I was so excited when David Shackney asked if I would post his Smokey Verde Hot Sauce recipe. I can't wait to try this.
I love ribs, brisket and butt as much as the next BBQ nut, but I’m always looking for interesting ways to use my Humphreys Battle Box for things other than standard southern barbecue. Smoke is a flavor that, when used correctly, can bring a whole new dimension to many different types of cuisine.
The last few years I’ve been experimenting with making hot sauce. A few years ago, I had a bumper crop of hot peppers in my back yard garden and decided to preserve them this way to keep through the winter and to give to my friends as gifts. It’s been a fun and rewarding hobby.
At the end of the growing season last year, the plants were still heavy with fruit
when the first frost hit. I came outside and found all of my plants wilted and my once crisp peppers softened by the sudden freeze. I picked them and brought them inside to ponder their fate. They were too soft to pickle and I don’t love the vegetal flavor overtones of green hot sauce but I didn’t have much of a choice. I would have to do my best to mask the flavors I don’t like and highlight the ones I do.
Smoke would be the answer. I smoked the peppers for about three hours with
hickory and followed my normal hot sauce recipe from there. The result was okay
but I didn’t love it. To me, the smoke was too heavy and there was a bit of a rubber tire aftertaste.
During the holidays, I gave away about 30 bottles of hot sauce including about 10 of smoked verde variety. People love homemade hot sauce, but the one I get asked about the most is the smokey green verde sauce I had written off as a failed experiment. I guess my taste must be off because people call me begging for more.
This year I decided to make “DibS Smokey Verde” sauce a priority so I started
expe-rimenting early in the season. This year I used cherry wood and only smoked for 1.5 to 2 hours. The fact that I’m not using peppers that were withering on the vine also seems to help. The result has been a crisper, fresher tasting sauce that is definitively smoky without neoprene aftertaste. We’ll have to see if my friends enjoy it as much as last year’s batch. I know I like this one much better.
Some notes about this recipe: This is a lacto-fermented sauce so there is bacteria involved. There is also mold. All of this will be neutralized by the vinegar in the end, so there is nothing to worry about. I ferment for 1 week. You could go longer but I find this starts to taste like kimchi. I love kimchi but that’s a different project. You could also skip fermentation all together but you’ll wind up with a very 2 dimensional sauce that’s all heat and no flavor.
I use cider vinegar but you can use whatever you want, so long as it is in the
neighborhood of 5% acidity. I use a ratio of 40% vinegar by weight. This produces a tangy bright sauce. You can use less if you want a less bright and more peppery
sauce, but I would recommend at least 20% for safety. This ensures a PH level that will discourage bad bugs from making anyone sick. If you are at all concerned about long term storage, you can process this sauce in a water bath for 20 min to keep it for up to a year. I will also say that I have kept this sauce for up to year without processing and it has been fine.
The first year I made sauce it separated in the bottle with the vinegar on the top and the pepper solids on the bottom. I didn’t like the look of that so I started playing with stabilizers. Xantham gum is a natural product derived from a fermented bacteria. It thickens and stabilizes on contact at any temperature. It is flavorless, gluten free and poses no health risks. Xantham gum is available online, in heath food stores and in many supermarkets in the section where you’d find other Bob’s Red Mill products. I found that a little bit goes a long way and too much gives you the texture of mucus. It will clump if you just dump it in so I mix it with a little granulated sugar to help separate the fine grains.
DibS’ Smokey Verde Hot Sauce Recipe:
• 1 big bowl full of mixed peppers. I use a mixture of green jalapeno, Serrano,
pablano, Portugal, cayenne and Fresno peppers. You can use whatever you
want. The sauce will wind up being as hot as the peppers you use so check
the heat level of each pepper you add.
• 4-5 cloves of garlic
• 1 tbsp of kosher salt
• Apple cider vinegar. Amount calculated below.
• 1 tbsp of granulate sugar
• Xantham Gum. Amount calculated below.
1. Stem your peppers and lay them out on a rack in a pan with 4-5 cloves of
2. Smoke at 250 for 1.5 to 2 hours or until the skins are just turning brown and
3. Let them cool slightly. Put them in a food processor with any juice that has
run out of them and one tablespoon of kosher salt. Pulse until they are
chopped into a relish consistency.
4. Spoon the chopped peppers into a nonreactive container about 2/3 of the
way up. Use more than one container if necessary.
5. Cover the peppers with water filling your container up to about 3⁄4 full. Make
sure to leave room because this will foam up a bit. Cover the container with
something that breathes like cheesecloth or a paper towel. DO NOT SEAL.
The lacto-fermentation process produces CO2 that must be allowed to escape
if you don’t want a mess.
6. Let the mash sit in a cool place for a week. Stir every few days. You may see
white mold growing on the surface. This is normal. Just scrape off that layer
before you stir. It will all be neutralized in the end.
7. After one week, scrape off the mold and pour the slurry into a blender. Blend
on high for 2 minutes. The purpose of this is to loosen the pulp from the skin
and break down some of the skin into the sauce.
8. Run the slurry through a food mill until the leftover seeds and skin are
completely dry. Reserve seeds and skin for other uses (chili oil, freeze in an
ice cube tray for chili con carne, etc).
9. Put your blender carafe on a scale set for grams and zero it out. Pour the
milled liquid into the blender. Take that weight in grams and multiply by .4
for 40% (.3 for 30%, .25 for 25%, etc). WRITE THAT NUMBER DOWN and
zero the scale again.
10. Add unfiltered apple cider vinegar until the scale reads the number you
wrote down. Put the lid on the blender and buzz it a few times.
11. Look at the side of your blender carafe and see how many cups of liquid you
now have. In a small bowl, add 1/8 teaspoon of xantham gum per cup of
liquid. For instance If you have 8 cups of sauce, use 1 teaspoon of xantham.
Add to that bowl 1 tbsp of granulated sugar and stir until mixed.
12. If possible, open the top of your blender while it’s spinning on low and slowly
pour the xantham and sugar into your sauce. If your blender doesn’t allow
this, add in very slowly while stirring. When it’s all in, kick the speed up high
and blend for minute longer.
13. Pour into a large airtight container and put it in the fridge for a few days. This
will allow time to let the air bubbles settle to the surface and let the flavors
14. Shake well and portion into bottles. At this point you can process in a canning
bath for 20 minutes to keep for a year or just use it up within two months.