How HOT is our Screaming Eagle Hot Sauce?
You can be the judge… the 6 varieties of peppers include Jalapeños, Habaneros, Hot Paper Lanterns, Hungarian Hot Wax, Gatherer’s Gold and Stocky Red. If that list brings tears to your eyes, don’t worry, the last two varieties are sweet and should mellow out that heat a little!
Nicolas, our garden coordinator, started this project 5 years ago, giving students a chance to see how a real food product is grown, tended, harvested, produced, packaged, and consumed! Students learn patience and dedication as the whole process takes more than half a year and many hours of work. Students who take part in making the hot sauce get to take a bottle home and the rest is featured in the dining room and at fund-raising events.
Serendipity students started growing their own jalapeños from seed this year in the greenhouse in the Growing Minds Garden. They planted the seedlings in March and also up-potted (put in bigger pots for further growth) and transplanted them in late spring. Two groups of 6 high school students each harvested the peppers and made the hot sauce, however much of the student body participated in the growing process. Even a group of staff (including case manager Ella) pitched in to get two new rows prepared and planted in the greenhouse after students were gone in the summer.
To my surprise, I found out the final product is only comprised of three ingredients: fresh peppers, salt and time. Once the peppers are minced & salted they are left to ferment for five days, in which time the lactobacillus bacteria that were present on the skins of the fruit thrive and multiply, eating the sugars in the peppers and creating lactic acid which naturally adds a tangy, vinegar-like flavor to the sauce. Once fermented the salty, acidic environment is unhospitable to pathogens allowing the sauce to be kept refrigerated for a year or more, while its flavors continue to develop and deepen. In addition to having a long storage life, lacto-fermented foods are pro-biotic, aid digestion and boost the immune system. In this way, our home-made hot sauce is not just a condiment, but a source of nutrition and symbol of resilience for our whole school community.
A huge thank you to farmers Brian and Jesse from Sauvie Island Growers for donating all the pepper seedlings and to Nicolas for providing the all the information above and creating such a fantastic opportunity for Serendipity students to grow and thrive! I’m looking forward to trying my first sample of Screaming Eagle Hot Sauce…bring on the Heat!