Piquant Machins

March 15, 2012 · 8 comments

Red Fresno Chiles

I was recently invited to a “hot foods” party, which is not to be confused with a cold dish supper. Attendees were asked to contribute a spicy dish, either hot or cold. I expected to find chili, various dips, and chocolate-chili dessert combinations, but I wanted to bring something unique. Knowing that our hosts and some of the guests were serious ice cream makers, I decided to contribute a few pints of chocolate cayenne (from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream) as well as an original flavor combination. But what would that flavor be?

After a week of diners that included phở and Hainan chicken rice, I realized we had almost depleted our bottle of sriracha sauce. That’s when I got the idea to make fresh ginger ice cream with a sriracha swirl. Seeing this recipe for homemade sriacha solidified the concept, which would also let me claim the ice cream was completely homemade.

Huy Fong “rooster” brand sriracha – the version we all know and love – is made from red jalapeños, which are easily found year-round in California. I had to settle for a pound and a half of red fresno peppers instead.

After snipping off the stems but still leaving the green crowns, I tossed them whole into my food processor, along with six peeled garlic cloves, four tablespoons of light brown sugar, and a tablespoon of kosher salt.

I pulsed the peppers until they were finely chopped, then transferred them to a clean one-quart mason jar. I loosely screwed on a lid and set the jar in a warm place for a few days.

I stirred the peppers every day, and after the third day I noticed bubbles forming near the bottom, a sign of fermentation.

After a few more days, I noticed that the pepper pulp was floating on top of clear red liquid. I continued to stir each day until the level of the peppers in the jar stopped rising. I added the peppers to a blender along with half a cup of white vinegar and puréed the mixture until it was smooth.

I pushed the purée through a fine-meshed strainer, making sure to force through as much pulp as possible, leaving only seeds and pith behind.

I brought the purée to a boil, reduced the heat, and simmered for about ten minutes until it thickened. Although the reducing sauce lends an amazing smell to the kitchen, I advise against inhaling the fumes. I poured the sauce into a pint jar, let it cool, and stored it in the fridge. It has a six-month shelf life, but it never lasts that long at Chez Belm.

My homemade version tasted different than the canonical original. It was brighter and spicier, with a thinner texture. After examining the Huy Fong ingredient list, I see that I can improve the texture with the judicious addition of xanthan gum. I might be able to correct the taste if I can get my hands on some red jalapeños.

Why bother making the same thing that’s available in a plastic bottle? Because I can.

And what about the ginger-sriracha swirl ice cream? Were you at the party? It killed.

Piquant Machins on Punk Domestics

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