Fermented hot sauce pH is a major factor affecting the product’s shelf life.
Generally speaking, the lower the pH, the better your sauce will preserve. If the pH is too low, it may make the sauce taste overly acidic. As a rule of thumb, you should aim for a pH below 3.7 – but how do you do so?
In this article, I’ll explain what a pH level is and what its role is in fermented hot sauce. Additionally, I’ll share tips for balancing the pH level. Read on to learn how to make the perfect fermented hot sauce with a long shelf life.
What’s the Role of pH in Fermented Hot Sauce?
To understand the role of pH in fermented hot sauce, we must first determine what a pH level is.
The pH level is the hydrogen ion concentration in a substance – in this case, the hot sauce. Low pH creates an alkaline environment and high pH creates an acidic environment.
For example, high-pH substances are milk and baking soda, whereas low-pH substances are coffee and vinegar. Water has a neutral pH of 7.
The pH level affects the preservation of the sauce. The lower the pH level, the better your sauce will preserve. An alkaline environment may result in your sauce spoiling when unrefrigerated.
The pH level also affects the taste of the sauce – a lower pH will make the sauce taste acidic.
What’s the Ideal pH Level for Fermented Hot Sauce?
The pH level of fresh peppers falls below 6, which is considered low acidic.
The exact pH level depends on the pepper type. Here are the pH levels of the most popular hot peppers:
- Jalapeno – pH 4.9-6.0
- Habanero – pH 5.8
- Anaheim – pH 6.0
- Serrano 5.2 – pH 5.9
- Thai Chili – pH 6.0
- Bell Peppers – pH 4.8-5.2
- Tabasco – pH 4.6-5.4
However, such acidity is insufficient to ensure a long shelf life for the product. Most people aim for a pH below 3.7, ideally 3.5.
The fermentation process lowers the pH level of the sauce over time. But you will still need to keep an eye on the pH level to balance it when required.
If the pH is too low, it may make your sauce overly acidic and not as tasty.
Tips for Controlling Fermented Hot Sauce pH
The pH level of your hot sauce can be measured using a special pH tester.
You can lower the pH by adding an acidic substance to the brine, but not any substance will help you reach the desired pH of about 3.5. The pH of the added substance should be below 3 to balance the higher pH of peppers.
Some of the best acidic ingredient choices to use in your hot sauce include:
- Lemon juice – pH 2
- Lime juice – pH 2-3
- Vinegar – pH 3
- Tomatoes – pH 4
- Apples – pH 3-4
- Apricots and peaches – pH 3-4
- Pineapple – pH 3.2-4
If you need to raise the pH to balance the taste, you should add ingredients with a higher pH. These include:
- Hot peppers – pH 4.8-6
- Soybeans – pH 6
- Carrots – pH 5.8-6.4
- Mangoes – pH 5.8-6
- Figs – pH 5-6
- Cabbage – pH 5.5-6.7
During fermentation, the pH level of the hot sauce decreases. However, you should bear in mind that the pH will increase when the sauce is exposed to heat, for example, when cooked.
Remember that every time you adjust the pH by adding more of a certain ingredient, you should also consider how it affects the taste.
On the other hand, when you create a tasty ingredient mix for your hot sauce, you should consider how this will affect the pH.
For example, the combination of hot peppers with fruits like pumpkin, mango, figs, and dates sounds delicious. However, all these ingredients have a relatively high pH, which will intervene with the sauce preservation process.
Therefore, you need to add a suitable acidic ingredient, such as lemon juice or vinegar, or your sauce may spoil.
As you can see, balancing fermented hot sauce pH is sort of science. You should constantly keep the pH level in mind, as every new ingredient or change in environment may lower or raise it, affecting the end result.
Remember to check the pH of every ingredient you use and don’t be afraid to experiment. It’s the only way to find the best flavor combinations.