We recently spoke with David Rosengarten about his line of hot sauces – three limited edition varietal chile extracts from Henry Family Farm, in Virginia. David is a pioneering food and wine critic, cookbook author and culinary explorer. Bob Henry of Henry Family Farm agreed to answer some questions about the hot sauce business.
For how long have you been making hot sauce? 7 years
What are your most popular products? Ghost Sauce and Jamaican Lime
How did you get started making hot sauce? We were growing hot peppers for a number of years
When did you go commercial? 2 years ago
How many bottles of hot sauce do you produce a year? Around 5,000 last year, estimating 10,000 this year
Do you have a preferred chili pepper as an ingredient? Naga Jolokia (Ghost) pepper, they are hot but ours are so tasty due to the rich akaline soil on our farm.
Aside from chili peppers, what do you feel is the key ingredient(s) in making the perfect hot sauce? Not enough can be said about the quality of the peppers and how they are grown. We go from garden to sauce in 48 hours, peppers are not picked until their peak ripeness. We are in a unique setting with the mountain providing a late sunrise and natural morning dew from the river bottom. We are the Napa Valley of hot peppers, our sauce would not taste the same without our peppers.
Is there a special process you follow in making your hot sauces? We use a unique process in the making of our sauce, we are able to separate the bitterness of the pepper and retain the full flavor. We do not add ingredients to make our sauce taste like something else, we try to bottle the true flavor of the pepper.
Do you follow a particular philosophy to making hot sauces? Growing hot peppers and making sauces is a passion, finding the best peppers in the world and growing them is a challenge. We maintain our own seed lineage and have our own farming methods that are unique to our family. Making a sauce that people can enjoy is a pleasure, I am my biggest critic and many sauces never leave my kitchen.
Do you have any other favorite spicy foods? I love anything spicy including ice cream with habanero flakes and ghost popcorn. I enjoy any native spicy food wether from India, Mexico or from the Caribbean. My favorite meal is Chili Mac and is our families secret recipe, it doesn’t matter if it is 10 degrees outside you will be sweating before finishing a plate of Chili Mac.
Do you have any advice for would-be hot sauce makers making sauces at home? Yes, take a good acidification course and have some fun. Food safety is paramount in any kitchen and you will enjoy making sauces. Do not listen to others, make the sauce that you like.
Do you have any basic/favorite hot sauce recipes to share? Add a dash of our ghost sauce to any of your favorite recipes and you can’t go wrong! If you have a good salsa recipe add lots of our Jamaican Lime sauce to it and enjoy!
Imagine this sad reality: If you could have only one chili pepper the rest of your life, which would you choose? No question – it would be the ghost pepper. Unfortunately many great hot peppers are on the verge of extinction and are overlooked due to the mass manufacturing of spices.
For more information on these hot sauces, see below.
From David Rosengarten:
“In my travels both domestically and in the far corners of the world, I’ve had the opportunity to try some unique foods and wines,” said Rosengarten. “From time to time, I strike gold – meeting someone who is hand-crafting a product that is just exceptional. I curated this new product line, David Rosengarten’s Gastronomic Selections, to share some of my favorite finds from around the world.”
The Naga Jolokia, or Ghost Chile of India extract, is the hottest of the trio, boasting aromas and
flavors of tomato and bell pepper as well as intense heat. Not for the faint of heart, ghost chiles can clock in between 850,000 and more than one million units on the Scoville scale, and are among the hottest chiles in the world.
In addition to the Naga Jolokia, Rosengarten is offering Henry Family Farm’s Yellow Fatali extract. Also known as the African Habañero, this pepper’s juices offer a piquant heat with an aroma that ranges from fruity to one reminiscent of baked cookies.
The limited edition extracts are available exclusively through www.drosengarten.com for $24 each (5-ounce bottle). The special three-pack Chile Connoisseur’s Collection features 1.6-ounce bottles of the Naga Jolokia and Yellow Fatali extracts, plus the micro-batch Henry Family Farm Jamaican Lime Chile extract ($34).
Bob Henry and his father, of Henry Family Farm, have been growing chiles for 30 years in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Henry’s peppers are vine-ripened, hand-picked and then extracted within 24 hours of harvesting, using a method designed to preserve the flavor and heat of the chiles while removing the bitter notes often present in peppers. The extracts are then bottled in their pure form, with no additional spices or flavor enhancers, so their flavor really shines through.
“The beauty of these extracts is their purity,” Rosengarten said. “When you add them to the right foods, you are emphasizing the food’s flavor, not adding a foreign note as many hot sauces do.”
About David Rosengarten
Journalist, television personality, and cookbook author, David Rosengarten has covered great food products, restaurants, wines, gastronomic travel destinations, and related subjects for over 25 years. He has written hundreds of articles and contributed hundreds of original recipes to publications such as Gourmet (where he was Restaurant Critic from 1996 to 2000), The New York Times, Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, Harper’s Bazaar, Departures, The Wine Spectator and Newsday.
David is perhaps best known for his work as the host of Taste, the award-winning Food Network television show devoted to the principles of good taste in food and wine. David performed in 2500 shows on the Food Network, and has been featured on a variety of other networks (most notably NBC, where he has regularly appeared on the Today show). David appeared as a judge on the new season of “Iron Chef America” in May 2012.