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Heat and flavor

Henry County chef makes fermented hot sauce

If she had to pick a favorite pepper, says Shelby Energy consumer-member LIZZIE CAMFIELD, shown, it would probably be the tiny aji charapita, described by the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalog as a pepper with “distinct fruity, citrus aroma … equal in heat to a cayenne pepper … known as the ‘Mother of All Chilis’” in Peru.

But the real fun of fermenting your own hot sauce is to experiment with a bunch of differ-ent peppers—like Brazilian starfish or Sugar Rush Peach or any one of many others, sometimes mixed. In separate jars, Camfield fer-ments onions and carrots together, sometimes with fresh herbs, and uses those to blend with the hot peppers to make hot sauce. Carrots and onions help turn down the heat and turn up the flavor.

Lizzie Camfield

Camfield started fermenting food when she perfected making large, European-style sourdough loaves. Fermenting sourdough led her to cabbage and sauerkraut. But hot pepper plants thrive in her Henry County garden and produce so many chiles that making hot sauce seemed a solution to using them all.

Sometimes her friends aren’t sure about the idea of fermented peppers, says Camfield. But the great hot sauces of the world are fermented—Tabasco for three years—so she’s in good company.

To make your own fermented hot sauce:

  • Use red, yellow and/or orange peppers for best color.
  • Add garlic, onion and carrots to “round out” the flavor.
  • Tightly pack vegetables in containers.
  • Use unchlorinated or filtered water.
  • Add enough brine to cover; vegetables should stay submerged.
  • Keep at room temperature for four days to two weeks. The liquid will get cloudy and the mixture will quit bubbling.
  • Use a blender to puree, then decant in jars, if desired.

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