Making hot sauce at home

I may never have to buy hot sauce again. I will, but I likely won’t have to.

I was gifted a hot sauce kit for Christmas by my girlfriend’s mom, and it might just be the best gift I’ve ever received. As you may know, I’m a hot sauce fiend, to the point that I bought a cart for my kitchen just for my hot sauce. (Yeah, I have a lot of hot sauce.)

I’d never taken the initiative to make my own hot sauce — heck, it didn’t really occur to me that I could make my own. That all changed when I opened the gift and found a Deluxe DIY Hot Sauce Kit sold by a Portland, Oregon-based company called Grow and Make. In it was a variety of dry spices, three different kinds of dried peppers — guajillo, chipotle and arbol — plus six bottles, vinegar and the few other items needed to make sauce.

I wasn’t terribly enamored by the recipes, so I decided to go rogue, buying some dried habaneros to really kick things up a notch. I had no clue what I was doing, but I found out it was pretty easy. I’m not always handy in the kitchen, however, so there were a few missteps along the way.

I started by simmering the dried peppers in water for a few minutes to rehydrate them (and I like my sauce spicy, so I left the seeds in). From there, I put the pepper mix into the blender and punched the puree button. And then, it’s a matter of adding the ingredients that will enhance the flavors of the peppers. I used some tomato sauce, chopped onions and tomatoes, cilantro, minced garlic, fresh lime juice and vinegar, along with a few other spices. Then you can add water to thin it out to your liking.

At that point, you just puree it until it’s smooth. Unfortunately, however, I failed to notice that my blender vessel wasn’t tightly secured, sending nuclear goo all over the place. I rolled my eyes and sighed, only then realizing a couple of important things: The unfinished sauce might take the finish off my countertop (it was pretty intense hot sauce), first of all, and second of all, it might not have been a good idea for my dog to try and lick the stuff, or even step in it.

Brief panic ensued that involved about 20 paper towels and roughly half a quart of surface cleaner. I’m glad I was home alone at the time, because I’m sure I looked like something out of an “Everybody Loves Raymond” rerun.

Anyway, when I finally got the fiery mess cleaned up and had the sauce pureed to my liking, I made my next mistake, which completely ignored an instruction in the kit’s how-to guide: I decided to smell my creation by hovering over the blender. Yeah, I basically put my face in what amounted to a pitcher of hot sauce, and inhaled. I wouldn’t recommend trying this at home — even though for some reason I did.

Once my eyes stopped watering, and I stopped coughing, I heated the concoction on the stove until it boiled, then let it cool for about 20 minutes. As the sauce cooled close to room temperature, it was time to fill the hot sauce bottles (after sterilizing them). My first batch, which was supposed to fill three bottles, only filled one and a half. Oops. Yeah, it was pretty intense stuff, but still far from the hottest stuff I’ve tried.

I let a few friends try it, and received good reviews — it was certainly hot, thanks in part to the arbol and guajillo peppers, and it got some nice smoke flavor from the chipotles (which are roasted jalapenos), and the habaneros finished off the sizzle with their signature tropical notes. I’m pretty proud of the stuff. (My friend J.K. calls it “Gibson’s Gutbuster.” We’ll see if that moniker sticks.)

The whole point, though, is that it’s really easy to do. I made a second batch, adding green chiles to the mix, a few other spices and a bit more tomatoes and onions the second time around. I also used apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar. The flavor in batch number two was definitely improved from the first batch, without sacrificing heat.

Next, I’m going to make a sauce with carrots as the base rather than tomatoes. Heck, I even bought 24 more bottles off eBay to fill with my piquant creations. You never know, maybe you’ll see Gibson’s Gutbuster on your local store shelves someday. That is, if I ever master the art of using a blender.