By: Hess Sahlollbey
Are you a hot sauce fanatic? Addicted to that fiery sensation you feel when you take a bite of your favourite spicy dish? Whether it’s a drop of Tabasco on that cheesy slice of pizza or ghost peppers in your stew, most of us like a little bit of kick in our food, yet very few of us have actually thought to make our own hot sauce. Well, I’m about to let you in on a little secret: it’s not very hard.
I will teach you how to make the perfect hot sauce without any fancy equipment — you don’t even need to have any cooking skills.
Hot sauce is arguably the most internationally varied and popular condiment in cooking. So popular that you would be hard pressed to find a diner or restaurant that doesn’t have it in a condiment caddy next to ketchup and salt and pepper.
Brodie Dawson, a Hamilton born and raised entrepreneur, is a global player on the international scene and is carving out a name for himself with his signature line: Dawson's Hot Sauce.
Despite the rabid success of his product among locals and international hot sauce connoisseurs, Dawson had no background in entrepreneurship, or the culinary arts.
Direct contact with skin or eyes will cause discomfort and pain, sometimes lasting up to a few days. Never try to use your hands to pick out seeds either — trust me, it won’t end well.
"When I stopped playing in my band, I got really bored and started picking up weird hobbies and trying stuff out like making my own soap and ChapStick instead of watching TV all night," said Dawson.
This eventually extended to making his own condiments that he shared at barbecues, pool-parties and sharing as gifts around the holidays.
The positive reception from friends and family eventually led to Dawson designing a logo and transitioning from hobbyist to entrepreneur.
After slowly developing his business and refining his hot sauce sense, he began formally selling his sauce in November 2013 with a launch party in Club Absinthe. However that first night would take an unfortunate turn — Dawson's office was broken into later that night and all of his generated revenue was stolen.
Despite a discouraging start, Dawson’s business steadily grew. An industrious and staunch businessman, Dawson is no longer learning on the fly. Purchase orders continue to pile in and his business becomes more efficient.
As things continued to flourish, it dawned on Dawson that his hot sauce company was running parallel to the revivification of the downtown core and the demand for higher quality products. Dawson decided to cold-call local businesses and presenting his product.
His business was gaining momentum, and his sales began to snowball, which lead Dawson's father joining the team and the hiring of additional staff members to handle marketing, packaging and cooking.
While the artisanal and hand-made aspects of the product make for an excellent retail product, the Cannon, an Ottawa Street coffee shop, has incorporated Dawson’s sauces into their menu items. The product has fared well in Ontario, but the largest growth has been in Quebec and in the United States.
Vegan and gluten-free, the sauce is now sold internationally with carriers in three different continents. The inclusion of the sauce on the popular YouTube show “Hot Ones” garnered even more attention. The show features Sean Evans and his celebrity guests eating progressively hotter chicken wings prepared with sauces that get progressively hotter.
"I have been sold out that sauce and consistently backordered since it's been featured on the show. It's really crazy right now especially since it’s been less than a month," said Dawson. The reception of the sauce has been positive amongst hot sauce enthusiasts who actively send feedback and communicate with Dawson.
"With Reddit, people buy it and bring it home and talk about it. It’s really fun to see people responding well," said Dawson.
Hot sauce is now Dawson’s full-time job, and he admits that it has been just as life-consuming as any entrepreneurial venture. But with an avid following of online and local heat enthusiasts, he can continue to explore push the envelope with new peppers, new flavours and new levels of heat.
You need a blender, a small pot and a high pain tolerance.
As students, we don’t always have the time or resources to keep a fully stocked fridge. Fortunately, there’s a lot of flexibility as far as ingredients go.
The first thing one needs to consider is how spicy they want their sauce to be. If you’re a newbie, you don’t want to make something overwhelmingly spicy that you can’t handle — this is why choosing the right pepper is important.
As we’re going for the Caribbean taste, I wouldn’t recommend anything less intense than scotch bonnet peppers. The use of these peppers are good for individuals with a moderate tolerance with spice.
What many people don’t know is that the heat bulk of the capsaicin — the chemical responsible for the heat and pain sensation — is located in the seeds, not the cortex. What does this mean for the weak-hearted? Just take out the seeds if you want to want to make your hot sauce even less spicy. Habaneros are a very popular choice, and a personal favourite of mine, as they perfectly combine a sweet taste with bold heat.
Advanced spice eaters with a high tolerance can add ghost peppers. If you want to punish yourself, go for Trinidad Scorpion or Carolina Reaper peppers. To make a cup (250mL) of hot sauce you only need about twelve peppers in total.
This is a good time to make a very important disclaimer, please read carefully. Hot peppers secrete very irritating compounds and should never be handled without gloves. Direct contact with skin or eyes will cause discomfort and pain, sometimes lasting up to a few days. Never try to use your hands to pick out seeds either — trust me, it won’t end well.
Now that you have your chosen your pepper it’s time to actually make your hot sauce.
What you decide to put in it is up to you but there are a few key ingredients you want to have: two tomatoes, six baby carrots, two crushed garlic cloves and a touch of vegetable oil.
Although you can make great tasting hot sauce with these simple ingredients, you may add the following: half an onion (diced), one tablespoon of brown sugar and some herbs (parsley, basil, thyme).
Once you’ve got your ingredients chosen, put them all together in a blender or food processor. You may add a quarter of a cup of water to facilitate the blending process, but it should be fairly smooth because of the tomatoes.
Last you want to add in some seasoning; I said you don’t need a fully stocked kitchen to make your hot sauce, so an all purpose seasoning mix should do. Alternatively, you may season with salt, onion powder, black pepper, nutmeg and cumin.
Once you’ve got your pepper sauce paste, transfer it to a small pot and let it simmer for a minimum of 15 minutes. Some argue that cooking it will reduce its level of spiciness, while others vehemently contest this notion. That said, cooking it will definitely give it the smooth taste we’re looking for — just be sure to ventilate the room as some people may have difficulties handling the fumes. If you did want to reduce the heat level, it should be done by diluting the sauce with more tomatoes or removing the seeds.
And there you have it, you made your own hot sauce! Remove the pot from the heat and enjoy your sauce when it comes to a cool — refrigeration may expedite this process. It may take a while to get the proportions just right for your taste, and even longer for you to get used to handling the heat, so have some patience with it.
The key is to embrace the pleasure, and pain, of the process.
-6 Baby carrots
-2 Crushed garlic cloves
-Half an onion
-1 tbsp Brown sugar
2013 Food Trends
Asian Comfort Food
If you’ve ever watched an animated film or television production exported out of South East Asia, it is likely that you will agree that nothing looks more delicious than animated food drawn by the hands of Japanese graphic artists. From colourful bowls of noodles to sugar-coated confectioneries, cartoon food has been delectable to viewers since the early days of Sailor Moon and her donut obsession. And guess what? All of those colourful creations, are real. With the growing love of noodles and soups like Pho and Ramen, restaurateurs are taking note and making them a staple in more mainstream and western restaurants and chains.
Looking for some Asian comfort food in the Hamilton area? Check out:
Pho Dau Bo - 15 Cannon Street East
Saigon Asian Restaurant - 1024 King Street West
Not too many people are pleased to hear about the rise o
f this flowery, tree-like vegetable, but true enough, this crumbly bland veggie is up and coming in the food world. Taking over for 2012’s kale trend, cauliflower is predicted to be the next hipster fun food. And although it has an unfriendly demeanour, mashed cauliflower is a carbohydrate-free alternative to conventional mashed potatoes, and a little seasoning can jazz anything up.
Looking to try something new with the caul’? Try this easy recipe:
- 1 medium head of cauliflower
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1-2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp sour cream or Greek yogurt
- Milk and salt & pepper to taste
Associated with gluttonous cops and balding characters on long running television series, donuts have not had the most glamorous of reputations. But, long gone are the days of cupcakes and macaroons, donuts are the new ‘it’ dessert and will be available at more bakeries and on more menus. With both poached and baked options and unique new flavours like salted peanut and chocolate chip, the donut is receiving a makeover.
Looking for donut fun in the Hamilton area? Try:
Sweet Paradise - 630 Stone Church West
In an attempt to spice things up (ha), many chefs and foodies have decided to embrace the Sriracha - along with its spicier South American and Caribbean counterparts - and amp up the flavour on certifiably bland staples like soups, sandwiches and nachos. This year, look forward to requiring a glass of milk along with your food to tone down the shiny new spicy flavours. But hey, spicy food has been known to boost serotonin levels and lower blood-pressure.
Top hot sauces from a girl raised by Caribbean parents:
Tabasco Red Pepper Sauce - $7
Matouk’s Hot Calypso Hot Sauce - $5.50
Hot Mama’s Red Pepper Jelly - $8
Home Grown/ Vegetarian
They’re pretty, they’re healthy, and they’re trendy. Vegetables are the new meat, apparently, and you can look towards more vegetarian options at your favourite local hangouts. As more and more jump on the veggie, vegan and pescatarian train, restaurateurs are taking note and catering to the demand. If you love meat, fret not, it’ll still be around, but try branching out into some of these delicious new meatless options.
Opinions Editor Mel Napeloni’s favourite vegan-friendly dishes in the Hammer:
Injera from Wass - 207 James Street South
Orange Vegan Chicken from Affinity - 87 John Street South
Sauteed Cactus from MEX-I-CAN - 107 James Street North