On Saturday October 24th, Brian had the pleasure to meet and interview Jonathan O'Reilly of Crazy Bastard Sauce. The interview took place in the Maybachufer Markt in Kreuzberg region of Berlin on a gorgeous fall day.
Crazy Bastard Sauce has been on fire winning 1st place in the Medium Heat Section of the 2015 World Hot Sauce Awards. The humble founder Jonathan talks about bringing in the sense of community, his beginnings, and shares lots of insight to people thinking about making hot sauce for the first time.
This is Craft Hot Sauce's first podcast episode. I hope you enjoy it and I welcome your feedback.
*Music by Phia played at Maybachufer Markt during recording. I do not own the music in this podcast episode.
I’ve always enjoyed cooking and big flavours. Growing up in Ireland I wasn’t exposed to very adventurous tastes, but I remember piling spoonfuls of yellow mustard onto my dinner until my nose went up like a chimney fire. Once I discovered tabasco sauce it went on everything, if there was no tabasco every meal would get a fine dusting of black pepper. When other hot sauce brands started to appear on supermarket shelves I bought every one I found. That’s when I started to notice that there was huge differences in the quality of sauces, as well as a wide range of styles, from Louisiana style to Mexican salsas and intensely hot extract sauces. I started to experiment with making sauces and developed a style of my own over the years. When I made one for a friends fajita stall and he referred to it as the “crazy bastard sauce” I knew it was time to start building a brand.
I started making 15 litre batches in the kitchen of a local restaurant, filling them by hand into bottles and giving them out to potential retailers and customers. Everyone loved the sauce but it was the professional looking branding that made them really take it seriously as a marketable product. I was working as a graphic designer at the time so I was lucky that I could avoid the costs of developing a memorable logo and identity for the sauce by doing it all myself.
Two years later the company has grown to producing over a thousand bottles a week, all still hand made in small batches. We’ve won two international awards including a 1st place at the World Hot Sauce Awards, and we’re just about to open our own production kitchen with a shopfront where we’ll sell our sauces as well as other products which follow our principles of no added sugar, no chili extract and all natural ingredients.
Our most popular sauce is still our original Habanero & Tomatillo. It’s fruity, aromatic and just the right heat level for most people to enjoy on every meal. We also release a limited edition White Label which changes every month depending on which ingredients are currently in season. That keeps customers coming back to us constantly to see whats new, but they always pick up a new bottle of the original Yellow Label while they’re there.
One thing I’ve learned over the years of making hot sauce is that there’s absolutely no need to add sugar, thickeners, preservatives, artificial flavours or any other “non-foods”. Hot sauce is a beautifully simple and harmonious thing. The chilis themselves contain natural fruit sugars and just need to be roasted to bring out that natural sweetness. Choosing the other ingredients correctly will allow you to make a sauce that is exactly as thick and flavoursome as you want it to be, and a good quality vinegar will both enhance that flavour and preserve the whole sauce without the need for artificial additives.
Also, I think it’s important to connect with the people who are buying your sauces, listen to what they have to say about them and be ready to experiment and create new recipes which are based on a respect for the ingredients and an understanding for how flavours combine. The best feedback you can get on these experiments is from the people who give you the money they earned in return for what you create. They’ll let you know if it’s not good enough.
Thank you for listening and reading my story!
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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.
Normally the Craft Hot Sauce Podcast interviews hot sauce makers all over the world. This episode is more of a riff from Brian the host about some of the things his hot sauce company Craic Sauce got up this summer.