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Cool Careers: Local hot sauce is catching tongues

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“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” ~ Confucius

Most people who have started a business and have had success have two things in common: They come up with a product or service that fills a need, and they are passionate about that product or service.
Think about that for a moment. Jim Koch, the entrepreneur responsible for starting Sam Adams, travels the world looking for ingredients for his beer. Sam Calagione, of Dogfish Head Brewing in Delaware, researches ancient history to recreate beer styles long-forgotten. It is an understatement to say that Steve Jobs was passionate about everything Apple. Recently, I sat down with two men who have that same glimmer in their eyes when they talk about hot sauce.

Christopher Ethier and Bob Eckel are chefs in the kitchen at Pleasant Valley Country Club in Sutton. They are both huge fans of hot sauce; they even have a collection of hot sauces, which they call “The Library.” As hot sauce aficionados, they noticed that they had to add ingredients to most hot sauces, since they were all about the burn and lacked any real flavor. What troubled them even more was the inclusion of non-natural ingredients like extracts and powders.

HotSauceCEthier and Eckel began to play with ingredients to make a sauce with both heat and flavor. Their goal was to make a sauce that would blow all the others out of the water just using all-natural ingredients. As they began experimenting, they discovered you could get a great burn from the pepper alone and that roasting different vegetables and adding citrus perfectly showcased the natural flavor and heat of the pepper.

Their first sauce was a honey-habanero mixture. It was met with rave reviews from everyone that tried it, even some well-respected local chefs. After hearing many times that they should bottle it, Ethier and Eckel decided to start Cat Tongue Brand Hot Sauces. Cat Tongue Brand Honey Habanero Sauce has been selling as fast as it can be bottled. I found it to be quite hot, yet sweet and complex. One of the more interesting sauces currently in development is a sauce using the ghost pepper, which is one of the hottest peppers on the planet. It will be interesting to see what ingredients they use to balance the heat.

HotSauceAIn talking to Ethier, I found it interesting how fast Cat Tongue was approved for sale. Usually sauces have to be tweaked in order to meet a specific ph acidity level to be shelf stable. Their original recipe, with all-natural ingredients, met and exceeded the government’s standards. The sauce you buy today is the actual, unadulterated sauce ~ the same one two passionate guys dreamt up for themselves.

Cat Tongue had a booth at the Phantom Gourmet BBQ & Music Festival in June. Cat Tongue hot sauces are available at cat-tongue.com, as well as Goretti’s supermarket in Millbury. The website also has recipes, including a favorite of mine ~ Sticky Bang Bang Wings.

By Kerry Cyganiewicz

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