Fresh hot peppers, vinegar and salt are the foundation of a hot sauce. In some regions bottled varieties abound. Three editors from Country Roads Magazine conducting a subjective and entertaining comparison taste test of them claim that even a small Louisiana grocery store will have more varieties of hot sauce on its shelves than ketchup. (Their findings are here in an enjoyable online article.)
The ingredient list being such a modest one and the process not too arduous, hot sauce lovers may want to try developing their own home brand. According to one of those hot-sauce-sampling editors. Mary Rochon of New Iberia, Louisiana has been making hers for years, following this simple formula:
“Step one—grow some Tabasco peppers and pick them when they’re red. With batches of a quart of peppers and about a cup and a half of salt, gradually fill a one-gallon jug all the way to the top. Add even more salt to the gallon jug before sealing it, and set the timer for six years for fermentation. (Flash forward six years.) Using a mash strainer, separate the pepper juice from the solids. Be sure to hang on to the excess solids, or mash as it’s called. (Rochon uses the mash as seasoning when boiling seafood. “We never wasted anything growing up.”) To the pepper juice, add vinegar to your own personal taste for thickness and consistency. Finally, if you ever want to step foot in your house again, be sure to take the vinegar and pepper concoction outdoors for boiling. After about five minutes of boiling, you’re ready to start bottling. Enjoy!”
Kitchen Gardeners International offers a shorter alternative. Their method uses any hot peppers you like, requires a fermentation period of only one month and will provision your kitchen with homemade hot sauce until the six-year vintage has matured.
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A Timing Note: The papaya and the avocado may be cut and cubed several hours in advance. Place them in separate containers. Mix the avocado with the juice of 1 of the limes, as indicated in the recipe below. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the avocado cubes to seal out air. Cover both containers and refrigerate until time to make the salad. Mix the salad and add the marinade just before serving.
- 4 cups of Papaya, seeded, peeled and cubed
- 2 fresh Limes
- 4 Avocados, pitted, peeled and cubed and sprinkled with the juice of one of the Limes to prevent discoloration
- 1 cup of Cherry Tomatoes (or about 1 small box), each cut into quarters
- 4 Green Onions, white and green parts, chopped
- about 1/8 cup of fresh Cilantro (aka fresh Coriander), chopped
- any brand of Hot Sauce: for example, Crystal or Tabasco or your own homemade sauce
- a few handfuls of Arugula (aka Roquette) or substitute any lettuce you like: enough to provide a bed for the salad on each plate
- a large Bowl in which to mix the Salad
1. In the large bowl, add the papaya, the lime-juice-sprinkled avocado cubes, and the quartered cherry tomatoes. Squeeze all or part of the juice of the second lime over the fruits. (A suggestion: squeeze half of the lime over them. Mix in the rest of the ingredients and add more juice after tasting the salad.)
2. Add the green onions and cilantro to the salad and 8 drops of hot sauce–one for each plate of salad. Mix everything together gently. (Very ripe papayas are delicious but not sturdy. The same is true of some varieties of avocados.)
3. Taste and add additional drops of hot sauce and lime juice for a stronger flavour if you like.
4. Arrange a small bed of arugula leaves (or leaves of any other lettuce) on each plate and place some of the salad on the lettuce.
A Note: The Salad Course in the Dinner ‘Louisianne’ Menu is Avocado and Papaya Salad with Louisiana Hot Sauce Marinade.
A Second Note: Kitchen Garderners International is an excellent online resource for the aspiring gardener. The site’s goal is to help people learn how to grow and process their own food. Country Roads describes itself as “a cultural reporting publication focusing on the communities of the Great River Road region between Natchez, Mississippi, and New Orleans, Louisiana”. The online version is a light, diverting read.
An Invitation: You are invited to request suggestions from the diplomatickitchen for your own menus for any occasion by clicking on the feature ‘Ask and Tell’ here or in the Menu at the top of the page. Do you have a menu concept with a gap or two that wants filling…or perhaps you are an expat looking for ways to adapt your recipes to what is available in your temporary home…maybe you are just looking for a new way to use a familiar ingredient or would like suggestions on how to adjust quantities of a recipe from the diplomatickitchen for smaller or larger groups…Replies will be published in ‘Ask and Tell’ or sent by email if you prefer.