One of many reasons we planted such a diverse variety of new peppers in the FISHBIO garden this year was to find the perfect blend of peppers for our hot sauces. Contrary to popular belief, hotter is not always better when selecting a hot sauce. Hot sauces are meant to enhance the flavors of your food, not overpower it! Based on some initial taste testing, the most popular hot sauce recipes from the FISHBIO kitchen are those with the perfect balance of flavor and heat. The front runners thus far are: Sugar Rush, Red Coast, and Pumpkin Fire.
Sugar Rush is made from an Aji-type chili pepper native to Peru called the Sugar Rush Peach. This pepper alone provides all of the flavor and heat this particular hot sauce needs. The Red Coast is another early favorite which is a blend of two sweet peppers (Costa Rican and Senise chili peppers), and three types of hot peppers (black pepper, serrano, and jalapeño). This one is a perfect blend of sweet and heat. Pumpkin Fire kicks things up a notch and is on the spicier side of the three favorites, with a blend of Hungarian Pumpkin (a type of sweet bell pepper), orange Thai, Aji Golden and habanero peppers.
With almost 50 varieties of peppers in the FISHBIO garden, how does one choose which peppers to include in the quest for the perfect hot sauce? First, the appearance is extremely important, since you want the sauce to look appetizing before you take a gamble on tasting a hot sauce. We choose peppers that are in the same color family so that we do not end up with an unappealing color of sauce (i.e., ugly brown). Next, flavor is more important than the heat. Peppers are picked at peak maturity when their flavor is at its greatest. Finally, you can’t forget the heat because without the heat, it wouldn’t be hot sauce!
Our recipes are pretty basic and include peppers, vinegar, garlic, onion, salt, and sugar. We tinker around with different types of vinegar and peppers, and add different amounts of each ingredient to fine tune our sauces. For example, to add some more flavor to a very spicy hot sauce, we add sweet, milder peppers (of similar color) to the mix. But, the only way to know if we hit the nail on the head with the hot sauces is of course to have a taste test with all the different recipes. Stay tuned to hear about our final results!