Saturday 21 May 2022
Make authentic Tabasco Sauce from the Original Recipe
This recipe is great fun and makes perfect fermented hot sauce, just like the original Mcllheny Tabasco Sauce.
Tabasco Sauce Recipe
The Original McIlheny method (1800's):
Avery Island (trivia: the "island" is really a natural salt dome; originally all salt
used in production came from natural salt digs in the area), where some of the peppers are grown, is the production site. Grind peppers. Add 1/2 cup kosher salt per gallon of ground peppers and allow salted mash to age in oak barrels. The barrels are topped with a thick layer of salt and allowed to ferment. The salt layer serves as a permeable barrier that allows gases to escape but allows no bacteria, fruit flies, etc. access to the mash. McIlheny allows them to age three years in these oak barrels. After ageing, the mash is pulled, checked for quality and, if OK, it is blended with white wine vinegar (they don't say how much) and aged some weeks more (another secret). Finally, the product is pulled, strained and the liquid bottled. If you read the label of ingredients on a Tabasco sauce bottle, the only ingredients are Chilli Peppers, Vinegar, and Salt. It is the ageing in the oak barrels that sets its flavour apart from any other hot sauce I have ever tried.
Replicating this at home:
Important Note: as you are going to need the liquid from the peppers, they must be fresh, fleshy and of the right state of ripeness. At Avery Island they still use the original "critique baton rouge", a red stick tinted to the exact colour of the peppers to be harvested. Peppers not matching the "critique" are rejected. Old or over-dried peppers are the key to failure. One trick for garden peppers is picking them as they are just at the right stage (I've been doing this with super cayenne peppers), then popping them into freezer bags until I have enough to make a batch of sauce.
You will want a ratio of approximately 30:1 mash to salt.
Grind your peppers, seeds and all, in a fine pulp. You can use a food processor or blender to do this, but be careful, it gives off quite the equivalent of mild pepper spray, do it in a ventilated room.
Mix with salt and put into a demijohn or similar fermenting vessel. Have a look on ebay or go to a brewing shop for this
Add enough sterile water so the whole puree is pourable. Place a fermentation lock (available from homebrew / wine making shops) on the demijohn or fermenting vessel.
Use a Campden tablet (from same source as above) in the lock. This stops wild yeast or bacteria getting in and affecting the flavour. Liquid will form. Allow to ferment until the mash stabilises (stops fermenting).
place the jugs in a warm place. It may be 2-3 months or more before obvious fermentation begins. It is a very slow ferment. It will last a couple of months from this point.
After fermentation is complete pour the mixture into a large glass bowl and add some white wine vinegar to taste. Try out different ratio's to your taste.
Once you have decided on a ratio, add the vinegar to the fermentation vessels if room allows, or transfer to larger vessels that have been sterilised. Allow to sit for another 2 weeks for the flavour to develop.
After the two weeks or so, run the mash through a Chinoise (conical sieve with a fine mesh), fine strainer, or, last resort, throw it all into a sterile bowl lined with cheesecloth, fold the cheesecloth up into a ball (like making cottage cheese) and twist & squeeze until the juice is extracted.
Adjust for taste with salt. Bottle the juice in sterile bottles and keep in fridge. You might want to heat the sauce to pasteurize it. You can also use a little potassium sorbate to preserve it (available from the same homebrew/wine making shop) in the concentration for wine.
If there is a question as to whether the material has fermented, if the liquid that forms on top (with the pepper slurry settled out) is very red, then fermentation has occurred. Otherwise the liquid on top will be very pale and almost colourless.
Variables: Age of peppers. Variety. Water content. Consistency of ripeness.amount of vinegar and amount of salt.
Win or lose, it's a lot of fun. The key is: Keep all your stuff clean and sanitised! Enjoy the effort!
Amaze and astound your friends with your own hot pepper sauce. If it doesn't beat Tabasco, sweat it not. It took Mr. McIlheny several years to perfect it.