Sangre del Diablo


IMG_1627So, my chilli experiment was a success. I’ve been left with bags of chills of all varieties, intensities shapes and sizes.  I’ve got some fresh, many frozen and plenty dehydrated for use in the  months to come.  But I’m left with 1 problem – my Morouga Chillies.  They’re just, well, frightening!  They are unbelievably hot, I just had no idea what I was going to do with them.  How hot?  Unofficially they’ve been recorded at around 2 million scoville units – thats at a level equivalent to military grade pepper spray, and not something that I felt I could just chop into a salsa.

But then it occurred to me, what a great opportunity to experiment with something that I’d been wanting to try for some time, a fermented Chilli Sauce, like the ubiquitous Tabasco Sauce brewed to that secret family recipe in Louisiana.  But this would be better – I couldn’t really lose.  If it all went pear shaped what was the worst that would happen?  I’d throw away a pile of chillies I just couldn’t use anywhere else.  If it was successful, it would give me not only a method I could deploy with some of my other varieties, but a hot pepper sauce which could be used 1 drop at a time.  Surely the best away of getting through something that other countries are using to protect itself from terrorist attacks?  And so the seed was sown, so to speak, for “Sangre del Diablo”, or “Devil’s Blood”, surely what must be one of the hottest chilli sauces on the planet!  My own personal gastronomic WMD

Concept

Fermentation is a common way of preserving things.  It’s been going on for hundreds of years.  Think not only of beer and wine, but also of the likes of sauerkraut.  Yeasts are used to ferment material, converting natural sugars into acid and giving off carbon dioxide.  Fundamentally, the same process used in the making of sourdough bread.  The material is preserved with a high concentration of sea salt to form a brine solution, minimising the opportunities to spoil, whilst excess air is excluded as far as possible from the fermentation vessel.  Once the fermentation period has come to an end, adding a further quantity of acid, such as vinegar, will kill off the yeasts causing the fermentation.  This process can take weeks or months, or in the case of the ‘official’ Tabasco Sauce, 3 years, to provide the perfect ferment.  The material is stored in sterile containers for future use.

I wanted to run this experiment on a reasonable scale, so I’ve supplemented the ripe Morouga Chillies with a few Trinidad Congo red Habaneros, and a quantity of sweet red peppers.  This should help to provide some depth of flavour to supplement the heat

Ingredients

  • 150g fresh Morouga Chillies (or mix of any ripe chillies), seeds included
  • 300g Sweet Red Peppers (deseeded weight)
  • 30g Sea Salt (about 6% by weight of the total peppers)
  • 1 tsp Sugar
  • Water to cover
  • 300ml Cider Vinegar

Method

  • Trim the green stalks off the chillies and coarsely chop.  Retain the seeds
  • Chop the sweet peppers also, and add both to a food processor.  Blitz until fine, but not a puree.  WARNING: These chillies give off amazingly powerful vapour.  Be careful.  Wearing gloves is also recommended
  • Add the chopped peppers into a large glass jar (I’m using a 1.5ltr clip-topped Kilner jar) and stir in the sea salt and sugar.  Press down
  • Rinse the food processor out with a little clean water and add to the jar.  The water wants to come just above the peppers, but this is quite difficult to judge if the peppers start floating.  NB: The more water, the less intense the final product is likely to be.  The more liquid, the less chance the peppers will be exposed to the air and start to mould
  • Stir well and try to push the solids below the surface, removing anything that sticks to the sides
  • Cover with a muslin cloth & rest the glass lid on top – don’t seal fully, you need wild yeasts to enter the jar to start the fermentation.  Set aside
  • Every day, at least once a day, stir well
  • After a few days the solids should be seen to separate from the liquid and floats to the top of the jar. When you stir, you’ll see bubbles released from the peppers.  Congratulations! your fermentation has started
  • Continue to allow to ferment and stand for as long as can, stirring daily. The longer it takes, the better the flavour should be**.  Any ‘mould’ which appears on the surface is actually yeast, reacting with the oxygen – stir this in or carefully remove if preferred
  • Once you’re satisfied with the level of fermentation, carefully strain the liquor off, squeezing out the solids by pushing through several layers of muslin cloth, or a very fine sieve if you want a thicker sauce
  • Add the vinegar (about 3 parts vinegar to 8 parts chilli liquor) – the acidity here is key to kill off the bacteria & help prevent further fermentation. pH of under 4 required, around 20-50% vinegar by volume should need to be added
  • Bottle and store

Comments & Future Considerations

  • This batch yielded 800ml of liquor, plus 300ml vinegar = 1.1ltr of very hot sauce.
  • I intentionally kept this very basic. The flavour was good, but would have been ‘fuller’ if everything was passed through a food mill rather than just a cloth, and if I could have kept the fermentation going for longer
  • My fermentation finished after 2 weeks, then the yeast started to build up. Fermentation would have taken longer if there was proportionally more solids (i.e., add less water, add other ingredients such as more sweet pepper, carrot, onion, garlic, etc.)
  • Add an airlock to prevent contamination once formation has started. This will also show when the fermentation has really finished
  • Use a starter, e.g., some yoghurt whey or sourdough hooch to kickstart the fermentation, or start the next batch with some of the chilli liquor or solids from this batch
  • Consider adding other ingredients – e..g., Garlic
  • Consider using hand-chopped chillies rather than food processor.  Bigger bits would probably hold below the liquid, but take longer to ferment
  • Heating the sauce post fermentation could be considered as an option to kill off any bad bacteria
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