Huahua's Todd Erickson Teaches Us How to Make Hot Sauce
On a recent trip to St. Augustine, I bought some fresh datil peppers at a local market. A cousin of the habanero, the datil starts out sweet and fruity -- and then goes in for the kill with its heat, averaging about 200,000 units on the Scoville scale. These little peppers are widely grown in the nation's oldest city. In fact, this pepper that packs a lot of heat is celebrated with an annual festival.
Courtesy of Todd Erickson Safety first: Chef Todd Erickson wears protective eye gear before blending peppers.
I tweeted a picture of the peppers and almost immediately got a message from chef Todd Erickson, asking if I could pick some up for him. I did and promptly delivered a bag to Huahua's Taqueria. When I asked what he was going to do with them, he replied, "I'm going to make hot sauce." When I asked if that was difficult to make, he said it wasn't. In fact, he offered to write step-by-step directions for Short Order readers.
The chef, who now offers a line of his signature Tailwagger hot sauces ($6.99 each) at Huahua's, did just that and even went one step further to include safety tips and pictures. Because datils are hard to come by in Miami, his recipe uses dried chipotles and fresh jalapeños.
Make Your Own Hot Pepper Sauce
By Todd Erickson
My love for fiery foods began young and has followed me throughout my culinary career. Living in Arizona, California, and Texas has also given me an appreciation for different chili varietals, flavors, and spices. I have always had a nice collection of different hot sauces in my fridge at all times -- sriracha, Tabasco, Tapatío, sambal, Larry's Hot Pussy Juice. I own them all and appreciate them for their heat, flavor, acidity, and creativity.
As much as I enjoy other people's hot sauces, the chef in me said, "I need to be making my own!" The results of my dabbling have been pretty remarkable, in my opinion, and in those who have volunteered their palates to my little experiment.
In just a few steps, you too can become a hot-sauce maker. The quantities I have been making at the taqueria would not be realistic for the home connoisseur; however, the steps I have taken can easily be dialed down to accommodate the appropriate amount for your household. But first a few rules:
Courtesy of Todd Erickson
When working with these sassy seasonals, it is very important to be aware of where you are putting your hands after touching these peppers. One misplaced inappropriate scratch while handling any of the spicier peppers could have you contemplating a trip to the free clinic waiting room and wondering how the hell your junk caught on fire. I strongly recommend the use of latex gloves and some sort of eye protection. Eye protection isn't as important in the beginning of the process as it will be during the purée step of the process. That's when things can become explosive.
Pick Your Perfect Pepper
Depending upon the time of year, access to fresh chilies can be abundant or sparse. Varieties that are readily available throughout the year tend to be jalapeño, habanero/Scotch bonnet, and serrano. I opted to use the dried and smoked jalapeño, AKA chipotle pepper, which is readily available at most grocery stores and every Latin market I've ever been to. Blending different varieties of peppers can also be a fun way of making your personal stash of bespoke hot stuff extra-special, but for this exercise, chipotle it is.