Updated March 1, 2022
After swooning over a spicy, beet based salsa at the new Venezuelan restaurant in town, I knew I had to make my own version. Sweet and earthy beets pair perfectly with spicy aji peppers. Cilantro and garlic add depth and flavor to this tasty sauce. Salt helps to preserve it by promoting a beneficial environment for lactobacillus, the same bacteria that turns cabbage into sauerkraut.
This lacto-fermented condiment has quickly become my new obession. I love spooning a bit over fried eggs or stirring some into soup or pasta sauce. It would be delightful on nachos, pizzas, and burgers too. Mix it into homemade mayonnaise and you have a tasty dip for fresh veggies or fries or a spread for slathering onto wraps and sandwiches. The possibilities go on.
Ajis are a spicy little red pepper that grow happily in our mountainside gardens — a little too happily, in fact. I’m often at a loss for what to do with the abundance of peppers our plant produces. Though the bountiful harvests often inspire tasty creations, like this sauce.
If you don’t have aji peppers, substitute the spicy pepper of your choosing. You may want to adjust the amount of peppers you use so the heat of your sauce is to your taste.
You will need:
• 20 aji peppers
• 2 large beets
• About a cup of chopped fresh cilantro
• 1 head of garlic
• 2 Tablespoons of salt
Roughly chop all veggies and run them through a food grinder. I use our metal, hand-crank grinder, working in batches. I generally run the sauce through twice so that all the veggies are well ground and combined, but this will depend on your grinder and how smooth you want your salsa to be. A food processor would work well too.
Mix in salt & chopped cilantro and combine well. Then store the sauce in glass jars.
Pack jars tightly with the sauce, pressing down with the back of a spoon as you add more salsa to prevent air pockets, and leaving a bit of space at the top of the jar. Once the jar is filled, press down extra firmly around the top of the jar so that the veggie chunks are submerged in the liquid that has separated from them. This will help to keep the sauce from spoiling.
Cover the jars with lids, but don’t tighten them all the way. The sauce will bubble a bit as it ferments and you want the gases to be able to escape.
Be sure to serve your salsa with a clean spoon so as not to introduce any funky bacteria. You can also store the jars in the fridge after they’ve fermented to your liking, to slow the process. If you’re new to fermenting foods, I definitely recommend that you check out one of Sandors Katz’s books for more information about a wide variety of fermented foods.
Making your own condiments is a great way to enjoy tasty, wholesome sauces and preserve the bounty of your gardens. Enjoy this earthy sweet & spicy sauce yourself or give a jar to someone who enjoys some spice.