An Interview with Tina Brooks - VP Marketing, Peppermaster(TM) Hot Sauces
For how long have you been making hot sauce?
Under the brand name Peppermaster® we have been making sauces since 2004. Previously though, Greg, our peppermaster made his first sauce, the Goatpepper Mash, when he was 8.
How did you get started making hot sauce?
After running a successful Fusion restaurant in Canning, Nova Scotia for many years, a friend suggested that Greg could bottle and sell his hot sauces commercially. She showed him how to pack the products and he’s been at it commercially ever since.
When did you go commercial?
How many bottles of hot sauce do you produce a year?
50,000 and growing.
Do you have a preferred chili pepper as an ingredient?
Our signature pepper is the Goatpepper. We have them grown for us in Haiti.
Aside from chili peppers, what do you feel is the key ingredient(s) in making the perfect hot sauce?
We use lime juice for our mashes, and aside from chilli peppers, we use more of it than any other ingredient.
Is there a special process you follow in making your hot sauces?
In a way, yes. Our mashes are relatively simple in that we only mash and pack the product, but the majority of our hot sauces are not what one normally thinks of as hot sauce, but rather as cooking and grilling sauces, except that they are specifically designed for the palate that can handle some heat. What is truly different in our process is that we heat process every jar. This allows us to pack our products without using any preservatives and minimal vinegars. So, most of our products won’t have any vinegar at all. This is virtually unheard of in the hot sauce world.
Do you follow a particular philosophy to making hot sauces?
Yes, in fact we have several.
We coined a phrase to describe our philosophy; Slow Fair Trade. Essentially this means that we use a slow philosophy for our ingredients, first. We go directly to the producer for our peppers, since we don’t grow them ourselves. When we can’t get them in season, which is about five weeks in the fall, we go direct to farmers in developing countries. Then, we use Fair Trade Certified methods.
We are of the opinion that food is food, it should not be riddled with chemicals and it should taste great. So we make an effort to ensure that the ingredients that go into our jars are the best we can find in the world. Sometimes, like with our vanilla, we sacrifice our Fair Trade philosophy in favour of the world’s best ingredient, helping the Fair Trade farmers improve their products but it’s rare that we have to do that.
I should take a moment to note that in 2007 we were given a mandate by TransFair to create a market for Fair Trade Certified chilli peppers..
Do you have any other favorite spicy foods?
Anything spicy is good. Greg and I are pretty adventurous, so we like to mix it up, eating all sort of different ethnic foods. My personal favourite spicy food is a Bahamian staple known as Chicken Souse. Greg's favourite spicy food is another Bahamian staple: conch salad.
Do you have any advice for would-be hot sauce makers making sauces at home?
Yes, don’t. No, seriously! If you’re going to make your own, great, but if you plan on giving them away, sterilize your kitchen before you do. Home kitchens are bacteria fests and 80% of food poisonings are not the kind of numbers you want to ignore if you’re going into commercial sauce making, even if it’s only small batches to be sold at the local farmer’s market. Rent a certified catering kitchen, or borrow the one in your church instead.
Imagine this sad reality: If you could have only one chili pepper the rest of your life, which would you choose and why?
That’s far too easy. The goatpepper. It has the heat of the scotch bonnet and all the flavour of the habanero, so it’s pretty much the perfect pepper.
If your life could be turned into a movie, who would you like to have play YOU on the big screen? What might the movie TITLE be?
I would think Sissy Spacek would do a find job playing me. We have similar features and she is a brilliant actress, although she is a few years older than I am. For Greg, I’d probably have Simon Callow read for the part. I think he and Greg have a lot of similar qualities.
For a title, oh, I dunno, probably something simple, like The Peppermaster. Yeah, I know, not very creative, but it’s not the sort of question I’m used to answering!
Any other parting thoughts?
Yeah, pay attention to what Big Food is feeding you, chilli peppers are systemic, that means that they are riddled with whatever has been sprayed on them. They suck that stuff in through their roots as well as their skins. The horrific situation that we are seeing manifest these days at the grocery store is only going to continue to get worse until people really start paying attention to what is going onto their plates. We all know that lobbying our policy makers is a useless endeavor unless we’ve the money to actually lobby them the way that Big Food does, but since we can, use your wallet to do the talking.
When you’re done checking out the Peppermaster brand line, take a look at our Haitan Fire project; it’s the latest piece of our Pepperfire Initiative designed to use chilli peppers to change the world. We have discovered that helping people to improve their economic situation at home means better lives for all and fewer immigration problems. Share the wealth, 3 billion people cannot all fit in North America. http://www.haitianfire.com
And finally, eat more peppers. They are really good for you and if you’re eating our peppers, they’ll help us to change people’s lives for the better.
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