Friday, March 01, 2013
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS: There’s a commercial for hot sauce on TV with the tagline, “I put that #%*& on everything.” That’s how I feel about Sriracha. Sriracha is a fiery-red Thai-American hot sauce fondly known by its loyal followers as rooster sauce (just look at a bottle). The condiment’s popularity means that it can be found everywhere, from mega-marts and convenience stores to truck stops and four-star restaurants. Chiles, sugar, salt, garlic, and distilled vinegar are the main ingredients. Then comes potassium sorbate and sodium bisulfate. I wanted to figure out how to make my own rooster sauce, minus the preservatives.
I found a few recipes that called for cooking a mixture of chopped red jalapeños with a little sugar, garlic cloves, a few tablespoons of vinegar, water, and fish sauce. After I simmered and pureed the ingredients in the blender, strained it, and pressed out all the seeds, I gave it a taste. It was ripping hot, for sure, but tasted more like a spicy red bell pepper sauce and was the wrong color; more orange than the deep red I was looking for.
Then I found a recipe that pureed the peppers raw, along with significant amounts of water and vinegar. The mixture was pressed through a fine-mesh strainer, simmered until thickened, and aged for about a week. The balance was better, and the consistency was the ketchup-y thickness of the original. But I wanted to make it easier.
By removing the seeds before blending, I can skip the straining step later, so it only needs to refrigerate for a day before using. It’s hot (but not searing), spicy (if you want it spicier, add up to 1 tablespoon of the chile seeds), salty, sweet, sour: the perfect condiment. And yeah, I will put it on just about anything.
—Diane Unger, Senior Editor, Cook’s Country
Pick a pepper: I call for red jalapeño chiles; you can usually find enough at better grocery stores or produce markets, or order them ahead of time through your produce department. Choose chiles that are bright red, firm, and ripe. They're not the hottest peppers, but it's still a good idea to wear gloves when cutting them to protect yourself from their oils. Start by cutting the stems off. Next, scrape out any remaining seeds; using the tip of a teaspoon is helpful for this. You can hold on to up to 1 tablespoon of the seeds if you want a spicier sauce.
Blend and sweeten: Put the chiles and garlic cloves in the blender, then add the liquids. I like to use both water (for easy blending) and vinegar (for a sour bite). Blend the mixture until very smooth; it takes about 2 minutes. Transfer the puree to a large saucepan. Stir in the sugar and salt and bring it to a boil. I found a cup of sugar and a full 3 tablespoons of salt gave the sauce the balance I was after.
Lose the foam: As the mixture starts to boil, foam will rise to the surface (and may cause it to boil over if you're not paying attention–this has happened to me, so beware and adjust the heat as necessary). Use a large spoon to skim the foam and discard it.
Make it thick, make it smooth: Let the mixture simmer until it has thickened and reduced to about 2 cups (this typically takes about 25 minutes), at which point it will have turned a deep fire-engine red color. Transfer the mixture back to your clean blender. Blend the Sriracha again on low speed (so you don't incorporate too much air) until the sauce is as smooth as ketchup (about 20 seconds).
Sit tight: Transfer the Sriracha to a glass measuring cup, which will make it easier to transfer to a squeeze bottle or glass jar, and let it cool. Refrigerate it for at least 1 day before using. Sure, it's possible that you could use it right away, but I found that the flavors deepen and get better with age. Honestly, it's best to just sit tight for 24 hours before you indulge in your Sriracha's spicy kick. It's good on rice, great in stir-fries, or delicious in soup or . . . on just about anything.
Makes about 2 cups
Make today, enjoy tomorrow
1 1/2 pounds red jalapeño chiles, stemmed, seeds reserved
12 garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup water
3/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons salt
1. Process jalapeños, up to 1 tablespoon reserved jalapeño seeds, if desired, garlic, water, and vinegar in blender until smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer mixture to large saucepan and whisk in sugar and salt.
2. Bring to boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally and skimming any surface foam, until mixture is thickened and reduced to about 2 cups, about 25 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let cool 5 minutes.
3. Return mixture to blender and process on low speed until smooth, about 20 seconds. Transfer to large liquid measuring cup and let cool to room temperature. Pour cooled mixture into jar or plastic squeeze bottle with tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for at least 1 day before using. Sriracha can be refrigerated for up to 3 weeks.