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Two Hot Sauce Companies Heating Up Alabama - Fermentation Friday

“Heat up your culinary adventures.” ~ Scorching Blaze


There is nothing I love more than a good hot sauce! Some years back, I lived in San Francisco’s Mission District. The neighborhood had Latin American heritage and taquerias with some of the best homemade hot sauces in the city. I remember waking on a Saturday morning after a night on the town, longing for carne asada tacos, rice, and beans. I learned about the Scoville Scale and heat factors when eating hot peppers there. Nowadays, we are offered life-size infographics on heat factors and Scoville Heat Units. Where can we find those new rustic peppers, and how can we find a roasting basket to add char? What I know about hot sauce is that heat will always be a factor in varying degrees, but I seek flavor when trying pepper sauces. I like rustic chilis with heat for braised beef and roasted pork, something I can add to my soups and stews for a kick. Pairing my hot sauce with beer or wine may sound crazy, but I want diverse layers of flavor.

Hot Peppers

How Hot Sauce Is Made

Throughout history, our great gran and grandparents grew fields of produce, leaving them with many opportunities to be creative, and they did just that: making hot sauce became a hobby. It usually began with that one family or individual who had their mom’s recipe and was going gangbusters with an acre of jalapenos, red and green, and filling jars with hot chilis, garlic, and onions - making brine with Kosher salt and water. The ratio is usually 1¼ teaspoons of salt to 1 cup of water, and adjust as you increase either component. Heating the water ever so slightly is essential to the chemistry. Then, fill your Ball Jar with the hot pepper sauce recipe and compress it into the basin of the jar itself. Weigh it down with a hefty fermentation weight made of glass. You can find them online, almost anywhere. Finally, keep distilled vinegar on your shelf if you want to make a Louisiana-style hot sauce.

Hot peppers

Hot Sauce Production

As time passed, local farmers saw an opportunity to work with restaurants and manufacturers on artisanal products dating back to the New World Era. Manufacturing hot sauce in America began around the 1800s, with makers like Tabasco Corp. on Avery Island, Louisiana, to even further back with finding cayenne sauce in Boston, Massachusetts, around 1810. Leasing fields to grow mass-produced peppers, creating consistent and efficient recipes, and distributing them to every table in America.

Today, some farmers integrate with chefs to grow heirloom peppers, carrots, and garlic to enhance proprietary recipes. For example, chefs from New Mexico work with organic farmers to develop heirloom Hatch Chiles and smoke them in roaster baskets. Allowing that char to ferment with the peppers for an enhanced earthen flavor bomb! Some farmers work together to genotype new pepper products, creating different textures and heat.

Dried Hot Peppers

Alabama Based Craft Sauce Producers

Alabama cash crops are more in line with Soy, Corn, Hay, Wheat, and Floriculture. Hot pepper production is less than 1% for Alabama, and two solid pepper sauce producers selling their products nationally, with an online presence.

Just north of Tuscaloosa, on Highway 43, The Alabama Sunshine company produces some tasty hot pepper sauces, relishes, BBQ, salsas, and wing sauce. Their story of Fred Smith’s journey to production began with homebrew and 100 gallons of pepper sauce taking up room in his wife’s storage pantry. Today, this sweetheart sauce company is run by a brother and sister team - expanding operations and selling online with Amazon. Over in Florence, Alabama, there lives Mr. Phil’s Hot Sauce, launching his business just before COVID-19. His sauces pack a punch, but I have yet to try his Fire Honey.


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