Almost five years ago, Ron and Teresa Jones realized that their garden was just overflowing with peppers, far more than they could consume. New recipes were tried, new menus that could be enhanced by peppery flavor. Out of this grew sauces that were big hits with friends, who made more and more requests for another mason jar of this delicious sauce, and then adding: “We will even pay for them! Please send us some.”
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]hus this year, Consuming Fires Sauces & Seasonings was born, which is a micro business producing small bottles of smoked hot sauce: Smoked Jalapeño, Smoked Habanero, and Smoked Andouille. An almost cult-like following of chile pepper lovers has rapidly developed, with people from Key West, Idaho, Canada, and even South Africa asking for the product. How did they hear about this? Ron and Teresa have no idea. Probably a friend telling a friend or seeing something on the internet. Perhaps they read Brian Meagher’s hotsaucedaily.com blog who is a big fan and wrote: “Smoked Jalapeño Sauce Gets 4 Stars!!!! Fans of jalapeño sauces will love this one. A bright and fresh finish tells us this is hand-crafted and bottled fresh. It’s all good stuff here. Delicious.”
So how did all this evolve? Ron’s wife Teresa loves to garden after her busy week showing and managing one of the top producing real estate teams. Ron is a culinary specialist. He was named one of Greenville Business Magazine’s 50 Most Influential People in 2011 for his work in school food reform, bringing healthy, scratch cooked meals to Greenville County’s (South Carolina) 72,000 students. Ron attended Johnson & Wales Culinary school and is a classically trained chef with broad experience in the food industry, including: classical cuisine, building and operating restaurants and culinary schools, as well as directing major school food service programs.
When the family’s crop of peppers came in, his creative juices began to flow. What can I make with this? His opinion was that most hot sauces were just that: hot. He wanted a flavor profile that would complement and enhance the food served. Most hot sauces are peppers, vinegar, and salt. Ron wanted more than that; he wanted to have a prolonged smoky flavor. So he began balancing the jalapeños with fruit juices. Each sauce features a smoked chile along with a smoked salt for a smooth and savory flavor. This smoky profile is then coupled with apple juice, garlic, and a blend of vinegar that really makes them unique. Ron decided he wanted to bottle three degrees of “heat,” from relatively mild to very hot.
Teresa and Ron jumped into growing a new business in their spare time. They decided to make an appeal on Kickstarter Campaign with a pledged $5,000 goal. With restaurants asking to have the sauce be put on tabletops, and many gourmet stores requesting the product for their shelves, they needed to produce in quantity. Growing demand required prompt action to get their products on the market quickly. They had much of the business set up, and all they needed was a good kickstart with the additional funds needed to launch. The project was successfully funded on March 30, 2014, with $6,115.
So production could begin. They needed to purchase produce from local distributors, as their garden couldn’t supply enough. Some fruit and produce companies now even set aside boxes for them. Batches are usually cooked and bottled at the Blue Ridge Food Ventures facility, often filling approximately 1,500 bottles per cooking session. Inspectors monitor the production to make sure that all regulations are followed. The labeling is also done there.
An attractive and proper label was a substantial but necessary investment. The label must of course follow all FDA regulations, with the proper bar code and ingredients listed. The design and packaging have been kept simple with a clean graphic of a little chile pepper incorporated. The theme of fire and a jalapeño were artfully incorporated. The idea is to convey that people become “consumed” by the sauce; they are passionate about the flavor.
For such a fledgling business, the reception to these hot sauces has been overwhelming. Teresa said, “I just wish there was a good road map to guide us on what steps to take next.” With so many positive responses, they have been propelled forward to find new gourmet shops for selling the product and to find the time to produce more product. In fact this November the 2015 Scovie Awards judging panel of top culinary experts honored Consuming Fires with 3rd place for the Best Hot Sauce in the “All Natural” category for their Smoked Andouille Hot Sauce. This year’s competition was tougher than ever with more entries than in previous years. These awards were named after the Scoville scale, a measurement of the spicy heat of a chile pepper.
Some people come from parts of the world where there is a mindset to add a hot sauce to a dish automatically. They come by that mindset naturally; others perhaps not so much Now if someone says Peach Smoked Habanero Glazed Chicken, that might get you thinking hot sauce. Hot sauces can be added to grits, eggs, hash browns, mac and cheese, pizza, tuna fish, barbecue, vegetables, shrimp, black beans and rice, steak, hamburgers, and hot dogs for extra uumph and pizazz. These Consuming Fires sauces are something to know about, something to try. As hotsaucedaily.com says: “This simple, mild, delicious Jalapeño sauce is a great choice for those that like just a little heat, and that classic Jalapeño flavor with a big touch of smoke.” Don’t expect the same ole, same ole, but something that will lift a delicious dish to another level. You can even try it on popcorn, or set your Bloody Mary on fire—far better than Mr. & Mrs. T mix. Just go to their website, consumingfires.com or look in your favorite gourmet store.