Answers to DIY Hot Sauce Questions
So you either bought one of our DIY Hot Sauce Kits or you are inspired and going to make hot sauce at home with your own ingredients. Now you want to have some of your questions answered. Hopefully our Hot Sauce FAQ will help. Be sure to check out our DIY Hot Sauce Video, which shows the entire process for making the hot sauce.
Q: What kind of shelf life can I expect for my hot sauce?
A: Homemade hot sauce will have a shelf life of about 90 days in refrigeration assuming you have taken the right precautions. First and foremost you must sterilize everything you use to make and bottle your hot sauce. While vinegar and sugar are good preservatives, the fact that there are peppers and other vegetables in your sauce, limits the amount of safe shelf life. Don’t place any kinds of oil in your sauce, since it can introduce botulinum. Thoroughly wash any fruit, vegetable or herbs you put into your sauce. If you have a tight seal and boil your sauce for at least 20 minutes, you can safely store the sauce on the shelf (in shaded and cool location) for 6 months. A rule of thumb is that a hot sauce recipe with at 20% vinegar will have a pH at a safe level for preserving. We suggest that your sauce be refrigerated until you intend to use if it has less than 20% vinegar. The smell and taste should be clear indicators if your sauce is or is not ready for prime time.
Q: Should I add veggies to my hot sauce?
A: We believe that adding fresh ingredients is the key to an excellent sauce, but is not required if you are going for a simple sauce. Adding fresh cilantro, onions and tomatoes can really make for a delicious blend. Also, to make regional favorites you’ll want to consider adding the fruit and vegetables popular for that region (Brazilian, Jamaican, Cajun). Be sure to wash your fresh vegetables, herbs and fruits thoroughly before using.
Q: Anything that could create risky or poisonous results?
A:You must sterilize your bottles and anything that your sauce touches to minimize the risk of any contamination. You can include fresh ingredients (herbs, vegetables, fruit) but blend them into your sauce without cooking them first. It is critical that you pasteurize the sauce by boiling before bottling if you want your sauce to last for a length of time. Boil blended sauce (120°C/248 °F) for 2 minutes while stirring (to prevent scorching on the bottom), and let rest for 20 min before bottling. If your sauce smells off or builds up a lot of pressure in the bottle, then toss it out. We recommend 20-30% vinegar or lemon/ lime juice.
Another risk or concern is working with your sauce after cooking. The cooked and hot sauce should be handled carefully. If you are going to blend the sauce, be sure to be aware that the steam can create pressure in a blender, so make sure that there is ventilation.
Q: What is the key to a great hot sauce?
A: Quality ingredients (spices, vinegar, fresh vegetables, peppers), proportions and experimentation. We have found that our recipes for our DIY Hot Sauce Kits receive universal praise for producing great results, because we use quality ingredients and have exacting proportions. However, we also highly encourage experimenting and making a sauce which has your own signature. You will find that through experimenting you can end up with a flavor that is something distinctive and through refinement that will win prizes. Like art, great hot sauce is often in the taste buds of the receiver.
Q: Is there a recommended pH for my hot sauce
A: A pH of around 3.4 will create an ideal acidic solution that will prevent bacteria growth. You can either use limes or lemons, vinegar or you can ferment the hot sauce.
Q: What kind of health risks or hazards could happen with home made sauce?
A: If you don’t properly bottle and store your sauces you could end up with salmonella, e-coli or botulism poisoning. These could come from any of the fresh ingredients if you have not properly cleaned your produce or followed the proper cooking and bottling instructions.
Q: How should I sterilize hot sauce bottles and utensils?
A: Before you start making your hot sauce, sterilize bottles, lids, funnels, and any utensils you’ll be using during the hot sauce making process. If you have one of our hot sauce kits, you can dissolve a half tablespoon of the sanitizing powder in a half gallon of warm water and leave bottles and other items in the solution for two minutes before air drying. If you don’t have sanitizing powder, you can sterilize items by boiling them for three minutes and letting them air dry.
Q: Which peppers correspond to which level of heat in my sauce?
A: In this heat index we only include peppers which we think make sense for your hot sauce makings
Poblano / Ancho = Mild
Pasilla = Mild
Guajillo = Warm
Jalapeno = Hot
Chipotle = Hot
Serrano = Hot
Arbol = Hot
Manzano = Hot
Tabasco = Very Hot
Cayenne = Very Hot
Habanero = Very Hot
Anything hotter is probably not going to be good for hot sauce.
Q: What is the Scoville scale?
A: Invented in 1912 by Wilbur Scoville, the Scoville scale measures the heat levels of peppers. Our kits come with chipotle, arbol, and guajillo peppers.
Q: What is a good hot sauce for beginners to start out with?
A: Here is our basic recipe from our DIY Hot Sauce Making Kit
Sterilize anything coming into contact with your sauce (bottles, caps, blender, spoons).
• Remove stems from dried peppers (arbol for hot and guajillo for mild). Use gloves to protect your hands and do not touch your eyes. Grind the peppers in a blender or food processor (seeds are ok). GUAJILLO PEPPER is a variety of chili pepper with only a small amount of heat and an earthy, mild fruity flavor. ARBOL PEPPER has a lot of heat and would be used for extra-hot sauces. CHIPOTLE PEPPER is medium heat pepper which adds a rich, smoky flavor to the sauces. Add about 1⁄2 – 1 cup of boiling water and continue to blend. Let rest for a few minutes to absorb the hot water.
• Add a combination of fresh or canned tomato, onion, garlic, cilantro and/or puréed carrot and blend. Typically you’ll want to use 2-3 tbs of diced onion, 1 tsp of garlic per bottle and 1-2 tbs of tomato sauce. Add to the mix and blend in the food processor. Be sure to thoroughly wash any fresh ingredients (vegetables, herbs, fruits) prior to adding.
• Before adding the other spices, it is best to taste them to get a sense of the flavor and amount of heat each provides. Add the spices a small bit at a time, tasting as you go. Adjust ingredient ratios to suit your preference. To make a hotter sauce, add more pepper. Create a sweeter heat by adding more brown sugar. Add salt to taste.
• Adding some acidity with vinegar, lemon, or lime helps to preserve the sauce and bring the ingredients together and enhances the flavor. We recommend 20-30% vinegar or lemon/lime juice.
• Bring sauce to a boil (120°C/248 °F) and then let rest for 20 minutes before bottling. Use a funnel to pour into glass bottles, cap and let rest for 12 hours. Age 2 weeks. Refrigerate your sauces.
Q: What typically will lead to my hot sauce going bad?
A: Your hot sauce should be refrigerated. When making your hot sauce be sure to bring it to a boil before bottling. Using lemon, lime and/or vinegar will work as a natural preservative. The most common problem is not sterilizing your bottles or anything that comes in contact with sauce and/or not thoroughly washing your ingredients.
Q: Are there any concerns about allergies or reactions to the peppers if I’m making hot sauce to sell or give to friends?
A: Yes, some people have severe allergies to peppers. However, most people who have this allergy are aware of it and would avoid hot sauce.
Q: Is hot sauce gluten-free?
A: Most hot sauce is gluten-free. You would have to intentionally add an ingredient with gluten to create a hot sauce that was not.
Q: Should I keep the seeds from the peppers in my sauce:
A: This is not necessary, but won’t hurt anything.
Q: Can I sell my homemade hot sauce at a fruit stand, farmer’s market or a local store?
A: You’ll need to contact your local health authority and follow their guidelines for any kind of licensing, health permits, insurance or other requirements for commercial sauce resale.
Q: What should I know about pH levels?
A: pH is the level of acidity and/or alkalinity in a substance. The lower the pH the more acidic and the higher the more alkaline. A neutral pH is 7.0. Anything below 7.0 is acidic and above is alkaline. The target pH for a shelf stable product is 4.6 pH. You will be wanting to balance your ingredients to achieve this pH.
Q: How can I make a hot sauce less spicy?
A: If you’re trying to make a hot sauce milder, try adding more vinegar to the mixture. Lime juice is also an ideal way to neutralize the capsaicin from the peppers. If you’ve added acids like vinegar and citrus juice already, try a little olive oil to further dilute the hot sauce.
Q: What kind of bottles are best for hot sauce?
A: We include 5 oz glass woozy bottles with our kits and think they work well. There are larger woozy bottles available. There are a few different cap options. One is a standard screw on cap. Another is a flip-top with a shaker hold. The flip-top requires an internal liner dropper be installed inside the cap.
Q: Can I reuse my hot sauce bottles?
A: Yes, as long as you properly clean and sanitize the bottles. Also, be sure to inspect the bottle for any kind of crack or damage. It’s best to replace the cap.
Q: What equipment do I need to make homemade sauces?
A: Use a powerful blender for blending your sauce. You don’t want to use a weaker blender which leaves your sauce chunky. For the cooking of your sauce ideally use an enamel coated pot, which minimizes sticking or scorching. Avoid aluminum and cast-iron or reactive cooking surfaces.
It’s helpful to have a funnel for filling your bottles. A turkey baster can work as well.
A Cuisinart or manual chopper can be helpful for prepping the produce.
We provide gloves in our kits for handling of your peppers. This is a really good idea when making your sauce.
Q: What kind of vinegars are best for hot sauce?
A: It’s really a matter of personal preference. We recommend trying to experiment with different vinegars (apple cider, wine, white wine, red or rice). Remember that using lemon or lime juice is also an option. Rice vinegar has a low pH, so you will need to use extra. Typically you want to use a 10:1 ratio of vegetables/peppers to vinegar.
Q: How long will I need to cook my sauce?
A: We recommend that you cook your sauce for at least 10 minutes at a boil (simmering boil is fine). Be sure to keep an eye on it and stir regularly.
Q: Can I bottle my sauce in a mason jar?
A: Yes, as long as you apply the same approaches to sanitizing and sterilization.
We are constantly adding new FAQs as they come in from customers. Let us know if you have a question we can answer! Email [email protected]