A friend recently suggested I watch the Gordon Ramsey episode of Hot Ones on YouTube, and I laughed as the celebrated chef worked his way through a series of hot wings doused in hot sauce, getting hotter and hotter along the way. Ramsey is known for his profanity and there was plenty of that flying as he coughed, sweat, spit and generally berated the quality of the chicken wings, aka wings of death.
It reminded me of the time I grew ghost peppers in my garden and had so many of them, I turned them into a hot sauce that I still put that on everything. This recipe takes a while from start to finish because you need to dry the ghost peppers which takes about a month. For a faster version of homemade hot sauce, check out my version of tabasco sauce.
Ghost peppers are also called Bhut Jolokias and can top out at over 1 Million Scoville Heat Units, which is about 400 times hotter than an average jalapeno pepper. Ghost peppers originated in India where the army has transformed peppers into military-grade smoke bombs. Local residents even smear the peppers on fences and walls to keep wild elephants out.
What I love about these peppers is that although they are intense in heat, they are also quite fruity. The heat tends to take a little while to hit your tongue, which can be deceiving. So give it about 30 seconds, and I promise you'll feel it! This sauce packs some heat, but the roasted garlic adds sweetness and helps mellow out the sauce a bit. Other recipes call for red peppers, mango and carrots to balance the spice of the chiles, so feel free to experiment to see what flavors you like and what spice level you can tolerate. You can also tone done the spice by using a slightly milder super hot variety of pepper such as Habanero or Scotch Bonnet.
Smoking the dried peppers is another extra step in making this sauce but simply wait until you're firing up your smoker for something else and just add these in a grill basket to the smoker for a few minutes. The smokiness helps makes this the most flavorful hot sauce in my kitchen!
Smoked Ghost Pepper Hot Sauce
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Makes 20 5-ounce bottles
1 gallon organic apple cider vinegar
4 heads roasted garlic (see recipe and video, below)
20 ghost peppers
1 cup salt
2 cups sugar
1. Dry fresh, ripe ghost peppers. I used the same method The Chopping Block's Owner/Chef Shelley Young did when drying her espelette peppers and tied string to the peppers' stems and hung them in my pantry until they completely dried, which took about a month. Make sure the peppers don't touch each other so that air can circulate around them.
2. Smoke ghost peppers on a smoker for 10-20 minutes. Just keep an eye on them so that they don't get too charred.
3. Remove as many seeds and stems from the ghost peppers as you can. If you open a pepper and there is mold growing inside, throw it out. This can happen if they are dried in a humid environment. Be sure to wear gloves when doing this step. My hands are not usually sensitive to peppers, but these aren't normal peppers. You will seriously regret if you don't wear gloves during this process!
4. Puree everything in a powerful blender, like a Vitamix.
5. Heat the sauce in a large pot on medium heat and reduce to about 80% of the original volume. Be prepared to cough as this cooks, and make sure you have some ventilation going in your kitchen!
6. Strain through a fine sieve.
7. Funnel into jars.
8. Serve over everything with discretion.
Storing Hot Sauce
I keep my jars at room temp until I open a jar and then keep it in the fridge once opened. The sauce will separate the longer it sits, but just give it a good shake, and you're good to go!
You can store this sauce in the refrigerator for months since it contains a high percentage of vinegar. But you can also bottle it so that it is shelf stable for 6 months or even longer. To do that:
- Heat the bottles in boiling water and wash the plastic caps.
- Fill the bottles with the sauce when it is heated to 180+ degrees.
- Flip the bottles upside down, and let stand inverted for 5 minutes to sanitize the caps.
If you're worried about having too much hot sauce, gift this to the hot sauce lovers in your life. But beware, they'll soon ask you to make another batch!
To see how to roast garlic, check out our video:
4 heads garlic
4 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Cut off top of heads of garlic and cut off top of individual cloves.
- Place garlic in small baking dish and drizzle with olive oil.
- Wrap dish with aluminum foil. Bake at 375 degrees for one hour until soft and caramelized.
- Scoop individual cloves out and use in above hot sauce, mashed potatoes, pastas, salads or simply spread on bread.
If you'd like to add some spice to your life, sign up for our in-person Jamaican Grill class on Saturday, August 22 at 6pm on our Lincoln Square patio. We'll show you how to work with Habanero peppers!
You'll learn how to make and enjoy:
- Hearts of Palm and Avocado Salad
- Citrus Marinated Shrimp with Grilled Scallions and Mango-Habanero Relish
- Jerk-Spiced Chicken Thighs with Grilled Pineapple Slaw
- Coconut Rice with Gandules (Pigeon Peas)
- Rum-Glazed Grilled Plantains with Ice Cream