I wanted to make a sauce to celebrate Atlanta, as part of the “culture swap” at the recent 3rd annual Fermentation Fest Atlanta. The sauce was a pretty big hit and I got a lot of great booty in return. And by that I do just mean homemade delicacies.
Sometimes you see Atlanta referred to as “Hotlanta,” particularly in tourist products or materials like shot glasses or T-shirts one might find at the airport. But like the title says, nobody calls it Hotlanta!
Hopefully the ingredient choices speak for themselves, although of course Vidalia (a town in Georgia) is not Atlanta but Atlanta’s name isn’t synonymous with a delicious, iconic food, is it? I wanted to keep the ingredient list pretty simple and let the few ingredients shine, but once I had peach and onion going, I felt ginger just had to be in there too.
So let’s get to this recipe, shall we?
You will need: Half gallon jar; knife and cutting board; latex gloves (for removing pepper seeds); blender for processing after the ferment (or other preferred saucing equipment); sauce funnel (recommended if using sauce bottles); fermenting weight and airlock
About 3 lbs. of mixed (orange/peach-colored) peppers before tops and seeds removed, just shy of 2.5 lbs. after.
For my batch, I used:
- 10 orange sweet peppers, rough chopped (250 g, after tops and seeds removed)
- 20 orange habanero peppers, rough chopped (150 g, after tops/seeds removed)
- 9 large manzano peppers, rough chopped (700 g, after tops/seeds removed)
- 2 TBSP non-iodized salt dissolved in 4 cups filtered or distilled water (~3.5% brine)
- 3 small peaches, pitted and halved
- 1 large Vidalia onion (or substitute with a large sweet onion), peeled and cut in half
- 1 finger ginger, peeled with a spoon (~40 g)
- 2 1/4 cups reserved brine from the ferment
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (for after the ferment)
- Optional: sugar is optional but the peaches weren’t as sweet as I hoped, so I added 2 TBSP sugar
1.) Rinse the peppers, remove stems and seeds (seeds optional, I like to remove them for aesthetic reasons), rough chop
2.) Place in the fermenting vessel and add the saltwater brine to below the shoulder of the jar
3.) Add a fermenting weight or anything safe & suitable for a ferment to keep all the produce submerged, and cap with a lid or airlock system. (If lid capped, remember to burp once a day for a couple weeks, then periodically after that)
4.) Allow to ferment for several weeks to several months. It is not recommended to ferment for less than three weeks in order to achieve a low pH and complex flavor
5.) Once you’re ready to process the sauce, cut the peaches and onion as described above
6.) Heat the grill on high and let sit for around ten minutes, followed by a spray down with vinegar and wire brushing of the grill, in order to ensure that the peaches and onion don’t make contact with any residual oils or fats. You may opt to place the produce on aluminum foil in the grill, and again oil cannot be used.
7.) Grill the peaches and onion on medium heat for around five minutes on one side, then flip for another five minutes. Allow enough time on the grill to produce a nice brown caramelization, while trying not to burn anything. You may also opt to cook “low and slow,” but make sure to monitor to avoid burning.
8.) Strain and reserve the brine from the pepper ferment, leaving any thick, yeasty liquid at the bottom if possible.
9.) Remove the skin of the ginger with a spoon, and then rough chop it
10.) Combine the fermented peppers, peaches, onion, ginger, apple cider vinegar (and any other spice you may wish to add, e.g. garlic powder, cumin, etc., if desired) in a blender and blend on high until even (1-2 minutes).
A word on pH: Fermentation reduces pH and therefore after several weeks to months the peppers will be very shelf stable (the pH will continuously decrease until at least 3.2 over time). However, adding the unfermented peaches, onion, and ginger will raise the pH back up. The apple cider vinegar will help offset this but a pH minimally below 4.6 should always be maintained for longterm sauce use (beyond just a week or two). If you want to confirm the pH of your sauce, you will need to use a pH meter such as this.
11.) Transfer the blend to a clean or sterilized saucepot and bring the sauce to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for at least 20 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. (Note this will kill the probiotic bacteria, but since the peaches introduce new sugars to the ferment, if you don’t boil, the ferment can get very active again and lead to explosive bottles.)
12.) Once the simmer is complete, you may return the sauce to the blender and blend on high for five minutes.
13.) You may now transfer the sauce to bottles using a sauce funnel.
Alternately, if you want to fully pasteurize the sauce, the empty sauce bottles should be placed in boiling water for several minutes. Then, remove the bottles and add the sauce to them. Once bottling is complete, place the bottles back in the boiling water at 165 degrees for 10 minutes, then bring to a rolling boil at 180 degrees. Once this temperature is achieved, remove the bottles from the pot.
For a professional look, add bottle top shrink capsules. A full set of needed supplies is shown here.