Marinades, Sauces, Rubs & Salsas

Pepper Mash

What could be more delicious than a funky, fermented pepper mash flavored with char from the hearth? The mash can be used in a thousand and one things, from Alabama White Sauce to Traditional Shrimp and Grits. After the fermentation, you could even pour over some distilled vinegar, age it a little longer, and make a charred hot sauce. How great does that sound?


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Excerpted from South by Sean Brock (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2019. Photographs by Peter Frank Edwards.


Pepper Mash

Recipe Notes

  • Yield: Makes 3 ½ cups
  • Equipment: Round 15-inch open-top fine-mesh wire grill basket; Cheesecloth; Nylon mesh (optional)


  • 2 pounds red jalapeño or cayenne peppers, washed, dried, and stems removed
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt

Recipe Steps

1: Prepare a hot fire in a charcoal grill, removing the grill rack and distributing the hot coals in an even layer in the bottom of the grill.

2: Working in batches, place the peppers in a single layer in the grill basket, place the basket directly on the coals, and char the peppers on all sides, turning them with long-handled tongs, until blackened uniformly, about 10 minutes. Remove from the grill basket and cool to room temperature.

3: Roughly chop the peppers and put them in a food processor. Add 1 tablespoon of the salt and pulse until the peppers are finely chopped but not pureed, about 10 times.

4: Transfer the mash to a clean 1-quart canning jar. Place a square cheesecloth on top of the jar and sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of salt evenly over the cheesecloth. Cover the jar with nylon mesh or a double layer of cheesecloth and secure it with butcher’s twine, tying a tight knot.

5: Put the mash in a cool area with a maximum temperature of 75°F and let it ferment for 1 month.

6: After 1 month, remove the nylon mesh and lift off the cheese­cloth, revealing the bright red pepper mash underneath. Transfer the mash to a clean 1-quart jar. Wipe the rim and threads clean, place the lid and ring on the jar, and tighten the ring, then refrigerate. Tightly sealed, the pepper mash will keep for up to 1 month in the refrigerator.

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