Hello, I’m Julie (or Julz if you prefer the casual. I do.). In the summer of 2019, I finally completed all of the paperwork to sell my hot sauces commercially as Julz’s Creations, LLC. It’s been a busy summer and fall and I’m still learning as I go!
I should back up a bit and give you my background. I’m originally from the Midwest and growing up, all we really focused on growing was tomatoes. Once I got to grad school and a real house, I started a bigger backyard garden, expanding beyond tomatoes, to cucumbers, squash, corn, herbs, and peppers. I got my MA and PhD in Social Psychology at this time, so gardening became a nice reprieve from the stress.
After grad school, I moved to Durham, North Carolina, and again planted a big garden. I soon became overrun with hot peppers. I had more than I knew what to do with. I started making hot sauces (and then pickles, jams, mustard…etc.) for friends and family as Christmas presents. I kept hearing how good everything tasted and how I should sell it. But…I knew it was a lot of work to do this commercially (and I underestimated this amount!) so I put it off.
I worked in program evaluation in the criminal justice world and was still busy with this day job. But then…circumstances changed. I suddenly had no day job. I tried pursuing consulting, but this is a finicky field. So I started looking into manufacturing hot sauces and pickles for real. And thus the new stressful journey began!
I grew up as a hot sauce wimp, but in my 20s and 30s have become quite the aficionado. Our go-to hot condiments at home are Sriracha, El Yucateco green habanero (what we just call “the green stuff”) and Sichuan chili flakes when we make spicy Sichuan Chinese and want to numb our tongues. Of course, we have numerous other bottles for different occasions, and my husband still gravitates toward the super hots more than me.
I’ve been to hot sauce stores and tried several different kinds of hot sauces (and extracts) and my number one pet peeve is this: sauces that only exist to pound on your tongue with a sledgehammer. No other flavor, nothing else going on. Just straight pain. My number one priority in making my own hot sauces was to give them some depth of flavor, something that will complement your food and make it tastier. And my feedback so far has been just that: people say, yeah, this is spicy, but it’s got good flavor. That comment makes me so happy.
Beyond wanting great flavor, I wanted to utilize North Carolina produce in my products as much as I can. There are so many great farms and farmers in my area that I want to support. This limits me seasonally, but luckily in the southeast the growing season is a bit longer than the Midwest.
I’m still learning as I go and hopefully learning from my mistakes but am excited to be an entrepreneur. My community in Durham is so supportive of us small businesses starting out and succeeding.
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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.