I used to have a jar of sambal in my fridge at all times, as well as backup in my cupboard. I loved spicy food (still do) and this was my fave spicy condiment. That spiciness is addictive, apparently our brain thinks we are on fire and sends out endorphins and dopamine, both of which make us feel great, and leave us wanting more.
Unlike other addictive substances/foods –drugs, alcohol, coffee, cheese, sugar, there doesn’t seem to be a downside to spicy food (unless your colon is inflamed, or you’re sensitive to nightshades). Although there are worse processed foods to consume than sambal, if we have the ability to make a homemade version and turn it into a superfood, we’re obviously going to do it.
When I say I love spicy food, it’s really nothing compared to my husband’s love of spicy food. I literally buy a bag of fresh, organic chili peppers every week and he puts them on everything. Like, EVERYTHING. It was much easier when I was buying the sambal, for the last 7+ years, there has been a cutting board and knife on the counter with chili pepper residue on it. Know what he doesn’t put on everything, despite it being homemade, readily available, healthy and delicious? Sauerkraut. Probably because it doesn’t set his brain on fire.
So, this isn’t sambal exactly, it’s more of a laid back approach to your chili pepper needs. Chop once, wait for a week and eat for (hopefully several) weeks. The only ingredients are chili peppers (antioxidant, digestive aid, promote lung health), carrots, to dilute the spiciness and bring some balancing, sweetness (anti-carcinogen, major beta carotene, diuretic), turmeric (anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-bacterial, anti-arthritic, more beta-carotene), black pepper (to help you absorb the turmeric) sea salt and water.
If you have never tried fermenting before, this is a good place to start. It only takes 5-7 days, you can make it in a mason jar (you have on of those, right?), and you don’t have to go out of your way to figure out how to add it to meals, just use it in place of hot sauce. If chilis aren’t your thing check out our Fermented Farmers Market Veggies, Golden Beet and Cabbage Sauerkraut and Basil & Garlic Tomatoes (more fermenting info there too).
Fermenting it brings a host of healthy, beneficial bacteria to the party, which your intestines will love you for. The bacteria are at their feistiest when they are raw, so this isn’t the kind of thing you want to cook. If you’re making soup that needs some kick, for example, add it at the end directly to your bowl before consuming. Cooking it won’t harm the food itself, it will still bring you the health benefits of the fresh veggies, the bacteria (that you waited a week for) just won’t be as abundant.
I have made this with all different types of chili peppers, and it works well, but varies in heat depending on what you use. My favourite for heat are Thai chilis (they also retain their red colour through the fermentation), but it is hard to find those organic, year-round where I live. I love the actual flavour of jalapenos and serranos, but make sure you taste them first, sometimes they are not much spicier than a green bell pepper, and other times they are uncomfortable amounts of hot (which works best for this recipe).
It is neutral tasting, I was trying to keep the flavour of the fresh chili, and give it that ‘goes with everything’ feel. If you’re feeling more adventurous, garlic, cumin or fresh dill or cilantro would all take this into interesting and tasty directions. I have put it on a simply baked sweet potatoes with black beans (see recipe for delicious Mexican black beans here) and Guacamole (recipe here).
If you love spicy food and have a favourite hot sauce that you put on everything, don’t you think it makes sense to switch it out for something that that supports your gut where they say 70-80% of your immune system is? (You can also purée this, once fermented, to make it more like traditional hot sauce).
- 4 c Carrots, grated (about 2 bunches) (leave peel on if organic)
- 30 Jalapenos or Serranos (or a combo of both), sliced thin
- 2 Tbsp fresh Turmeric, grated (or 2 tsp dried)
- Several grinds of Black Pepper, to enhance turmeric absorption
- 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp Sea Salt
- Water (as needed)
- Mix all of the ingredients together and try to mash or bruise the veggies, using the bottom of a mason jar or muddler in order to release some of the liquid from the veggies (your hands would work too, just wear gloves to avoid burning, yellow hands).
- Use a canning funnel for ease (not necessary), fill a large mason jar with the mixture and press it down so that the liquid floats above the veggies (you may need to add enough water so that it covers the veggies)
- Place a weight on top to keep the solids from floating (either buy ones that are fitted to mason jars or use some slices of carrot, a cabbage leaf or a small jar filled with water that fits inside the bigger jar.
- Cover loosely with a two piece lid or a fermentation air-lock and leave at room temperature, out of the sun (in a cupboard works well) (but don't forget about it) for 5-7 days.
- Check on it daily to make sure there are no floaties (remove them) and squish out the solids to release air bubbles.
- After 5-7 days, cover it tightly with a proper lid and transfer to the fridge.
- Use a clean utensil to spoon it out to keep the bacteria uncontaminated (as in don't use the same one that you dipped in the mustard or licked)
- The solids are really good (and bacteria-rich) but so is the liquid, so use both. I put the spicy liquid in salad dressing, guacamole, salsa, sauces etc (or purée it together for a smooth sauce).
- This keeps in your fridge, covered for months.