Cayenne Chili Sauce

This year, the cayenne harvest was HUGE, and I found myself with about five pounds of leftover chilies when I was done making the ristras. I looked on-line for recipes, but I didn’t see quite what I had in mind. I did find a cool recipe for fermented chili sauce like Tabasco and Sriracha, but I didn’t have the lactic acid culture it called for, and I’m impatient. So I improvised.


From harissa, I borrowed coriander, I added a good amount of garlic, and I used white vinegar in place of the lactic acid that would be present from the fermentation.


I took out about 3/4 of the seeds and white flesh to reduce the heat so the sauce could focus on the chili flavor.


Then I cooked the spices and garlic in olive oil to toast both.


Then I cooked the chilies, covered, with the vinegar, for about an hour, stirring regularly.



When the skins had separated mostly from the flesh, I processed the mixture through the finest die of my food mill.


I finished with salt and fish sauce to taste, jarred and processed. I opened one jar a week later, and it’s pretty yummy. Not quite the same as sriracha, but close, and more complex. Next year I will try the fermented version.


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David Gingrass is a food and beverage operations professional with a career spanning more than three decades. His fascination with and love for food, wine and entertaining allows him to view his work as both a vocation and an avocation. Gingrass graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York then cooked in the Bay Area for two years before landing a job at Wolfgang Puck’s original Spago Restaurant in West Hollywood. There he learned to make the signature breads and sausages that he became known for at Postrio and Hawthorne Lane. He was soon promoted to kitchen manager and managed the operational and expense control aspects of Puck’s iconic restaurant for the next four years. Gingrass returned to San Francisco in 1989 when Puck tapped him and his then-wife Anne to open Postrio, Puck’s third restaurant and his first outside of Los Angeles. Postrio opened to rave reviews and soon became the #1 popular Bay Area restaurant in the prestigious Zagat survey. Five and a half years later, the opportunity to open a restaurant of his own presented itself. Hawthorne Lane opened in 1995 and was a San Francisco dining institution for over twelve years, catering to the likes of Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, Mayor Willie Brown, James Carville, President Clinton and First Lady Hilary Clinton. He closed Hawthorne Lane at the end of its fifteen-year lease in 2009 to build a consulting practice for the hospitality industry, sharing his wealth of culinary and operational experiences with new and existing restaurants, assisting them to become successful and profitable.