My introduction to these sauces and products came as an evolution-like process. First I saw the media articles come rolling across my computer screen. Then came the impressive list of awards through the Fiery Food Challenge and Scovie competitions. I even read a review or two about the sauces on another site which does reviews on hot sauces and spicy foods (there are others?). Finally, out of the Internet ether came an offer from Chef Bud Selmi himself of Sizzlin Sauces asking us to try his humble products and to allow us our own say about them.
Sizzlin Sauces actually hails from the great state of New Hampshire. Besides its nickname as the “Granite State” and being known for snowy winters, great places to ski, and the birthplace of Adam Sandler (my trivial knowledge has no limits to its depth about stuff like that), it also didn’t really have a reputation as a hotbed (no pun intended) of hot sauces and spicy food. That is, until now.
Chef Bud is a pretty interesting guy. We don’t know too many chefs in the hot sauce business, so we dialed him up (that is, sent an email) and asked him to tell us a little about himself, his products, and how he went about making New Hampshire a place on the hot sauce map….
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. How did you get become a lover of things hot & spicy?
I have always been a lover of Hot and Spicy food items. For years I grew my own Hot Peppers. Back in 2000 a close friend introduced me to friends of his who had started an online Pepper Plant business – Cross Country Nurseries. That year I purchased some plants, had a bumper crop of Habaneros, and then had to do something with a whole bunch of peppers. So I made a batch of sauce, gave away a bunch and also sold some. 6 weeks later the sauce was all gone. The next summer I purchased a green house and a whole bunch of pepper plants and started our business. We continue growing most of our own hybrid Habanero peppers.
As far as my background I am a Certified Chef through the American Culinary Federation. Although not formally schooled in the culinary field I apprenticed under several very talented chefs.
We noticed that ketchup is the first ingredient in all of your hot sauces. Was that by design or was that a happenstance in the creative process?
The “five mother sauces” as designated by Escoffier were:
Veloute – Stock thickened with Roux
Béchamel – Milk thickened with Roux
Tomato – Self Explanatory
Espagnole – Brown Sauces, made with Roux, veal stock, roasted veal bones and mire poix
Hollandaise – Heated Egg and Clarified butter.
Basically most all sauces are derived for one of the five Mother Sauces. Ketchup is just a variation of a basic Tomato Sauce. For many, many years Ketchup was America’s favorite number 1 Condiment of choice. Salsa has now taken over the First place honors, however Ketchup is still highly rated. Many Chefs utilize their culinary experiences to develop dishes which have layers of flavors, some subtle, some being bolder, which come together exhibiting a unique finished product. So having said that I decided to utilize Ketchup as one of my ingredients in the very first sauce recipe I came up with. Being pleased with those results helped me formulate the recipes for some of the other sauces using a variety of different ingredients.
Talk a little bit about your creative process with your products. Is it different for you as a chef than it would be for the average sauce maker?
Well from my perspective, I really can’t answer for someone else, I fall on my background as a chef to determine what I feel works well together as far flavors. However that is just my perspective, I’m sure if you asked 10 different sauce makers, you would probably get 10 different answers. People ask me all the time, how long did it take you to come up with these recipes? My answer always is “25 years”. 25 years to gain the Culinary knowledge which I utilize. As with anything if you think you know it all and are at the top of your field then you really are a fool. You can always learn something new, or be introduced to a new way to do something. My process has always been, lets create something I like and go from there. I continually get feedback from folks who say they really like and enjoy our products and flavor combinations, so that tells me we are doing something right.
We like the artwork on your sauce labels. Who made that and why did you choose those in particular?
As far as the labels go my father was an artist and perhaps some of my imaginative inspiration came from him. The original ideas where mine, my son Ryder, daughter Aly and wife Deb helped draw the label designs, which got passed onto Kristie Haupt who is our graphic artist.
What types of foods do you like best with your products and why? Any favorite recipes you’d care to recommend?
We do a monthly recipe newsletter( you may sign up for this service for free) and post them all here:
We try to show folks that Hot Sauce doesn’t always have to be just Hot or Hot with flavor. Utilizing Hot sauces
as part of the cooking process can add a lot of additional flavors to all sorts of recipes. One of my favorites is Chevre and Spinach Stuffed Chicken. I actually gave this recipe to the Chef who was doing the food for our daughter’s wedding. He liked the dish some much he asked me for permission to use it on his dinner menu(Recipe is here: http://www.sizzlinsauces.com/entrees.html). However there are lots of great recipe idea listed on our site.
If someone was interested in your products and had never heard of them before, which one sauce (or product) would you recommend to get them hooked onto your stuff?
Well not trying to blow my own horn, but Creepin Quag has now won a first place 2008 Golden Chile Award in Texas as well as a 2008 second place Scovie Award and a 2007 second place Scovie Award in New Mexico.
So if there is one product for someone to try, this is the one!
Anything new in the works for the Sizzlin Sauces product line?
Not at the moment. I do have several recipes for the future, however the costs involved in bringing new items to market, takes quite a bit of resources. So my feeling is to continue to do something very well, until the timing is right to expand our lineup.
List of ingredients and reviews
Spittin Fire: ketchup (tomato concentrate [tomatoes, distilled vinegar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, salt, spice, onion powder, natural flavors]), habanero peppers, onion, water, rice wine vinegar (water, rice, sugar, salt), hot sauce (aged cayenne red peppers, vinegar, water, salt, garlic powder), carrot juice, white wine, honey, lime juice, Dijon mustard (water, mustard seeds, vinegar, salt, sulfites [preservatives], extra virgin olive oil, garlic, black pepper, kosher salt
Papa Jack’s Buffalo Hot Sauce: ketchup (tomato concentrate [tomatoes, distilled vinegar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, salt, spice, onion powder, natural flavors]), steak sauce (tomato puree [water, tomato paste], distilled vinegar, corn syrup, salt, raisin paste, orange puree, spices and herbs, dried garlic and onion, caramel color, potassium sorbate, xanthan gum), habanero peppers, carrot juice, water, rice wine vinegar (water, rice, sugar, salt), hot sauce (aged cayenne red peppers, vinegar, water, salt, garlic powder), honey, white wine, Dijon mustard (water, mustard seeds, vinegar, salt, sulfites [preservatives], lime juice, garlic, Worcestershire sauce (vinegar, molasses, high fructose corn syrup, anchovies, water, onions, salt, garlic, tamarind concentrate, cloves, natural flavors, chili pepper extract), extra virgin olive oil, black pepper, kosher salt
Creeping Quag: ketchup (tomato concentrate [tomatoes, distilled vinegar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, salt, spice, onion powder, natural flavors]), habanero peppers, cranberries, carrot juice, honey, white wine, prickly pear cactus puree (prickly pear cactus fruit, cane sugar, malic acid, ascorbic acid), plum fruit conserve (plums, sugar, pectin [fruit], lemon juice concentrate, hot sauce (aged cayenne red peppers, vinegar, water, salt, garlic powder), lime juice, water, white balsamic vinegar, (wine vinegar, trebbiano grape must, contains naturally present sulfites), Dijon mustard (water, mustard seeds, vinegar, salt, sulfites [preservatives], extra virgin olive oil, black pepper, kosher salt
Howlin’ Hollar: ketchup (tomato concentrate [tomatoes, distilled vinegar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, salt, spice, onion powder, natural flavors]), habanero peppers, carrot juice, prickly pear cactus puree (prickly pear cactus fruit, cane sugar, malic acid, ascorbic acid), honey, pumpkin, white wine, hot sauce (aged cayenne red peppers, vinegar, water, salt, garlic powder), lime juice, water, white balsamic vinegar, (wine vinegar, trebbiano grape must, contains naturally present sulfites), passion fruit puree (passion fruit juice concentrate, filtered water), extra virgin olive oil, black pepper, kosher salt
Razing Cane garlic relish: garlic, rice wine vinegar (water, rice, sugar, salt), red bell pepper, green bell pepper, sugar, white wine, onion, lime juice, fruit pectin (water, fruit pectin, lactic and citric acid, potassium citrate, sodium benzoate), habanero peppers, citric acid
(A word about the ingredients: I feel that I have to weigh in on this one, because hot sauce “purists” will have a field day with these ingredients as there is no shortage of bad stuff like high fructose corn syrup and shelf-stabilizing preservatives. While trying not to be an apologist for this, they are in fact merely part of the household condiments (ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, etc) that were mixed to make these sauces. I think the same effect could have been gotten from using raw ingredients instead of mass-produced store-bought condiments from the middle aisles of the grocery store. That is ultimately the decision of the maker of the sauces, but I can’t help but give a down-check on these based upon their ingredients alone. The taste is, of course, another matter. Please read on.)
I’ve not been a big fan of ketchup for much of my whole adult life, and all these hot sauces has it listed as the first ingredient. In fact, all the sauces are concoctions that mix ketchup with a variety of other condiments, with some added habanero peppers and spices for good taste. Is that a winning idea? The critics have said so, but what about my take on them:
Spittin Fire: This sauce has been a crowd favorite everywhere it’s been with me. From the graphics (a new label?) to the title to the overall taste, it’s been a winner. A very ketchup-dominated sauce in terms of aroma and taste, it has a healthy habanero kick to it. In fact, I was unsure if this sauce was the same formula as the original one I read about which had a blend of fresh Red Savina, Neon Yellow, Golden and Chocolate habanero peppers. The habanero gives it a definite smoldering heat which builds as you eat it…perhaps up to a 7/10 on the heat scale. Not overwhelmingly hot by any stretch, but it will get your attention. The sauce had great utility, and I liked easily as much poured over my food as I did mixed in to things such as soups/stews and other entree sauces. I couldn’t help but be struck by the montage of household condiments that went into making this sauce, but the combination is truly better than the some of its parts. This sauce evaporated quickly with my reviewing experiments.
Papa Jack’s Buffalo Hot Sauce:
Papa Jacks combines some very unique flavors along with a blend of Habanero Peppers to enhance any grilled food items. Especially designed for your steaks, it goes just as well with chicken, pork or even grilled veggies.
Very similar to the the Spitting Fire sauce, plus the addition of steak sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Again, you may or may not like those sauces by themselves, but Chef Bud mixed up a pretty mean hot sauce with this one. It both smells and tastes a lot like steak sauce, but with an added habanero oomph that only a chilehead can truly appreciate. A little bit thicker than the fruity sauces from Sizzlin Sauces, this one has that “cling” factor that lets more of it end up your mouth and not in a puddle on your plate.
While designed for steaks (and makes for a mean skirt steak marinade) and other meats, don’t sell this one short by saving it just for cooked animal flesh. I poured this over an entire meal…from meat to veggies to even my garden salad. Great flavor adds to all! It’s even a darn good addition to your favorite bowl of chili. Certainly the second crowd fave after the Spittin Fire sauce, and the nearly empty bottle I now have proves that. With a medium-hot level of capsaicin hit, it’s a very accessible sauce for the masses. Tasty!
Creepin’ Quag™ combines cranberries, plums and prickly pear cactus with Red Savina Habanero, Francesca Habanero to create this extremely flavorful sauce. The critics are raving about this remarkable sauce. The story continues: “The bogness creature lives down in the cranberry quag. He’s corrupted down below the Hollar!everything So when we were creepin’ down by the quag we stole some of his craggily plums and twisted cranberries and that’s how we made this unique sauce. Made with of course Habaneros, twisted cranberries, craggily plums and prickly pear cactus. I gotta tell ya, this job sure ain’t easy. We barely made it outta there! Great with Chicken, Pork or whatever needs some great flavor!
It only took a few small tastes to realize why this sauce is an award-winner. One does not usually think of plums & cranberries being a good hot sauce component, as sour & tart don’t seem to be a good combo. However, this sauce does it with aplomb. Flavor first and heat second, this one has just enough fruit flavor such that people who tasted it kept asking me, “Does that really have fruit in it? It’s not too sweet!” A little more cooking sauce than some of the others, this one was much better poured over food so you don’t lose the subtleties of the flavor. I tried in mixed into some foods such a veggie medleys and soups, and the fruitiness just didn’t play out as well. The recommendations for chicken and pork are dead-on excellent, and this made a perfect addition to your grilled chicken (or fried or sauteed or broiled…get the hint). We even tried it on baked fish and it did well with that as well. I might have liked it to be tweaked a little hotter, but the flavor and consistency more than made up for this perceived foible. A good, good sauce.
Howlin’ Hollar: It’s ketchup meets hot sauce meets two kinds of fruit puree (prickly pear cactus and passionfruit), and the combination really works.
a spicy fruity sweet sauce which blends Red Savina Habanero, Francesca Habanero with puree of pumpkin, prickly pear cactus and passion fruit. This sauce really lends itself well for Chicken, Pork and any Seafood dishes!
There just isn’t another sauce I could compare this to…except maybe the Creeping Quag. A little smoother but slightly more sweet, I can see why this sauce would be good for fish or any other light meat. This pumpkin-orange sauce is a medium-hot sauce that has a little more vinegary bite than the other sauces, but still maintains those perfect hot sauce qualities you want: great consistency/easy pourage, good mouth feel, and a lingering heat despite the fruit elements within it.
This sauce was good on both pork and lamb dishes made here. Nothing fancy to the recipes, really…just cook the meat and pour over as much of this sauce as you like. Again, this sauce (like the Creeping Quag) was one that I didn’t like as much mixed into foods. Just pour, dip, or sop it up off your plate. Just don’t waste a drop!
Razing Cane garlic relish: This one really surprised me with its taste. I kept expecting it to be a little tart with vinegar or carry that all-too-familiar garlicky bite, it had neither. That is much to its credit. Filled with whole pieces of garlic, it can be used as its own side dish…but I rather like to mix it, or even blend it, for a finer relish that was good spread over your sandwich, spread over meat after cooking, or even folded into salads (such as tuna or chicken) to add some garlicky zip and flavor. Once you try it with cheese & crackers, two things might quickly happen. #1 is that you may devour the whole jar in one sitting. #2 is that you may find yourself rather selfish and decline to share this with your party/dinner guests. The garlic is offset by the sweetness of the bell peppers and the onion bite, and is a wonderfully balanced mixture. Quite a departure from the flavor of the above hot sauces, but well worth keeping in your fridge for occasional usage.
More articles and reviews to read about Sizzlin Sauces
Again, you can find some great recipes to use with these sauces by clicking HERE and going to the Sizzlin Sauces website.
The final word: These are products well worth trying. If you do, let Chef Bud know that Joe from the Hot Zone Online sent ya!