This sauce is one of my more successful attempts. It is thick enough to brush onto anything you’re cooking, and thin enough to bottle easily. It is hot enough for your average person, but has as much flavor as heat. It is easy to make, easy to reproduce consistently, and works as a condiment as well as a basting sauce. It isn’t as thick as ketchup but is thicker than tabasco sauce and it sticks easily to whatever you put it on. I’m sure this technique will work for hotter chilis as well, but this is something that most people can enjoy.
We grow our own peppers. If you don’t do that, either buy fresh cayenne peppers or buy recently dried ones. As a last resort you can buy cayenne powder in bulk. If you do, try to ensure that it is fresh enough — older spices tend to lose both heat and flavor.
Step 1: Dry the cayenne peppers. Destem them. I dry mine in a 175 degree oven on a cookie sheet. The first day I let it run from 6-10 hours. Then I turn the oven off and leave them until the next day. The second day I run them about 4 hours, or until it is clear that they are dried out.
Step 2: Put the peppers in a spice grinder and turn them into powder.
Note: If you started with fresh peppers, start with step 1. If you started with dried peppers (destem them first), start with step 2.
Step 3: Pour your dried, ground pepper powder into a non-reactive heavy pot (like stainless steel). Per 1 cup of powder, add: 1 tablespoon kosher salt (just don’t use iodized salt) and 1 tablespoon sweet (not smoked or hot) paprika and 1 tablespoon cane sugar. To the dry mixture in the pot, add just enough clear distilled vinegar to make a slurry. Stir thoroughly, and turn the heat on to high. When it begins to bubble, turn the heat all the way down to the lowest simmer level, stirring constantly. After 1 minute, cover with a lid. Check it every 15 minutes to make sure it has enough liquid, but try to let it simmer for an hour. Remove from heat and let cool. Check the thickness of it. If you like it, bottle it. You don’t have to process it further in any way. The attached picture is a balsamic vinegar jar I reused since it had a nice cork. I put enough up for storage that I put some in ball canning jars and ran it long enough in the canner to seal the lids, but that is not necessary.
So far I’ve used it for wing sauce, bbq chicken sauce, flavoring for braised greens, asian dishes, indian dishes, and on cornbread and pork as a condiment.