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Hot Sauce!: Techniques for Making Signature Hot Sauces, with 32 Recipes to Get You Started; Includes 60 Recipes for Using Your Hot Sauces

Hot Sauce!: Techniques for Making Signature Hot Sauces, with 32 Recipes to Get You Started; Includes 60 Recipes for Using Your Hot Sauces

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Hot Sauce!: Techniques for Making Signature Hot Sauces, with 32 Recipes to Get You Started; Includes 60 Recipes for Using Your Hot Sauces

5/5 (2 ratings)
324 pages
2 hours
Apr 24, 2012


If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen! From mild to blistering, renowned author Jennifer Trainer Thompson offers 32 recipes for making your own signature hot sauces, as well as 60 recipes that use homemade or commercial hot sauces in everything from barbeque and Buffalo wings to bouillabaisse and black bean soup. Try making spicy chowders, tacos, salads, and seafood — even scorchingly delicious cocktails. Bring your own handcrafted heat to your next barbecue and feel the burn! 
Apr 24, 2012

About the author

Jennifer Trainer Thompson is the author of 18 books, including Fresh Fish, The Fresh Egg Cookbook, and Hot Sauce! Nominated for three James Beard Awards, she has been featured in Martha Stewart Living and Coastal Living magazines, and she has written for Yankee, Travel & Leisure, the Boston Globe, and the New York Times, among other publications. Thompson is the chef/creator of Jump Up and Kiss Me, an all-natural line of spicy foods. She splits her time between the Berkshires and Buzzards Bay in Massachusetts.

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Hot Sauce! - Jennifer Trainer Thompson



Perhaps no other food in history has inspired such a cult following — fanaticism, really. Hot sauce is good for you. It’s hot. It’s funny. It’s obscene. It’s flavorful. It’s addictive. Can you imagine people speaking of mustard with such passion? Creating olive oil labels with such hilarity? Driving miles out of their way on a road trip for, say, pickles?

My own personal trail of flame started like many: a chance encounter with an unmarked bottle. Four months out of college, I hitched a ride as crew on a Hinckley Bermuda 40 heading south for the winter from Mount Desert Island, Maine, to the British Virgin Islands. (For armchair sailors, that’s like being asked to drive a vintage Ferrari the length of the Amalfi Coast.) And I got paid for it. We sailed our way down the rocky New England coast, rocketed on an 11-knot breeze past Asbury Park, snaked down the Intracoastal Waterway, and then headed to sea from West Palm Beach. Two days out, our mast stay broke, and we were forced to land on San Salvador (not the Central American capital of El Salvador, but rather the tiny Bahamian island that Columbus landed on in 1492).

Tropical, isolated, and with no discernable tourism industry, San Salvador had one pay phone (which was out of service; this was before cell phones) and several dirt-floor bars along the beach that served food. After taking our first shower in days, we headed for the bar, which had Bob Marley and every Rolling Stones song known to man on its outsized jukebox. It was heaven. We ordered a round of rum punches and fritters, and when they arrived with no tartar sauce, I doused my food liberally with the only condiment on the table: an innocuous-looking yellow sauce in a ketchup bottle. Having been at sea, I was hungry for fried food and wolfed down the first few bites. And it was then and there that I discovered Scotch bonnet peppers.

At first my mouth felt hot, then the heat started billowing, then I thought it would tear the roof off the top of my mouth. My friends, who had sailed these seas before, howled with laughter as tears streamed down my cheeks and beads of sweat collected on my brow. But after the scorching heat came the taste of the hot pepper sauce — loads of fruity, curried, tropical flavor that danced and sang its way through my food. I was in awe (that is, when I could speak again). Once I got past the pain, it tasted rather good.

Soon I was shaking hot sauce on almost all foods, from pizza to rice and beans. I did several more boat deliveries and quickly learned the beauty of hot sauce on a boat: With limited galley space, hot sauce is an efficient all-around condiment and substitute for a shelf of spices, and it dresses up everything from chowder to chow mein. I was startled to discover that hot sauce adds flavor, not just heat (although that’s good, too). I was hooked.

A tenth-generation Yankee, I felt a long way from my childhood, where the only hot sauce in the house was a sketchy-looking old bottle of Tabasco sauce that was relegated to the liquor cabinet, brought out judiciously on special occasions for Bloody Marys.

We sailed to various islands in the British Virgin Islands, and I noticed that most bars, restaurants, and roadside stands had their own brand of hot pepper sauce, as it’s called there, reflecting the individual predilections of their makers as much as the colonizing influences that shaped the culinary heritage of the West Indies.

After a few more deliveries, I packed a dozen sauces (several of which exploded in my suitcase) as gifts for friends, flew north, and settled into life on the island of Manhattan, where I got a job as a lowly editor’s assistant at Simon & Schuster. I continued to douse hot sauce on just about everything (one’s first New York City apartment is comparable in size to a galley kitchen — if you’re lucky), and went to work on my brilliant career, not thinking about them further.

It wasn’t until seven years later, when I began working with a friend on a book about cooking on boats, that hot sauces came back into focus in my life. The Yachting Cookbook rekindled my love affair with hot pepper sauces, as did the fact that I’d begun to spend time on the Spanish island of Vieques and had come to know the makers of Isla Vieques Condiment Company, who bottled their wonderful sauces in discarded rum flasks.

In 1991, I approached three New York publishers to write a book about hot sauces. They all told me that no one would buy it (too obscure, too spicy, too weird . . . what’s hot sauce?) and to concentrate instead on salsa. Salsa, of course, was trucking past ketchup as America’s #1 condiment, but since three culinary icons were already writing salsa books, that didn’t interest me.

By then I was deep into hot sauce. On trips to New Mexico, Louisiana, and the Caribbean, my husband, Joe, and I collected and compared brands: not only the traditional southern sauces but also obscure and regional concoctions whose names — 911, Inner Beauty, Bessie’s Soul Sauce — suggest the obsession, humor, and nirvana that hot sauces induce. By then, I had amassed a large collection of sauces and found that when guests came for dinner, I couldn’t get them out of my pantry; they’d just stand and stare at the labels of the bottles on my shelves, laughing. There was Last Rights, featuring a deceased chile pepper in a coffin; Capital Punishment (legal in all 50 states), which illustrated the same chile in an electric chair; Inner Beauty; Hellfire & Damnation; and my all-time favorite: I Am on Fire Ready to Die.

In my travels, I discovered that hot sauces have a passionate following. It’s not as though you sample one and say, Oh, that’s nice, now I think I’ll return to bland food. I met a couple who takes only hot sauce vacations, from Avery Island to the Yucatán. I found a guy who papered his basement walls with hot sauce labels. My Federal Express carrier introduced me to a bar in the Adirondacks that serves a blistering hot sauce called Armageddon, which is so popular that even in the winter, when the place is accessible only by snowmobile, the bar is packed. One small California publisher was intrigued, and Hot Licks, the first book on hot sauces, was born.

Interestingly, the flourishing of hot sauces is in some ways a precursor to the locavore movement. Often they are unique local products. They are easy to bottle and funky. They are simple to make, bearing the individual characteristics of chiles and spices, not to mention the whims of their makers. Prepared in small batches, hot sauces often feature ingredients from the maker’s garden, farm, or island, or they reflect regional influences. Many have no preservatives. At the end of the fall harvest, people can their tomatoes and bottle their chiles. They connect us to our food source, both where we live and where we visit. They help us support both our local economy and that of the people we meet in our travels.

A lot’s been shaking in the past 20 years. Hot sauces have gone from an obscure, eccentric cult item to a recognized spicy food category, part of a $5 billion condiment market. Chileheads have come out of the closet. Hot sauce makers have come, and gone, and come again. The Internet has changed the way people buy, sell, and collect sauces. The hot sauce market is a bit like Silicon Valley after the dot-com bubble burst: It’s still there, as interesting as ever, but different. The first hot sauce shop, which opened in Boston in 1988, closed, and more than a decade afterward its founder — having tasted thousands of sauces — started bottling her own Gypsy Juice sauce in 2011.

I made it in deli containers for two years, explained Lisa Lamme, who had at least 15 minutes of fame in 2000 when she insured her palate for $1 million, but I just couldn’t keep up with demand.

The world of hot sauce has segued from hard-core chileheads and people really into hot sauce to a broader food audience, the result of America’s changing demographics, an overall trend toward eating well, and the fact that more Americans are embracing spicy foods. In the beginning, we saw gungho people who were having fun with hot sauces they’d never seen before, reminisced Chip Hearn, founder of Peppers, which was one of the first and largest hot sauce shops, with more than 3,000 products. It was us finding them and them finding us. Now sauces have become mainstream and a way to pair foods. Instead of calling and asking what’s hot, they’re calling and saying ‘What sauce should I eat with this or that?’ We still sell a lot of the basic vinegary sauces — they are good with oysters — but people want to know what else they can do with sauces.

Many people are shaking and cooking with hot sauces, making their own sauces, trading and bottling sauces. It’s a big landscape, more fascinating than ever.

Come and see.


Some people love hot sauces for the heat, and the heat is indeed the source of the magic, but once you cross that threshold, you discover a world of flavor, strongly influenced by the choice of chiles and other ingredients. Though I love the riveted attention demanded by the fire of a good sauce, the more subtle strength of this adaptable condiment lies in the range of flavors that come out under, over, with, and after the

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