By Leslie Kelly
November 03, 2015

Alana Chernila has been inspiring cooks for years, first on her popular blog called Eating From The Ground Up, and, now with a beautiful new book, A Handmade Life. She makes everything seem possible ("Don't be afraid of food," is one of her mantras) from basic tasks like cooking perfect rice and making pasta from scratch to turning colorful peppers into a complex, good-for-your-gut sauce you'll want to shake on everything. Get fired about about this easy fermentation project in this short video, shot at Pike Place Market in Seattle.

Fermentation continues to be one of the hottest food trends, with more cooks diving into the practice of preserving foods by adding salt or brine and waiting until the ingredients are transformed into something tasty and something that's also good for you. Think yogurt, kefir, kombucha and old school pickles. Fermented hot sauce is just starting to take off, and it's only going to get hotter. Some of the commercial products sell for $10 and up. Making your own will save you big bucks, and if you start soon, might make for great holiday gifts. Because, you know, it's red and it will keep you warm.

Here's Alana's recipe for Lacto-fermented Hot Sauce:

3 1/2 pounds hot peppers (mixed or all one variety), snipped of their stems
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 head garlic, cloves peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 cup sea or kosher salt
1/2 cup brine from other lacto-fermented pickle or kraut, or whey (if you don't have any pickle juice or whey ready to go, just drain some plain yogurt over cheesecloth until you have 1/2 cup whey- that's perfect)
1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup honey

1. Working either all at once or in batches, combine the peppers, carrots, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fit with the chopping blade. Process until the mixture becomes a fairly uniform mash. Open the lid of the food processor (taking care, as the spiciness will migrate into the air), and transfer the mixture into a large, clean jar or crock. Stir in the salt, beating up the mash to help release the liquid. Add the pickles juice or whey, weigh down the mash with a plate, and weigh down the plate with a jar. Cover the crock with a dish towel or piece of cheesecloth.

2. Every few days, check the contents of the crock, skimming off any bloom that's gathered on the surface of the brine. Taste the brine, just so you can pay attention to how it's changing.

3. Especially in the case of this recipe, I find the smell of the mixture actually changes when it's ready. It will smell strong and even a bit vinegary, but then after 10 days or so (but up to 2 weeks), the smell will mellow out and fade. If you don't notice this, it's okay too, just stop it at about 2 weeks.

4. Skim any bloom off the surface of the brine one last time. Working in batches (unless you have a really big blender), combine the vegetable mash, the brine, the lime juice, and the honey in the blender. (There's no need to evenly distribute the lime and honey between the batches, as it will all get mixed together in a moment.) Be careful, as the air in your kitchen is going to get very spicy. Then pour the blended mixture through a fine-meshed strainer, stirring as you go to release more liquid from the mash.

Turn peppers into a good-for-your-gut hot sauce. Photo by Leslie Kelly