Origin of a recipe: Hot sauce

Experiment with different peppers and fermentation methods. Then, have a hot sauce show showdown, and don’t forget the milk!

Story and photos by Aaron Lynch, Chef-Owner of Hidden Julles Cafe, courtesy piedmontlifestyle.com

Welcome to the fourth edition of Origin of a Recipe. This month we’re sharing our house-made hot sauce and how a kind gesture from a regular cafe guest forced me to try my hand at making my own.

Early on, Neal Emerald, hot sauce connoisseur, traveler, and local foodie asked me about the hot sauce we were using. At the time we were using an organic store-bought habanero hot sauce. Neal asked me if I liked hot sauce, and honestly, everyone in my family will tell you that, when it comes to heat, I’m a wimp. In fact when I was younger, the men in my family would line up hot sauces and take “shots” and laugh at the weaklings in the group that couldn’t stand the heat. The first one to drink milk lost. Guess who that was?

As a result of my conversation with Neal and because he is the wonderful person that he is, he started bringing me hot sauces from all of his travels. At the cafe, we taste-tested all of Neal’s discoveries using the “shot” method I did as a kid. I ended up with about twenty bottles of hot sauce from Neal and went through about four gallons of milk.

I wanted to do something special for Neal. So I began researching and experimenting with making hot sauces. I quickly learned that to get the lasting taste I wanted, I would need to ferment the sauces. I consider a good hot sauce to have an intense lingering flavor that can only come through fermentation. I fermented with kimchi, sauerkraut, and apple cider vinegar and found that the easiest way to ferment was to use apple cider vinegar with the mother in it. For those of you don’t know what “the mother” is, it’s the strands of proteins, enzymes and friendly bacteria that give the product a murky appearance.

I encourage you to try this recipe and get creative in your kitchen. Experiment with different peppers and fermentation methods. Then, have a hot sauce shot showdown, and don’t forget the milk!

Downloadable printable recipe here.

Yield: 30+ Servings


  • 1 pound habaneros (red preferably)
  • 3 jalapeños
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar with the mother
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar


  • Cut off all stems
  • Blend habaneros, jalapeños, and apple cider vinegar
  • Put in a glass container with a lid
  • Let sit for 22 days on the counter in a temperature controlled room. Keep the mixture out of the sunlight
  • Mix everyday or every other day
  • Enjoy with scrambled eggs, ribs, burgers, and more!