"What kind of mould is dangerous?"
"Is eating mould like eating mushrooms you find in the wild?"
"What is penicillin?"
"Is Sean Brock married?"
"Does vinegar kill mould?"
"What can go wrong with fermentation?"
As you all know, we’ve been into extremely slow food lately. The latest experiment in this new hobby was Sean Brock’s Husk Hot Sauce. Kell gave me his Heritage book for my birthday and it’s pretty much been like my Bible ever since.
The hot sauce was like an amazing science experiment. Firstly, it took four months to complete, which may as well have been four years to me. I was. SO. Goddamn. Excited. To try it.
Except, of course, a week into it, I noticed a bit of mould on the top. This panicked me.
I was then required to tweet directly at Sean Brock and ask his advice.
Having Sean Brock respond to my tweets after I’ve watched the Senegal episode of Mind of a Chef 46 times is even better than that time Taye Diggs followed me on Twitter. (Seriously, it was better.)
ANYWAY. I asked Sean Brock what to do about this mould dilemma. “No worries,” he said! “Mould protects it. Just remove it carefully before the vinegar step.”
“Just do it carefully,” is possibly the most terrifying sentence in the English language, akin only to, “Use your best judgment.” What if you are like me, and you do things neither carefully nor with good (let alone best) judgment? If you’re talking about carrying groceries or choosing a life companion, I feel like there’s some wiggle room there. You break a couple eggs, you break a couple hearts, and it’s all good, right? But, like, if you’re talking about removing mould from food that is four months old and people are going to the ingest said food and go to work the next day, that is a whole different situation. That’s like, life and death, or at least life and intestinal health.
A Brief History of How to Make Husk Hot Sauce*:
- Mince 5 pounds of peppers in your food processor
- Mix with 5 tablespoons of kosher salt.
- Ferment for two months.
- Mix with 1 gallon of white vinegar
- Ferment for 2 months
*Proper recipe here.
Here’s the good news: It totally worked! Four months later, I’m thoroughly enjoying my hot sauce and totally have not poisoned anyone.
The bad news? It’s not quite where I want it to be. As those of us north of the 49th know, Charleston Hots are not particularly easy to find here. I used a blend of jalapenos, scotch bonnets and various other peppers instead. This resulted in 2 things:
|Check that Blendtec product placement|
- My sauce was not a gorgeous red as Husk’s is, it was a strange taupe (taupe is polite)
- Being somewhat fearful of the punch scotch bonnets could pack, I opted for less of them and therefore have not nearly the heat I want.
This, dear readers, is a blog about learnings. Key learnings. And the very first key learning of any kitchen is that nothing you do within the confines of your stove, fridge, and the four walls that contain them is a failure. Recipes, particularly the ones you don’t write yourself, are meant to get you going in the right direction, not to teleport you to the destination. Tweaks are always the most crucial part of any recipe, which is why your cookbook should always have a pencil right next to it.
What did I learn here? Number one: Go big or go home. Never mind that quasi-pepper jalapeno foolishness. When I begin the next fermentation (with an aim to give it as Halloween presents) I’ll use primarily scotch bonnets. Unless I get some Charleston Hots, which may mean Sean Brock and I are living happily ever after on a large farm on Wadmalaw Island, or it may mean I used the Internet to source them.
Second key takeaway: I didn’t use enough salt. I’m pretty sure that was a contributing factor to the mould issue, and beyond that, I’m pretty sure I was hesitant with the salt because I didn’t properly measure the pepper and there were various moving parts I wasn’t sure about.
You know what though? It’s still pretty damn delicious. And I made it. And I can make tiny jars of it and wrap a twine bow around them and make twee labels on my printer and get away with giving a nearly free item as a gift because I made that shit, you know?