What do you think about xanthum gum?
After months of experiments with fermentation and pepper processing, I am making Louisiana and Sriracha style pepper sauces at home that taste better than the stuff you buy in the store. Rice vinegar, Steen’s cane vinegar, and Spanish sherry vinegar are a huge improvement over the distilled white vinegar the big boys use. Of course, if you really want to make a pepper sauce that tastes just like one you buy in a bottle, you can use the clear stuff too.
Trade secret numero uno is the ripeness of the peppers. I noticed that many hot sauce makers mention their “sun-ripened peppers.” I eventually realized that the best way to soften the peppers for a richer puree is to buy them very ripe and then leave them out in the summer sun for a couple of days.
My first few batches of peppers were fermented for a week. The last batch fermented for two weeks. The difference was slight, but the peppers were softer and the mash tasted richer. Tabasco claims they once fermented peppers in oak barrels on Avery Island for three years. I believe that most pepper sauce manufacturers now buy peppers in Latin America where they are mixed with salt, turned into mash, and put into plastic barrels for shipping. And I doubt any manufacturer is fermenting for years anymore.
Buying a Vitamix blender was the expensive solution to all my processing problems. After months of putting the fermented pepper mash and vinegar through a coarse strainer and pushing it with a wooden spoon to extract the pepper solids, I gave up and bought the high power blender. My friends have been telling me I needed one of these things for several years now. I had to change the fermenting recipe to accomadate the equipment change though. The Vitamix turns the pepper seeds into an annoying grit. So to avoid that problem, I am now removing the seeds before I start fermenting.
If you ferment seedless “sun-ripened” peppers for a couple of weeks, then put the peppers and the brine in the Vitamix and turn it on full blast for a minute or two, you have a smooth pepper mash puree that can be mixed with vinegar without any straining. Then you can make a homemade pepper sauce that’s as thick as anything on the market. I could even keep the pepper solids perfectly suspended in the vinegar if I added a little xanthum gum.
Tabasco and Frank’s RedHot Pepper Sauces don’t contain any xanthum gum, but Sriracha and Texas Pete do. I bought some at the store the other day, but I haven’t open the package yet.
Do you think it’s worth it?