Monday, November 29, 2010

Chili paste ferment

A glass container with fermenting chili puree mixed with water, sea salt and a small amount of sauerkraut juice held under the liquid surface by a water filled flask.

A few weeks ago I harvested several pounds of various chili peppers from one of our college gardens.  There was a variety of tobasco, jalapeneo, and who knows what else (I forgot what they were a long time ago).  This was far more chili's than anyone of us wanted to consume.  So the stems were removed and the chili's were pureed with some water until I had a fine chili paste.  Sea salt was then added to taste.  Several ounces of sauerkraut liquid was added in an attempt to speed the fermentation process.  Nothing was exact, I just made sure there was enough water to submerge the paste under the flask.  The submerged paste was then left at room temperature to ferment for several weeks.  Currently, it is still fermenting and hopefully next week sometime I will taste it.

I became interested in fermenting chili's a few years ago when I started growing bumper crops in both the spring and fall.  Being we can grow chili plants year round in Phoenix I have several plants that are many years old.  A few of these plants have developed into bushes, one of which gets to six feet tall before I have to trim it.  That said, I produce pounds and pounds of chili's annually and need something to do with them.  I've never actually fermented them before so this is my first attempt and it seems to be going quite well.  The process of fermenting chili's should be the same process as making sauerkraut.  Salt and anerobic conditions prevent harmful bacteria from growing and encourage healthy fermenting lactic acid bacteria (probiotics).  This then preserves the food, preventing spoilage.  The only difference between the chili ferment and the sauerkraut is that the fermentation process appears to be much slower for the chili's.  It is possible that the capsaicin slows or prevents some bacterial growth.  Capsaicin is the substance found in chili's that makes them spicy. 

Tobasco chili sauce is fermented in a similar way for three years in oak barrels.  See here how Tobasco produces its famous chili sauce:  While I don't expect to have results comparable to the Tobasco brand name, hopefully something good will be produced.

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