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Cottage Lane Kitchen Story

Cottage Lane Kitchen Story written by Samantha

Cottage Lane Kitchen was founded by me in 2010, and it isn't only my business name, but also refers to a secret lane in Chapel Hill, NC where our family homestead was built in the 1950s. Four generations of my family have cooked and preserved spicy peppers out of love and tradition in that kitchen.

The last homemade batch of my family's spicy pepper relish was made by my Grandfather in the early 1990s. He grew chilies around the outside of the house and harvested and pickled them during my summer visits. I remember him watering the empty tin cans he buried beside each pepper plant. The cans had holes drilled in them at various levels to make sure the water got deep in the soil to the roots of the plants. And when he harvested the peppers, he would take the meat grinder out, make sure it was well attached to the side of the kitchen table, and fed the peppers and vegetables into the grinder for an even consistency. He would then cook and process the relish in glass ball jars he had saved and reused through the years and then store them in cardboard boxes in the basement - but there was always an open bottle in the fridge or on the table.

four generations in one kitchen cottage lane

After my grandfather died, my father rationed those bottles from the basement as gifts to me through the years and by 2010, there were only a few unopened bottles remaining. I considered those bottles as treasures as they tied me to my family's lineage of relish-makers. I even have a few of those bottles in my possession/collection today.

As no recipe was ever written down, I was determined to keep this family heirloom alive, and asked my father to help me cook a batch in 2010. I meticulously recorded my father's groupings of onions, spices and peppers into standard measurements of cups and teaspoons and had him taste it as it cooked to the correct consistency. And the recipe worked! It was as delicious and spicy as I remembered it, and my husband became a big fan.

It was after this first homemade batch that my husband, a serial entrepreneur, suggested I start a business and Cottage Lane Kitchen was born. My first commercial batch was manufactured in October 2011 and I named the product Get Me A Switch Spicy Pepper Relish to acknowledge its southern culinary roots with a wink and nod. I started selling it at a local farmer's market and have grown steadily from there.

In 2013, I launched a companion product, Cape Fear Spicy Pepper Relish, with added habanero and citrus -  updated for the modern palate and for contemporary dishes like fish tacos and hummus. I don't think my great-grandmother and grandfather ever ate a fish taco in their lives and I know my father wasn't a fan, which still pains my heart.

CLK's latest product, Hissy Fit Hot Sauce, was launched in 2020, during the pandemic. It's a vinegar-based cayenne pepper sauce that again honors my family history as cayenne peppers were the peppers of choice to grow and make relish from for my grandfather. I've always loved cayenne peppers, and added a spicy, smoky flavor-spin to elevate this traditional red hot sauce to a 21st century classic.

I am devoted to my family's heirloom recipe, humbled to have inherited it (my father died unexpectedly in 2018) and honored to share it with others. It is still made like my family would make it, with fresh chili peppers and slow cooked in apple cider vinegar – using quality ingredients to preserve their bold flavors. 

And my family origins, in a kitchen on Cottage Lane, is foundational to my business identity, its history and its future.

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

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