Salsa Picante de Chile de Arbol (Hot Sauce)

by Gavan on December 16, 2009

Homemade Hot Sauce

Christmas, Christmas, Christmas….what to give this Christmas? In this economy many of us are scaling back on our spending, right?–but giving still feels good doesn’t it? A few years ago I started making homemade Christmas prezzies, which has been quite cool. Homemade = special, and who doesn’t like a special gift?

This year I haven’t quite decided what to do but if you need an idea try my homemade sugar-free cranberry orange relish. It’s really tasty and not expensive to make. Even my neighbors are jumping on the bandwagon and got a little fancy pants. They decided to make homemade hot sauce out of the chillies growing in their gardens. You’ve heard me talk about my lovely neighbours before: Erica & Chris, of our famous Urban Gardens series. It was a combined effort (even better I’d say) which was a lot of fun to document.

Adapted from Rick Bayless‘ recipe, let the homemade gift making begin:

We used a mixture of dried arbol chilies, and fresh and dried chilies from our Tabasco chili plants (like 1/3 each). Unlike in the recipe, we didn’t remove the seeds, but other than that we pretty much followed the recipe. In retrospect, maybe removing the seeds would have been a good idea. Oh, we made a huge batch of it, like 7x’s what was in the recipe.

Let it be up to you if you want to remove the seeds or not. The seeds are the hottest part of the chillies so you can discard them for a more mild batch or add a few or go all out as did Chris & Erica. This batch came out guns-a-blazin’ (not kidding guys, my head nearly exploded). That would be a good name for their hot sauce: Venice Guns a Blazin’ (funny enough that’s quite à propos). You can make larger batches like C & E did so you’ll have plenty for gifts.

NOTE / TIP / DON’T DO WHAT I DID (ONCE) For the love of God wear some gloves if you’re de-seeding the chillies but if you don’t, be careful not to touch your eyes and my advice, don’t go to the toilet unless you can go hands free. Tink about it. Be there done that, no be fun!

Makes about 1¾ cups

1¼ ounces (about 50 to 60 mixed-size) dried chiles de arbol*
1½ tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
¼ teaspoon cumin seeds (or a generous ¼ teaspoon ground)
4 large allspice berries (or about 1/8 teaspoon ground)
2 cloves (or a big pinch ground)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 scant teaspoon salt
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
¾ cup cider vinegar

Fresh Hot Sauce Ingredients

Chiles de Àrbol are available in most Mexican markets. But if you can’t find them, a good sauce can be made with any small, dried hot pepper, like the Mexican chiles japoneses or the common little ones frequently labeled just “chile peppers” in the grocery store. For a milder hot sauce, replace ½ ounce of the chiles de àrbol with 2 chiles guajillos or 1 large California or New Mexico chile.


1. The chiles and seeds: Stem the chiles, then roll them between your thumb and fingers, pressing gently to loosen the seeds inside. Break in half, shake out as many seeds as possible, then place in a blender jar and blitz.

Heat an ungreased skillet over medium-low. Measure in the sesame seeds and stir for several minutes as they brown and pop; scoop into the blender jar and blitz. Add the pumpkin seeds to the skillet. When the first one pops, stir constantly for several minutes, until all are golden and have popped up into a round shape then blitz.

Fresh Chilies = Fresh Hot Sauce Freshly Ground Chilies Making Fresh Hot Sauce

2. Blending the sauce: Pulverize the cumin, allspice and garlic cloves in a mortar or spice grinder, then add to the blender jar along with the oregano, salt, garlic and vinegar. Blend for several minutes, until the mixture is orange-red and feels quite smooth when a drop is rubbed between your fingers.

Making Fresh Hot Sauce Making Fresh Hot Sauce Making Fresh Hot Sauce

3. Straining and ripening the sauce: Combine all batches together, stir well. Strain through a medium-mesh sieve, working the solids back and forth and pressing them firmly; there will be a fair amount of chile seeds, skins, sesame hulls and other debris to discard, but be careful that there is no liquid trapped within them.

Making Fresh Hot Sauce Making Fresh Hot Sauce Homemade Hot Sauce

Stir in ¾ cup water, then pour into a bottle, cover and let stand for 24 hours before serving.

Stored in the refrigerator, it will last indefinitely—even getting better after several weeks. Or pour it into sterilized canning jars, seal and process in a water bath; store indefinitely at room temperature.

All recipes are made with the finest quality farmers market whole foods, natural and non-processed ingredients as much as possible.

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