Vary the amount of the chilies to modify the intensity of the heat of the sauce. Roughly, 2 to 3 chilies will yield a mildly hot sauce; 6 to 7 chilies will give you a very hot sauce.
To the chilies, we add garlic and ginger for better aroma and a more nuanced flavor. Know that both garlic and ginger add heat to the sauce although not as intense as the heat of chilies.
We also add a little vinegar or lemon (or lime) juice and salt to create contrast that prevents the sauce from tasting irritatingly sweet. If using lime or lemon juice, I recommend throwing in finely grated lemon or lime zest as well for an even more fragrant sauce.
The sweet chili sauce stays good in the fridge for weeks. How many weeks… well, that will vary on the temperature of your fridge and how you use the sauce. If foreign objects get inside the jar every time you take some the sauce (as when you use greasy spoons), the freshness will be affected. The vinegar or lemon juice in it should act as natural preservative but nothing lasts forever.
Will it stay good without refrigeration? That is something I have not, and will not, try (ants here can wiggle their way into tightly covered jars and bottles) so you’ll just have to find out for yourself.
If you’re wondering what the tiny black specks in the sauce is, that’s vanilla. You don’t have to add any. It’s just that we throw in vanilla beans into our jars of white sugar so all the white sugar in the house have those little black specks.
- 7 bird's eye chilies
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 a thumb-sized knob ginger
- 1 cup white sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar or lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest
- Peel the garlic and the ginger. Cut of the tops of the chilies and discard. Chop the ginger, garlic and chilies.
- Place the sugar in a thick-bottomed pot. Add the chopped garlic, chilies and ginger, and the salt.
- Pour in the rice wine vinegar or lemon juice and add the lemon zest.
- Pour in a cup of water. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt.
- Set over medium heat, bring to the boil then lower the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, for 10 to 12 minutes.
- The sweet chili sauce will appear watery after 10 to 12 minutes of cooking. DO NOT be tempted to cook it much longer. The sauce will turn syrupy as it cools. If you cook it until it is thick, by the time it cools, it will harden and no longer be pourable at all.
- Cool the sweet chili sauce and enjoy.
- To store, pour the sauce into a jar (you can transfer it into a bottle but you will need to use a funnel). Cover and keep in the fridge.