Answer: Way more ways than I could ever attempt! I stuck with four, and am eager to see how they turn out. I think a taste-off is in order!
1. Fermented Sriracha — I started out following a recipe from Viet World Kitchen, though I soon strayed a bit, since I didn’t feel like adding sugar, boiling off the microbiology I had welcomed to the ferment, or straining the solids. One quart whole cayenne peppers, stems trimmed off, processed with 3 cloves garlic and 1 1/4 tsp. salt, placed in a pint jar with lid lightly screwed on, then set aside for 3-4 days, or to taste (I ended up leaving it 8 days, as we move into the crisp days of fall ) checking every day to stir and skim off any mold. (I didn’t have any issues with mold, however.) Then blended with about 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar and 1/4 cup water until smooth. Very sharply spicy, with heat that hits you right away at the front of the mouth. I never realized how bitter cayenne peppers were. I would also have liked a more pronounced garlic flavor, I think. Next time, I would probably either remove the seeds beforehand or add some sweet red peppers to the mix to counterbalance the bitter burning heat, and add a couple more cloves of garlic. I ended up blending a teaspoon of raw sugar into the sauce to add a touch of sweetness.
2. Fermented Chili Paste — Similar to the sriracha above, but the use of yogurt to bolster the ferment intrigued me. Thanks to Terroir Seeds for the idea and clear instructions!
Processed 2 quarts of cayenne, tops and seeds removed with 2 cloves garlic, and 2″ piece of garlic, cut into slices. Pulsed in 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt, then 1/4 cup yogurt. Placed in quart jar with lid loosely closed, and leave 4-5 days, or to taste (7 days seemed about right to me), stirring and checking every day. Skim off or stir in any white mold that forms. (Again, I had no issues with mold). Refrigerate and enjoy! I found the spice level much more to my liking without the seeds, but the bitterness was still a bit unpleasant to me.
3. Sambal — Processed 15 red jalapeños (the amount I happened to have) with 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 clove of garlic, then placed in a half-pint jar with lid loosely screwed on. Let ferment 2 days, then blended with 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar and 1/4 cup lime juice. Returned to jar with lid and let ferment about 3 more days before moving to the fridge. Wonderful! Thanks for the Culture Cheat Sheet for this fantastic recipe!
4. Brined jalapeño sauce — Doesn’t get much simpler than this! Well Preserved proved to be a great guide! I used about 20 jalapeños, halved and seeds removed, stuffed into a quart jar, then covered in brine, with a bag of brine on top to keep the level of liquid above the peppers. Place jar in a larger pan to catch any overflow and let ferment for 6 days, or to your liking. You can tuck them into the fridge at this point, until you can find the time to continue, though it really is only a matter of minutes to blend with about 1/2 cup each (in my case, a third of the volume is a good guide) of the brine and apple cider vinegar. Pour into a pint jar and enjoy!