Fiery Ferments

70 Stimulating Recipes for Hot Sauces, Spicy Chutneys, Kimchis with Kick, and Other Blazing Fermented Condiments


By Kirsten K. Shockey

By Christopher Shockey

Foreword by Darra Goldstein

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The authors of the best-selling Fermented Vegetables are back, and this time they’ve brought the heat with them. Whet your appetite with more than 60 recipes for hot sauces, mustards, pickles, chutneys, relishes, and kimchis from around the globe. Chiles take the spotlight, with recipes such as Thai Pepper Mint Cilantro Paste, Aleppo Za’atar Pomegranate Sauce, and Mango Plantain Habañero Ferment, but other traditional spices like horseradish, ginger, and peppercorns also make cameo appearances. Dozens of additional recipes for breakfast foods, snacks, entrées, and beverages highlight the many uses for hot ferments. 



Foreword by Dara Goldstein


Part 1: Getting Started

Chapter 1: Tools and Tips

Chapter 2: Master the Techniques

Chapter 3: The Hot Stuff: Your Ingredients

Part 2: Fiery Ferments

Chapter 4: Spicy Pre-Chile Recipes

Fermented Ginger Pickles

Horseradish Ferment, Hot or Hotter

Horseradish Mustard

Green Peppercorn Mustard

Green Peppercorn Paste

Long Pepper Curry Paste

Chapter 5: Sauces

Simplest Hot Sauce Ever: Hawaiian Chile Pepper Water

Basic Go-To Mash

Basic Brine Mash

Mixed-Media Basic Mash


Piri Piri Sauce

Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham)

Sweet Chile Sauce

Sosu Homemade Fermented Sriracha

Coffee Sauce

Vanilla Habanero Mash

Habanero Carrot Sauce

Aleppo Za'Atar-Pomegranate Sauce

Pomegranate Barbecue Sauce

Jamaican Jerk Sauce

Cooked Tomato Hot Sauce

Chapter 6: Salsas, Relishes, and Chutneys...Oh My!

Basic Pico De Gallo Starter

Xni Pec

Hot-and-Sweet Salsa Starter

Mock Tomato Salsa

Rhubarb Achar

Cucumber Achar (Kakro ko achar)

Daikon Achar

Lemon Achar

Bulgarian Carrot Pepper Relish

Adzhika, A Georgian Pepper Relish

Thai-Inspired Green Bean Relish

Hot Cinnamon Quince Ferment

Chocolate-Cranberry Mole

Spicy Onion-Mango Ferment

Caribbean Salsa

Kumquat Chutney

Chapter 7: Flavor Pastes

Smoked Pineapple Pepper Paste

Traditional Gochujang

"I-don't-want-to-wait-3-months" Quick Gochujang

Red Curry Paste

Thai Dragon Mint-Cilantro Paste


Zhug (Skhug)

Fermented Green Chili Base

Habanero Basil Paste



Chapter 8: Kimchis and Fermented Salads

Turmeric Golden Beet Salad

Baechu Kimchi

Nettle Kimchi

Green Bean Kimchi

Summer Squash Kimchi

Rhubarb Kimchi

Winter Squash & Kohlrabi Kimchi

Fermented Nopal Salad

Spicy Carrot And Lime Salad

Mango-Plantain Habanero Ferment

Chapter 9: Hot Pickles

Universal Recipe For Lacto-Fermented Pickled Peppers

Universal Recipe For Lacto-Fermented Hot Pickled Veggies

Five Pickling Spice Recipes

Carrot-Stuffed Hot Peppers

Kimchi-Stuffed Jalapeños

Dried Pepper Pickles

Pikliz (by Pickliz)

Lacto-Fermented Pikliz

Stuffed Pickled Cherry Bomb Peppers

Part 3: On The Plate

Chapter 10: Blazing Plates

Adventures In Toast

Spiced Anchovy Butter

Simple Buttermilk Cheese

Cheesy Quinoa


Hot And Fruity Smoothie

Hot Mocha Smoothie

Build Your Own Bowls

Cauliflower Rice

Yellow Coconut Rice (Nasi Kuning)

Hot Crispy Tempeh Strips


Fermented Jalapeño Poppers

Apricot-Cranberry Pepper Crunch Bars

Buttery Pepper Pecans

Quelites (Mexican Greens)

Black Bean Salad

Spicy Caponata

Simple Creamy Squash Soup

Pumpkin Seed Spread

Cacao Nib Habanero Pesto

Spicy Cherry-Chocolate Balls

Paneer: Regular and Brine-Flavored

Caldo Verde

Fra Diavolo Sauce

Mint-Cilantro Ceviche

Chickpea Pancakes

White Chili

Lemon Achar Roast Chicken

Chapter 11: Spirited Sips and Racy Desserts

Fire Cider

Spicy Pineapple Kvass

Horseradish Beet Kvass

The Sebastian

Hot Bourbon Cider Spritz

Ají Margarita

Coffee Chile Toddy

Fried Bananas (Pisang Goreng)

Chocolate-Cranberry Mole Ice Cream

Persimmon Ginger Sorbet

Fermentation Doctor



Round Out Your Fermenting Repertoire


Share Your Experience!


Food is life, but as Kirsten and Christopher Shockey demonstrate in this marvelous book, it is also alive. That is, food ferments. It bubbles and churns, froths and foams, releasing compounds that benefit our health. But Fiery Ferments isn't primarily about nutrition (though that's a nice bonus). The Shockeys celebrate flavor, specifically flavor that zings, and they are excellent guides into the lively world of fermentation—the wonders of microbial action, the magical transformations it achieves.

And what magic! Fiery Ferments travels the globe as the recipes progress from familiar hot sauces and salsas to condiments other cultures enjoy: Haitian pikliz, Indian achar, Indonesian rempah, Yemeni zhug. And they're all presented in a spirit of experimentation and fun. Why stick to traditional kimchi made with cabbage when you can use nettles, green beans, summer squash, or rhubarb instead?

The late anthropologist Sidney Mintz wrote about the "core-fringe" pattern of eating in which bland, starchy staples—foods like rice, potatoes, cassava, even pasta—are enhanced by a "fringe" of condiments that stimulate the appetite by providing vibrant texture, color, and taste. No wonder the word relish refers to these condiments as well as to our pleasure in eating them.

These fringe foods and the pleasure they inspire is what Fiery Ferments is all about. After beginning with the basics of fermentation, the Shockeys usher us from kitchen to table with recipes for wonderfully innovative meals. Why season chili with a standard chili powder blend when you can use your own Fermented Green Chili Base and top the steaming bowl with homemade Habanero Carrot Sauce? You'll also discover that jalapeño poppers really pop when you begin with fermented carrot-stuffed peppers. And don't forget dessert. What better way to end a tongue-tingling meal than with chocolate-cranberry mole ice cream or Persimmon Ginger Sorbet?

Kirsten and Christopher are two of the most generous cooks I know, and the best kind of teachers. After sharing their carefully tested recipes and secret tips for success, they encourage us to experiment on our own. I'm ready to take the plunge. After all, as this book amply demonstrates, fiery ferments sustain both body and soul.

Darra Goldstein Editor in Chief, CURED (


Fiery Ferments is not just another hot sauce book.

Don't worry, there are plenty of delicious fermented hot sauce recipes in this book; if that is all you want, you will not be disappointed. However, we wanted to explore what it means to push the essence of pungency. As we researched and experimented, we discovered that there are many ways to wake up the tongue in that eye-popping, wow-what-did-I-just-taste moment. And there are a lot of people who love stimulating, flavorful food but prefer not to singe their mouths. This book is for them, too.

Humans seem to have always craved some spice in their lives and in their meals. Until very recently (if you consider the time frame of all of human history), our favorite spicy foods and condiments were likely preserved through lacto-fermentation, with all the flavor, nutrients, enzymes, vitality, and other elements of goodness that accrue from working with probiotic bacteria. Then methods of quick acidification with vinegar and pasteurization came along, and our traditional spicy foods lost their probiotic love. Yes, modern hot sauces can stand on grocery-store shelves waiting for you to buy them for a very long time and will remain safe and flavorful, but they are no longer alive.

We think it's time to bring that life — the fiery ferments — back into our own lives. We have devoted ourselves to researching ancient accounts of meals around the world, deconstructing hot sauces and rebuilding them with new custom vegetable ferments, and doing a lot of testing on the plate. We hope you enjoy these spicy characters as we give them their seats at the head of the table. They are fun, a bit crazy, and full of flavor.

Some Like It Hot! (A Brief History)

It was once thought that spice was a modern invention, that our Stone Age ancestors had no time or appreciation for anything that didn't directly fuel their survival. But in recent years, with the help of some ancient dirty dishes, scientists have discovered a different story: this love for spice has been with us for thousands of years, and civilizations the world over have always cultivated a local version of something hot.

Stone Age Spice

When researchers from the University of York analyzed some 6,000-year-old clay pots from Stone Age dwelling sites in Germany and Denmark, they discovered that fish and deer were eaten with ground garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), especially fish. When they re-created the meals, the researchers agreed that the addition of the mustard, while adding little if any nutritional fuel, did improve the flavor.

Similarly, a team of scientists at the Smithsonian Institution has been able, through the analysis of starch grains housed in their vast reference collection, to date the presence of chiles to that same Stone Age period in at least seven sites stretching from southern Peru to the Bahamas. These chiles differ slightly from the wild chile, meaning they had been cultivated by humans.

Root crops that included turmeric, ginger, and garlic show up in the archaeological record about 4,500 years ago, again in some very old pots, this time found in New Delhi. Linguistic evidence suggests that turmeric and ginger were also important to the peoples of southern China during this period: The Austronesians had begun a massive migration of thousands of miles, all the way east to Easter Island, south to New Zealand, and west to Madagascar. The ancient languages of these areas all have a word for ginger, and it's the same word. Ginger was important enough to these people, who took only what they could carry, that it came with them and stayed with them.

Meanwhile, in India turmeric and native peppers were being used medicinally, as referenced in early Ayurvedic texts. This includes both black peppers and long peppers, and if you haven't heard of long peppers, you will soon.

So up until a few thousand years ago, your choice of spice had everything to do with the continent you called home. If you lived in Europe, it was mustard and horseradish. If you lived in Asia, you used either black pepper and its relatives or ginger. We have some tasty recipes for these in chapter 4, our chapter devoted to recipes without chiles. If you lived in the Americas, your go-to spice was the chile. Chapters 5 and onward are devoted to recipes that showcase the versatility of this picante, mouth-singeing fruit.

The Arrival of the Chile

For most of the world's populations, there is a distinctive Before Chiles (B.C.) period and an After Chiles (A.C.) period, which is the world we know today. The chiles of the Americas were not revealed to the rest of the world until Columbus and his gang left with a sampling of the Americas' menu of potatoes, tomatoes, corn, and chiles.

Although the chile was not the black pepper the traders were hoping for, they called it a "pepper" nonetheless (kicking off centuries of name confusion). The chile was pungent and a lot easier to grow than black pepper, which made it attractive to the Portuguese traders headed around Africa to India and farther east. Within a few decades the chile was dominating local cuisines in Africa, India, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, and China. Trade routes headed inland from port cities further aided its spread, and chile quickly become the dominant global spice it is today.

What was it like for these traders to risk their lives in terrible conditions just so the royalty back home could dine well? Consider their personal space: 500 hardy souls, packed into the equivalent of a large two-story house, the majority of them crammed below with the cargo, kitchen, mountains of wood, and five months of provisions. At least for the Portuguese sailors, everyone on board got a cut in the form of their own "liberty chest," which they were free to fill with whatever they could procure and bring back (rather like the duty-free shops in the airports). If they survived the year at sea, and if they were not robbed on the way back, there was a chance that little box's contents would buy them and their family a new way of life. Like the gold rush in the West, a journey to the Far East called to the adventurous and the desperate.

What Is Fermentation?

All of our recipes in this book are fermented. But what is fermentation exactly? Just a few years ago it was a dirty word, as in scary and weird. Chocolatiers and cheesemakers (who create some of the sexiest fermented foods) did not talk openly about how the flavor and texture that make their products delicious are a direct result of the action of bacteria. Bacteria! Yikes! But that is so yesterday. In the last few years, working with bacteria to produce delicious fermented foods has become cool, and something to be proud of.

Fermentation is defined as the chemical breakdown of a substance by bacteria, yeasts, or other microorganisms, often resulting in effervescence and the release of heat. In lactic-acid vegetable fermentation, it is the members of the lactic-acid family of bacteria that transform the (often) low-acid vegetables into high-acid vegetables — a.k.a. pickled vegetables — by consuming the carbohydrates in the vegetables and converting them to acid. Like the before-and-after shots of a makeover, there are some significant, almost magical changes that turn these veggies into a long-lasting "superfood." Why "super"? (After all, "superfood" is an extremely overused word usually used to describe the next trendy green or berry.) They're super, in short, because these veggies, after fermenting, have more bioavailable vitamins because the carbs have been predigested by probiotic bacteria. But if that isn't enough — and it isn't, really — they just taste mighty good.

In fermentation, most of the taste comes from the action of the microbes, which act like billions of little chefs layering on flavor over the course of two stages of fermentation. This two-stage succession of bacteria comprises a whole assortment of different species that occur naturally in the soil and are therefore found on the plants. So whether you buy vegetables from the store or harvest them from your garden, they come to you fully inoculated with the bacteria needed to get things started. You just provide the environment (which we'll get into later).

We are still learning so much about the microorganisms that flavor our food and keep us healthy, but right now, broadly speaking, we know that four key species of lactic-acid bacteria are present in vegetable fermentations: Lactobacillus brevis, Lactobacillus plantarum, Leuconostoc mesenteroides, and Pediococcus pentosaceus. Several more species of lactic-acid bacteria have been found in cabbage-based fermentations. Each of these groups has its own specific niches and reactions and, we are finding out, flavors. You will hear most about L. plantarum, a second-stage fermenter, as it produces high acidity in all vegetable ferments. But honestly, you don't need to know or remember any of these guys' names to make great spicy ferments. You just need to know how to manage their homeplace, and they will do the rest.

People come to fermentation for a number of reasons. For some it is for the age-old reason of preserving the harvest into the cold, lean months. The acidification (or pickling, if you will) of vegetables — including peppers, the star of many of the recipes in this book — can hold off the forces of decay for months and sometimes years. But many more people come to fermentation for the health benefits (or to freak out their parents by eating foods with funk). These are all good reasons to make and eat fermented foods, but ultimately it is flavor that will keep you coming back for more.

So here we are at the core of why we ferment: flavor. It has to be flavor, because, ultimately, if you don't like these ferments you won't eat them, and then it really doesn't matter how long they last, or how digestible and full of vitamins, minerals, and probiotics they are. We hope to introduce you to some flavors that we find fantastic while encouraging you to invent your own.

It is an exciting time right now as we reinvent our fermentation foodways. Chefs and home cooks are experimenting with using microbes for flavors in ways previously unimaginable. Many feel we are just scratching the surface of possibility. And this possibility lies not only in the fermenting itself but also in how we use these foods, whether as condiments or as ingredients in interesting meals. One of the things that we have enjoyed most since our book Fermented Vegetables came out has been meeting both home cooks and chefs who are bringing these ferments to their dinner tables and menus in intriguing ways.

We invite you to enjoy all the advantages of fermentation, from flavor to health to preservation. And we invite you to play around with the recipes, using whatever vegetables are in season or at hand, as you create your own unique fiery ferments. Using chiles and other veggies that you buy from your local farmers allows you not only to create a truly local product — including local bacteria! — but also to support your local foodshed, and to play a small part in establishing your region's food security.

Spices were trendy for much the same reason in 1500 as they are now. Once again, people are looking to spices for the elixir of life or a ticket to paradise. And the future bodes well for people who study spices as well as for those who come up with new ways for us to consume them. . . . We are living in a new golden age of spice.

Michael Krondl, The Taste of Conquest: The Rise and Fall of the Three Great Cities of Spice

Part I

Getting Started

With fermented products there is no safety concern. I can flat-out say that. The reason is the lactic-acid bacteria that carry out the fermentation are the world's best killers of other bacteria.

Fred Breidt, USDA microbiologist

First of all: you've got this! Don't be daunted by fermentation. The worst that can happen is that you have a failed batch. You won't kill your family (cliché alert), but if we had a nickel for every time somebody came to us and said, "I want to do this, but I am afraid I will kill my family," we would be quite wealthy. After all, for a society that has grown up with germ theory and refrigeration, there is nothing intuitive about letting food sit on your counter for a few days or weeks, possibly having to remove a layer of yeast or mold, and then digging in.

Fermentation advocate and USDA microbiologist Fred Breidt is often quoted as saying that, as far as he knows, nobody has died from eating properly fermented vegetables — the operative word being properly, because this is where things can go south. The good news is that if they do, you will know. We like to remind people that our species is still around after thousands of years because we have five very capable senses. Okay, so you may not hear it go wrong, but you will smell it. The smell is not funky or pickle-y pungent, but bad — like something rotting, which is essentially what is happening at that point. Your eyes will see things that are off-color or otherwise unappealing. (The caveat is that sometimes the top layer of the ferment, the part that was exposed to oxygen, might look off-color — but you will remove that layer and find wonderful flavors underneath where the environment is far too acidic for pathogens to live.) It may feel slimy. Your survival brain will kick in and tell you, do not put that in your mouth. And if you do and it feels and tastes wrong, it probably is; spit it out.

Now that you have the worst-case scenario out of the way, don't be afraid to fail. Take the risk! Enjoy the process, even if it means you may sometimes feed your compost pile instead of your family. Even a failed batch is a wonderful opportunity to learn a little more about the process. We know, we hated to hear that when we were kids, and we still do. If it makes you feel any better, we couldn't write these books without plenty of yuck to keep us learning so that we can help you avoid those moments.

Chapter 1

Tools and Tips

Fermentation is as humble as this formula. We humans have been processing our vegetables this way for more than a few years — we've been doing it for so long, in fact, that our first vessels were probably animal bladders and crude clay pots. In this chapter we will touch on the many ways to house and care for your ferment. We'll also go over the key elements of lacto-fermentation — salt and unchlorinated water, brine, and time — and how each affects our friends in the lactobacillus family. With a few management strategies, you'll find it an easy process, and your hot ferments will turn out delicious.

Be a Good Host

Let's talk quickly about how lacto-fermentation works. It starts with making the friendly bacteria comfortable — we want them to settle in, enjoy the ambiance, and (unlike most houseguests) to reproduce. They don't need much — just an anaerobic saline pool to swim in and plenty of fresh veggies to eat.

The key here is that lactic-acid bacteria are anaerobic — they don't need oxygen — but many of their competitors are not. The most important thing to remember, therefore, is this: keep everything under the brine, which keeps the process anaerobic. The good guys thrive in these conditions, and when they thrive they multiply and consume (or convert, if you will) the carbohydrates to create an increasingly acidic environment — the death toll for the bad bacteria. Spores, molds, and yeast simply cannot live in the conditions that provide us with preserved, safe, live, tasty food. How cool is that?

The Perfect Vessel


  • “This guide to creating your own lively ferments brings the tradition of fermentation to a wondrous new level. Each recipe is accessible for even a beginner, entertaining for the maker, and — most especially — delicious for everyone!”
    — Amanda Blake Soule, editor of Taproot magazine

    “This colorful and adventurous book challenges you to move your cooking in a new, spicy dimension.”
    — Dave DeWitt, a.k.a. the Pope of Peppers, and co-author of The Complete Chile Pepper Book

    “Kirsten and Christopher’s compendium of spicy ferments and methods taught me so much about hot stuff. I can’t wait to share this fabulous resource with those who love turning up the heat.”
    — Kate Payne, author of Hip Girl’s Guide books and blogger

    "Fiery Ferments expertly marries spicy with probiotics. The 70 recipes include both traditional and modern takes, and each comes with its own heat index so you know just what kind of fiery ride you’re in for."
    — Ashley English, author of Handmade Gatherings and A Year of Pies

    A must-have for home chefs who adore the wonders of fermentation and believe any dish is elevated by a dose of heat.” — Tara Whitsitt, founder of Fermentation on Wheels

    “A worthy, warm, and delicious marriage of fermented and spicy! Like a good hot sauce, its components are in perfect balance: intriguing history and context, practical how-tos, thoroughly researched tips, and inspiring recipes.” — Alex Lewin, author of Real Food Fermentation

On Sale
May 30, 2017
Page Count
272 pages

Kirsten K. Shockey

Kirsten K. Shockey

About the Author

Kirsten K. Shockey is the author of Homebrewed Vinegar and the coauthor, with her husband, Christopher Shockey, of The Big Book of CidermakingMiso, Tempeh, Natto & Other Tasty Ferments, Fiery Ferments, and the best-selling Fermented Vegetables. She is a co-founder of The Fermentation School, a women-owned and women-led benefits corporation supporting the voices of independent educators to empower learning and build culture. The Shockeys lead experiential workshops worldwide and online helping people to make, enjoy and connect with their food through fermentation. They live on a 40-acre hillside homestead on unceded Dakubedete territory in the mountains of southern Oregon. 

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Christopher Shockey

Christopher Shockey

About the Author

Christopher Shockey and Kirsten K. Shockey are the coauthors of Miso, Tempeh, Natto & Other Tasty FermentsFiery Ferments, and the best-selling Fermented Vegetables. Christopher has years of experience producing ciders from their mountain homestead orchard and is a trained cider maker. The Shockeys got their start fermenting foods more than twenty years ago on their 40-acre hillside smallholding, which grew into their organic food company. When they realized their passion was for the process, they chose to focus on teaching fermentation arts to others. They teach worldwide and host workshops on their homestead in southern Oregon.

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