How do I maximize the shelf life of my homemade hot sauce?
I am planning on putting this year's crop of hot peppers to use by trying my hand at making my own hot sauces.
I've never tried this before, but I've found a number of recipes on the Internet. However, I'm concerned about shelf life, and the variations in preparation methods that I'm seeing in the recipes are a bit confusing.
Some of the recipes simply call for mixing the peppers, some other vegetables (typically carrots, onions or bell peppers), seasoning (such as sugar or garlic) and vinegar. The mixture is then blended in a food processor, and is "ready to eat" with no cooking.
Others call for simmering the ingredients in vinegar prior to putting them in the food processor.
Yet others actually detail month-long fermentation processes.
Some of the recipes say the resulting sauce will last at least for a year. Others say a month or two.
Since the sauces will be too hot for anyone in the house but myself to use, I would prefer to extend the shelf life as long as possible. If it goes bad in a month, I'll wind up throwing away a ton.
What is the basic method I should use to maximize the shelf life of a combination of hot peppers (bhut jolokia or ghost peppers, if that matters), carrots, garlic, and possibly bell peppers, apples, or grapes (all alternative ingredients I am interested in experimenting with)?
What is the best way to store the results?
What is a reasonable expectation for a safe shelf life for the resulting hot sauce?
I suspect the blended ones would keep for quite a while (years) if frozen. But I confess, I've never tried freezing hot sauce.
Vinegar and sugar make good preservatives. Provided you use sterilised containers - place them in boiling water for twenty minutes, add the sauce, seal, then boil again for ten minutes - you should be fine. Store the bottles/jars in a cool place out of direct sunlight.
Avoid using oil during preparation, as you run the risk of introducing Botulinium into the mix. This would probably be neutralised by the vinegar, but it really isn't worth the risk.
As always, if the sauce smells or looks suspect when you come to use it, throw it out. Again, it's not worth the risk of food poisoning.
Botulism lives in the soil, so I'm not sure why only oil would introduce it? Especially if your hot sauce contains garlic, which is known to often contain spores. But most vinegary hot sauces easily are low enough pH to not worry.
I think you have to be careful about this - if you're not lowering the pH enough with the vinegar, it'd require pressure canning.