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This is specifically a question about chiles, but I hope it can be (semi)universally applied.

I was watching a documentary on how they make Tabasco and it was effectively: age chile pepper puree in oak (whiskey) barrels with salt poured over the top for about two years. Cut the resulting mix with vinegar. Strain. Bottle.

So I thought I would try to do something similar, but on a smaller scale and I found a 3 liter oak barrel online that I figured might do the trick.

My question: if I put three liters of chile puree in the three liter barrel and pour a bunch of salt on the lid like Tabasco does, will I need the same amount of fermentation time? My gut says no, but I have been wrong before. Also, if I do need less time, how can I figure out how much less time I need?

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So, I checked Wikipedia, and want to make sure you plan to add salt into the barrel WITH the chile puree. I'm not sure why they would add more on top, but I'm not judging, here. However, if you want fermentation and not nightmare juice, you NEED to mix salt into that puree. It looks like you want 2.5% salt.

Another general advice thing I need to mention-- When your puree ferments it will grow. The bacteria magicking your mash into sauce will produce gas that will literally push your sauce up and out of your container if you don't give it some room to, quite literally, breathe.

To answer your actual question, when it comes to fermentation, smaller amounts don't actually mean smaller fermentation times. Your chile peppers will all be nice and full of bacteria and natural sugars to feed them, and the salt will help keep the bad stuff from taking over. More bacteria would give you a faster ferment, but the amount of bacteria you have depends on the amount of peppers you use. The time of your ferment will depend on your environment and personal preference more than anything.

If you WANT a faster ferment, you can look into adding extra bacteria to start things off. You could add some dried chile flakes (Korean flakes are mild but tasty if you've never tried them) or look into tossing in a commercial starter. But doing either of those things will change the character of your final product.

  • This is really helpful and I'm both surprised and not surprised that volume doesn't change fermentation times. I'll give it some time but this will probably be my accepted answer. – Jake Jul 14 '18 at 13:47

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