For Fire It Up! in our current issue, I dove into the incendiary world of hot sauce to find out what was brewing in cauldrons all over the South. The results were pretty tasty. But I could not have predicted the flood of hot sauce bottles from near and far, many of which arrived in our offices after we’d already gone to press. We tried them all, of course, with tears of joy and a few hiccups. Here are some Southern hotties that didn’t grace our pages but that deserve special mention.
Smoking J’s Fiery Foods
These sauces blew me away, made from all-natural ingredients grown on a ten-acre family farm in the mountains of western North Carolina near Asheville. The Jamaican Ginger has a bright, sweet Caribbean heat that works perfectly on seafood. I also love the Smoky Mango and Roasted Ghost.
West Palm Beach, FL
Joe Turner cracks me up. That would be him with his Panama hat, sun glasses, short-shorts and cut-off shirt at any Fiery Food Show. He knows how to market himself. But the surprise behind the gimmicks and the gastronomically forward labels is this: he makes some of the freshest, best-tasting sauces on the market. Period. His signature ingredient? Clam juice.
Toad Sweat Elixir
In 1996, Todd Guiton won accolades for his key lime habanero cheesecake. This inspired him to blend heat with sweet in a line of dessert hot sauces, a nod to the ancient Mayan and Aztec tradition of spicing up their chocolate. The sauces go down smoothly (with a kick) and are great on ice cream. Todd, whose nickname is “Toad,” was trying a particularly hot blend once, and his coworker remarked, “That sauce is so hot it’s even making Toad sweat!” Thus the name.
New Smyrna Beach, FL
David and Gloria Early (Big Papa and Little Mama) had a son on a Navy sub who complained about the blandness of the food and begged for his dad’s homemade hot sauce. When the Navy cooks got a hold of it, they convinced Mr. Early to go into the sauce business. His Mangonero Peach sauce won him a Scovie Award, yet he still hasn’t quit his day job at the Kennedy Space Center.
Race City Sauce Works
This Charlotte company cranks out unusual flavor combos such as “Green Fairy Absinthe Inferno” and their tart-sweet-hot jalapeno Sour Apple sauce, both of which have won them many awards for originality and flavor. We can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
Port St. Joe, FL
Gulf Coast native Ed Creamer saw the world while in the Navy, trying different sauces at every port. He calls his Louisiana-style cayenne-vinegar-based hot sauce “an oyster’s best friend” and we think so too.
Global Warming? Yes, please. It’s a mustard-based sauce with Scotch Bonnets, minced onion and garlic, cane vinegar and sea salt. I also loved the Bayou Love Potion—no comment on the frisky anatomy of the alligator on the label, but suffice it to say, you may get a rise out of this one.
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Cameron Colcolough Reynolds