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Heat the water and stir the sea salt into the warm water until dissolved. Let cool to room temp.
Wearing gloves, slice the small hot peppers in half, and remove stems and seeds if you like (for less heat). I left the seeds in mine. If adding bell peppers to temper the heat, cut into thin strips. Thinly slice the carrot (do not peel), slice the shallots and slice the garlic.
Layer all into a 2 quart jar. Pour the salt water brine into the jar over the chilies, pressing them down under the liquid. If you need to add more brine, remember to use the ratio of 1 teaspoon salt per 1 cup of water.
Weight the chilies down with canning weights (or use a small ziplock bag filled with water, to weigh the veggies down). You want the veggies completely submerged under the brine. Cover lightly with a lid and place the jar in a pan or bowl to collect any liquid that may spill over.
Place in a cool dark place (or cover with a kitchen towel and leave in a cool kitchen) for 5-7 days or until brine appears slightly cloudy. Tap the container and see if there is any activity, bubbles, or effervescence.
You will know it is fermenting by the cloudy brine ( see notes) and little bubbling and activity. You can always ferment longer for even more flavor! The longer the ferment, typically the tangier this will become.
After 5-7 days, strain the brine, saving it. Place the fermented peppers, onions, garlic and carrot into a blender. Add 1 cup of the brine and blend until smooth as smooth as possible. Add the vinegar if using, (and sugar if you prefer a sweeter hot sauce like Sriracha), and more brine to desired thickness.
The heat level will mellow a bit with time, as it continues to ferment in the fridge.
Place in a squeeze bottle and store in the fridge. Do not place in a sealed jar unrefrigerated– this will result in an explosion– and great big mess- as sauce is still fermenting! BE WARNED!
I have the best luck with using in squeeze bottles and leaving the cap off in the fridge. Cover opening with your finger and shake before using.
If transporting to a friend as a gift, it is ok to seal for short periods of time (a few hours) but make sure they “burp” it and refridgerate it pretty soon after receiving.
The flavors will continue to develop and get more complex over time, the heat mellowing.
This will keep up to 12 months in the fridge (probably even longer).
To use, store in a squeeze bottle. Leave tip open in the fridge. Cover tip with finger and give a good shake before using.