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Hot Sauce

Hot sauce, contrary to what most people think, is more than just adding heat to dishes, but it is also about adding the spicy taste of pepper. This is evidenced by a lot of the most popular hot sauces sold in America only having anywhere from 450 to 3,750 SHU on the Scoville scale. Those numbers translated means that those sauces are only as hot as a poblano pepper or mild jalapeno pepper. The main ingredients in hot sauce are salt, chili peppers, and vinegar.

Hot Sauce Trivia

  • The first commercially produced hot sauce appeared in 1807 but the only surviving early period hot sauce (and one of the most recognizable ones) is Tabasco, which was established in 1868 and is recognized as the oldest commercial hot sauce brand.
  • One of the most popular hot sauces in the United States is called Texas Pete, which unlike the name states, isn’t from Texas but North Carolina, and using a Louisiana-style recipe.
  • In the early 8th century, the Mayans mixed hot peppers and water to make a sauce, making this the earliest prototype of a hot sauce we’ve seen.

Hot Sauce Buying Guide

As we mentioned earlier, hot sauce comes in many types, with flavor being the focus with the heat being a pleasant side effect. Oh, who are we kidding? It’s both flavor and heat that makes a great hot sauce. Here are a few of the more popular types of hot sauces that you can see on the shelves:

  • Louisiana-Style – This is the most popular type of hot sauce in America. If you’ve had hot sauce before, then you’ve probably had some Louisiana-style hot sauce. This is basically a blend of chili peppers, vinegar, and salt. The heat in Louisiana-style hot sauces is on the low side if you ask me. Some good examples of this type of hot sauce are Tabasco, Texas Pete, and Louisiana brand hot sauces.
  • Picante – This is basically Louisiana-style hot sauce with less (or none) vinegar. Aside from having less vinegar, a wide variety of peppers are used like chipotle, habanero, pequin chilies, and jalapeno peppers. The most popular Picante brand is Cholula, and you’ll see this being used in a lot of Mexican restaurants.
  • Sriracha – This is another popular hot sauce variant that has a sweet touch to it. This is made with a combination of chili peppers, garlic, salt, vinegar, and most importantly sugar. This sauce originally came from Thailand but is slowly becoming a standard condiment in many homes.
  • Chili Garlic Sauce – This is almost like sriracha except that it contains no sugar. This is usually made fresh and added to many Asian-inspired dishes.

There are a few more varieties of hot sauce, but none have become as popular as the four varieties listed above.

Hot Sauce Production & Farming in Texas

In Texas, you can see hundreds if not thousands, of small hot sauce producers making artisan hot sauce made from a variety of peppers and flavored with local fruits and flavor profiles. Some even take it to the next level and create hot jellies made from the same ingredients as hot sauce.

Many artisan hot sauce makers sell their products online and they have their own following. Most of those who are just starting out will sell their products in local farmers’ markets and join local hot sauce competitions to get their name out there.

Speaking of competitions, there’s an annual Texas hot sauce festival that’s been going on for over twenty years which draws over a hundred exhibitors that showcase their unique hot sauce blends. This event runs for a couple of days and draws in hot sauce aficionados by the thousands from all around the country.

Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:

Since hot sauce is basically chili peppers and vinegar, very little preservatives are used on commercially produced hot sauces. But before you go off and buy off the shelf, I did say that very little is used, not none. This is the reason why it is always good to check the labels and not assume that there are no preservatives simply because hot sauce is made from vinegar and peppers. Here are some of the preservatives and additives that we’ve seen on the labels of some of the most popular hot sauce brands.

  • Potassium Sorbate and Sodium Bisulfite – The preservative of choice for many food producers. This keeps the hot sauces shelf-stable for up to two years. Compared with artisan hot sauces that can last for a maximum of 90 days, then that should say something.
  • Natural Spices – While nothing wrong with having trade secrets, “natural” ingredients does not equal organic or non-GMO.
  • Food Coloring – I don’t know why they need to add food coloring, chili peppers are naturally red. This only means that they’re adding food coloring to cover for something else.
  • Powdered ingredients and water – While not usually specified, we can deduce that some commercial producers used overly processed “natural” ingredients when they list water as the primary ingredient.

Even if commercially produced hot sauces don’t use the ingredients above, the sheer scale of their production will often cause them to use products sourced from unsustainable practices to reduce the cost.

Unless it’s a product that’s certified USDA Organic and doesn’t use any additives, you’re much safer with getting some handmade hot sauces from your local artisan hot sauce producer.

Packaging:

Most artisan hot sauces are packed in small glass bottles. Commercial hot sauces can come in plastic bottles, glass bottles, or large gallon jugs for foodservice operations.

Eating Hot Sauces

Hot sauce is best on any food item that needs a spicy kick. There isn’t really a wrong way to use hot sauce as a condiment as long as you have the right kind of hot sauce.

Storage:

For commercial hot sauce, refer to the packaging for storage instructions. For artisan hot sauce, the storage method depends on the type. For fresh hot sauce, it can last inside the fridge for about a week. For cooked hot sauce (regular bottled type), it’s flavor will stay the same for about 90 days when stored in a cool and dark place. It won’t go “bad” in the traditional sense, but there will be changes in the flavor.

Make you own hot sauce:

We have a quick hot sauce recipe that we make and give out to friends whenever we have an extra chili pepper harvest.

Ingredients:

20 pieces of fresh pepper. Whatever you have on hand will do. Cayenne, Jalapeno, Fresno, whichever flavor and heat you want.
One and a half cup apple cider vinegar
half teaspoon salt
five cloves garlic, minced

Step 1:

Cut the tops of the peppers and split lengthwise.

Step 2:

Dump all of the ingredients into a thick-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for about ten minutes or until ingredients are soft.

Step 3:

Transfer to a blender and blend until well… blended.

Step 4:

Transfer to a glass container. And use on your favorite dishes!

Note: This can be stored in the fridge for a few months.

Safety precaution: If using very spicy peppers, be sure to wear protective eye and hand equipment.

Nutrition

DV%

  • Serving Size: 1 Serving
  • Calories: 0.5 0%
  • Carbs: 0.1g 0%
  • Sugar: 0.1g
  • Fiber: 0g 0%
  • Protein: 0g 0%
  • Fat: 0g 0%
  • Saturated Fat: 0g 0%
  • Trans Fat 0g 0%
  • Cholesterol 0mg 0%
  • Sodium 119mg 5%
  • Vitamin C 3.4mg 6%
  • Vitamin A 7.3IU 0%
  • Calcium 0.4mg 0%
  • Iron 0mg 0%
  • Potassium 6.5mg 0%
  • Folate 0.3mcg 0%
  • Magnesium 0.2mg 0%
  • Phosphorus 0.5mg 0%
  • Manganese 0mg 0%
  • Copper 0mg 0%
  • Zinc 0mg 0%

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