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I’ve fermented two batches of sriracha, one in a small bourbon cask, the other in a mason jar.

The bourbon cask fermented batch flavor is fantastic. The mason jar batch is tasty too.

I’m curious how I might add some bourbon flavor to the mason jar batch.

I want to avoid heating the sriracha as I would like to retain the probiotics from the fermentation.

I don’t want to add the bourbon directly to the sriracha as the alcohol will kill much of the probiotics also.

I’m thinking to heat some bourbon in a skillet and then light on fire to burn off the alcohol, then pour the remainder into the sriracha.

5 Answers 5

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What we think of as "bourbon flavor" is due to a combination of things.

Bourbon is aged in a new oak barrel that has been charred on the inside. The important thing is not so much the layer of char as it is the layer of wood with caramelized sugars just under it. As the liquid in the barrel experiences temperature cycles, it expands and contracts, penetrating the caramelized layer and leaching caramelized sugars and other flavor compounds out. The longer the liquid sits in the barrel, the more it will leach out.

You have several options I can think of.

  • Get another bourbon cask and transfer the contents of the mason jar to it. I can't imagine that the sriracha needs to ferment in the cask, just sit in it for some period of time.
  • If cost and/or space is at more of a premium than time, once the batch currently in the cask has been bottled, transfer the contents of the mason jar to the cask and let it age. This won't have quite the same effect as the first option, as some of the cask's character has been removed by the first batch. You will probably need to let it sit longer than the first batch did, and even then it probably won't turn out exactly the same.
  • You can buy toasted oak chips, cubes, and spirals from homebrew suppliers and add them to whatever you're fermenting/aging the sriracha in. You'll get similar results (but not identical) to fermenting/aging in a cask, at a lower price point.
  • For quicker results, soak some of the toasted oak material mentioned above in hot (but not boiling) water. After a long soak, add some of the water to the sriracha. How long to soak, and how much to add, is a matter of taste.
  • For the quickest results, add bourbon neat to the sriracha. @Ecnerwal is correct that you probably won't add enough alcohol to severely impact the fermentation. In fact, fermentation of any sort usually produces alcohols as a byproduct, so your probiotics are already used to them to some extent.
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Heating to remove alcohol isn't as effective as you might think, and igniting the vapour is of no benefit. Once it's evaporated it's gone from the liquid anyway, and imagine trying to get a flame from wine - you can't, so it will be at least that strong when the flame goes out (actually quite a bit stronger).

A reduction might still be the way to go. You'll never get the alcohol content to zero but you'll be diluting it when you add it to the sauce. However I see two problems. The first is that some of the flavours you want will also evaporate, and not evenly, so the flavour profile will change - this might not matter. The second is that adding mainly water (with a little alcohol) could well affect the keeping properties of the sauce, allowing it to spoil quicker.

In general when I flavour things with tasty spirits, I make a combined reduction and extraction, so for gin I'd add juniper berries and lime zest to the gin as I simmer it very gently. That's not going to be easy with bourbon as the flavour comes from the barrels; I suspect oak chips wouldn't help much.

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Your bourbon cask had a small amount of bourbon in the wood.

A similarly small amount of bourbon applied directly won't be enough alcohol to matter to your ferment.

You can take a bit more involved approach sometimes used by beer makers and soak white oak chips or cubes (preferably slightly charred, if really going for "like a barrel" as they are charred on the interior before use) in bourbon, then let them air-dry, then put them in your mason jar.

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  • I was assuming that the flavours from the barrel were extracted directly into the sauce as well as the coming from the saturating bourbon, thus giving more flavour than adding small quantities. In that case your 2nd ("more involved") approach would be needed, but might take some playing with proportions and times. (+1)
    – Chris H
    Nov 22 at 14:10
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Although I would agree that it's not the bourbon but the barrel char you are tasting, it's a bit of a palaver to add that flavor by re-aging it in a cask or adding charred wood, I suggest instead to see if you can replicate the flavor profile using extracts, specifically bourbon extract and liquid smoke. Bourbon extract is obvious, the liquid smoke is to give you the burnt wood flavor. You could also try vanilla, however many bourbon extracts have a vanilla tinge to begin with so I'd only add this if I couldn't get the flavor combination from the other two.

I would use a small amount of the Sriracha you want to flavor, and use eye droppers to add trace amounts of each flavoring. liquid smoke is very concentrated, you could even use a cocktail stick to transfer some instead. Record how much you use to get an idea of how much you'll need for the larger batch, presuming you can replicate the flavor you want.

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The bourbon flavour is probably the oak barrel flavour. Try getting a piece of oak char it with a blow torch to activate flavour and house the sauce with the piece of oak in it. That is how you make 10 day whiskey with food grade ethyl alchohol.

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