Our next Feature returnsus to the great state of Texas, where salsa is obviously both a passion and a labor of love. Darrell and Candy Fitch are the owners and proprietors of Big Dawg Salsa, who bring to the market small, hand-made batches of salsa with heat levels to suit every palate and/or masochistic desire. Salsas may be their signature products, but their expanding line includes an interesting product called the Slobber Sauce, which we’ll describe a little more below. As is usual for us, we asked Darrell and Candy to tell us a little bit about themselves and their road to salsa greatness….
Where did you come up with the name “Big Dawg Salsa?” About your logo…since several college sports teams have bulldogs as their mascot (which we assume is what your Big Dawg is), did you struggle to create a logo mascot to fit the name?
Actually, a few years back I created some logo ideas that could be used possibly on t-shirts or even used as logos for each individual fire station at the fire department. One of the logos I created just happened to be called “The Big Dawgs – Protecting Our Backyard.” After I spent the time going from the freehand stage to the digitizing stage (a fireman wears many hats), I became attached and decided I would hang on to it for that day my wife and I would decide to take the leap of faith and turn our salsa recipes from dream to reality. We felt the logo went well with the marketing ideas and names we had for the heat levels of our original recipe salsa.
Mild – False Alarm.
Medium – Flames Showing.
Hot – Fully Involved.
Xtra Hot – Double Dawg Dare Ya! (Habanero)
XXtra Hot – Burn Ur Face Off! (Habanero)
Mild – Texas Black Bean Caviar
Since you did most of your culinary fine-tuning on firemen at the station, did you find their tastes to be more or less picky than the general public? Their heat/spice tolerance?
I don’t know if I would say a fireman’s taste is any pickier than the general public as much as I would say a fireman’s comments are a little more straight forward and not coated with a lot of fluff. We are family and live with each other 24 hours at a time, and you know how candid family can be sometimes. You definitely get straight answers with no sugar coating.
I get really tickled as far as the wide range of heat preference you will see from fireman to fireman. Firemen, as much as they hate to admit it, generally like 2 heat levels most of the time. Mild and then “Give me the hottest you got!” Mild they usually eat in the privacy of their own home, and Xtra Xtra Hot they eat when they are with their buds around the fire station. You would be surprised how many firemen who have taken the “I bet you can’t eat a Habanero and not take a drink or eat anything for 10 minutes” bet and have lost. I would have to say I have been through and feel I have survived one of the toughest test markets you can experience.
In a big market full of salsas, what’s the best feature about your salsas that give them the best public appeal.
I feel one of the biggest features we have to offer, since we still make our salsa one batch at a time, is a consistency and taste that is hard to find in the market today. We combine and blend all of our ingredients to a texture that doesn’t compromise flavor. Our goal when fine-tuning our recipes was not to have one flavor just jump out and smack you in the face. We wanted to have a nice blended salsa that didn’t give you the willie chillies for biting into large chunks of produce or salsa unable to stay on your chip. Our goal was a happy medium and we feel we have found that.
Tell us about the challenge of going from making one batch at a time to mass-market production.
Definitely a big challenge, and a challenge we are facing at this time. We definitely haven’t followed the norm on how a lot of companies started out. We have held on to all operations from produce selection to delivery. Going through what we have in our 1st year has made us appreciate and take pride in what we are doing and have accomplished, compared to having someone else dictating our style and direction. Our goal is to continue to keep control on all aspects of production and operations to maintain the highest quality. Keeping that control and not looking to outsource will keep an assurance of consistency and quality that we feel will be hard to rival.
It’s all right for the kitchen and equipment to get bigger, as long as you keep the same consistency and quality that got you the bigger kitchen and equipment.
Anything new cookin’ in the firehouse for Big Dawg Salsa?
We have a new flavor coming out for the Fiery Foods Show in March in Albuquerque, called “Flat-Lime” which will be a Lime and Cilantro salsa, medium heat, made with our original recipe (look us up at the show and we will explain the name). We are in the process of scheduling to be at the Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival in August, and in September at Zestfest in Fort Worth (since that’s in our backyard) and also the Houston Hot Sauce Festival. We have another new flavor Chipotle – “Smoke Showing” salsa that will come out during the year, plus this year will be our first time to enter for Chili Pepper Awards and Scovie Awards. We have a busy and fun filled year ahead. Not to forget we still haven’t started to market the other half of our company, which is seasonings and sauces. We also will continue to give a portion of the proceeds of each jar to the Student Ministry of Shady Oaks Baptist Church to continue to assist the kids in going to camp and other events. As we say at Big Dawg Salsa – “Betcha get caught licking the bowl!”.
So what’s in all this stuff? An Ingredient List!
Slobber Sauce: ketchup, mustard, chipotle peppers, onion, garlic, sea salt, black pepper, natural mesquite smoke, and other spices
Texas Black Bean Caviar: tomatoes, black beans, corn, jalapeno peppers, onions, chipotle peppers, garlic, cilantro, apple cider vinegar, lime, natural mesquite smoke flavor, salt, red pepper, and other spices
Burn Ur Face Off! (Habanero): tomatoes, onions, jalapeno peppers, habanero peppers, garlic, cilantro, vinegar, lime, salt, red pepper, and other spices
Slobber Sauce: This sauce is a little bit of a doppleganger. It can be whatever you want it to be. Smoky enough to serve as a BBQ-type sauce, tasty enough to use a sandwich condiment, and spicy enough to please your average chilehead, it really is a multi-purpose sauce. It has the consistency of ketchup, so it’ll stick to whatever you want. It was heavenly as a condiment on a cheesesteak sandwich, this would be a great sauce to marinate your ribs with or use to make a great chilehead meatloaf. This sauce is a jack-of-all trades! Versatility is a great attribute to have, as it will make your sauce get used up that much quicker!
Texas Black Bean Caviar: Admittedly, I’m a bit more critical of milder salsas because of my preference for heat. That being said, this one’s decent. What I liked was that it has a nice fresh smell and taste, and the beans & corn made it more stick-to-your-ribs eating than your average salsa. A little extra saltiness was the only thing I didn’t like, but it wasn’t off-putting at all to me. The consistency was about right, and for milder salsa…it was pretty decent and worth a try.
Burn Ur Face Off! (Habanero): I’m so glad they sent us the top of their heat scale when it comes to salsa! Despite its title, my face managed to survive the tasting without any noticeable scorch marks. This has great jalapeno flavor to it, which is quickly overwhelmed by the broad habanero heat. It was a little thin in consistency, but did not detract from regular chip & dip eating nor from being spooned over some of my fave food dishes. Hot and a bit addicting for those chileheads who like the heat, this one is a good, solid salsa. Thumbs up.
Slobber Sauce: My first taste of this made me think of our time in Belgium, and how this sauce would be the perfect dipping sauce for frites…and that’s before I saw their recommendation to use this sauce with fries!! The smokiness seemed a little pronounced to me, which made this sauce seem to be a match for any kind of meat, BBQ in particular. The Big Dawg website also suggests it would be good as a marinade, and I totally agree. Whatever use you have for this sauce, it will probably do the job pretty well.
Texas Black Bean Caviar: I like mild salsas quite a bit, and those that use beans & corn have always been a fave. This salsa tastes so fresh, as mentioned above, and that is the quality I liked most. Yes, it does seem a tad bit salty, but I didn’t think it detracted much from the great taste. The great thing about mild salsas if they’re good is that you can always make them spicier if you like…and this one is good.
Burn Ur Face Off! (Habanero): The spicier salsas can sometimes be a little hard for me to eat, but this one had a nice steady burn which I liked. Delightfully tasty, this is a good one for the chilehead crowd. I could see eating a jar of this with a bag of chips in one sitting.
Want to review Big Dawg’s products for yourself? Go here and leave your own opinion:
Don’t just take our word for it! Here are some online reviews of these sauces:
Apparently, we must be the first ones to feature & review these products. Perhaps this will start a trend for the nice folks at Big Dawg Salsa.
Give these reviewers a shout and ask them to review Big Dawg’s products as well.