Inside The Test Kitchen: Fermenting Hot Sauce with R&D Chef Bert

Grab some food for thought as delve into the minds of our staff.

Name: Bert Sheffield (R&D Chef)

Location: Asheville NC

Favorite Menu Item to Eat:

Our chili crisp cucumber salad. I chop up the cucumbers and add chopped radish and scallions. I also add chili crisp to give it that boost in heat. Toss it all together in a bowl and you’re set. 

Favorite Menu Item to Create:

Anything charcuterie related or any sort of meat fermentation. 

The summer sausage we have on the menu is fermented with Lactobacillus sakei and Staphylococcus carnosus and fermented at ~78°f @ 85%RH for 48hrs. We get a pretty quick drop in pH to about 4-4.2 in 48Hrs.

What do you love about food fermentation?

The natural evolution of flavors and stability of the ingredients, coming up in the intense culinary side of things, the science wasn’t really explained too much or understood, and that bothered me. I’d go home and research the how and why, fermentation was a big part of that. Food fermentation is a beautiful example of transformation and it’s not only a food enhancement, it’s a timeless means of preservation and to me that is truly remarkable.  

Tips & Tricks when working with living organisms?

For the love of all things holy, convert to the metric system. Buy a digital scale and do your work in grams, document your recipes and have fun with it. Let your hair down. Get to know the organisms you’re working with and wash your hands. 

What’s your favorite story about the fermentation classes?

This one time in hot sauce class. I was processing about 20 pounds of peppers in the classroom and didn’t think to open the doors for that part of the class. Needless to say we pretty much lightly maced everyone in the room. It was a great time. Go team. 

White Labs Test Kitchen:
Hot Sauce

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1. Take out WLP672 Lactobacillus brevis from the refrigerator and warm to room temperature.


2. Clean red bell peppers, de-stem the habañeros.


3. Peel onions and weigh out the garlic cloves.


4. Process the vegetables into a chopped mixture.


5. Add the WLP672 Lactobacillus brevis, salt, and water to the chopped mixture and mix for 1 minute to extract the natural liquids and thoroughly combine.


6. Press the mixture into a fermentation vessel, cover and ferment for 3-10 days for pH below 4.2.


7. After fermentation, combine fermented pepper mash with white vinegar, salt, sugar, and mix with a blending device.


8. After the fermented mix has been blended, pureé the mixture using the highest setting on your device for at least 30 seconds.


9. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. You’re looking for a smooth silky texture. (Optional)


10. Place into appropriate containers, label and date. Keep in cold storage to preserve the flavor and color.

Did you know?!

  • The compound known for the spiciness is known as capsaicin. To measure the level of heat, pharmacist Wilbur Scoville created Scoville scale.
  • Hot sauce fermentation is mainly done through Lactic Acid Bacteria. With peppers providing the sugar and salt/vinegar lowering the pH combined with the lack of oxygen. These organisms thrive to produce a flavorful punch.
  • Don’t drink beer if it’s too hot.! Capsaicin is not water soluble, so drinking beer can spread the heat around your mouth while fat based things like cheese and milk can help cool it.

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