I love chile peppers. I have eight varieties growing in my garden. I cook with them and eat them straight.

I also love hot sauces. We keep about eight different kinds on a tray on our dining table, like Sriracha, Cholulu, Thai chile, Frank’s and so on.

So you can understand I enjoy concocting hot sauces as well. I have a few good recipes, though I invented one which is undeniably everyone’s favorite. We’ll call it Max’s Hot Sauce.

The response is always the same: “Complex flavors. Balanced. Strong heat yet not overpowering. Delicious. Can I have the recipe? You should bottle and sell this.” I’ve yet to sell it, but I do bottle it — as much as my garden will produce in peppers each season.

I went camping with my older son’s Cub Scout Pack last weekend and I brought a bottle for the campfire cookout. A few of the dads asked if I would share the recipe, and that made me write it down for the first time. I’m sharing it here so more people can try it (and hopefully enjoy it).

Understand this recipe for Max’s Hot Sauce is “directional” — as I always tweak it based on what peppers and herbs come out of the garden. Each batch will be similar, though with nuances that surprise and delight — the beauty of handmade things.

  1. Slice a large onion and caramelize in a large iron pan with some olive oil. Don’t burn…just slowly work out the sugars to achieve a rich caramel.
  2. Then add a head of sliced garlic to the onion and add a little more olive oil.
  3. Then add two cups of rough chopped chile peppers to the onion/garlic mix. It can be a mix of whatever you have, though I often use serrano and jalapenos, with a smaller ratio of habaneros. Drizzle a little more olive oil and continue to cook over low medium heat for about 30-45 minutes. Add a nice ripe tomato as well, preferably fresh from a garden.
  4. Add fresh herbs. I tend to put in a bunch of fresh thyme, parley and oregano. Also add some dry oregano, as well. Salt.
  5. After the mixture is nice and caramelized and pasty, transfer the contents to a blender (high speed, professional one is better if you have it).
  6. I then add a cup of olive oil, and cup of balsamic vinegar.
  7. Blend, add the same ratio of oil/vinegar, and salt to preferred taste and consistency. You could also use some plain white vinegar as well, if you don’t like the sweetness of the balsamic.
  8. Bottle it up and eat.


Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.