My son Keenan Lee Adams was born with a unique and wonderful talent: he has a culinary ability and palate that is finely tuned to the intense flavors and heat of capsaicin. Capsaicin—as you may know—is that natural, fiery, spicy compound that makes hot peppers hot. From an early age, Keenan demonstrated a strong preference for foods that had some fire. If Gerber’s made strained jalapeños—he probably would have been eating it.
By the time Keenan had reached the age of 9, he had acquired (primarily through shopping on websites) a collection of hot sauces that was rapidly filling the Adams pantry and refrigerators. He had brands from every part of the world, made with every type of pepper, with a wide range of flavors and heat. He studied these hot sauces. Some were too mild to rate as “hot” sauce, and others were simply toxic and should have been used as a personal protection spray. His study time was every meal and snack period (other than breakfast—not recommended on Cheerios) because he had hot sauce with every food he would eat. A meal was not complete without a liberal dose of capsaicin delivered in the form of hot sauce.
As the years and meals went by, Keenan developed a very sophisticated palate and understanding of different hot sauce styles and the nuances of the different peppers. From the humble jalapeño (8,000 Scoville Units) to the terrifying Bhut Jolokia (or “Ghost Chile”, at 1,100,000 Scoville Units), Keenan tasted and experimented with every sauce he could get his hands on.
In 2004, his parents had a growing concern about where they could possibly store more hot sauces. His dad, having a culinary background, suggested that perhaps Keenan should try making some of his own hot sauce so it could perfectly meet his taste requirements and his finicky, fiery palate.
In the kitchen, there was much chopping, blending, mixing, testing, tasting and gnashing of teeth. Failed attempts were not few, followed by remixing, retrying, reformulating. The ingredients, quantities and procedures were written down for each version; tested, tasted and tasted again. At the end of the process, a new category of hot sauces was founded. An annual tradition of developing new K-Sauces began. There are now fully five K-Sauces that are commercially available, each very unique and very different from other hot sauces on the market.
In our last production year at home, we made K-1 through K-5 in a production run of 1,200 bottles. All by hand – it was a ton of work!
After taking two years off to recover, we had to go big or go home. We went to a commercial kitchen in June of 2013 and the rest is history. Six months after our first commercial bottling, we won 7 awards at The Hot Pepper Awards for our five sauces!
K-Sauce takes a different approach than the typical vinegary, thin sauces you will find on the market. Fresh produce, the finest peppers you can find anywhere and premium spices combine for thick, complex sauces that are designed to enhance any food with fascinating flavors. Hand-crafted in small batches, K-Sauce is all natural with no preservatives, artificial thickeners or colorings.
The IBISWorld Special Report dated April 2012 lists the top 10 Fastest Growing Industries. Hot Sauce Production is the 8th fastest growing industry, behind Social Network Game Development and ahead of Green & Sustainable Building Construction.
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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.