Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ooh ooh ooh I'm on Fire

This heated post is brought to you by the capsicums habanero, cherry bomb, bell, jalapeno & random red chili and the age old method of preservation - fermentation.

Now that the formalities are out of the way, a warm welcome to you.

There is a deep level of satisfaction one gets from learning a new skill and applying it in various creative (or standard) ways. A fermentation class in Calgary at The Light Cellar (great place) has led me down a path of playing mad scientist this fall in the world of lacto-ferments.

Vegetables mixing with herbs, associating with teas, mingling with spices and rubbing with salts. Sounds like dinner at grandma's house doesn't it? Probably because the Art of Fermentation is the first known method of food preservation, going back thousands of years. I'm sure most grandmas are familiar with the process, or at least great-grandmas. Pretty much every culture has their 'culture'. The Koreans with Kim Chee, Japanese with pickled ginger & vegetables, miso and sake, Germans with Kraut, various European countries with cheeses & meats, etc.

Why fermentation over pickling? Because fermentation is raw and probiotic and pickling (usually with heat to can) uses ingredients that may harm precious stomach bacteria (such as most vinegars, especially white vinegar).

Here is a small list of reasons to ferment or eat fermented foods:
- aids digestion
- lots of probiotics
- create B & K vitamins in digestive tract
- assists with mental health
- balances moods
- immune boosting
- liver cleansing
- make nutrients more bio-available and removes anti-nutrients and toxins

It seems up in the air as to which people first made hot sauce, but there is some evidence that it may have been the Aztecs. Mexicans are cool, let's give them credit, I'm sure they'd be stoked.
Ok class, enough lecture for today, let's get to the fun part.

I've made several hot sauces this fall. My favourite so far is probably the piri piri, but I have a feeling this new chipotle one I made today is going to rival it.
Cherry Bomb peppers used for piri piri. Didn't wear gloves when chopping and seeding. Big mistake. Luckily the peppers mellowed out considerably after the ferment.

Piri Piri and Med-Hot Pepper Mango sauces fermenting
Red jalapeno & other red chilies with sea salt soaked chipotle peppers & garlic. I thought I could get away glove-less with these ones...oops. Do I remind you of Bart Simpson in the episode where Lisa rigs a cupcake to give him electric shocks and he keeps going for it? Ouch...ouch...ouch...

This hot sauce stuff is so simple... there isn't even a recipe, just ingredients.
Basically, I stem, chop and mostly seed peppers of one or several kinds. I place them in the food processor with about 1-2 tbsp of fine Himalayan salt (use any sea salt, just not table salt) and usually a clove or two of garlic. Process until they are pureed and spoon into mason jars. Cover tightly with a lid for about 3 days, then release any built-up gasses on the following days so your jar doesn't explode. You should ferment for about a week but depending on the warmth of your house and the amount of salt used, you may have to ferment longer. Taste and when you like it, fridge it!

Molds and yeasts that are white may form on the top layer, and that is ok. Spoon off the layer and everything under it is totally fine. If your mold is other than white, ditch it.

With my habanero ferment, after one week I put it in the blender with some raw apple cider vinegar (one of the only vinegars that doesn't harm gut flora) and then strained it through a nut milk bag. Yes, my hands were on fire. But I did wear gloves for the initial chopping.

Habanero sauce final product, smooth and deadly. Seriously, I can't eat this shit.

Inspired by a Mexican joint on my recent travels (and my obsession with hot stuff) I dabbled in chipotle-habanero vodka infusion. If I ever get into self-torture I might liberally apply the above habanero sauce to my dinner and wash it down with this.

I highly recommend this book if you want to get your ferment on. It is, for lack of better words, the bible of fermentation... but really it's The Art of Fermentation.

Wear gloves.

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