It’s almost summertime. For me, that means it’s pepper season – and time to make hot sauce! I’m not sure how I got started on this kick. I’ve always liked to cook and experiment with food. If memory serves, one summer a friend gave me a bunch of peppers from his father’s garden and I had to come up with something to do with them. Mad science ensued and I became hooked. Subsequently over the years I’ve made all sorts of pepper concoctions. Some really good, and others… let’s just say I’ve learned some lessons of what NOT to do.
Making hot sauce isn’t for everyone. First, you have to like hot sauce. Then you have to be up for making and cleaning up messes. But, the process can be pretty fun and tasty. Just surf the internet for recipes (warning: there are a ton) and try one that sounds good to you. I won’t tell you my favorite recipes because hot sauce is pretty subjective and experimenting is half the fun. If you decide to give it a shot there are 5 mistakes to avoid.
Rubbing your eyes!
It never fails…I get an itch on my cheek just when my hands have been chopping and handling peppers. One subconscious scratch of the face or rub of my eyes and it is all over with. I recommend a pre-hot-sauce-making-mantra of “don’t rub my eyes!” Say it to yourself at least 3 times.
Not using gloves!
Whether you choose to de-seed your peppers or just chop them up, they have a nasty habit of burning your hands as well. You can find disposable gloves at the grocery store. If nothing else you can put a plastic bag over one of your hands as a make shift glove. Trust me, having your hands feel like they are on fire is no fun. If you do get a reaction, try rubbing alcohol to clean your hands for some relief – soap and water won’t cut it.
Chopping everything by hand!
While not technically a must, you can save a lot of time by getting a food processor. They are wonderful and make quick work of anything you throw at them whether it’s peppers, onions, garlic, or tomatoes. Plus you get a nice smooth consistency. Just process each ingredient separately and set aside in individual bowls. You can work out your mixing ratios in a larger bowl.
Mixing all your peppers at once!
Whether you follow a recipe or are making it up as you go, don’t mix all your peppers at once. Add them gradually to your base sauce and taste often. You can always add more to make your salsa hotter, but if you add all of them at once there is no turning back. I sometimes like to add a little, separate into two batches, and then add the rest which gives me a hot and a mild.
Get too carried away with ingredients!
An extension of mistake #4 is adding too many different things. Most good salsas are pretty simple. I once added a touch of honey to try and take the edge off a particular blend and the next thing I knew I had bar-b-que sauce! I like bar-b-que sauce, but not on my corn chips. I recommend staying relatively conservative early on and then breaking apart batches if you want to try and add something experimental. Nothing worse than spoiling a whole batch of perfectly good salsa by adding one too many ingredients.
Well that’s it! You should be well armed to begin your own foray into salsa making without totally regretting it. Just remember – don’t rub your eyes, don’t rub your eyes, don’t rub your eyes!