I recently moved to a new house. Though the new place is just a mile and a half from the old, I feel like the move has somehow turned me into a different person. Because it’s quite a bit smaller than the old place, it has forced to become better organized, more mindful of our stuff, tidier. I find myself diligently removing my shoes upon entering the house and immediately stashing them in a basket placed conveniently in the hall for this very purpose. I’m sweeping the house every day, stashing compostable food scraps in a neat little bin on my kitchen counter to be emptied into a compost bin in the backyard every other day. I can’t explain it, but this new house—tiny and situated in a serene and sunny spot, with an ample backyard where my 4-year-old can play within view of the kitchen and a bountiful vegetable garden tended by my green-thumb husband—seems to have completed my transformation from single girl in the city to middle aged suburban mom. The weirdest part? I like it.
Proof in point, I’ve not only become tidier and more of a homebody, but I’ve become the sort of person who makes my own condiments. It started, innocently enough, with a green tomato and jalapeno chutney, progressed to several different types of mustard, then sauerkraut, and now I’ve moved on to hot sauce.
This new hobby is partially just an extension of my lifelong love of figuring out how to make stuff myself. But it’s also partially motivated by my increasing discomfort with ingesting questionable substances in my food—pesticides, preservatives, and even plain old refined sugar. And, okay, I’ll admit it, I also just like the way those colorful little jars look lined up on the shelf of my new pantry (did I mention that this house has a pantry?! Ah, the things that excite a middle-aged suburban mom.)
About now, you might be thinking to yourself, “Hey, wait a minute! Making your own condiments doesn’t sound all that lazy to me.” But don’t worry; I’m still lazy as all get out. And surprisingly, making condiments like mustard, hot sauce, even homemade wine vinegar is the epitome of lazy cooking. Each involves merely mixing a few ingredients together and then… doing nothing. That’s right. All you do is let the mixture sit and it turns itself into a magical elixir. And believe me, anyone you serve this stuff to will be awed and amazed. They’ll think you slaved for days, even weeks, to create such flavorful sauces and spreads to punch up their salads, tacos, and sandwiches.
Here is an incredibly simple recipe for homemade hot sauce. I started with this recipe from Bon Appetit, but made a few tweaks to both the ingredients and the method. The green, which I made with Serrano chilies, came out shockingly spicy but with a complex tang. The red, made with Fresno chilies, delivers a hardy kick wrapped comfortingly in a pleasing sweetness. And don’t those colorful bottles look purty?
Stay tuned for plenty more recipes for homemade condiments—mustard, chutney, vinegar, pickles, sauerkraut, and more—to come. After all, I’ve got my slippers on and I’m not planning to leave the house for a while.
Homemade Hot Sauce
This recipe is adapted from one by Mary-Frances Heck that appeared in Bon Appetit. Letting the pureed chilies sit before adding the vinegar allows the natural sugars in them to begin to ferment slightly, creating intriguing depth of flavor. I like to add a grated carrot for an extra touch of earthy sweetness. Use any chilies you like for this lively sauce. A single variety will produce a nice bright color, but mixing and matching is a great way to create more complex flavors.
1 pound fresh chilies (such as jalapeño, Serrano, Fresno, or habanero), stems removed
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated on the large holes of a box grater
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar
Process the chilies, grated carrot, and salt in a food processor until you have a coarse puree. Place the puree in a large glass jar, such as a mason jar, and cover loosely. Set the jar on the countertop and let sit for about 24 hours, which is enough time for the mixture to begin to ferment slightly.
Stir in the vinegar, and let sit for at least 24 hours and as long as 7 days (I let mine sit for 5 days). This allows the sauce to continue to ferment and the flavors to meld and deepen.
Transfer the mixture to a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Transfer to a jar or bottle and store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 4 months (note that sauce will separate. Shake before using).
Makes about 3 cups.