The number one question when I am sampling and selling my sauces is almost always “So how did you get into the hot sauce business?” It is such a funny story that I feel compelled to share it. Bear with me, as most people find it highly entertaining. However, it is not a short tale to share. But, I feel it is the perfect for the first post first in our News Section.
It is hard to believe that we have been officially in business for nearly three years. In some ways, it seems like just yesterday. In other ways, it seems like long ago when I emailed my husband Patrick one day in April of 2016 and reminded him he always wanted to make his own hot sauce. And wouldn’t that be a fun little hobby we could do together? Little did I know that this innocent little email would end up being the start of our small family business of artisanal hot sauces. And even more astounding? That I would be running it!
Making his own hot sauce was one of those things Patrick had mentioned over the years. So for whatever reason, on that cloudy April day in 2016, it seemed like the time for us to make this goal a reality. I was merely thinking we would make a couple batches of sauces, put them in cute jam jars with a crafty label and give it to family and friends during the holidays.
It should be noted that Patrick has many varied and accomplished skills. However, cooking has never been one of those skills. In fact, when we were dating he once tried to wow me with his culinary skills (or lack there of!) and managed to set his kitchen on fire. True story! One of the skills I have developed and thoroughly enjoyed throughout our years together has been cooking and creating meals for Patrick and our family. Yet, Patrick felt strongly that he take the lead on creating recipes. He was great at carefully measuring ingredients, and keeping careful notes on each recipe. I suggested that perhaps I could help with creating these recipes. But he pointed out that while I was a great cook, I never kept any record of the various recipes I made over the years. This is a valid observation of course. I would make chili and every time it was delicious, but each time it would taste slightly different. I never took the time to carefully measure or document my recipes. So I decided to let him enjoy creating his own recipes. How hard is it to create a few hot sauces? I dutifully found a few base recipes and acquire various peppers, vinegar, garlic, onions, spices and assembled the kitchen tools needed. I helped chop and dice and stir and label the accumulating canning jars full of his concoctions. All the while, I was having ideas of how I would make a hot sauce. But on the few occasions I mentioned adding say carrots or tomatoes, I was met with “that is crazy! You do not put carrots in hot sauce!”. So I just kept my ideas to myself. Meanwhile, our spare (full size) refrigerator was completely full of his creations!
The time came to see what people thought of his concoctions. A few unsuspecting friends and family members were drafted to do a taste test. Only the people who enjoy the kind of sauces that cause numbing tongues, burning lips, and sweating for 30 minutes after tasting a 1/4 teaspoon of his sauces gave favorable reviews. I am not even sure if we had anyone like that in any of our tastings! Anyways, I prefer to describe his sauces as being pure pepper. Very pure pepper! Or liquid fire from hell?
Patrick finally relented to my offer to create some alternative sauces. Ok, so it was really persistent begging on my part. I could honestly no longer handle tasting his powerful concoctions! He even abandoned eating a perfectly fine steak after he slathered one of his potent sauces on it. He admitted he could not longer taste the steak under the sauce. And quite simply, it was starting to be cruel and unusual punishment to ask friend and family to taste keep sampling.
I promised to measure and make detailed notes. So off he went to work one day and I stayed in our kitchen all day and I filled up the better half of a little spiral notebook with all those hot sauce ideas that had been swirling around in my brain for the past few months. He came home from work, I presented him with my line up of about 12 or 14 different sauces. He tasted the recipes, burst into laughter and agreed that these hot sauces were superior to the refrigerator full of hell fire he had created. To clarify, he had created three different versions of 55 recipes (yes, that means we had 165 different jars of sauce in our refrigerator by the time I started working on my versions of hot sauce recipes). We often joke that it is a shame we could not find some sort of industrial use for all those sauces he created. Perhaps paint remover?
So another funny outcome from this story is that all our sauces have a number associated with them. That is because we kept track of them by numbering them. Patrick had a notebook with recipes 1 through 55. And three variations of each of those 55 recipes. So there was 55A, 55B and 55C. My notebook of recipes starts at #56 Smokey Red Pepper Chipotle. When we were working with the gentleman who designed our labels (and came up with our company name in the process), he asked about why each recipe had a number. We explained it was how we kept track of all the recipes. He felt that was a unique feature we could include in our labels. And we still find it easy to keep track of our sauces with the numbers.
Anyways, while all this recipe making was going on, Patrick and I had learned of the concept of a co packer. The co packer is a company you hire to scale up your recipe and manufacture and bottle it for you. They have a commercial, FDA approved facility, can acquire the ingredients, get the FDA approvals and get the nutrition panel done for the label. And how we located our co packer is another funny story for another time.
Once we invested in the co packer we realized that we had a viable business. Our friends and family were giving us very positive feedback. The recipes I created were more than hot sauces. They could be used as marinades, basting, sautéing and grilling on their own or combined in a recipe. And they were healthy and all natural.
We bottled our very first sauces in November of 2016. Our original website was live by December of 2016 and we started shipping sauces out for the holidays. Patrick may not have cooking skills. But he organized the business side of things swiftly and was fearless about embarking on this adventure. Neither of us have any knowledge of the specialty food industry. We often joke that I am not a risk taker and with my ADD, creative brain would still have me creating recipes in our kitchen. Once manny of the logistics were laid out, the reigns of running it were handed over to me fairly soon after the bottling process. Because he is kind of busy with his full time job building commercial and institutional buildings.
So that my friends, is how I got into this hot sauce business.