I come from a time long before the wonder of the Internet, where every fact and figment is a tap away. Back in my day! Back in my day when we wanted something, we had to look for it. I was a master at ordering catalogs filled with items I might need some day. Magazines had cards where you could circle numbers, return the post paid card and receive all sorts of catalogs.
Once such catalog I revered was fro the Rafal Spice Company in Detroit, Michigan. The pages were filled with listings of herbs, spices, coffee, tea, and condiments. I’d place a few large orders per year, and a box would arrive in a few days. The box was infused with the smell of everything good, and soon, so was my pantry. I ordered all kinds of things from them, and even learned how to use some of it.
Back then, I wasn’t making my own hot sauce, so I was always looking to try something new. Rafal touted a sauce called “Inner Beauty” with a mystique in the description. I had to buy it. The stuff became a favorite: hot, but flavorful, spicy, and tropical fruity with a hint of mustard.
When I evolved to make my own sauces, I thought of this one and worked to design something similar. It seemed a bridge too far to replicate it, but I could make a sauce that had the key elements and I was happy. I would eat the sauce with my friends who had also independently discovered the wonders of Inner Beauty. We would dream of the sauce that once was.
Along came the Internet, and access to a much larger community of lovers of hot and spicy foods. It was surprising how often Inner Beauty would come up in the dialogs. Then someone pointed me to an article on Serious Eats written by Jane Black. She interviewed the maker of Inner Beauty, Chris Schlesinger, and openly shared the recipe. I made a batch that day. There is was, just as I remembered it.
After following the recipe for a few years, I started to wonder if I could improve on this. But how? To me, the obvious answer was to turn it into a fermented hot sauce. Fermentation adds complexity and deepens the flavor.
Fermentation requires a bit more salt to activate the fermentation and avoid mold and other nasties that would like to grow on all those peppers and fruit. I knew I would need to adjust for the salt after the ferment is complete. I would also need to take into account the lactic acid generated by the bacterial fermentation, and reduce the acidity of the recipe or find a way to impart more sweetness to overcome the acid and salt in the flavor.
I made some test batches. It took some adjustment to get the heat in line. Salt, as I learned from my honey habanero wings, increases the perception of chile heat. I also improved the texture and flavor of the sauce by swapping the fruit juices and turmeric powder in the recipe for fresh ingredients.
To ferment this, I used a two quart mason jar with a special fermentation lid. The lid lets out the fermentation gases while keeping out the air. It is critical to keep the air out to avoid spoilage. You can now buy these lids on the Internet!
Here’s the recipe. You can use percentages and scale to your liking:
- 300g hot peppers (I used red biquinho, Scotch bonnets, and various Ahi types, all colors)
- 305g fresh pineapple diced
- 307g fresh papaya diced
- 90g fresh squeezed orange juice
- 1/4c honey
- 1/4c molasses
- 25g fresh turmeric root, peeled and thinly sliced
- 167g water
- 35g sea salt (do not use iodized salt)
- 10g toasted cumin seed, ground
- 10g Spanish paprika (I used homegrown Cristal pimenton)
- 10g curry powder
- 10g allspice, ground
- 2g black pepper, ground
Mix the ingredients well and place in the fermenting jar topped with the special lid. Let it ferment at room temperature for a month. Tilt the jar and roll it around every day or so to keep the contents under a top later of the brine which will form form.
After the mixture ferments, then dump the jar into a large bowl and add 1-1/2 cup plain yellow mustard. I use French’s. I further adjusted the flavor with 3/4 cup white vinegar and 1/2 cup light brown sugar. Put it all in a blender and run on top speed until it’s blended into sauce. I put the blended sauce back into the bowl and mixed in 1/2 cup grapeseed oil (use any neutral oil). The original recipe includes oil, and it does contribute to the mouthfeel of the finished sauce.
The sauce has to be kept in the refrigerator, and will last for several weeks. I keep the main supply in a large jar in our garage fridge (where I keep my, er, milk, yeah!), and fill the kitchen bottle as needed. You can also bottle the sauce and Pasteurize with hot water, but since it makes two quarts, it will most likely be used within the refrigerated life. Pasteurized sauce will hold longer and can be stored at room temperature.
There are great images of the old Inner Beauty label around on the good old Internet, so you can even make some fancy labels!