The batch of hot sauce I made during the G+ video hangout I feel is good enough to be the basis for the first line of the Pablo’s Hot Sauce brand. I’m tentatively calling it Aztec Empire because it’s made entirely from ingredients native to Central Mexico where the Aztec Empire flourished. This area of the world is also dear to me since it’s where my mother grew up. It will get a couple minor tweaks before the recipe is solidified and mass-produced. I’m sending off a bottle of the early recipe today to Alan McDonald for High Performance Liquid Chromatography analysis, and will post the results once that’s complete.
I have a huge jar of red savina mash, and wanted to make a sauce that’s comparable to August in Austin -http://www.tearsofjoysauces.com/august-austin-sauce-p-213.html. August in Austin is fast becoming one of my favorites and has won many awards; and with good reason, the guys at Tears of Joy in Austin are no joke.
This will be a simple sauce. The ingredients list is just Habanero mash, vinegar, garlic, onion, lime zest, and salt. With mash-based sauces, you fortunately get enough acidity from the fermented mash, so it doesn’t require a bunch of extra vinegar for acidity. This also means you can make a thicker sauce more easily. For this sauce, I didn’t want a thicker consistency like ketchup, but I didn’t want it to be completely runny like tabasco either. This sauce’s consistency will be more like the consistency of a buffalo wing sauce.
First I chopped up half an onion, and sauteed it in some butter. After the onion was sufficiently caramelized, I dumped 3 roughly chopped cloves of garlic in the pan to brown slightly. I immediately threw this mix along with the zest of one lime into the blender and let it cool a bit. Then I spooned in about 6-8 tablespoons of the habanero mash into the blender and spun the entire mixture all up. The resulting mix is quite thick, but here’s where I start adding vinegar to thin it out. I stack the sauce w/ vinegar, blend, stack, blend, etc… until it’s the right consistency. Strain the mix into a pot, bring it up to temperature (just until it steams out a bit, you don’t want it to boil!). Then kill the heat, bottle the sauce, pop into the refrigerator to meld.
The red habanero mash makes for a very, very awesome heat. The capsaicin is immediately apparent as habaneros typically are - very bright and up front. However, the heat then seems to dissipate a bit and you think you’re getting a bit of relief… but then something very bizarre happens. The heat comes right back at you and lingers. I’m not sure why this sauce has this kind of, “boomerang” effect, but perhaps it’s due to the use of a mash, and in particular the type of pepper that’s used in the mash. The consistency is exactly what I was after, but I think next time I make it, I’m going to omit the onions, and perhaps if I decide to make this one of my staple sauces, I’ll use lime juice instead of zest for ease of bulk production. The onions don’t really add much in terms of flavor depth, but they do impart a strong aroma in the scent of the sauce. It’s not offensive or anything, but it’s a little unexpected I think. Also, the lime zest is fantastic tasting, but would be impossible to source reliably at scale for mass production.
Trying Out a Fermented Pepper Mash
I recently discovered a few suppliers of fermented pepper mash. Fermented mashes are nice because you can control the heat easily - no surprise capsaicin explosion from shocked peppers, and the fermented flavor is able to take the place of some of the vinegar in your sauces. Less vinegar means you can control the thickness of the sauce using water - which is much more desirable I think. This particular pepper mash is red habanero mash from http://dannycash.com (yes, that was definitely a shameless plug!). Danny is awesome if you ever get a chance to talk to him. So this sauce is going to be made with stuff I have laying around, and will use Danny Cash’s Red Habanero mash. I’m thinking this one will be a sweeter, south-meets-the-west-indies kinda sauce. The type that goes well with jerk chicken and red beans on saffron rice.
Slice up a couple fresh peaches, dump ‘em in the blender, and start stacking the accoutrements till it tastes like something I want to put on jerk chicken. Sounds easy, right? It’s not. Getting the flavor balance of sweet, salty, spicy, sour, and that certain “zingy” flavor that comes from fermentation… it’s tricky, and requires lots and lots of tasting. Not to mention getting the consistency to where it’s easy to pour, but won’t come flowing out too fast.
I start by slicing up both peaches. I only used one to begin with to see how the puree would look. Unfortunately these peaches weren’t very sweet, so I needed to use honey to bring up the sweetness a bit. I tasted the peach/honey puree and it’s pretty good. We’re off to a good start. Now it’s time to add the heat - 2 teaspoons of the Habanero mash. Spin it, and taste - pretty hot. WAY hot. Okay, let’s do some more stacking, we can dilute with more peaches later. Spun in some lemon zest - fantastic addition, gives a great up-front punch. But now it needs a smidge more honey to balance. And still too hot. In goes more honey and the rest of the peaches. Now the heat is under control, not nearly as fierce. But now it’s a bit sweet and slightly spicy, and not much else. Let’s spin in another pinch of lemon zest, a couple teaspoons of vinegar and a pinch of salt. Give it a taste… pretty damn good now. Any more vinegar and it’d be ruined. However for some reason the heat is a bit weak now. One more teaspoon of mash and it’s perfect, ready for straining into the sauce pot.
Heating the sauce is to kill any bacteria that may be present. The bottles are also sterlized by throwing a centimeter or two of water in the bottom and microwaving them on high for a couple minutes. The water boils, steams the inside, and the glass heats up significantly. Heat the sauce in the pot up just slightly below boiling, you don’t want it to boil. A little steam off the top is fine. Once it’s up to temperature, into the bottles with it.
Will have to save final thoughts until the sauce has come down to temperature and can settle in the fridge for a bit. This one won’t be interchangeable with the Louisiana-style sauces, but on initial tasting should feel right at home on cajun food, north Mexican, and island-style cuisine. This one is likely going to get some tweaking, and going to become my the basis for Pablo’s Trinidad-style sauce. I haven’t settled on a name yet. Trinidad Volcano? Trinidad Terror? Trinidad Calypso? If you can throw out a name I like, maybe I’ll use it. :)