As the West Coast prepares for the next big heat wave of the summer now seems like a good time to bust out this story and recipe from the “Wheels & Water” Issue of Mountain Life: Coast Mountains (Summer 2015).
Our bodies love hot sauce in a heat wave because it makes us sweat more and drink more water. Try the recipe and holler back at us with feedback on how hot you can get.— Feet Banks, editor.
Hot Damn! Hot Sauce for Summer Heat
By Taylor Godber
Why is it that we’re so fixated on choosing to harm ourselves for pleasure? Similar to the perplexing muscle burn and hard sweat we break en route to summit mountaintops, the cliché of ‘its all about the journey’ is now arguable and fitting as we enjoy the trek through flavours at each meal. Food is often no longer the main event, instead it’s simply the vehicle for the heated, pestle-and-mortared, steeped, mixed, or ground, spicy sauce, AKA: hot sauce.
For some, the hot sauce obsession stems from a run-in overseas with an exotic taste that left our lips praying for death as our tongue called for more. Others relish the claims of having discovered the best and hottest of all time. Regardless, the hipster/craft-brew trend has officially crossed over and everyone from your neighbourhood pub to your crazy-aunt-who-went-to-Mexico-once seems to have incorporated the tasty chili-based sauce into their cuisine. The simplicity of the basic ingredients equation allows for personal manipulation and customization to fit any taster’s palate. The hot sauce revolution is here.
The spice is all in the pepper. The Scoville Scale is the measurement of the pungency (spicy heat) of chili peppers or other spice foods. A measurement of dried pepper is dissolved in alcohol and then diluted in a solution of sugar water. The concentration of the capsaicinoids (what makes them hot) is increased in the water solution until professionally-trained hot sauce tasters can detect the burn, the heat! The heat levels are based on this dilution and measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHU). The Trinidad Scorpion Pepper tops the chart with 1,463,700 SHU. By comparison, the Red Savina Habenaro hits 250,000 to 577,00 SHU, Thai Chili gets 50,000 to 100,000 SHU and police-grade pepper spray varies from 500,000 up to 5 million.
Hot sauce = chili pepper + salt + vinegar
Chili Paste = chili pepper + fruit or vegetable base
Chili sauce = chili paste + sugar + garlic + salt
Don’t touch your eyes! Capsaicinoids (the scientific name for what makes hot sauce burn) are fat-soluble, so don’t bother rinsing with water. Suggested aids are dairy products (the protein casein binds with the capsaicinoids), rice, and chewing as a mechanical means of combatting the burn. Or, suck it up cupcake!
Why does hot sauce hurt so good? It’s a test of our tastebuds and a taste of the extreme, but with any hot sauce, experience reigns supreme over anything words can describe. And as an action sport community, we always lust for experiences with that touch of crazy that accompanies any self-punishing desire to feel “the burn.”
Burn Baby Burn: A DIY Summer Hot Sauce Recipe
Having travelled and worked in Southeast Asia and Mexico, I’ve found that hot sauce can add to the complexity of dishes. The wrong amount of heat, sweet, acid or bitterness can immediately take away from the food. Sriracha is the most balanced flavour profile in a hot sauce and as acclaimed chef David Chang said, “that is the one thing I don’t mess with because it’s perfect.” Here goes my best shot at a classic.
This recipe takes 20 minutes to make and will give you about two cups.
- 1½ pounds red jalapeño peppers, stemmed, seeded, and chopped up
- 8 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon cilantro
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
-Purée all ingredients in food processor.
-Transfer purée into saucepan.
-Cook down on slow simmer for 10 minutes to consolidate.
-Cool at room temperature.
-Ready to serve!
To be enjoyed around the campfire on some franks, on a burger from the backyard BBQ, at home on some pre-hike, protein-packed eggs, or mixed with tequila for late nights.