I'm always intrigued to hear the backstory on small locally-owned companies. How does someone with a regular "day job" find themselves harvesting and bottling the hottest peppers in the world? I admire this passion for creating a product. Recently I interviewed owner Chris Billet for the blog and here is what he had to say.
Q. How did you start creating your own pepper sauces?
A. We formed Hot Pepper Dudes in 2010 but the ideas and experimentation started more than a decade earlier. I've been experimenting with growing hot peppers, making hot sauces, and other methods of preserving peppers since 1999. It really started as a hobby since I couldn't find anything other than jalpenos and habaneros in the grocery stores or farmers' markets. I stumbled across a place online that carries tons of different organic hot pepper seeds, so I decided to start growing my own.
I had never really gardened, so it took some trial and error to get the results that I wanted out of growing the hot peppers. Experimentation and research provided enough help that I was soon growing 10-12 different plants per season and getting a good amount of peppers. So at that point, I'm growing hot peppers...and I end up with a ton of them, more than I can possibly eat before they would go bad. Not wanting my prize crop to go to waste, I learned how to pickle and "can" them in mason jars. This is also where I started making my own hot sauce. I found a very basic recipe and then started experimenting from there. Every year I tried out new concoctions for hot sauces and I still enjoy doing that today
Around this time I had also met Jeff (Toothman), who shared a similar love for all things spicy and cooking in general. We decided to team up and start the company and get our first two sauces bottled for commercial sale. It's been a blast so far. The third hot pepper dude is a longtime friend from Pennsylvania, John French. He enjoyed the sauces so much that he's now running the Northeast branch of the business.
Q. What types of recipes can be made with your sauces?
There's really no limit to what you can make using our sauces, but here are two of our favorite recipes:Recipe: Chicken Salsa Verde Dip
Q. So, Ghost Peppers...what are they all about?A. When I relocated to Tampa in 2008, that was the first year that I was able to get Ghost Pepper (aka Bhut Jolokia) seeds. I had been reading quite a bit about them prior to that. They are a native pepper to India and were said to be the hottest pepper in the world at the time, coming in somewhere around 1,000,000 Scoville units (about 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce). Well, of course I had to make a hot sauce with these peppers -- and after a few different variations I hit on a combination that everyone absolutely loved.
So here are my top 3 favorite products of Hot Pepper Dudes.
Ghost Pepper Relish: This relish packs a punch by combining the flavor of fire roasted Red Sweet and Poblano peppers with heat from Jalapenos, Habaneros, Hot Banana Peppers, and Ghost Pepper along with other fresh veggies and spices. If you add just a dab to a sandwich spread or a dip, it becomes a hot and spicy delight.
Ghost of Carolina BBQ Sauce: This is a unique Carolina-style BBQ sauce that is tangy, a little sweet, and has a hint of Ghost Peppers. I usually love Carolina-style BBQ sauce because it has the tanginess from vinegar, so that combined with a hint of Ghost Pepper, and I was sold. It's great as a dipping sauce, too, for chicken and grilled vegetables.
Fire Out the Hole: Made with fresh sweet peppers, honey, fresh herbs, secret spices, and of course the Mighty Ghost Pepper. This won the 2011 Fiery Food Challenge Winner at Zest Fest 2011. I mean, how can you not love the label?
I am giving away a Hot Pepper Dudes prize pack on the blog.
It includes 3 free bottles:
- 1 bottle of Ghost PepperRelish
- 1 bottle of Ghost of Carolina
- 1 bottle of Fire Out the Hole