Last Fall one of my producers, Way Fruit Farm, managed to talk me into a bushel of pears instead of my regular half bushel. At first I was thinking, fabulous and amazing product but what the heck am I going to do with all these pears? I immediately thought of trying them out in a pear hot sauce, and knew that limes and black pepper paired well together. After thinking of additional complimentary ingredients, our Key Lime Hot Sauce was born. It was definitely different being that it was light in heat and color, and I loved it. My husband Dave and I were unsure of the new hot sauce, we wondered how our customers would use such a unique sauce. We debuted it at the NYC Hot Sauce Expo, and it was our fastest selling sauce. We asked customers to let us know how they were using the hot sauce, and the responses weren’t what we were expecting. People were taking the sauce and using it on ice cream, cheesecake, seafood, pork, chicken, mojitos, margaritas….it fascinated me. I began to notice on the chile forums an upswing in the use of spicy products on sweet foods, not just on savory foods.
While attending the NYC Hot Sauce Expo, I met the owners of a new company called Jersey Barnfire. They make a Strawberry Scorpion hot sauce using local New Jersey strawberries and chiles the owner Austin D’Almeida grows himself. I asked the owner Austin, and his pastry chef and business partner, John Sauchelli, their favorite use for their sauce. John uses the Strawberry Scorpion at his restaurant on an amazing dish called Chocolate Stuffed Ricotta Beignets with Fresh Figs and Strawberries Drizzled with Honey and Strawberry Scorpion. However, Austin said his favorite dish to use the sauce on is good ol’ down home fried chicken.
Also in attendance were Dan and Stephanie Lowenstein from Red Hawk Premium Peppers out of Lewistown, PA. They have an award winning hot sauce called Strawberry Scorpion Sting. Dan grows his own peppers using recycled rainwater, and he uses Central PA strawberries as well. When I talked to Dan about what they use their strawberry sauce on, he told me it’s amazing on onion rings and that the combination of sweet, spicy and salty blends perfectly. They also use it on desserts such as banana splits. The spiciness of the Scorpion pepper is quickly cooled by the ice cream, making the strawberry flavor in the sauce shine. When I tried the sauce, it provided quite a kick, and had a beautiful sweet strawberry finish.
At our most recent spicy show at the Great Chicago Fiery Foods Fest, I was determined to seek out more sweet and spicy products. I wanted to know, what desserts could I pair these sauces and products with, but what savory dishes would they be good with as well?
Ken Alexander was the MC at the Chicago show, and we talked about this new trend. He shared with me his favorite sweet and spicy finds. One of the most unique and delicious ideas he shared was a PB&J sandwich with Bell Garden Candied Jalapenos. He excitedly bounced ideas off of me, sharing with me that he made a salad dressing with one of my new favorite sweet and spicy finds, Bigfats’ Double Dark Cherry & Sage Hot Sauce. This is one of those products where you are looking at the ingredients like “how is this going to work?”…and then you taste and it just all makes sense. Perfect, perfect sense. It’s definitely a sauce that I could see working well in a salad dressing for steak salad, but also with sweet dishes.
I ventured further into the show and came across two companies killing it in the sweet and spicy field, one being the Angry Goat Pepper Co. out of Vermont. Their line of spicy jellies is incredible. They had a range of jellies from mild, such as their Mango Pepper Jam (mild heat), to their Strawberry Pepper Jam (medium heat), up to the hotter Orange-Pineapple Habanero Pepper Jam or their hottest, Blackberry Ghost Pepper Jam. Not only are these jams fantastic on a bagel with cream cheese, but also work well as a glaze on pork chops, chicken, salmon and more.
The next find was from Katie LeVesque of Katie’s Beef Jerky. She has a Spicy Pineapple Jerky everyone was talking about and I just had to try. It was sweet with the perfect amount of heat. We talked about the trend of sweet and spicy foods being used for both savory and dessert dishes, and she shared how one customer made pineapple upside down cake cupcakes using her Spicy Pineapple Jerky. I mentioned that I thought it would be phenomenal sliced up and used in an Asian dish in place of traditional pineapple. When I asked her if she had seen a rise in the sales of sweet and spicy products, she said she noticed people are seeking out more artisan, small batch sweet and spicy products. Customers have tried the mainstream products, but are looking to branch out to something different.
I have to also agree at this sudden surge of sweet and spicy products. I’ve noticed an increase in products that can be used in both sweet dishes and savory dishes. Customers enjoy Sweet Heat Gourmet’s Strawbango Hot Sauce and Hellfire Blueberry Hell Hot Sauce on ice cream, cheesecake, and other desserts. Recently Chef Kirsch McMaster from the Nittany Lion Inn at Penn State told me he was going to use the Strawbango on beef short ribs. I tried to wrap my brain around this pairing, but just couldn’t picture it coming together. He made up a plate for me and I hesitated but wow, it was absolutely perfect. Sweet and fruity spicy products take on a completely different flavor profile all together when they are used on savory dishes.
There are a lot of exciting and new things going on in the hot sauce product world. The producers of these artisan sauces and products are passionate about what they do and want to expand how you use these unique products. So don’t be afraid to take that hot sauce or chile product and try it in a way you hadn’t thought of before. The results can be absolutely delicious! Please share in the comments section your favorite sweet and spicy finds and your favorite way to use them!
Sweet Heat Gourmet
1919 Fairwood Lane
State College, PA 16803