if you plan to make this for room-temp storage, I would invest in a pH meter (you’ll need some calibration & storage solutions, too) and confirm that your final product is safely acidic before tucking it away on the shelf. I just can’t be sure that the recipe as written will be reproducible, and safe, in your kitchen. If anyone does try this and tests it out with a pH meter, please do share the results. And thanks for following along with Kaela’s Krazy Kanning Kitchen.
UPDATE 1: A reader emailed me today (thanks, Lindsay!) to say that she noticed something in the Joy of Pickling that said “be careful not to boil the vinegar for too long, as acetic acid will evaporate before water does.” Originally, I had been thinking of acetic acid like citric acid: a crystalline solid that would not evaporate at the boiling point of water. Turns out that the boiling point of acetic acid is somewhat higher than water (244 degrees vs 212 degrees F for water) but that it is very soluble in water and the boiling point of vinegar is only just slightly higher than water; unless it is a very controlled boil, you may be boiling the acetic acid off into the air. I’m going to investigate this further, and try to get a pH assessment on my sriracha. But for now, if you’ve made this, or plan to, please stick it in the fridge. Herein lies the dangers of experimenting with canning recipes, especially without thoroughly thinking it through, and I do apologize from the bottom of my heart for sharing with you a potentially unsafe recipe: but I’m very grateful that Lindsay pointed out the issue. It’s up to all of us to keep ourselves safe, but it’s so nice to have a community that has your back. I’ll come back with another update if/when I figure out that this is safe for shelf storage (or not).
My first attempt at making the beloved Rooster at home: it came out just a wee bit spicier than the traditional version. Ahem. It might have been that half-pound of red habañeros. Or the fact that I was too lazy to dig the gloves out from under the sink so I didn’t seed them. Any of them. Oops.
I did a bunch of research online before making my version: I checked out David Leite’s version, the Viet World Kitchen version, the fermented vs. fresh experiments at Serious Eats. I learned that I should snip the stem off of my chiles, but not remove the crown, to include a floral component to the sauce. I learned that fermenting gives the sauce a little extra tang (not that I would notice this in the teeth-meltingly hot version I ended up with). I learned that traditional sriracha sauce is made with red jalapeños, sadly difficult to find here in the Northeast this year: it’s been a very wet growing season and a rough one for chile peppers. In the end, I settled on Carter’s version at The Kitchenette: for last year’s October Can Jam, she adapted the popular Food 52 sriracha to a canning-safe recipe for shelf-stable storage (I knew choosing chile peppers for the Can Jam was going to come in handy!).
Based on Carter’s feedback that the flavor of her sauce was great, but the texture was a bit thin, due to the extra vinegar required for canning-safe acidity, I decided to boil down the vinegar brine prior to blending with the peppers. I reasoned that, by reducing the brine, I was boiling off water, but not acetic acid, thereby not negatively impacting the safety factor, but improving the texture of the final product. I wish I had reduced the brine even more, because my final product came out more like a thick sauce than a true paste: however, since said final product is apparently REALLY FREAKIN HOT, maybe it’s a good thing that it’s a bit thinner than traditional. Note to self: don’t make chile sauce with a head cold.
- 2 and 1/2 cups white vinegar
- 1/2 lb habañero peppers, stemmed & halved (seeded if desired for less-than-tooth-meltingly-hot sauce); wear gloves to handle hot peppers!
- 1/2 lb red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup smashed, peeled garlic cloves (about 1 head)
- 1/4 cup raw sugar (organic turbinado)
- 1 scant tbsp Kosher flake salt (use 2 tsp if using a fine-grained salt)
- Day 1. Combine vinegar, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Stir to dissolve. Add peppers & garlic and push under liquid. Cover and allow to sit overnight (or for several nights; mine sat for about a week).
- Day 2 (or 7). Prepare canner, jars and lids.
- Strain liquid from pepper-garlic mixture into a medium saucepan. Bring brine to a full boil over high heat; boil, uncovered, until liquid is reduced to 1/4 the original volume, or to a final volume of about 1/2 – 1 cup, about 15 minutes. Add the vegetables, return to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, partially covered, for 5 minutes.
- Transfer mixture to a food processor and blend until smooth, or leave slightly chunky, per your preference. Return to the saucepan, bring sauce to a simmer, then fill hot jars to 1/2-inch headspace, wipe rims, affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Yields 5, 4-oz jars.
- Traditionally, sriracha is made with red jalapeño peppers, and as such, would be much more mild than this sauce turned out. Choose a combination of peppers that you like, leave seeds in, or remove, depending on your heat preference, and remember that the heat will mellow on the shelf.
- Even with the reduction of the vinegar brine, this came out more like a hot sauce than a true sriracha paste: next time I might reduce even more, or simply stick with a fresh sriracha like Winnie’s, and leave it chunky.
See UPDATES above: please store refrigerated if you cannot confirm that your sauce is safely acidic. If tested, and canned, in a cool dark spot for up to 1 year. For best results, allow the sauce to blend and mellow on the shelf for a few weeks before using.
Late summer into Fall.