Say hello to Mike, our in-house chilli expert and prep wiz. We ferment all our own chillies on-site and he’s responsible for nurturing the chillies though that ageing process so that they’re bursting with flavour when the time comes to turn them into a hot sauce. He also oversees ingredient prep for all our other sauces and seasonings.
Mike joined us a few years ago now, so we thought we were overdue a good catch-up. Plus, who better to tell you about life at Sauce Shop than someone who is in the thick of it taking care of all the chillies that go into your favourite hot sauces?
First off, how much do you love those little chilli ferments?
“Fermenting food is exciting, it is the transformation and preservation of food, I love it! Sauce Shop ferments a heck of a lot so it does come with some tough graft. Our containers hold over 100kg of chillies which are filled by hand on delivery. A standard delivery at the moment is 2 tonnes or more. The end result is awesome, but the journey can be hard work”
Let the people know exactly what a chilli mash is…
"A mash in fermentation terms is a mixture of the food you want to ferment and a percentage of salt by weight. The word mash is more closely associated with making alcohol and is the process of breaking down starch molecules into more readily fermentable simple sugars. In short, a mash is a mash once the desired amount of salt has been added. This is when the fermentation begins.
There are two main stages. Firstly the food is submerged in a brine which kills off unhealthy "bad" bacteria (our bodies don’t like that stuff!). The "good" bacteria that our bodies love survives, and as they grow they kick off the second stage. Here, the good bacteria called lactobacillus converts the sugars found in the food into lactic acid. Over time this creates a very acidic environment. The food is preserved and so are it's flavours and nutrients. That acidity is what gives fermented food that lovely tang"
Do you have any at-home fermentation projects going on?
"I usually have at least 2 or 3 ferments going on at any one time. My favourite at the moment is a mixture of red cabbage, whole garlic cloves and jalapenos. Two weeks is plenty of time for the ferment, it is incredibly moreish!"
Could you give us any bits of wisdom about the history of chilli fermentation?
"Fermenting foods has been around for thousands of years, however it is only in the last 200 years or so that we have understood what was going on with the chemistry. There are some crazy ferments going on in the world, and it’s a really cool little community"
Is there anything fermentation wise you want to experiment with in the future?
"I'd love to try the other side of fermentation...making beer!"
What’s your favourite Sauce Shop sauce?!
"Buffalo is my favourite. It uses both the habanero and jalapeño mash. Fiery heat, buttery creaminess, and bright tangy vinegar"