Every year when the pepper plants fill, their prices drop, and their heat turns up, we buy them by the bushel (or bring a big harvest down from Goatfell, our small farm in the Catskills) to pickle, ferment, and puree into hot sauces that we’ll use through the winter. Putting up peppers in one form or another is central to preserving the bounty and flavor of summer in homes and restaurants across the world, and for good reason: there’s nothing quite like the heat of pickled chilies to light up a sandwich or add a spark to a soup. If you’ve ever been to Egg, you’ll know that the question “Ketchup or hot sauce?” accompanies any plate of eggs or potatoes (and has surely even graced a French Toast or two…). It’s some weak breakfast, as Q-Tip says, to have grits without the hot sauce, but if you keep a bottle in your bag it’s the condiment that reanimates all.
Over the years we’ve mainly run with the spicy, tangy Mexican crowd (primarily Melinda’s, occasionally Cholula) as our house sauce, and have featured local heat (like Bronx Hot Sauce, made from peppers grown in and purchased from community gardens) as a sometime special option. Even when we've made batches of our own, it always seemed like a big ask to fill all those workhorse bottles ourselves, but this summer we’re giving it another shot.
As cooks, as servers, as growers of food, we HATE wasting food. We look at everything--our kale stems, country ham bones, strawberry tops, biscuit scraps--and ask, “Is there a way for us to use that?” Often, with a little ingenuity, we figure out something delicious to do with it. So as we’ve watched the excess liquid from our organic canned tomatoes (which become the broiled tomatoes the accompany of our omelets and Rothkos) strain down the sink, we’ve wondered about how to put some of that to use. We’ve found some outlets for it--in soup bases, as part of our bloody mary recipe--but we're still a long way from being able to use it all.
So last week we decided to gather up a bunch of it, add some shallot, garlic, and onion that hadn’t been used up that day, and throw in a couple handfuls of dried chilies (some dried from our harvest at Goatfell last year). We set that pot on the stove and let it simmer away. After everything had softened and the hot aroma coming from the pot felt about right, we pureed everything with some apple cider vinegar, gave it a taste (then, mouths burning, blended in a bit more tomato and vinegar) and had our hot sauce!
So now we’ve got bottles full of sauce that’s made right here, reduces food waste, and tastes, we think, pretty legit. Making’s more work than buying, but I mean…cooking is literally our job and our pleasure.
Come in and try it out (maybe start with just a dash or two…) and let us know what you think.