Craft Hot Sauce Comes to the Holiday Table

‘'BS Hot Sauce’ Brings Fresh Flavors Year ’Round
By MARIA SCANDALE | Nov 20, 2019
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

Little Egg Harbor — BS Hot Sauce is Bryan and Samantha Stark’s venture that makes eating an adventure for the taste buds. Name any food group, and there’s a craft hot sauce for that.

To enhance the holiday turkey, it’s the new cran-orange hot sauce. Or how about “Heated Jack,” a new fall hot sauce flavored with savory pumpkin, that has a spicy twist from ghost peppers? On fish, catch the zing of jalapeño lime.

On ice cream – yes; Brian recommends mint chocolate chip – there’s the blueberry habanero or the chocolate habanero sauce made from an exclusive variety of pepper.

Wanting a new Buffalo chicken dip recipe? Add Baked Apple Habanero sauce to the butter, another special fall flavor.

To hype up tofu? Just about any of the creative varieties. Pizza, soup, steak, eggs, all take on new flair.

“There is a sauce for everyone’s flavor palate and heat preference,” Brian said.

BS Hot Sauce was born five years ago in Little Egg Harbor by a couple who grow their own peppers. It started when they “had too many jalapeños for one Halloween night” and stirred up a jalapeño-lime sauce that everybody raved about. So they started stepping out to try different flavors.

“My wife bought me cookbooks, and we played with different flavors and changed ingredients and made it into our own,” recalled Brian. “I cook the sauces, and my wife marries the flavors for the sauces together. We brainstorm ideas for new flavors, and every season there is a special release.”

Giving it to friends as a hobby started getting expensive, so the team went professional with their small business, following requirements that include doing the actual cooking in a commercial kitchen not far from their home, and testing pH for FDA-required levels.

The business has been growing online, in shops and at festivals. Customers can still order online through the website bshotsauce.com or by contacting bshotsauce@gmail.com. They can arrange a meeting place for locally delivered orders; the phone number is 609-457-7054. They’ll do pop-up tastings for customers’ parties.

Both owners are Pinelands Regional High School graduates. Brian’s full-time job is at Viking Yachts in New Gretna. The 30-year-old, originally from Croyden, Pa., near Philadelphia, is an Ocean County College graduate. Samantha, 28, manages all business aspects of the hot sauce venture, but her educational degree is a master’s in school counseling.

The company is not out to become the hottest nationwide sensation – although having a restaurant one day is a dream simmering on the back burner.

For now, they enjoy the one-to-one rapport with customers at festivals, and they like making smaller batches with signature flavors.

“It’s a craft hot sauce,” said Brian. “We don’t want to stray away from the craft of it,” he elaborated. “We love working with new flavors; we love our customer interaction.”

BS Hot Sauce features five kinds regularly: garlic habanero (hands-down the best-seller, and good in Bloody Marys, on shrimp, pizza); pineapple jalapeño; mango jalapeño; horseradish mustard; and brown sugar mustard hot sauces.

Others are seasonal. When the seasonal specials are gone, they’re gone until next year, or until a different version arises.

A hops line, like the grapefruit-lime, is an evolution for those whose taste buds appreciate hops. This line makes a good marinade.

Another aspect of BS Hot Sauce’s appeal is that there’s no “b.s.” when it comes to ingredients being natural and organic. You won’t find a long list of fine-print, alphabet soup preservatives on the back of the bottle.

Interestingly, talking with the makers, you learn peppers contain a natural preservative, capsacin. The sauces are advertised to have a shelf life of a year, and when opened, they should be kept in the refrigerator, where they are best used within six months.

Agave is the sweetener in several of the sauces; honey in others.

“We try to stay away from sugar if we can. We like to use natural stuff, so we use honey, agave, dates. But with our brown sugar mustard, you have to use brown sugar. That’s one of our less-hot sauces.”

All ingredients are bought or grown locally, to ensure the freshness and quality of their sauces. “In the process we teach our kids about the importance of fresh produce.”

“We only use Ocean Spray cranberries,” said Samantha, “and if we can’t get them fresh, we won’t do it.”

Brian added, “We make a blueberry hot sauce. Literally, we go to Hammonton, and we won’t do it any other way. Somebody asked, ‘When are you going to do blueberry hot sauce again?’ When the blueberries are fresh. We’re very strict on that.”

When It’s Cold,

Invent Hot Sauce

Wintertime is hot sauce crafting time.

“We’re very active on social media,” Brian said. “You know if you don’t hear from us for a while, we’re working on something.”

Combining the two, they’re taking a survey on the BS Hot Sauce Facebook page, “between doing a Christmas flavor that we rolled out last year, apricot raspberry, or ‘Ghost of Christmas Past,’ a play on fruitcake.

“This winter we’re going to work on new flavors – a chipotle, a Jamaican sauce to roll into summer for the barbecue season.”

Speaking of the company being a hot sensation among its fans, that doesn’t necessarily mean for the sheer flavor heat of its products.

“We’re not trying to kill anybody” is Samantha’s way of joking that their aim is not to create the most tongue-numbing dare. Those sauces have their own following.

“We’re not based around the heat,” added Brian. “We’re based around flavor. You get a lot of hot sauces where it’s just heat, and you taste the flavor but you can’t taste your food. We have five-star reviews on Facebook,  and everybody will tell you we’re all  about the flavor.”

That’s not to say there aren’t hot varieties. The hottest is the Carolina reaper sauce, made from peppers of the same name, which are one of the hottest peppers in the world. The sauce is described online as “extremely hot but enjoyable, for those who love heat.”)

“Using our garlic habanero hot sauce base, we add the perfect blend of ghost peppers and Carolina reapers to put this sauce on fire,” reads the description. “If you want great flavor that has tons of heat, this sauce is for you.”

The reaper type of peppers takes extra care to grow, and then to merge with other flavors in a sauce.

On that note, retail price of each bottle ranges from $8 to $12.

“Reapers take longer to grow; it’s more love – it’s actually more money,” the two finished each other’s sentences.

“Reapers are about a six-month turnaround time from the time you plant them to the time that they’re at full term. It’s an extra step to cook them. We have to sit there and add one at a time and then taste it because you can always add more; you can’t take more out if it’s too hot.”

A spin-off is the savory-sweet “Dark Side of the Pepper” Sauce, made with the chocolate habanero pepper. It’s another that is available in limited quantities only for a limited time.

The pepper itself has a natural smoky flavor. It goes great as a wing sauce, to add to a marinade, or simply to use as a sauce to smoke with, the makers said.

The least hot of the bunch is the brown sugar mustard sauce. it was originally crafted to glaze ham, and sales were brisk enough to continue it.

“We make our own mustard for it, and I have to make the brown sugar separately because it has to be a certain consistency before we mix the two together,” Brian said. “In the end, nothing gets bottled until it’s tasted and it’s to perfection.”

Among other spots, the sauces are now sold at Mystic Meat & Seafood Market on Radio Road in Mystic Island, and they’re on the counter for use at the Terrace Tavern and Delaware Avenue Oyster House in Beach Haven Terrace. You may have seen BS Hot Sauce at recent events including at Tuckerton Seaport, the Manahopkin festival and Pinelands Brewery. (The brewery makes a habanero beer; the Starks make a hops-infused line of hot sauce. It’s a perfect world.) The next pop-up is for Asbury Fresh at Jackson Outlets parking lot Dec. 7 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

mariascandale@thesandpaper.net

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