Instructions for salt curing hot peppers

bunch of dried peppers

Pepper mash is salt cured ‘aged’ hot peppers. Hot peppers can be cured by this method because of the resulting low pH (high acidity) and the preservative properties of capsaicin, the chemical which gives hot peppers their heat. The biological and chemical process which takes place during curing are not fully understood. If you are interested in preparing your own pepper mash please be aware that this document is only meant as a description of the process and is not a recipe, formula or instruction for doing so. We accept no liability for damages for losses as a result of the use of all or part of the information given here.

Selecting Peppers for Mashing: Only peppers with an average Scoville Unit Rating of 10,000 or more should be used. It is not recommend that pepper varieties be mixed during curing. If a blend is required, it should be prepared after the aging process. The peppers must be free of calyx (foliage), stems and all other substances. When initially selecting and sorting the peppers, the same rules used to select fruit for wine making apply. Any peppers with soft spots, blemishes, mold or broken skins should be discarded. Sorted peppers should be washed with cold water.

Preparing Hot Peppers for Mashing: The peppers must be chopped or ground. The best way to accomplish this is to run them through a meat grinder using a medium sized cutting die. A food processer may also be used but avoid over processing and/or grinding the seeds. The ground peppers must be placed in a food grade vessel made of non reactive material (plastic, stainless steel or glass) which has a loose fitting lid. Once the peppers are fully ground they must be weighed with a good quality scale.

Adding the Salt and Aging: Only flaked pickling salt should be used to cure the peppers. The amount of salt depends on the Scoville Rating of the peppers. The lower the SHU the more salt that is required. The minimum salting is 12% by weight for peppers of high SHU and maximum salting of 15% for peppers with low SHU. The amount of salt must be accurately calculated and weighed out. Stir the salt completely into the ground peppers. Cover the mash with a loose fitting lid. Allow the mash to rest for one hour and then stir again. Stir it again in another hour and then again after 24 hours.

Cover the mash with a water bag style airlock like the one used to make sauerkraut. Place the mash in a dark location with a stable temperature between 64-68°F for up to six weeks. Gently open the mash and lightly stir it once a week during this time.

Adding Oak: If you would like to give your mash an oaked aged character, you can add wine making toasted oak chips after the second week. We recommend French or Hungarian Medium Toasted Oak Cubes. These should be soaked in boiling water for 3 minutes then rinsed and added to your mash pail.

Storing Pepper Mash: After aging, the mash should be heated to 180°F for 3 minutes and then canned as you would tomatoes.