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November 13, 2018 7:57 AM   Subscribe

Do you like hot sauce? I mean, do you really like hot sauce? No, I mean, do you have a collection of more than 8,600 bottles of hot sauce in your living room?
posted by Etrigan (32 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Red Hot Chilli Peppers of the world, unite
posted by growabrain at 8:15 AM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

It's disappointing that there's often such macho posturing involved in hot sauce because there really is a huge range of options.

I find it really difficult to find a hot sauce that is good, one that isn't a Tabasco-style salt focus, pain-spicy for kicks, or blended salsa in a different container. Maybe the range here is bad, maybe I'm looking at the wrong places, but I do believe that you could collect 9k bottles and feel the differences were significant and worthwhile.

Once a year Aldi stocks the dubiously named "Mama Africa's Zulu Habanero, Taste The Warmth of Africa", and I buy a couple of bottles because it seems to be like nothing else on the market here.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 8:34 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

Is this where we recommend our favourites? Cholula is really good, not too hard to find, and inexpensive. It has some heat but isn't a pain bomb, has a lot of complex flavour and goes well on almost everything. If I had only one hot sauce, that would be the one.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:40 AM on November 13, 2018 [10 favorites]

I love hot sauces, but I would counter that the person in this article likes collecting hot sauces more than eating hot sauces.
posted by terrapin at 8:43 AM on November 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

My favourite thing about Firehouse subs are all the hot sauces they have on offer, but this dude's living room blows that out of the water. I would love to be able to eat there and be free to try any and all the sauces. Hot sauce is really good and goes on any meal and I like trying new ones.
posted by GoblinHoney at 8:48 AM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have a thousand bottle or so collection. The collection builds itself. I never buy any as, over the years, it has become a matter of pride among my friends who travel to return with the most obscure and exotic sauces to add to the collection.

"I find it really difficult to find a hot sauce that is good, one that isn't a Tabasco-style salt focus, pain-spicy for kicks, or blended salsa in a different container."

The best I have ever had is The S-Bend Hot Pepper Sauce, an old-fashioned yellow mustard-habanero-something bajan sauce that was made, and only available, in Barbados by E. Parris & Son. Alas, it is now only available on a by-request basis which, in practice, seems to mean it is no longer made at all. Although it is very hot it is flavorful and particularly good on take-out Chinese BBQ pork.
posted by bz at 9:00 AM on November 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

Cholula is really good

Agreed! My partner and I generally have a random mix of anywhere between three and twelve small bottles of hot sauces we found and thought worth trying, but we rarely re-purchase any of those (in part because we often pick them up while traveling, but also because it's about the fun of a new flavor). On the other hand, we also always keep a stable of large bottles of Sriracha, Cholula, and Tabasco; if any of those are low, it's grocery time. And we always have gochujang, but that's mostly for kimchi making, we don't usually put it directly on meals.
posted by solotoro at 9:04 AM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

There is a band in CO called (ugh) Elway and we saw them at The Fest this year. Hustle as bands must they made a hot sauce to sell at their merch booth. It's a garlicky scotch bonnet sauce that is AMAZING. I'm saying Marie Sharp's tier and those are not words spoken lightly.

If you ever see Elway come to your town forgive the name and get some good music and hot sauce.
posted by East14thTaco at 9:05 AM on November 13, 2018

I've never understood the obsession with hot sauce collecting, especially the ones that tout scoville units. I keep a bottle of Valentina, bottle of Cholula, sambal oelek and a token bottle of sriracha at home that covers like 90% of everything I need. I really can't Tabasco because it's more vinegar than hot sauce.

We do ferment our own made from habeneros and nettles though and it's spectacular. I recently made some bbq sauce out of that and my homemade ketchup and it was great on bbq oysters, though that could be a function of grilling them on a beach 1/4 mile from where they came from.
posted by mikesch at 9:06 AM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Do any hot sauce collectors include any of the Asian hot sauce/chili sauce categories in their collections? I've lately been using various Lao Gan Ma products in place of traditional bottled hot sauce on my sandwich or rice & beans and highly recommend it.

My current favorite for traditional hot sauce, though, is Mabel's
posted by Jon_Evil at 9:17 AM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I really can't Tabasco because it's more vinegar than hot sauce.

Sure, but there are lots of recipes that call for vinegar. I mostly keep it around for making tomato sauce.
posted by sfenders at 9:25 AM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

"Do any hot sauce collectors include any of the Asian hot sauce/chili sauce categories in their collections?"

I have a very few but they aren't in the collection because they are not in a traditionally-shaped hot sauce bottle. Call it superficial but a key aspect of the collection is its aesthetics and sauces in jars don't pass the looks test.
posted by bz at 9:33 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

I really like hot sauces and the best part is the variety. The hottest I've come cross is this one, "Ai Ai" from Paladin in Portugal, but it's just burn your face hot, not as tasty really as some others.
posted by chavenet at 9:39 AM on November 13, 2018

I always go for Tapatío for burritos, but Cholula, Marie Sharps, Pickapeppa, Pickapeppa Hot, a local mango-habanero sauce, sriracha, sambal olek, chili-garlic paste, gochujang, toban-djan, and Thai sweet chili sauce all have their place on my refrigerator door (and occupy pretty much one whole door's worth of shelves), and get used regularly depending on what I'm making or my mood. But it's definitely a working collection—I've never really felt the urge to collect unopened bottles like the subject of the post. But I do feel the urge to get and try another kind whenever I'm passing through the hot sauce isle at the store.
posted by JiBB at 9:48 AM on November 13, 2018

"... but it's just burn your face hot ... "

A key thing to look for in the ingredients list is "pepper extract" which is, pretty much, weapons-grade capsaicin added purely for the scovilles/heat. I consider those sauces to be novelty, rather than food, items.
posted by bz at 9:49 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

My favorite hot sauce by far is one I can no longer get. A restaurant called "Salsa" in Asheville NC had an amazing house sauce made by the owner/chef that used smoked peppers, garlic, carrots, and I forget what else. You used to be able to order a few bottles from them, but apparently that's no longer true.

I'd be willing to pay an Asheville Mefite handsomely to smuggle out a couple bottles and mail them to me....
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:10 AM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Due to a somewhat over-enthusiastic mail order club and some poor communication on our part, we ended up with something like four dozen bottles of hot sauce last year. We're now down to the last stragglers. It's been a real education though. There's a whole universe of different flavours our there from the clean heat of the hotter peppers, the warm heats of smoked peppers, floral, vegetal and herbals many use. Hots that aren't just capsicum, but peperines and wasabi and horseradishes and pimentos.

One of our favourites is Diemen's from Australia, that contains the titular Diemen pepper berry as well as Habanero.

Carrot-based hot sauces were a popular surprise too, like Yellowbird and Secret Aardvark.
posted by bonehead at 10:11 AM on November 13, 2018

I've met the second collector listed in the article, Chip Hearn, at his store on the outskirts of Rehoboth Beach. He openly agreed with me that beyond a certain point, saucemaking becomes a can-you-top-this chemistry battle rather than a process of making hotter things that also taste good. As bz noted above, there is a gigantic difference between sauces made from naturally hot peppers, the habanero / scotch bonnet being the hottest you're likely to find in your local grocery store, and 'pepper extract' concoctions that could warm up a swimming pool.

If you're looking for new sauces, the field is huge and swarmed with contenders. Think about not only heat level -- what's the hottest kind of pepper you've ever had and enjoyed?, but also considerations like what you're going to use it on, whether you want smokier or fresher peppers, and what kind of other ingredients should be prominent. Heavy on the garlic? A citrusy base? Something with banana in it for more Caribbean fare, or honey for sweetness? A blend of influences? Raw peppery heat in your face? Is this going to be sucked up directly off of chips, used as a condiment, as part of a sauce, a little, a lot?

When in doubt, start low and naturally based.
posted by delfin at 10:20 AM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

My current favorite is Secret Aardvark down in Portland. It's pleasantly warm but not overwhelming, and with a very tomato-and-vegetable richness to it. (Bonus, it's available on Amazon which means that I can recommend it to people and they can actually get it vs. "Hey, there's this awesome PNW hot sauce, but you'll never find it")
posted by CrystalDave at 10:55 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have fans of Torchbearer in the family. My 14-y.-o. will casually stroll up to their booth and pop a sample of their hottest offerings into his mouth, and all the adults are like "YOU'LL PUT YOUR EYE OUT, KID!"

I had a good year for Carolina Reaper and scorpion peppers, but I was too lazy to make them into sauces; I'm drying them for a spicy sprinkle.

Etrigan, I forwarded this link to my spouse, and I think he just suffered an attack of hot sauce envy. Thanks!
posted by MonkeyToes at 10:56 AM on November 13, 2018

"My favorite hot sauce by far is one I can no longer get. A restaurant called "Salsa" in Asheville NC ..."

Hector's Sauces. The company is defunct but has plans to reopen someday according to this 2013 article about Hector Diaz, the owner of Salsa's.

Can't find anything more current.
posted by bz at 11:01 AM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Zhoug Sauce at Trader Joe's is my MVP this year. I've been putting and mixing it with everything and it hasn't failed me yet.
posted by FJT at 11:09 AM on November 13, 2018

Oh yeah, we just got zhoug from TJ's for the first time this past week! I think of it as more a dip than a sauce, at least we were sure eating it straight on chips for the most part anyway, but fair enough, "sauce" is right there in the name. It's definitely got both a pleasant warmth and a lot of interesting flavor. Worked a treat when I was making a pico de gallo and didn't have any cilantro, too.
posted by solotoro at 11:17 AM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

has plans to reopen someday

I've seen that article, yeah. Knowing Hector, "someday" won't be soon - if ever. :(
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:41 AM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I love scotch bonnet sauce; it goes with pretty much everything. I even tried it on Chinese food once and it worked perfectly. At the other end of the enjoyment scale, a drop of the hottest sauce on offer at a Toronto BBQ place on the end of a toothpick was enough to make me think I was having a seizure; I sweated uncontrollably for an hour and when we left the restaurant and walked out into a typical February night I immediately started violently shivering. Didn't start to feel normal again for a couple of hours. Wish I could remember which type/brand it was so I could warn others.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:12 PM on November 13, 2018

"... a drop of the hottest sauce on offer at a Toronto BBQ place on the end of a toothpick was enough to make me think I was having a seizure ...

Yeah, this is what I mean by "weapons-grade capsaicin" pepper extract sauces. They aren't much good for anything other than tear gas. In your case it sounds as though it was just the extract in an oleoresin preparation.
posted by bz at 2:39 PM on November 13, 2018

My current favorite is Secret Aardvark down in Portland.

I've been liking this one a lot, too. Hot enough to have a bit of burn, but not overwhelming and with lots of flavor.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:08 PM on November 13, 2018

Tapatio, Cholula, Valentina (the normal version, not the black jar, because I don't hate myself), sambal-olek, gochujang, Sriratcha, Frank's Red Hot, and a blended can of Herdez's chipotles in adobo sauce are all my standard fridge stock. Unfortunately, I'm currently living in a country that doesn't seem to sell ANY pre-packaged hot sauce of any kind, and it's breaking my heart. Can cholera survive hot sauce? (Asking in case I decide to buy locally made stuff)
posted by hasna at 2:53 AM on November 14, 2018

In recent years I've developed a taste for the chilies, putting habanero in everything when I can get it. So I figured a trip on my lunch break to the nearby supermarket with a 6x6' section of shelf dedicated to hot sauce was within my entertainment budget for today. I diligently tried to remember a few of the recommendations in here, and by the time I got there some of them coalesced in my mind into a mantra of "Bear the torch, Valentina, for Secret Aardvark Zhoug". But among the hundreds of options on display, none of those were there. This being Canada, I suppose only the ones whose manufacturers or distributers have gone to the trouble of making bilingual labels make it in from the States, which is probably not many of them. That's fine, it seems to me, not every brand name needs to be available everywhere. Chili sauce looks like the last bastion of free market inventiveness in the grocery store outside of local produce, with plenty of Canadian and Quebecois makers of the stuff to choose from.

So I got some L'Ambigue ghost pepper sauce. At first taste, I like it a lot. I sincerely hope that I don't end up with a whole living room full of hot sauces now.
posted by sfenders at 10:09 AM on November 14, 2018

hot sauce is perishable, it denatures over time. This is a hoard not a collection.
posted by subtle_squid at 5:35 AM on November 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seems like by that logic, almost any collection would be a "hoard." Everything is perishable given a sufficient length of time, and nothing in a collection is being used for its intended purpose as long as it's in that collection. Unless it's like baseball cards or pogs I guess.
posted by solotoro at 11:55 AM on November 16, 2018

It's all about the label art.
posted by bz at 7:30 PM on November 17, 2018

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