I went to graduate school in New Orleans, Louisiana “pre-Katrina”. I love that city. New Orleans inspired my mom and I to cook. To go “all in” and “kick it up a notch”. Emeril’s Creole Christmas Cookbook changed our Christmas dinners forever. Our appetizers went from humdrum shrimp dip and crackers to Corn Cakes with Christmas Caviar Sauce. We learned how to make gumbo and jambalaya and all things étouffée. And the desserts. My goodness, bread pudding is simply amazing and so incredibly easy!
While in New Orleans, I met Emeril Lagasse, just as he was becoming the superstar. Yes, he actually cooked in his restaurant, and the food was amazing. My friends and I would try to get a seat at the tables overlooking the kitchen to watch him cook! Emeril wasn’t the only game in town, however. Paul Prudhomme’s restaurant was really hard to get into and the food was well worth the wait! Local dives that would likely fail health codes elsewhere were serving up traditional New Orleans favorites. And the crawfish. Being from Maryland, crawfish were way easier to pick than crabs!! A very refreshing change of pace. Last, but not least, there are not enough nice things to say about Commander’s Palace. Truly an amazing place.
And here is where I found Crystal Hot Sauce. I never cared for Tabasco (gasp!), but Crystal actually tasted like something other than “hot” and vinegar. My husband is the type that loves hot sauce and crazy spicy foods. Crystal doesn’t do it for him. He also LOVES to make things himself. So, on a day when I was a bit under the weather, my husband and my son made hot sauce. I asked him if he would do a guest blog, but he said he’d take “a few pictures, they won’t be great” and that I could write it. So, here we are. We went to the farmer’s market and gathered a bunch of peppers that were labeled “hot”.
See that little red one at the top? That’s something the farmer called really, really hot. She wouldn’t sell it to my son unless we were there and said it was ok. Yeah, it’s hot.
Now, if you want a red sauce, you need to pretty much use red peppers. Our sauce is a bit “muddy” because of all the green colored peppers. You could use red food coloring to make it the color you want, if you have a lot of green peppers you want to add to the sauce. Also, if you are expecting something crazy hot, we’ve come to the conclusion that people must be adding capsaicin directly for the super hot sauces. We’ve made sauces from habaneros and as the seeds are all strained out, the sauce was good, but not super hot. The “hot” part of the pepper is contained within the seeds and white parts, and those are generally strained out. What you will get is a sauce that’s spicy and complex with several layers of amazing flavor.
Hot sauce first appears in the United States appeared in the early 1800s in New England. In the 1860s, Edmund McIlhenny invented Tabasco sauce on Avery Island in Louisiana as a way to spice up food after Reconstruction period left southern food decidedly bland. By the 1870s, the sauce was widely available and even shipped ot England. To this day, the sauce is still made on Avery Island, over 140 years later.
Makes 1 Quart, 1 Pint
3-4 pounds of various hot peppers (stemmed)
1.5 liters of white vinegar (5% acidity)
1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon thyme
4 ounces tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
1 bay leaf
Roughly chop up peppers. Place peppers, vinegar, salt, and spices in a non-reactive sauce pan. Our 4 Quart stainless steel sauce pan was big enough. Simmer for 2 hours in a well ventilated area.
Remove peppers from vinegar and place in a food processor. Strain vinegar and set aside. Process the peppers until smooth, then press through a fine sieve.
Return processed pepper pulp to the sauce pan and add 1/2 of the vinegar mix, tomato paste, sugar and bay leaf. Adjust coloring and salt if desired. Simmer over low heat for an hour. Pour into sterilized jar or bottle and secure with an airtight lid. Let age at least two weeks before using. Maybe stored up to 6 months in the refrigerator.