We were perusing one of our favorite garden nurseries a few springs back when my son Calvin saw a lone Ghost Pepper mixed in with the tomato plants. Its label reflected an eerie ghost figure surrounded by flames. Calvin had watched a number of You Tube videos showing people eating whole Ghost Peppers and then, within minutes, not being able to speak, as eyes began to water and stomachs began to lurch. Burping was also involved. A lot of burping. Chugging large amounts of milk or shoveling in ice cream was usually involved in an attempt to sooth the now on fire mouth and digestive system. It was all so fascinating for a then eleven year old.
Calvin explained to me that Ghost Peppers (otherwise known as Bhut Jolokia) are some of the hottest peppers in the world. Peppers are rated on what is known as the “Scoville” scale which measures the spicy heat level of peppers. Jalapenos come in at 2,500 – 10,000 heat units, while Thai Peppers rank at 50,000 – 100,000 units. Ghost peppers? They range from 855,000–1,041,427 units.
So Calvin was very excited to grow his own Ghost Peppers. So we bought the little pepper plant and carried it home excited as if it were a rare find from a flea market. Then we searched stores for the perfect container befitting of such a pepper. We found one that looked like it could be a prop in a halloween movie, with its gothic design emblems adorning the pot. Then we planted the Ghost Pepper and waited and waited (as peppers take a bit of time until the heat and sun give it power and growth.)
By the end of the season, we ended up with a good sized harvest. I had every intention of making hot sauce out of the peppers. I researched recipes and made lists of ingredients to buy. I even got as far as putting the list in my purse. As Summer turned to Fall, Calvin inquired a few times about the status of the hot sauce making endeavor. Heck, I even started this blog and had it half way done, ready to complete it as soon as the hot sauce was made. But then school started and work and life got busy. The hot sauce never got made and the peppers ended up going from plump peppers to drying up peppers to rotten peppers. Calvin asked about the peppers off and on over the Fall and then gave up.
Fast forward two years. Yes two years. Calvin had heard about another pepper that was hotter than the Ghost Pepper. It was called the Carolina Reaper and he asked if we could grow that. So I made a renewed effort to overcome my past failure and ordered hot peppers seeds for Calvin. I ordered seeds for Carolina Reaper, White Bhut Jolokia (Ghost Pepper), Marbles and Devil’s Tongue. We started the seeds in our indoor greenhouse and then planted them in our community garden plot and container pots at home.
It was amazing to see the peppers turn colors over the summer. The White Ghost Peppers turned a milky shade of white. The Devil’s tongue peppers were yellow while the Carolina Reapers where a vibrant red. The marbles were purple, red, white and yellow. We had an incredible harvest. I used our dehydrator to preserve most of the peppers. But then I remembered the failed attempt a few years back at making Ghost Pepper hot sauce.
Like many things in life, I had a chance to do a “do over” on the Ghost Pepper hot sauce. So late last September, I harvested the last of the peppers and made hot sauce. I was also at the time just getting into the “idea” of fermentation and decided to use the method to make the hot sauce. As to not have much attachment to the process, I decided to just do it all as an experiment and see what would happen. Detachment was my motto.
Here is the recipe I used:
WHITE GHOST PEPPER HOT SAUCE
- 15 white ghost peppers
- 1 Tablespoon of salt without additives such as iodine or anti-caking agent (Himalayan pink salt or Salt is good.
- 1 cup of white wine vinegar
- Wear gloves while handling the ghost peppers.
- Take care that you do not inhale any of the fumes that will waft out as you pour the vinegar over the peppers and when you remove the blender lid.
- Put white ghost peppers in the blender.
- Add the salt
- Boil the vinegar and pour over the peppers.
- Put the lid on the blender tightly and blend all items together.
- Let cool before removing lid.
- Pour into jars
- Ferment for 8 weeks at least (I fermented mine for five months before using)
I used a canning jar with a fermentation lid. It was easy. Then after I let it sit in a dark corner for about five months, we tasted it. We were so surprised how rich tasting it was and not too hot at all! It had an incredible depth of flavor. Calvin loves it and uses it on his eggs. He loved the idea so much that we went to the Container Store to buy a cool looking glass jar with a cork for him to put it in, like a magical concoction. We also bought a few tiny spray bottles to turn it into pepper spray. But we realized that the small pepper particles clogged up the sprayer. But it was fun anyway.
After we realized it was a success, I decided to order some of those pepper sauce bottles you get from the store and also add a label. A few years back I was in Nepal for work and had lunch at a friend’s house. He showed my colleague and I how his wife and son had started a small business right out of their house. They made pickle and other Nepali delicacies. His wife is an amazing cook so it was a natural thing. His son helped with the business side. They bottled and labeled their own product. This really impressed me. So I had this in my mind as I ordered the bottles and labels.
Now I am inspired to make more hot sauce using different peppers. So this year we are again growing hot peppers from a variety of seeds. Also, my husband Patrick who is an artist and advertising guru, will design a label so we can customize the label for the next batch after this year’s harvest. Who knew how much fun growing hot peppers would be? Well, actually Calvin knew. It just took me a few years to catch on.
Warning: In 2016, it was reported that a man who engaged in an eating contest involving pureed ghost peppers on a hamburger ended up with a hole in his esophagus following violent retching and vomiting. He was hospitalized as this could have been fatal.