Summer in a Bottle – Fermented Chilli Sauce



I’ve had a fabulous crop of chillies so far and this season I really wanted to experiment with fermenting for flavour.

The Habanero chillies in particular have been really prolific this year and while not as hot as past seasons, incredibly flavourful, with a citrus tang that I thought would make a great sauce.

So, here’s the recipe I developed for the ferment and the subsequent sauce. I’ve tried to include as much detail as possible about my process, but as always, please ask if there’s something I’ve missed that needs clarification!

Fermented Hot Sauce 



Fresh chillies (I used ripe Habaneros from my garden)

Salt (cooking or kosher salt without additives is best)

Water (filtered or rain water boiled and allowed to cool to room temperature)

(For the sauce) Lemons, vinegar or citric acid (available in most supermarkets as a powder in the baking needs section).

You’ll also need gloves (if the chillies are Habaneros or hotter this is necessary!), some reasonably accurate kitchen scales and measuring spoons, a scrupulously clean jar, a weight to hold the chillies down and a lid that can accommodate an airlock or similar. Even with small ferments, I prefer to exclude any organisms other than what’s on my fruit or vegetables. I’d also recommend a book of litmus paper (available from most chemists) to check pH levels of the final product, especially if you’re not planning to put the sauce through a water bath.

Ferment Method:

Before starting, clean everything – otherwise your ferment can pick up organisms you might not want! Sterilise jars, lids, weights, measuring spoons and anything metal in boiling water, thoroughly clean chopping boards, knives, bowls and gloves in hot soapy water and rinse thoroughly.

Wash the chillies and dry them carefully. With gloves on (if you’re using hot chillies) remove the stalk and chop the chillies. I like the heat, so I left the seeds and membrane in, but if you’re looking for a more mellow and somewhat smoother sauce, cut the chillies in quarters and scrape out the seeds and inner membrane with a paring knife.

Weigh the chillies and pack them tightly into the clean jar. You can either sprinkle the salt over the chillies (which I did) and pour the cooled water over them or mix the salt until it’s fairly well dissolved in a small amount of water. I went for a roughly 8% solution and had 200 g (7 oz) of chopped chillies. This meant needed 16 g salt, which is a scant tablespoon. (My old spring loaded kitchen scales aren’t designed for very small amounts but digital scales are perfect for this job).


Once you’ve added the brine, it’s important to twist the jar a few times or push the chilli pieces around with a clean skewer to remove as many air bubbles as possible and weigh the chillies down so they are entirely submerged. I use wide mouth Mason jars with easy to clean glass weights and a silicone Pickle Pipe – a waterless airlock that allow ferments to release carbon dioxide, without allowing air (and unwanted organisms) in. Then cover, label and leave in a dark, cool place for about a week.

I keep my ferments in pantry shelves that I walk past all the time, so I tend to check them once a day. It never ceases to delight me, seeing bubbles, smelling the wonderful aromas and particularly with this ferment, seeing the colour really develop. It’s also a good habit to check your ferments to make sure nothing has risen above the level of the brine and no unwanted moulds have developed.


Fermenting Habanero Chillies, weighed down with a glass insert and covered with a Pickle Pipe.

After a week to ten days, check your chillies (I left mine for a week). They should still be submerged and reasonably crisp, and the brine should smell good and taste spicy and salty. It’s quite normal for a thin film to form across the top of the brine and I recommend removing this carefully with a spoon. If any chillies aren’t submerged and showing signs of mould, I would recommend removing the uncovered ones carefully from the brine (toothpicks are good) and composting them. The rest of the ferment should be fine. Of course, if you’re assailed with funky smells and your chillies are slimy, don’t take any risks – throw the whole lot in the compost bin – food poisoning is not to be trifled with!

If you’re happy with the ferment, here’s the rest of the recipe:

Sauce Method: 

Once again, assemble all your tools first and make sure they’re ridiculously clean – preferably hot water or heat sterilised. You’ll need a non-reactive sieve and bowl, a food processor or blender, a small funnel, bottles and caps and (if you opt for lemons) a grater and hand juicer or citrus press.

Remove the weight from your ferment and sieve the brine off the chillies into a bowl. If like me, you’re chilli-obsessed, reserve the brine (it’s deliciously spicy!) put it in a clean bottle, cover and refrigerate. It will keep for a few weeks in the fridge and I use it in curries, stir fries, soups or stews for an extra kicking salt replacement 🙂

Put the chillies into a blender jar or food processor with either vinegar, fresh lemon juice or citric acid powder and pulse to the desired consistency. I also added a tablespoon or two of the brine. The target here is to bring the sauce to around 4.5 pH – quite sharp. I used the juice of 3 lemons and, for extra citrus notes, the grated zest.


Next, carefully put this into the sterilised jars and seal immediately. It’s possible now to put the jars in the refrigerator where they’ll last for months and be full of probiotic goodness, but I’m here for flavour – so I opted to do a water-bath sterilisation for 10 minutes This stabilises the sauce, guaranteeing longer pantry shelf life.

This sauce is sensational with – well, pretty much everything! My original 200 g of chillies made two 125 g bottles plus a few tablespoons that I’ve put in a sterilised jar and refrigerated. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s any significant flavour difference between the water-bath processed sauce and the refrigerated version.


The finished product after water-bath processing – that beautiful colour!!!

I think this basic fermentation would work with any chilli and I’m going to start one with Cayenne chillies and garlic later this week that I plan to finish with my home made Apple Cider Vinegar.

Let me know if you try this recipe, what flavour combinations you use and how it works out – I always love to hear from you 😀

Meanwhile, take care wherever you are on this beautiful planet ❤




Chilli Mania

I was chatting online this morning with some like minded souls, who are also in the midst of summer gardening. The subject of growing chilies in Tasmania came up and it made me realise what an addict I am. Where most of the people on the forum had a few chilies for various purposes, there was one fellow who had multiple plants – and me. I counted this morning when I watered the greenhouse. I have 15 different varieties this year, and most them multiple plants.

One part of the Chilli Collection

One part of the Chilli Collection

Chilies are so much more than just mouth burning, demonic plants for the insanely masochistic. There are many different notes that accompany the heat and will compliment different dishes in multiple ways. And there are many, many different varieties and levels of heat. I think it’s more a question of finding the flavours that suit you.

For my spice-loving household, I have everything from a ridiculously hot Rocoto or Tree Chili (C. pubesens aka. Manzano for the apple-shaped fruit) to a very mild, sweet form that is incredibly prolific and provides a lovely tangy note in salads.

Manzano or Rocoto Chilli

Manzano or Rocoto Chilli

At the moment, I’ve got Rocoto’s starting to size up while the plant is still producing beautiful purple flowers. This chilli really packed a punch in it’s first year. All the reading I’d done suggested it was a mid-heat fruit and being so thick and fleshy, I thought it’d be a good candidate for stuffing with cottage cheese and baking.

Well, I made it through half of mine before I couldn’t feel my tongue or lips anymore. It was more like a very nasty Habenero in terms of heat and had similar fruity overtones. Rocotos are still treasured but respectfully dried for winter curries now!

I’ve found over the years, the heat scale can be quite variable. It seems to depend so much on the growing season, which is relatively short here in Tasmania, how much water and sunlight the developing fruit gets and what the plant is fed. I grow all my chillies in the greenhouse at present and combined with the mega crop of basil I’ve got this summer, it’s getting pretty crowded in there! But the key feature seems to be speed. I’ve noticed over the years that really hot chillies are the ones that take longer to ripen, such as the Rocotos and Habeneros.

Whether I’m growing from seed or potting up purchased plants, I usually put some used coffee grounds and a little dolomite in my potting mix for chillies and enrich it with mushroom compost or worm castings. Like any greenhouse plant, the potting mix needs to be just right not too heavy – but not too sandy or pots will dry out quickly on even a relatively mild day. If planting out in garden beds, mulch is essential to keep the roots moist and keep them well watered.

I’m loathe to admit it, but I’ve been a bit slack this year – I still have four punnets to be pricked out into grow

The Punnets of Shame

The Punnets of Shame

tubes and two trays of grow tubes that have to put in pots!

Included in these are Poblano Ancho and Serrano chillies to go into pots and Red Habeneros, a stunning Royal Black and the last of my first (and favourite) Habenero that are finally big enough to go into grow tubes. (If you’re interested in making/recycling your own grow tubes, there’s a post about it here).

Some years ago on a whim, I bought a Habenero, who we named “Fabio” because he was the most beautiful chilli in the world. He survived as a house plant for several years and a couple of moves under quite atrocious conditions and gave us many beautiful, ridiculously hot chillies. In his last year, I managed to save quite a lot of seed – and this is the final batch.

I’m trying to be patient, waiting for Inferno, Ring of Fire and Hot Portugal seedlings to start flowering but it’s difficult! In the meantime, I’ve already been eating Jalapenos in salad, Cayenne and Thai chillies in curries and stir fries and I’ve started drying some in the dehydrator. The big winner so far is a heirloom Bulgarian form I picked up cheaply in spring. After being potted up, it hasn’t grow much but just keeps producing flowers and fruit non-stop! The fruit are quite long and go from dark green to a rich, carrot orange. The flavour is also rich and spicy, without being overbearingly hot.

And in the process of writing this blog, I’ve just bought some more unusual chilli seed for growing at the end of next winter. All in all, it’s chilli heaven here 😀

What’s your favourite chilli? Please leave a comment below.

Inferno budding up

Inferno budding up