Trouble controlling hot sauce heat

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Trouble controlling hot sauce heat

Postby Vsoued on Tue Nov 27, 2018 4:32 pm

Two days ago I put up my third batch of hot peppers to ferment for hot sauce. The first time was not hot enough, the second barely mild, but this time I think It might be way too hot.

The back story:
I ferment the peppers without the stem end and halved, together with garlic, yellow mustard seeds, and a 5% sea salt brine (by water weight, I think it amounts to somewhere between 2.5% and 3% salt by total weight vegs+water).

In the first batch I did mostly Peruvian yellow chili peppers which are between 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville heat units, and some Panamanian aji chombos which are like habaneros on the scale (150,000 to 350,000 heat units). I don't remember the proportions, but I'd say that about 25% aji chombos or less. The resulting sauce was hot but not super hot, but had a great flavor. I fermented this for I think a week, 10 days tops, as I live in warm weather and it was my first time. I think I fermented the peppers with the seeds but I'm not sure. I also don't remember if I took the seeds out after fermenting and used only the flesh for the sauce or if I blended up the whole thing and then strained the seeds out, or if it makes any difference. Not very helpful, I know.

Second time I did mostly as above, but I wanted to make the sauce hotter. So I increased the amount of aji chombos to probably over 30%, and this time I fermented them for 3 weeks. I do remember I removed the seeds and white membranes before fermenting this time. The resulting sauce was supposed to be considerably hotter than the first one but it was not hot at all. It was a very mild hot sauce.

Could removing the seeds cause such a big difference in the heat level? Was it only that, or does the longer fermentation time also have an effect on the heat?

In the third batch, which I made two days ago, I put 100% aji chombos, with the seeds, plus the garlic, mustard and brine as before. Now I am worried the sauce will be way too hot.

What can I do to make it milder?

Should I, once it is done fermenting, remove the seeds and white membranes and use only the flesh for the sauce? Or does fermentation make it so the heat is now all over the place and not concentrated on the membranes?

O will fermentation make it not that hot anymore?

Or should I put up a batch of some sweeter peppers to ferment and then combine them with the hot peppers when blending the sauce to the desired heat level? Is that ok to do? Mixing up two different batches of fermented peppers? Or any vegetable for that matter?

Thank you in advance for any insight or any tip you may have. Any general fermented hot sauce knowledge will be greatly appreciated.
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Re: Trouble controlling hot sauce heat

Postby Christopher Weeks on Wed Nov 28, 2018 8:16 am

The seeds contain no capsaicin, but it is strongly concentrated in the placenta wall where the seeds are attached. And in my experience, fermentation does allow the capsaicin to spread around (and dilute into the water) but seemingly neither increases or decreases the overall heat.

I pull off whatever comes easily of the stem and calyx, and then halve my chiles. I typically shake them to dislodge seeds, but that only gets a minority of them out, so most of the seeds get fermented and end up being strained out much later. And I ferment for 2+ weeks (up into the many months range) at kitchen temps which bob around 68F/20C in the season after harvest.

I think your second sauce was overly mild because you removed the placenta and attached capsaicin glands.

So, ultimately, with a too-hot sauce, you can use less of it or dilute it. I grow a bunch of chiles and like to ferment them separately, and then mix sauces that I like based on depth of flavor and hotness. I also don't go for super-hots -- habaneros and ajis are where I sort of top out though throwing in a single scorpion or reaper is probably fine if I'm blending with a bunch of serranos, jalapenos, or Fresnos. So your question about blending batches: it's totally OK and my SOP.

I like to consider color, too. If your chombos were harvested fully ripe, find a mild red pepper to ferment and then mix in. If you harvested them yellow/orange, you might look for something else. If you want the colors to pop. I often end up with one batch of yellows and another that's sort of a slightly brownish red.
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Re: Trouble controlling hot sauce heat

Postby Vsoued on Tue Dec 04, 2018 10:16 pm

Thank you for your reply. Is there a good reason to keep the seeds in during fermentation other than it being easier to strain them out at the end rather than trying to take them off without taking off the placenta? I ask because I did put up a jar of sweet peppers to ferment but I did take out most of the seeds because they were blackish.

I keep my ferments at 73 F, so considerably warmer than yours, but this is the tropics and thats already with ac on. I know it's barely in the desirable range of termperatures so I'm afraid to let anything ferment for long. The longest I have fermented anything is 3 weeks. Do you think I should try letting it go for longer? I haven't found many, if any, resources online about fermenting at these temperatures.

I do like to do what you said with the colors. The two batches I made before had a bright orange-red color from the peruvians and the fully ripe chombos. This time I got fully ripe aji dulces to mix with the fully ripe chombos so I'm expecting a bright red. I was away for a week and came back to see that what looked like a lot of aji dulces is really only about a quarter of what I have of chombos. The sweet ones also have what looks like kahm yeast and a lot of white scum/sediment above the peppers and weight, but fully submerged. Should I use them anyway???

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Re: Trouble controlling hot sauce heat

Postby Christopher Weeks on Wed Dec 05, 2018 8:14 am

I believe there is no reason to keep the seeds in other than work-efficiency. As I understand, they contribute nothing positive. And removing them up-front is probably ideal.

Some seeds are blackish because of a fungal infection -- and I'd certainly want to get rid of those before fermenting. I'd give the inside of the pepper a strong spray of water and cut away any flesh that seemed off. But also, C. pubescens seeds are just black, so consider whether that accounts for the situation in the future. (That's probably not the situation with your sweet peppers, but it's worth mentioning.)

As to your temperature, I just don't know. 68 is the sort of average temp of my kitchen here in Minnesota, I'd rather have a cooler place to ferment too. :-) (I keep miso in an out-of-order shower in the basement, but it's not a good setup for most of my stuff.) If I recall correctly, there's a rule of thumb in biology that every 5 degrees F doubles the rate of microbial activity -- so I'd expect a real difference between your 73 and my 68, but it's not such a huge gap that I'd expect it to be impossible. If you were working with outdoor temps, I'd just have no idea and you'd probably have to learn all new traditions. If I were in your situation, I'd put up something inexpensive and easy to eat -- maybe half cabbage and half mild chiles like jalapeno. Let it run for two weeks and then start taking a bit every day or two so that you can get an intuitive sense for how it develops between three and six weeks at your temperature. If you ever decide it's spoiling, then you know not to push your hot sauce that far. (Though capsaicin is somewhat antimicrobial, so a hotter sauce might fare better...you'll need to experiment.)

In general, if your produce is submerged and whatever is growing isn't fuzzy, you're fine. You might want to scrape out the scum and maybe wash down the vessel above the brine with vinegar on a rag. Also, give what's there a sniff. A thick pellicle of kahm, etc will have a slightly weird smell, but won't really smell putrid. Your nose is pretty good at detecting some of the compounds given off during dangerous colonization.
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Re: Trouble controlling hot sauce heat

Postby Vsoued on Thu Dec 13, 2018 5:04 pm

It did look like a fungal infection, but I also found insects (couldn't tell you which) in a few, so maybe it could be pest damage. I used only the healthy flesh.

I tend to ferment things on the saltier side because it's supposed to slow down activity which I guess is what I want at these temps. I also keep them on top of a granite slab which is supposed to keep things cooler. I don't know if it makes a difference. I've read about brewers keeping stuff in a fridge with a timer/thermostat thing to keep it at a desired temperature. It's an interesting idea.

Does it matter if I blend ferments which have been fermented for different time amounts? Say 1 fermented for a month and the other for two weeks?

I cleaned the top of the ferment and it had those characteristic kahm yeast bubbles and it smelled fine and tasted fine, so I say they're good.
Curiously I've only got kahm yeast when fermenting peppers, never on sauerkraut or anything else. Is there a reason for this?
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Re: Trouble controlling hot sauce heat

Postby Christopher Weeks on Fri Dec 14, 2018 8:17 am

I don't know any reason that would stop me from blending batches of different ages. I do that all the time, but it's more like I blend a batch that's been going for six weeks with one that's been in for six months. I suppose if you blend up a batch that has unfermented sugars in the pepper solids, you might end up with further fermentation in your sauce bottles.

I'm not sure about the kahm. I know people get it on sourdough starters. I suspect I get it on ginger bugs. I know for sure it's common in my kitchen on all brined vegetables. I don't ever see it on kraut or kimchi, but those are relatively less briney and I assume it's there and just invisible -- and the stuff is so harmless that if we don't know about it, we don't care/perceive it.
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