Woodchip-fermented chilli sauce
This fermented chilli sauce recipe is something I’ve come to absolutely love. The woodchips are completely optional but they’re a good cheat’s way of achieving that rich, barrel-fermented flavour. Makes 150–200ml 100g chillies, rinsed and patted dry, thinly sliced (remove seeds and membranes for a milder version) 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced 1 tsp coarse sea salt 1 tbsp oak or apple wood chips 2–3 tbsp cider vinegar (optional) 1–2 tsp honey or maple syrup (optional)
1 Pile the chillies and garlic into a small glass bowl with the salt. Massage the salt into the chilli and garlic with the back of a spoon, or your hands – if you use your hands, make sure you wash them thoroughly afterwards and don’t be tempted to rub your eyes.
2 Pack the salt-massaged chilli and garlic into a sterilised jar and weigh it down inside the jar with an egg cup or mini jam jar. Cover with muslin or a thin cloth and let it sit overnight.
3 The next morning, the chillies should have released some of their juices. Remove the weight and top up the liquid with filtered water (see box, right) to 2cm above the chillies.
4 If you’re planning to add the woodchips, now is the time. Toss the woodchips in a colander and shake to remove any tiny pieces (to make sure they don’t get into your sauce). If you want, you can toast the woodchips in a frying pan, stirring often, until they have a smoky fragrance. Spoon into a 12cm square of muslin and tie the top securely. Add to the jar of chillies and garlic.
5 Weigh the contents down and secure with a lid. Leave the chillies to ferment for around 1 week, or until the liquid starts to bubble, opening the lid daily to release any gas. The chillies should be tender and taste pickled.
6 Remove the wood chip bundle (if using) and blend the mixture (liquid and all) until smooth. Add a little vinegar, if needed, and blitz again to your desired consistency. You can strain out the solids, if you like, but I leave them in. You can also sweeten it a little with honey or maple syrup. Once you’re happy with it, pour into a sterilised bottle, secure with a lid and store in the fridge for up to 3 months.
1 Peel off the first few leaves of the cabbage, rinse, pat dry and set aside. Finely shred the rest of the cabbage. Pile it into a large bowl with the apple, salt and cloves. Scrunch together for 5 mins or until the mixture releases about 6 tbsp juice.
2 Add the remaining spices, ginger, herbs and zest, and give the mixture a final scrunch. Tuck in the cinnamon stick, cover with a clean tea towel and set aside for a few hours or overnight.
3 Pack into a sterilised jar (a large 1–2 litre one, such as a big Kilner jar is ideal), pressing it down to help the cabbage release more of its juices. Set the big cabbage leaves on top and press down so that the leaves are fully submerged. Set a little jam jar on top of the mixture and weigh it down (or a sealed ziplock bag filled with pebbles works well). Secure with a lid and leave at room temperature in a warm, dark place for 3–4 days, or as long as 2 weeks, opening the lid every day to release any gases and check the liquid still covers the veg.
4 The best way to know if the cabbage is done is to taste it. If it tastes like kraut, it’s kraut. If it’s too salty, it’s not quite ready. Once you’re happy with it, pop it in the fridge, where it will keep for up to 6 months. »