Found on shelves in the smallest bottles, hot sauce packs one of the biggest flavors you’ll find in any condiment on your table. If it’s used, it’s going to be noticed. Hot sauce has become a huge part of how we eat and a part of some people’s identity as food lovers. But there’s a lighter and local side to this condiment.
Sure, people are combining hot sauce with just about anything, but does it really taste okay when it’s front and center in ice cream? Maybe. The NYC Hot Sauce Expo in 2018 featured what they called the world’s spiciest ice cream. Event organizers advertised that it was so hot people would need to sign a death waiver. That’s not the only example. If you want to make it in your kitchen, Frank’s Red Hot publishes a recipe for it.
If you really want to go high-end there’s also hot sauce caviar. It’s not actually roe, it’s caviar-like balls of hot sauce made through spherification: encapsulating a liquid in a thin membrane that mimics the exciting pop a diner gets from caviar.
With this much love for hot sauce, home cooks are trying to keep it center stage on one of the biggest eating days of the year: Thanksgiving. A Google search shows multiple ways to make a hot sauce basted turkey.
Spicy On the Small Screen
With a huge fan base of hot sauce nerds, there are plenty of options to watch media on their favorite condiment. TV Chefs Aaron Sanchez and Roger Mooking travel the U.S. in search of spice for their show Heat Seekers. A quick YouTube search can unearth videos of hot sauce competitions, which are fun to watch, including a celebrity-focused show called Hot Ones.
On Netflix, there’s also a fascinating documentary about Sriracha hot sauce and how it started as a small bottling company and food business but rose to become nothing short of a cult classic, with t-shirts sold at Target and legal troubles as the scent of production overwhelms those near its factories.
Keeping It Local
While your favorite hot sauce may be from a salt island in Louisiana (Tabasco) or California (Sriracha) you can find great locally made options here. Tortugas Fish House in Longmont packages a great version. Boulder Hot Sauce Company grows 32 varieties of peppers on their farm in northeast Boulder and bottles sauce like their Harry’s Habanero, and Smoky Serrano sauces.
Looking for other local options? Seed Ranch Flavor Company makes and sells hot sauce, and their Hot Thai green chili sauce was featured on Hot Ones. Ska Brewstillery also produces one using one of their best selling beers, their Ska Mexican Logger Jalapeño hot sauce.
Make It At Home
If you want to try to make a hot sauce in your kitchen, it’s worth the effort. I took on the small-scale project with my 12-year-old son using dried chilis I got from a member of my community garden and guidance from an online site called Chili Pepper Madness.
A couple of things stood out in the process. For starters, I dehydrated the chilis in a pan, and when it was done, I used my pinky to taste some of the water residues. It was incredibly spicy. Then, I blended it with garlic and onion in my food processor and it was even more powerful making it hard to breathe nearby. I can see how the Sriracha factory had a problem with its neighbors.
Lastly, while this is the first time we made hot sauce, it’s not the last. We liked doing it and I’ll keep experimenting, tracking our ingredients, and coming up with something – maybe a few variations – that we love.
A Burning Respect for Hot Sauce
Sure we’ve all enjoyed hot sauce in one form or another. But if you really want to get to know it, it’s worth it to take the time to taste how the flavors can be used in a variety of recipes, enjoy shows about it on the small screen, find local sauce sellers, and even try your hand at making it at home.
Doing so is not only fun, it will give you a new respect for a beloved condiment.