With a small bumper crop of my ghost peppers, I wanted to try to make a fermented hot sauce. As usual for fermented foods, Amanda Feifer's site Phickle comes to the rescue with great recipes and tips. (I just got her new book, by the way, and it's well worth the investment.)
Amanda has a lovely post on making fermented hot sauces with detailed instructions. I strongly recommend reading that post before following these steps. The recipe looked promising, so I set about making (a miniscule amount of) ghost pepper sauce.
For anaerobic fermentation, you need to keep the ingredients submerged. If they are touching the air, they can go soggy, rot, or get moldy. So the trick is to find a way to depress the contents under brine so that the brine, not the plant matter, touches the air surface. I was brainstorming ways to weigh them down, and it hit me: whiskey stones!
These are clean, nonreactive stones intended to chill an alcoholic beverage without diluting it. This set by Corsicca is the kind I mean, although mine are from another manufacturer. They're also very heavy. And I had some sitting around. Sounded like a perfect combination to me.
So I set about starting my ferment. I gathered the stones and thoroughly washed the jar I wanted to use.
I thought it would be a good idea to sterilize the stones first, so I put them in (what I thought was) their unbleached linen bag and boiled them for ten minutes.
Eek! I guess it wasn't unbleached linen. I guess it was dyed to that color, because it leached into the water. Meh. I'd have to use another bag.
So I wrapped the whiskey stones in a double layer of cheesecloth in a 3x3 grid and tied it off with twine.
I crushed the ghost peppers into the bottom of the container I wanted to use to pack them in tightly.
I placed the bundle of stones in the cheesecloth into the jar. The 3x3 grid was larger than the jar opening, so I had to fold the bundle slightly and let it expand once inside (I'm pretty sure I will be able to reverse this operation.) I filled the jar with brine (1 Tbsp salt to 2 cups of room-temperature water) until the peppers were submerged — plus a little more, because I was worried about evaporation in our warm kitchen.
I covered the jar with a clean cloth, as directed, and secured it with a rubber band. Yes, that's a square cut from an old pair of blue jeans.
Looking from the bottom, you can get a clearer idea of what's going on.
I'm supposed to leave it at room temperature "for at least two weeks and up to 8 (or really, a year if you’d like)", which is quite a wide margin, so I set an alert to check it weekly. To be fair, I'll probably be obsessive and check it more frequently than that.
Watch this blog for more as it progresses. Next update in … two to fifty-two weeks, I guess.