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Fermented Pepper Sauces (Tabasco)

Tabasco

Grind peppers. Add 1/2 cup kosher salt per gallon of ground peppers
and allow to age 1 month in glass or crockery jars. Add white wine
vinegar to taste and bottle. Age before using to blend the flavors
together.

Nowadays they do it the same, except that the salted mash goes
directly into oak barrels. The mash is packed down and the top is
sealed with oak planks into which holes have been drilled. Avery
Island (the "island" is really a natural salt dome; originally all
salt used in production came from natural salt digs in the area.
), where some of the peppers are grown, is the production site.
The barrels are topped with a thick layer of salt and allowed to
ferment. The salt layer serves as a permeable barrier that allows
gases to escape but allows no bacteria, fruit flies, etc. access
to the mash. McIlhenny allows them to age three years in these
oak barrels. After aging, the mash is pulled, checked for quality
and, if OK, it is blended with white wine vinegar (they don't say
how much) and aged some weeks more ('nother secret!). Finally,
the product is pulled, strained and the liquid bottled.

Adapting this to your home:

Note: as you must pull the liquid from the peppers, they must be
fresh, fleshy and of the right state of ripeness. At Avery Island
they still use the original "critique baton rouge", a red stick
tinted to the exact color of the peppers to be harvested. Peppers
not matching the "critique" are rejected. Old or overdried peppers
are the key to failure.

The ratio of mash to salt seems to be about the same as for
sauerkraut. Grind peppers, seeds and all, in a medium to fine
grind (K-5 cutters). Mix with Kosher salt and put into crock.
Cover with saucer or other to press the mash down, as in sauerkraut.
Liquid will form. Allow to ferment until the mash stabilizes (stops
fermenting). Place the whole thing in a larger, sterile crock and
add sterile white wine vinegar to taste. Allow to meld another week
or so. Run the mash through a chinoise, fine strainer, or, last
resort, throw it all into a bowl lined with cheesecloth, fold the
cheesecloth up into a ball (like making cottage cheese) and twist
& squeeze until the juice is extracted. Adjust for taste with salt.
Bottle the juice and keep in fridge. (Chemists [like me] can play
with sodium benzoate or other preservatives like BHA. Organic
types can stick pins in voodoo dolls made in our likenesses.)

Variables: Age of peppers. Variety. Water content. Consistency
of ripeness.

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