Chillies and oysters may not seem like a classic Irish pairing, but it should be

JP McMahon: Making fermented hot sauce isn't difficult. Give it a go

The return of native oyster season always seems to come around so quickly each September, though surprisingly it seems to finish equally as fast the following April. Why do we have an oyster season? It’s a question I get asked frequently in the restaurant. In a nutshell, native oysters need to breed during the summer months so that they have a sustainable population going forward.

In this way, native oyster producers are guardians of these wild mollusks. Pacific oysters on the other hand are farmed all year round in Ireland. This does not make them less of an oyster and I tire of telling people it's not a question that a native oyster is better: it's just different. Both oysters work symbiotically together in ensuring we have a healthy oyster industry.

Irish chillies may seem an anomaly but the past few years has seen more farmers taking to growing these wondrously piquant peppers. Liam and Theresa Heneghan of Tribal Foods grow an amazing variety of chillies in their large glasshouses in Athenry.

How to make fermented hot sauce

Making a fermented hot sauce is less difficult than it sounds. Take 500g of red chillies (seeds removed if you want less heat) and place in a jar. Add one garlic bulb (all cloves peeled). Add some herbs, citrus peels or spices, depending on the flavour you desire (aromatic seeds such as cumin, coriander, or black pepper are good). Cover with water and weigh the contents of the jar. Add 5 per cent salt, stir in and cover. Leave for five to seven days and burp every few days.


Strain the contents and blend with enough of the fermented liquid to make a smooth sauce. Some people strain again as they like their hot sauce like Tabasco as opposed to a paste. But that’s up to yourself.

Shuck a few native oysters. Add a few dashes of hot sauce on each oyster with a few drops of cold pressed rapeseed oil and a pinch of Achill Island sea salt. Chillies and oysters may not seem like a classic Irish pairing, but it should be.