If you grow your own hot peppers or buy them in bulk, drying them out is an option for preservation if you cannot make hot sauce fast enough or cannot make large quantities. Dried peppers can be fermented like you would ferment fresh hot peppers either by themselves or along with other ingredients, and then made into hot sauce.

Dried peppers can be used to make fermented hot sauce much the same way that fresh peppers are used. Soak the peppers whole in a 3 table spoons salt : 1 quart water brine solution for a week and open the lid daily to release gases. The salt and water brine solution will create bacteria for fermentation and also help rehydrate the peppers.

Fermentation is a simple, easy and delicious way to create great flavored hot sauce from dried hot peppers.

Is rehydrated the same as re constituted?

Rehydration and reconstituted are generally terms that are used to mean the same thing in reference to using dried peppers. Rehydrate means to absorb or cause to absorb moisture and reconstitute is a general term not always pertaining to moisture but is often associated with adding water to a dried substance. In an example of dried hot peppers, the peppers will be reconstituted by soaking then in warm water or cooking them in boiling water for a few minutes.

The walls of the peppers are the only part that will get rehydrated. Seeds will not get reconstituted and they are OK to consume so they do not need to get removed. Also, they will blend into the sauce and will not be visible if you use a high-powered bender. Seeds are a major source of the heat but by themselves may have a bitter flavor to them.

Soak the dried hot peppers in hot or warm water for about 30 minutes to soften them up. This process does not bring the peppers back to life but softens up the pepper walls and allows the brine to penetrate and create the bacteria for fermenting. There isn’t a process to form the dried peppers into their original state, but they will still have their pungency, heat and flavor. Although some of this is lost with too much processing.

You can also cook the peppers in a couple cups of water for a few minutes. You will get the same results as soaking them but be careful not to overcook them. Because the dried hot peppers will be soaking in brine solution of salt and water for at least a week they don’t need to be rehydrated or cooked for more than a few minutes.

Brine ratio for making hot sauce from dried peppers

3 tablespoons of salt per 1 quart of water

The mixture of water and salt called brine is the same ratio for fermenting dried peppers as it is for fresh peppers. You can use a salt to water ratio, or you can add the amount of salt and water per weight of the peppers. Either method of measurement will give the same results if you are making small batches. The amount of peppers that you are fermenting against the amount of brine does not make a difference unless there is an extreme variance.

The type of salt you use will make a difference in the measurement if you are making a large batch. A coarse salt will not be as compact as a granular salt and therefore the overall amount will be lessened. This may not make much of a difference in small amounts but if you plan on increasing operations the ratio could be off. All types of salt will dissolve (and should dissolve) in the water before fermenting. Salt can also be a powerful component as an ingredient in hot sauce. Read about the Positives and Negatives of Salt in Hot Sauce.

You cannot ferment hot peppers with vinegar

Vinegar is below the pH at which fermentation happens. Fermentation will not take place at a pH below 4.2 and most types of vinegar are below this. The pH level of the brine will gradually decrease the longer the peppers are fermented.

Vinegar is not used to ferment hot peppers but used in the end product in hot sauces for a variety of reasons. Using the vinegar instead of brine will pickle the hot peppers instead of fermenting them and these are different processes. Both processes do affect the flavor, pH and heat of a hot pepper.

The vinegar will actually kill the bacteria needed for fermentation due to the level of acidity and is why it is used in hot sauces to extend shelf life. Be careful with the amount of vinegar that you use after fermenting because the peppers will already have a sharp, pungent and almost sour taste to them.

Dried vs Fresh Hot Pepper Comparison Chart

COSTTIMEPRE PROCESSFLOAT-ABILITY
Fresh$.70 / oz1 weekCut off stem, cut in halfYes
     
Dried$2.00 / oz1 – 2 weeksRemove stemYes
     

Dried peppers are more expensive than fresh peppers

Fresh hot peppers will be less expensive than dried peppers. Dried peppers will need to go through some type of processing to dry them out such as dehydrating or smoking and this could increase costs. Some varieties of peppers will cost more than others so it is difficult to get an average price between the two. Read more on the importance of purchasing the right hot peppers from the right vendor in What you need to know about buying peppers for hot sauce.

Dried peppers take just a little bit longer to ferment

Dried hot peppers take slightly longer to ferment than fresh hot peppers. Drying removes the water and this hinders the bacteria from multiplying. Rehydrating or reconstituting the peppers only provides a slight jump on the process.

Fresh and dried hot peppers both require pre processing

Both fresh and dried hot peppers will have about the same amount of pre processing; removing the stems. I have one more step to fermenting fresh peppers by cutting them in half length wise but usually don’t do anything else the dried peppers.

Fermenting dried hot peppers

Fermentation is the anaerobic (lack of air) breakdown of a substance by bacteria or other microorganisms by occurring naturally. This is done to many different types of foods for different reasons but in this case, we are doing it to enhance the flavor of the hot peppers and other ingredients in a hot sauce.

Pound for pound dried hot peppers are already considered to have a more concentrated flavor and heat than fresh peppers. However, all processing methods will reduce the heat, nutritional level and pungency of the pepper to include fermenting. The longer hot peppers are fermented the more they will lose these attributes  but gain an exceptional flavor.

Does fermenting hot peppers create alcohol like other fermentation processes?

Fermenting hot peppers in a brine solution will not create alcohol, unfortunately. Making alcohol will need yeast which we are not using for our fermentation process. Alcohol is made from the fermentation of sugars and hot peppers don’t contain enough sugar in them in such a small batch. Hot peppers do not contain enough sugar in them by themselves to create alcohol.

Do dried peppers take longer to ferment than fresh peppers?

The fermentation process of hot peppers begins very quickly and is considered “fully” fermented after one week if you have adhered to the procedure properly. The hot peppers will continue to ferment at a much slower rate for weeks, months or even years if they are kept under the right conditions.

Fresh peppers will begin to show signs of fermentation such as the release of gases, cloudy water and a sour scent to them. Dried peppers don’t show these attributes as quickly and obvious as fresh peppers do but they go through the same bacterial breakdown.

There isn’t a simple measurement process for determining the level of fermentation so it would be difficult to measure the fermentation rate of dried peppers against fresh peppers. A reduction in CO2 and loss of glucose can be measured with laboratory equipment. You can also measure the pH level but this is not a direct correlation between the fermentation process.

How to determine if hot peppers have fermented properly

Using your better judgement and senses in a kitchen can provide valuable information about freshness, taste and appearance. Fermented foods will have a different scent to them over fresh foods. Fermented hot peppers will have a “sour” scent to them as they ferment. Also, the brine will become cloudy in appearance as the bacteria works on the peppers.

If something looks or smells rotten chances are…its rotten. This could happen in your attempts to ferment if the salt to water brine solution is compromised or the peppers are left exposed to air.

Will dried hot peppers float in brine?

Dried hot peppers and other dried ingredients you intend to use to make hot sauce will float in the brine just like fresh peppers. This will expose the peppers to air and create mold that will work against fermentation. There are many solutions to this to get the peppers under water. Weights are typically used in a crock or fermenting jar but you can also force them down by wedging something in the jar.

I use 8 ounce mason jars for many recipes and cut an unused plastic lid and wedge it in as the top of the jar gets narrowing. Its not perfect but it keeps the peppers under water and I didn’t have to spend any money on fancy equipment.

Ferment whole or chopped dried peppers

Fresh hot peppers may ferment slightly faster if they as processed into a mash. This means chopped into bits (but not pulverized) with the seeds and any spices. Whole peppers will ferment but will begin to ferment faster if the wall of the pepper is exposed.

Generally speaking a mash will allow other flavors that you are fermenting to blend with each other or mature together. Dried peppers may have cracked or torn skin where the brine can penetrate better so fermenting them whole would be just fine. You may just need to cut the stem off or cut them in half but don’t need to slice them into small pieces or blend them.

Do the seeds get fermented?

The process that the dried peppers undergo during fermentation will have the same effect on the seeds themselves. Fermentation will cause the seeds to lose their germination abilities, but this is OK for making hot sauce.

Habanero fermented hot sauce recipe using dried peppers

This recipe uses the bold flavor of the habanero as the base for this sauce. Habanero rank about 225,000 SHU (Scoville Heat Units) on the Scoville scale. This is just the average as the SHU of a habanero can fluctuate between 100,000 and 350,000 depending on the where they are grown, how they are grown and plant genetics. The easy answer is…they’re hot!

I like to change things up a little (make hot sauce less hot) in all my hot sauce recipes but make sure you document those revisions. I don’t always so I lose a great tasting hot sauce recipe. I have created a tool to help document my hot sauce creations called the Hot Sauce Recipe Worksheet. Download the worksheet for FREE and you will never lose a recipe creation again.

Ingredients

1 ½ oz of fermented habanero

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 cloves of fresh garlic

½ a cup distilled white vinegar

Tools

8 oz Mason Jar

Measuring cups & spoons

Knife

Blender

5 Steps for fermented hot sauce from dried hot peppers

I don’t like the heat so much as I like the flavor so to me the habanero is a very hot pepper. The addition of sugar with vinegar will tame the heat slightly. It is also a lot of garlic in comparison to the amount of hot peppers. Use a slight variance to the amount of these ingredient to cater to your own individual taste buds.

Step 1Make the brine

Mixing salt in the water will ensure that the salt has dissolved before you add it to the peppers. This enables the brine to be distributed evenly to all the peppers. I use warm water to help the salt dissolve faster and stir it until the liquid is clear. Course salts will take longer to dissolve than granular.

Step 2 – Add peppers and brine to a crock or jar

Don’t pack the jar tight because you will want the brine to reach all parts of the peppers. I use an 8 oz glass mason jar with a standard lid. This recipe will make a full 5 oz woozy bottle. Notice the peppers float and will need something like a weight or wedge to hold them down. Because the mason jar is slightly bottle necked, I wedge a cut out from on unused plastic lid to keep everything under water.

Step 3 – Store in a dry, cool place for a week

Keep the jar in a neutral area with room temperature conditions between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Any conditions cooler, like a refrigerator will slow down the fermentation process but shouldn’t prevent it from happening. My kitchen counter seems to work just fine.

Step 4 – Open jar to release gases once a day

If you are using a standard jar and lid open the top to just long enough for the release of gases from the mixture. The brine will become cloudy and you will see bubbles forming. You may hear a slight “hissing” sound as you open the lid.

Once the hot peppers have completed the fermetation cycle strain them with a colinder and keep the left over brine. This will have a salty hot pepper flavor that you can add to the hot sauce as desired. I decided not to in this recipe and froze it for later use…not sure what I might do with it.

If you are using a fermentation crock or container with an air lock than you don’t need to perform this step.

Step 5 – Add the garlic, sugar and vinegar to a blender and liquidize

This recipe above makes a very small amount of hot sauce because the habanero peppers pack a lot of heat and the flavor is enhanced by the fermentation process so a small but powerful blender will be ideal. My Magic Bullet works great for this.

Be careful not to add too much vinegar or other liquids to the sauce if it is not blending well because this will obviously alter the flavor. It may help with blending the dried peppers if the blender you are using is having difficulty breaking them down. Click this link for The Best Vinegar For Hot Sauce…And Why!

THIS SAUCE IS HOT!

Blending dried hot peppers

Blending dried peppers to the consistency of a sauce can prove to be difficult unless they are rehydrated or mixed with a liquid. Even then there may be some pepper flakes visible in the mixture. A grinder will work better if the peppers are dried out completely and you are making pepper powder.

Benefits of fermented foods

Easier digestion

The fermentation process breaks down the peppers and “starts” the digestion process making it easier to digest foods. I eat a minimal amount of hot sauce at a sitting but I eat it on almost everything. Consuming minimal amounts of fermented hot sauce may not produce the suggested digestive benefits.

Fermentation improves the shelf life of foods

Fermented hot sauce can have a shelf life for over a year if it has been fermented properly and the pH is below 4.6. The fermentation process natural lowers the pH to this level without having other additives like vinegar or preservatives.

Fermentation retains the nutrients

Fermented vegetables increase their vitamin and enzyme level when they are fermented. The vitamin level of fermented hot peppers is higher than those that would be cooked to make hot sauce. Other methods of processing hot peppers will diminish the nutritional value.

Creates a unique flavor

Fermenting hot peppers for hot sauce creates an aged flavoring that you don’t get from fresh or cooked peppers. Although the fermenting process happens rather quickly they can be in this state for years if the conditions are kept property.

Why use dried peppers?

The only reason I would use dried hot peppers to make hot sauce is if I had them dried from a large crop or an abundant purchase. Even if there is a lot of processing fresh is always best. The one disadvantage of using fresh hot peppers is that they need to be used within a week of purchase.

If done properly and kept in the right condition dried hot peppers will last for years. If you have grown your own hot peppers or have purchased an abundance dry them and use them in your sauce in the future. The results between fermenting fresh hot peppers vs dried hot peppers is generally the same results.

Get dried habanero’s from a reliable source like Amazon and have them shipped right to your door. Purchase the 4 oz bag at $3.37 / oz from el Molcajeta to make 2 – 5 ounce bottles of hot sauce from this recipe.

or buy the 1lb bag from Morel Distribution Company at $2.27 / oz to make 10 bottles. Morel also produces 5 lb and 10 lb bags of dried habanero. Buy the 10 lb bag and save over $.45 an ounce.

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