Oak Barrels For Aging Hot Sauce Pepper Mash
Notable food experts across the globe earlier predicted that this year, people will go crazy over hot sauce aged in oak barrels. This hot sauce aging process is not new as it started more than a century and a half ago in Avery Island where pepper seeds from the Central and South Americas took root which caught the interest of one Edmund Mcllhenny. Mr. Mcllhenny watches as the pepper seeds turned from green to deep red, harvested the red ones and then mashed and added salt to the concoction. He then stored the mixture in oak barrels to ferment for three years. This was the first known use of oak barrel for aging hot sauce.
The Birth of Tabasco’s Barrel Aged Red Pepper Sauce
Like a newly distilled whiskey that is colorless and unappealing to the taste buds, freshly made hot sauce is just an odd mixture of grounded peppers and salt. That is until you put them inside an oak barrel for a period of time to allow its flavor and color to grow and perfectly fuse together and become the hot sauce as we know it today.
Nowadays, serious restaurants all across the globe have at least one oak barrel for aging hot sauce hiding in their basements. In fact, one famous restaurant in Denver — Vesta Dipping Grill — started using oak barrels since 2009 to add a distinct, smoky flavor to their in-house hot sauce. Today, Vesta Dipping Grill has at least 3 oak barrels filled with their own special hot sauce slowly absorbing wood tannins at the moment.
Slowly, hot sauce evolved to more than just mixing peppers and salt. Among the first variation is what hot sauce lovers call the Hudson Barrel mixed and aged together with vinegar, garlic, onion and habaneros along with the usual salt and red hot chili peppers. The aging process is different with this Louisiana-made sauce as it starts with pickling chilies in cans for at least fifteen days and the oak barrel is rinsed first with whiskey before the sauce is poured in the barrel for storage. The acid from the vinegar and the alcohol from the whiskey results to a hot sauce with a serious punch.
Brandon Foster, the executive chief of Vesta, believes that mixing the chilies with vinegar and salt allows the transfer of flavor more efficiently from the oak barrels to the sauce. He said, “Aside from the chili sauce and the whiskey, the moisture inside the barrel, plus the vinegar and salt, promote excellent interaction with the oak wood, bringing out as much flavor exponentially over time.”
Oak barrels are relatively cheap with good quality barrel costing only $130. Based on Foster’s experience with the first one he purchased, wear and tear begun showing up after the 8th batch of sauce was made. His more recent oak barrels were able to withstood 12 batches without showing any signs of leakage or molding, even with a new concoction that involves tequila instead of whiskey.
This new hot sauce concoction original from Vesta’s kitchen is made of high-quality Serrano peppers, red wine vinegar, roasted jalapenos, garlic, habanero and onions. Instead of whiskey, the barrel is rinsed with tequila resulting to a stronger and more distinctly tasteful hot sauce that everyone is raving about. Hotter than the Hudson Barrel, Vesta Dipping Grill will start using this new sauce in the coming weeks.
An oak barrel undergoes a lot in its lifetime with as much as 300 pounds of chilies, 70 pounds of onions, 25 pounds of garlic and an excessive amount of salt and vinegar before it needs to be replaced.
Vesta Dipping Grill is not the only one that is capitalizing on the demand for excellent hot sauce. Magnolia Pub and Brewery is coming up with their own special hot sauce made from local chilies this year, according to their chef executive Ronnie New. Magnolia’s hot sauce is stored in oak barrels that were previously used to store top-quality bourbon and whiskey. Waterfront Alehouse owner Sam Barbieri also emptied a huge barrel of hot sauce for their famous calamari. Waterfront’s hot sauce is made of chocolate habaneros with pureed carrot and aged for two years. It is said to be extremely hot even for the most critical hot sauce lover.
Red Head Oak Barrels are perfectly constructed for aging your hot sauce. We can even drill larger holes in the head for you to get your peppers in and out of the barrel.