Thursday, November 13, 2014

Fermentation - Homemade Sriracha

For my fermentation project I chose to make Sriracha.  I love the stuff and figured that, like with anything else, it would be better homemade.  The pepper I chose to use was the long red Thai chili.

The use of fermentation to preserve food has existed since 7000 - 6600 BCE.  Louis Pasteur who invented the process for pasteurzing milk, wrote his famous paper on fermentation, "Etudes sur la Biere" while working with the French brewing industry in 1877.

Fermentation is basically a controlled rot.  There are two main types of fermentation those using a starter and those that don't.  I chose to do a natural fermentation or a lacto fermented product.  Lacto fermentation means that natural bacteria in the product/vegetable in this case, have eaten the sugars and the sugars have been converted to C02, alcohol and lactic acid, (lactic acid has nothing to do with milk, it's not related to lactose). There are only 2 conditions you need in order to ferment something this way, salt and low oxygen environment which provides an environment for the growth of lactobacillus and inhibits other bacteria.

I was a little worried at first about whether or not the sriracha sauce would be safe to eat (this was my first time fermenting something).  After doing a little research, I found that it's pretty easy to tell if it's unsafe.  The main reason is that if other harmful bacteria have gotten into the product it will stink so badly that you wouldn't want to eat it anyway, I'm talking a seriously foul smell.

I could have  deseeded the chilies for less heat. I left the seeds for two main reasons, I wanted maximum heat in the finished sauce and I was being lazy - who wants to deseed 30 chilies!  The chilies were stemmed, cut up and pureed on high for about 5 minutes since I really wanted to extract all the liquid I could.  The vapours that came out of the food processor when I removed the lid were INSANELY strong and if you got too close would burn your eyes !

The mixture was tranferred to a clean jar, covered and left to sit at room temperature.

One recipe I had looked at said that it should sit for about 3-5 days, out of sunlight until you see bubbles at the bottom of the jar (a sign that fermentation has begun).  To stir it everyday and continue to ferment it until chilies are no longer rising in volume, an additional 2-3 days.  I stirred it everyday and on day 4 I saw this:

Again, back to Google, I found that the mold on top was Kham Yeast and is completely harmless but I removed it with a spoon since it can affect the flavour of the Sriracha if it overgrows.  Kham yeast can be cultivated into a yeast starter (for beer or bread etc) if you add some sugar water the yeast will grow.  I could have prevented it from growing in the first place if I would have weighed the peppers down in the jar so they stayed completely submerged in their liquid (like with a ziplock sandwich bag filled with water placed in the jar).

On day 7 the sriracha was ready as it was no longer was rising in volume.  

Homemade Fermented Sriracha Sauce
recipe adapted from Serious Eats
yield: 1 1/3 cup
  • 30 red Thai chilies, washed
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 4 tbs turbinado sugar
  • 3 tsp sea salt
  • 4 tbs water
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1.  Remove the stems from the chilies and roughly chop.  Place the chilies, garlic, sugar, sea salt and water into a food processor.  Process on high for approximately 5 minutes until a fine paste forms.

2.  Transfer the chilies to a clean glass jar, weigh the chilies down to keep them completely submerged in their liquid.*  Screw on the lid and place out of direct sunlight at room temperature for 3 -5 days.

3.  Stir the mixture daily.  Around day 3 you should see bubbles forming at the bottom of the jar, this is a sign that fermentation is taking place.  Leave the sriracha to ferment for an additional day or two (approximately 7 days total).

4.  Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor, add the vinegar and blend to a smooth paste.

5.  Pass the mixture through a sieve, set over a bowl, extracting as much liquid as possible.  Discard the pepper mash and seeds.  Place sauce into a clean glass jar and refrigerate.** 

6.  Use within 2 months.

*You can weigh the peppers down by filling up a ziplock sandwich bag with water and placing it in the jar before you put the lid on.  This helps to discourage the growth of  Kham yeast on top of the Sriracha.  If yeast does appear, just remove it with a spoon and discard.

**Some fermented sauces are reduced to thicken them by simmering before they are refrigerated, but keep in mind that simmering the sauce will destroy all the beneficial enzymes you've created in the fermentation process.  I chose to leave mine raw.

Before I did the final blend in the food processor I smelled the chilies in the jar, they had lost their intensity as far as smell compared to the burn they had right after they were pureed the first time. This sauce is the best hot sauce I have ever had!  It puts the store bought stuff to shame.  It has a very earthy side note to the heat the chillies bring. It is also a lot less sweet than store bought, which I really like and I found the homemade sauce to more complex with a really well balanced flavour. The homemade Sriracha tastes fresher and is more vibrant than the Rooster Sauce you buy.  The colour is attractively brighter as well.  Yes, it is thinner than the commercial stuff but I don't mind that at all.

I decided I wanted it now and whipped up an egg and toast!

This was my first time fermenting something and I would say the whole process was quite interesting and very successful. The only thing I would change is that I  would weigh the sauce down next time to prevent the yeast growth. I probably will not be buying the bottled stuff anymore, which happens a lot around here. You make something so delicious that you say goodbye to buying it. (Like when I started curing and smoking bacon and all of a sudden you never purchase bacon again because now that stuff is inferior!).

Since I am addicted to baking bread, I think my next foray into the fermentation world will be trying something I've wanted to for years sourdough bread which will involve a fermented starter.  Now that I know more about fermentation the sourdough starter will be a breeze to make!

Looks like birds are getting in on the fermentation action!     



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