Tabasco-esque December Pepper Fermentation

First frost came to Seattle’s Duwamish Valley on December 6th this year.  A few days earlier, Patty and I harvested the beans and peppers that had been toughing out the sometimes soggy, sometimes sunny cool weather on vine and bush.  The growing season’s warmth came late this year and so did a very late harvest.

The pepper seeds I bought were labeled ‘Padron’.  I have come to think that they were mislabeled, as the two pepper plants that matured from the seeds gave two different color and shape of pepper.  One green and brown/black. One bright red.  Both were screaming hot. Even with seeds and placenta removed the peppers were painfully potent.

Whatever kind of peppers these actually are, I needed a way preserve the harvest into something that might be delicious.  The peppers had been sitting in a bowl on the kitchen counter gleaming red and green, looking seasonly festive. I whimsically considered using them as wreath decorations.  But then, last night I used some Tabasco to add some heat to a quick orange/lemon/plum/ginger chutney I made to go with a roasted chicken.  It was the final addition of Tabasco that really made the chutney sing!  With this I knew what I wanted our peppers to become: a fermented HOT SAUCE!  I searched for recipes and luckily found Hank Shaw’s excellent post and recipe based on his visit with the McIlhenny family on Avery’s Island.

Following Shaw’s guidance…


  • I removed seeds (mostly) and stems to  yield 275 grams of roughly chopped peppers…
    And added 2% salt (275 grams peppers : 6 grams pickling salt) + 1/8 tsp sea salt (for good measure)
  • Using a food processor I turned the peppers and salt to a slurry, adding  about 1/2 cup filtered water.
  • I Poured the pepper slurry into a sterilized quart jar and screwed on a hole-y lid to let the gasses escape.

It now sits on a shelf in the pantry. Tabasco products ferment in barrels at ambient temperatures for 3 to 5 years.  I do not want to wait that long!  My hope is that my peppers will happily ferment until next year’s pepper harvest, when I will finish the sauce’s making by adding vinegar.

Until then…

I wish you a peaceful December of good foods shared with loving people.





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