Header Image for the blogpost: Liquid Spice - how we make the finest hotsauces in Z├╝rich, Switzerland

Liquid Spice: How we make the finest hotsauces in Switzerland

The concept of hot sauces, or shall we say hotsauces, crosses borders, nations and cultures, bringing a completely new dimension to our favourite dishes. Since we are absolute hotheads, we created the Gipfelhirsch Hotsauce Company with the goal to share our passion for spiciness and create the best damn sauces out there. With intensive flavour, uncommon ingredient combinations, a chunk of fermentation and a variety of chilies, we bring you a whole slew of sauces that cater to a broad range of spice levels. Let us take you on a journey of how we create our fermented Hotsauces right here in Switzerland.

Table of Contents

Why Swiss Hotsauces?

The answer is simple: There is not enough variety in central Europe and we needed more... more flavour, more spice, more hotsauce! Now Switzerland may be better known for its cheese and chocolate but we have a thriving multicultural influence of foods and a unique openness to the more spicy things in life. This is why we produce authentic Swiss spicy sauces and are proud of it. Not only do we produce the sauces in small batches in Z├╝rich, but we also produce some of the chilies that go into our own sauces. Some other chilis we dry and some we batch ferment for future use - the motto is no chili gets left behind.

Category Picture of our Hotsauces

Creating, Experimenting and Crafting - Our Sauces

We want to be anything other than normal - a standard Sriracha or Tabasco sauce may have a large following but the simple flavour doesn't convince us. In an effort to create truly unique sauces, we embarked on a journey of experimentation, combining fruits, vegetables, chilis and spices. An boy did we do that. Here is a brief history and overview of our current range of hotsauces:

Apricot Warrior

This was our first sauce, where we experimented with fermenting fresh Swiss Apricots. The result was very tangy and needed some sweetness to balance it out. A separate project, a fermented garlic in honey, was the magic bullet and created a sauce that is garlicy, spicy, sweet, tangy and super balanced.

Product Link: Apricot Warrior

Lioness Breath

The main goal for this sauce was to create umami, more umami and then some umami. We experimented with fermented mushrooms, peppers, chilis and created a full on flavour-enhancing umami bomb. This sauce makes any dish way more savoury but only in the best of ways.

Product Link: Lioness Breath

Product Shot of the Lioness Breath Hotsauce with mushrooms and chilis next to it.

Green Dragon

This sauce originated from an overproduction of chilis in one year and the weather wasn't the best anymore in late October. This is why we had to pick unripe chilis (Habaneros, Lemon Drops and pretty much anything else we had in the garden). To elevate the green unripe flavours, we added unripe peppers, spring onion, cilantro, lime, salt and sancho pepper (a type of szechuan pepper). The result: a fresh, green sauce that adds a stark contrast to hearty foods and is well suited for elevating Asian and also Mexican dishes.

Medusa

This is our take on a mix of fermented and pickled vegetables with an Italian kick. We combined fermented tomatoes, pickled peppers, chilis and herbs like oregano and long peppers to create a sauce that the world hasn't seen before. This is a relatively mild sauce with fresh tomato notes, but it is not a Ketchup. Perfect for salad dressings and in Salsas.

Product Link: Medusa

Blueberry Kiss

Fermenting fruit has become a sport at Gipfelhirsch and Blueberry Kiss is our hole in one. This sauce was perfected over years. Motzi made this sauce years ago based on a re-imagining of a couple recipes and other inspirations. Blueberries, garlic, onion and Lemon Drop chilis are added to the ferment and left alone for a couple of months. The result is a tangy, and weirdly, slightly smokey sauce with notes of blueberries and a good heat level. This is a perfect sauce for fish tacos, on grilled meats and on pok├ę bowls.

Product Link: Blueberry Kiss

Death by Curry

Our spiciest contender. The development of Death by Curry followed a more classical approach with a twist. We ferment peppers, onion, garlic, lots and lots of Habaneros and add a very healthy dose of Carolina Reaper. After the fermentation, we add our own Garam Masala curry mixture and blend the sauce. The result is an intense pepper sauce with a curry burner and lots of heat.

Product Link: Death by Curry

Product Shot of the Death by Curry Hotsauce with some fresh chilis and a spice mix next to it.

Cherry Bomb

With the Cherry Bomb we wanted to go back to the roots and focus on the complex flavours of the fermentation. The fermentation setup is simple: Cherries, Chocolate Habaneros and Salt. After the fermentation is complete, we add an intense Canadian maple syrup and a dash of apple cider vinegar. This is our first collaboration sauce. To select the best balancing sweetness, we turned to Me, Maple & I for the selection of maple syrup.

Product Link: Cherry Bomb

Thorin Tungtol

Our second collaboration sauce! Thorin Tungtol is more BBQ-sauce than hotsauce but we add all the same elements of (less) spice, fermentation and unique flavours that define our other sauces. Developed with Fermento Brewery from Basel, this beer-bbq sauce is malty and almost soy sauce like. It works really well on ribs, lathering on meats on the bbq or as a dipping sauce with mayo for chips/fries. You can read more about the story of the sauce in our dedicated blog post: Thorin Tungtol ÔÇô the idea of a unique Beer-BBQ-Spicy Sauce.

Product Link: Thorin Tungtol

Fermentation - The Flavour Enhancer

One of the secrets to the exceptional taste of our hotsauces is fermentation. This ancient technique enhances the natural flavors of our ingredients, adding depth and complexity that raw ingredients simply cannot achieve. When creating a new batch of sauce, we prepare all raw ingredients, add salt. The result is a hotsauce that is not only spicy but also rich in umami, with a delightful tang that lingers on the palate.

Picture of a fermentation barrel used for brewing and hotsauce making

Cooking and Bottling

After fermentation, the next step is cooking. We cook our hotsauces in small batches to maintain control over the flavor and consistency. During this stage, we adjust the seasoning and blend in any additional ingredients that are required. The cooking process not only helps to meld the flavors but also ensures the safety and longevity of the product.

Once the sauce is cooked, pasteurised and all ingredients had time to meet each other, we move to bottling. Each bottle is filled on our manual filling station, so that we can ensure consistency & quality. Whilst still hot, we seal the bottles with our aluminium caps (that you can nicely recycle, once your sauce is empty). The caps have a plastic insert inside that helps with keeping the thread clean. This was a conscious choice as we got fed up with sauce remnants sticking on the bottle of other hotsauce manufacturers. We took this trick from oil bottles, where they have these types of pourers embedded, making life a lot easier.

filling of a hotsauce bottle on the manual machine

Small Batch Production

We purposefully do not overproduce and we scale with demand. From the get-go we made the decision to produce the hotsauces as a small batch manufacturer. This way, we have direct control over the raw ingredients, quality and can ensure a nicely balanced sauce. With time and scaling we may move to larger batches and more infrequent production schedules - but this really depends on you: the more sauce you need, the better we can scale. And the good news is: we have everything planned on how to better produce larger quantities and size up our fermentations, so that we can conquer the hotsauce market in Switzerland and beyond. Check out our whole range of spicy sauces here.

Conclusion

Our journey in crafting artisan hotsauces in Switzerland is one of passion, precision, and a deep respect for quality and uniqueness. From sourcing local ingredients to perfecting the art of fermentation and ensuring rigorous quality control, every step of our process is designed to create a product that brings joy, heat and excitement to your meals. We invite you to try our hotsauces and experience the unique flavors and heat that only our small-batch, handcrafted sauces can deliver.

We would love to hear from you! Have you tried our hotsauces? Do you have a favorite recipe or a suggestion for a new flavour? Leave a comment below and join the conversation about all things heat. Your feedback and stories inspire us to keep pushing the boundaries of what hotsauces can be.

Author

Matthias Hirsch

Matthias ist der Gr├╝nder von Gipfelhirsch und verpackt seit 2021 intensiven Geschmack mit Humor und einem vollen Label Wissen zusammen in alles was gut schmecken soll.

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