Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Best-Selling Meats & Cheeses for 2012

Country ham
You probably already know that the Carolina Sauce Company offers a huge selection of hot sauces, barbecue sauces, condiments and other zesty seasonings -- but did you know that we also offer a wide variety of meats and cheeses? We've partnered with specially selected producers, distributors and importers of country ham, bacon, specialty meats and even exotic & game meats plus fine cheeses from the US and around the world. Below are the top five best-selling meats and cheeses for 2012 at the Carolina Sauce Company:

1. North Carolina produces some of the best country ham in the nation, so it should come as no surprise that NC country ham was top-selling meat last year. We are proud to offer award-winning, traditionally cured country ham from Johnston County Hams in Smithfield, NC, renowned for its rich and complex depth of flavor and buttery texture. From whole hams to sliced, bone-in or boneless, cooked or uncooked, and even rare Mangalitsa ham, they have something for every taste and budget.
Bacon Freak Bacon.  MMM...Bacon
2. Gourmet & Specialty Bacon from our partner Bacon Freak came in second place. They offer a seemingly infinite variety of bacon, including traditional hickory smoked, nitrite-free, cracked pepper garlic, maple smoked, honey BBQ rubbed, spicy chipotle, mesquite smoked, vanilla bourbon, cinnamon sugar, applewood smoked, summer herb and other flavors & seasonings. They also carry specialty cuts including old-fashioned country bacon, center-cut Canadian style bacon, gourmet Private Reserve and even all-natural lamb bacon.

Spanish cheese
3. For years Spanish cheese remained in the shadow of better-known cheeses from France, Italy and England. But recently, people have begun discovering the wonderful flavors and textures of cheeses from Spain. Last year, our Spanish Cheese Assortment was the third most popular meat or cheese product (and the #1 best-selling cheese) at Carolina Sauce. This gift set comes with a half-pound portion of each of the following classic cheeses from Spain: Manchego, Mahon, Idiazabal and Murcia al Vino.

4. Bacon Bundles & sampler packs were a very popular gift last year, no doubt making many a baconista very happy. From themed bacon bundles and gourmet sample packs to gift boxes that also contain bacon apparel and bacon novelties, and even "bacon of the month" clubs, you can find a bacon gift for virtually any occasion and holiday.

North Carolina country ham
5. Curemaster's Reserve Ham from Johnston County Hams has won national and international accolades for its incomparable flavor and texture. Ham connoisseurs familiar with Iberian ham and other fine pork delicacies will appreciate the deeply nuanced flavors in this gourmet smoked ham from North Carolina. It's the perfect special-occasion ham for celebrations, elegant parties and fine dining experiences at home.

Zestfully yours,

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Smoky, Spicy Black-Eyed Pea "Chili"

Black-eyed peas chili
This isn't a traditional chili but the spicy, smoky flavors are similar to those in chili, and it's just as satisfying on a cold winter day. My recipe is vegan/vegetarian if made with vegetable broth, but you can certainly make it with chicken or beef broth and even add browned ground or cubed meat (beef, chicken, pork, venison) if you're not vegetarian or vegan. Likewise, you can serve it with any of your favorite chili toppings like shredded cheese, sour cream, sliced green onions, etc.

This recipe will easily serve 6 to 8, and if you have leftovers simply store them in the refrigerator -- the flavors will develop overnight and it'll be at least as tasty (if not more) the next day. It's a great "chili" to serve for the Big Game or anytime you're craving a hearty, spicy-smoky meal.

sweet peppers
1 lb dried black-eyed peas, picked over & rinsed
2 carrots, peeled & chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 small onion, chopped,
4 small sweet peppers OR 1 bell pepper
3 dried ancho chiles, toasted*
6 garlic cloves, minced
5 cups broth (vegetable, beef or chicken)
28oz can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained
4 tsp chili powder
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp dried oregano
2 to 4 tsp (to taste) chipotle hot sauce (I use 4 tsp Dog-Gone Chipotle Sauce)
Salt to taste (I added 1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt)

recipe for vegetarian chili
*You can skip this step if you wish, but toasting the dried peppers brings out a rich depth of flavor that's well worth the few minutes it takes. If you've never toasted dried chile peppers before, read my post on how to toast dried peppers.

Place all ingredients except the salt in your crock pot and cook for 5 to 6 hours on High or 8 to 10 hours on Low, until the black-eyed peas are tender and nearly all the liquid has been absorbed. Taste and add salt if desired and/or more hot sauce.  FYI when I made this with 4 teaspoons of Dog Gone Chipotle Hot Sauce, the chili had a nice warm, mildly spicy kick without being fiery-hot.

Dog-gone chipotle hot sauce
Zestfully yours,

PS:  Dog-Gone Sauces are all-natural gourmet barbecue and hot sauces created by a foodie and animal-lover. One hundred percent of the after-tax proceeds from each sale of Dog-Gone Sauces is donated to animal rescue groups, shelters and other resources to help save homeless pets. You can buy Dog Gone Sauces from the Carolina Sauce Company as part of our Sauce for a Cause program.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Top 10 Best-Selling Zesty Snacks & Sweets for 2012

habanero popcorn
If you're looking for some crowd-pleasing snacks to serve for the big game, look no further than our list of 2012's best-selling snacks at the Carolina Sauce Company. There's a little bit of everything on this list, from fiery popcorn & potato chips to BBQ beef jerky, sweet & spicy candy, and feisty pickled snacks.

1. Ass Kickin' Habanero Popcorn: This seasoned microwave popcorn is spiced with real ground habanero pepper powder for a fiery hot burn and savory Southwestern flavor. You'll want your cold beverage handy when snacking on this popcorn.

2. Dave's Insanity Popcorn: One of our best-selling snacks of all time, this is quite possibly the hottest popcorn on earth. It'll blow away your taste buds if you're not careful. Its flavor is slightly exotic, almost like curry, and the burn is unforgiving. Keep the milk nearby in case you need to put out the fire in your mouth.

habanero jelly beans
3. Blair's Death Rain Habanero Potato Chips: Seriously fiery but surprisingly flavorful, these all-natural kettle-cooked potato chips are intensely hot but quite tasty. Just the right amount of paprika, garlic, other spices and natural smoke flavor make them irresistible to fans of fiery foods.

4. Ass Kickin' Jelly Beans: Don't let their sweet and innocent appearance fool you -- inside each jelly bean lurks a hot & spicy center that suddenly strikes after a couple of seconds. If you have a candy thief in your office or workplace, pour these in an unlabeled jar and your problem will disappear (unless, of course, your thief happens to be a chilehead).

5. Crazy Jerry's Lizard Eyes Habanero Stuffed Olives: Instead of the traditional mild pimiento filling, these plump and meaty olives are stuffed with sliced habanero peppers, making them HOT. Whether you munch on them out of the jar, plop them in your martini, chop and add to salads or sandwiches, or serve on a pickle tray, these spicy-hot olives pack a powerful wallop.

chipotle potato chips
6. Blair's Death Rain Chipotle Potato Chips: Milder in heat than the habanero chips and with that unmistakable smoky chipotle flavor, these kettle-cooked potato chips deliver mouthwatering flavor with a peppery kick. Serve with your favorite cool dips, or with sandwiches, Mexican, Tex-Mex or southwestern foods.

7. Tabasco Cinnamon Candy: These unique little cinnamon-flavored red gems are sweet like ordinary candy but with an intense, spicy-hot cinnamon taste. Keep them away from little kids, pets, and anyone who doesn't like the powerful zip of cinnamon.

8. Bone Suckin' Beef Jerky: This all-American, all-natural beef jerky has that deliciously sweet & tangy barbecue flavor that keeps you coming back for more. They finish with just a little bit of a peppery kick, making them feisty rather than fiery. It's the perfect low-carb, high-protein, gluten-free snack.

spicy garlic mushrooms
9. Ass Kickin' Pistachios: Meaty, premium pistachios are roasted and salted, then seasoned with a generous sprinkling of fiery habanero powder and other ground chiles for serious fiery heat and palate-pleasing savory flavor. A pleasant alternative to spicy peanuts, and a favorite of pistachio addicts who also like hot & spicy foods.

10. Crazy Jerry's Boot Scootin' Garlic Mushrooms: These sassy pickled button mushrooms get their perky medium kick from jalapeno peppers, and pungent garlic provides zesty flavor. They're marinaded in red wine vinegar for a richer, mellower flavor than white-vinegar pickles. Delicious on a snack tray, sliced for salads & sandwiches, and even as a pizza topping.

Zestfully yours,

PS: Browse our complete selection of spicy snacks for more options, including more popcorn flavors, a variety of seasoned peanuts, and more.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

How to Toast (Dry Roast) Dried Peppers

dried ancho chili peppers
Dried Ancho chiles, untoasted on left, toasted & chopped on right
Toasting dried chili peppers before you rehydrate or use them brings out a depth and complexity of flavor that's incomparable, including hints of subtle smokiness and mellow caramel notes that will enhance whatever recipe you're making.

Here are two simple ways to dry-roast or toast dried peppers. If you're toasting only 2 or 3 chiles, the stove-top method works very well -- just make sure to use a cast-iron skillet or anything other than a nonstick-coated pan. For toasting more than 2 or 3 chilies, I recommend the oven method. Either way, it only takes a few minutes and is well worth it. Be sure not to over-toast or burn them, because that can bring out harsh or bitter flavors. Toast only until the peppers are hot to the touch, with a slight change in color and pleasantly fragrant -- if you start smelling acrid odors, they've gone too long.

Stove method:  Heat an ungreased heavy-bottomed skillet or griddle over medium heat until hot. Add dried chilies in a single layer and toast for 1 to 2 minutes per side, pressing down with a spatula for more even toasting (the peppers will soften as they heat up). Toast until their color begins to change and they become aromatic. Remove from heat and let cool just enough to handle, then use kitchen scissors to snip off the top, cut lengthwise and remove the seeds and ribs.

Oven method: Preheat oven to 350°F. Place dried chiles on an ungreased baking sheet in a single layer and dry-roast (toast) until fragrant and hot to the touch, about 5 minutes -- they'll become pliable and you should see a slight change in color, maybe a few brownish spots, but they should not smell acrid or look burnt. Remove from oven and let cool just enough to handle, then use kitchen scissors to snip off the top, cut lengthwise and remove the seeds and ribs.

Zestfully yours,

PS: If you've always wanted to try dried chili peppers but aren't sure how to start, read my post on how to use dried peppers.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Top 10 Best-Selling Rubs & Seasonings for 2012

Bone Suckin' Seasoning Rub
Whether you use your smoker or outdoor grill year-round or enjoy seasoning your indoor cooking with BBQ flavor, our list of best-selling BBQ rubs and seasonings at the Carolina Sauce Company has something for every taste preference, from mild to fiery and sweet to savory. The top ten for 2012 are listed below, and you can see our entire selection on our BBQ Rubs & Seasonings page.

1. Bone Suckin' Rib Rub: A North Carolina favorite, this all-purpose dry rub deftly balances sweet and savory with a touch of pepper and spice for a food-friendly flavor that's sassy, not hot, so the whole family can enjoy it. Not only is it tasty on ribs (both beef and pork) but it's also delicious on chicken, chops, roasts, pork butt, London broil, brisket, and even shrimp, fish and veggies. Some people even sprinkle it on fries and popcorn instead of salt!

ground chipotle powder
2. Dave's Chile Today Chipotle Powder: This medium-hot, smoky seasoning is made from ground chipotles (smoked & dried jalapenos). It's essential if you want to make authentic Mexican and southwestern recipes, and adds deep, dimensional flavor to chili, burgers, meatloaf, rice & beans, stews and other hearty dishes.

3. Bad Byron's Butt Rub: This Texas-style barbecue rub is savory (not sweet) and spicy (not hot). If you enjoy smoking brisket, ribs and other meats, this is the rub for you. Sprinkle it on steaks, burgers and potato wedges before grilling for mouthwatering flavor.

4. Slap Ya Mama Cajun Seasoning, Black Pepper Blend: If you're a fan of Cajun or Creole cooking, this all-purpose seasoning from Louisiana will not disappoint. Experience the festive flavor of New Orleans when you use Slap Ya Mama in place of salt & pepper. And if you make gumbo, jambalaya, etouffee or shrimp & grits, you'll want this seasoning handy.

habanero seasoning from hell
5. Bone Suckin' HOT Seasoning Rub: With the same mouthwatering sweet-n-sassy flavor as the original Bone Suckin' Rib Rub but with additional hot peppers for a fiery kick, this spicy-hot barbecue rub will please chileheads and fans of hot & spicy foods. While it's just as versatile as the original, I like it best on red meat and other more robust foods.

6. Habanero Seasoning From Hell: As the name suggests, this seasoning blend is HOT. Dried chile peppers, including plenty of habaneros, have a starring role and are accompanied by garlic and other savory spices, but no sugar and no salt, which makes it a favorite of folks on low-carb and low-sodium diets.

7. Dave's Insanity Spice: From the same company that brought us Dave's Insanity Sauce, this seasoning is made from only two ingredients: Dried red savina habanero peppers (widely recognized as the hottest variety of habanero) and pepper extract to intensify the burn. 'Nuf said....

spicy chili mix
8. Ass Kickin' Chili Fixin's: This fiery, Southwestern style chili mix comes with two types of beans, classic chili spices, masa flour and ground habanero powder for plenty of spicy heat. All you have to do is add water (or beer) and cooked ground or cubed meat or poultry. Making hearty, flavor-packed chili has never been so easy!

9. Chile Pepper Republic Authentic Caribbean Jerk Rub: Jamaican allspice and other traditional herbs & spices are blended with dried chile peppers, garlic, salt and a pinch of sugar for authentic island flavor that will make your mouth sing. Sprinkle on chicken, fish, shrimp or any type of red meat and then refrigerate for 30 minutes (for fish & seafood) to overnight before cooking on the grill, stovetop or in the oven.

chipotle sauce
10. Simply Chili Select Chipotle Puree: A favorite of chefs and home cooks who appreciate the earthy, smoky flavor of chipotles, this all-natural puree is ideal for making mole sauce and other classic Mexican specialties. It's also excellent in chili, stews, casseroles, bean dishes, homemade barbecue sauce and other recipes.

Zestfully yours,

Friday, January 25, 2013

Last Day to Cash In on our January VIP Coupon Sale!

Carolina Sauce Company VIP Club
Click here to become a VIP
If you're a Carolina Sauce Company VIP, you've already received your special January VIP discount coupon for the Carolina Sauces online store.  This exclusive VIP discount expires at midnight EST tonight, so if you haven't gotten around to buying the zesty snacks, wing sauce, salsa or other condiments for the Big Game, today's your last chance to save money when you shop. And if you already used your coupon but realized you forgot to order that special sauce, don't worry, you can use it again today (all our VIP coupons are multiple-use until their expiration date).

If you're not already a Carolina Sauce VIP, would you like to be one, no strings attached?

If your answer is "Yes," simply send an email to me at that says "Sign Me Up!"

I'll reply with your special VIP Coupon code for January, and I'll add you to our VIP List so that you'll receive our FREE monthly newsletter with a new VIP-only discount each month. Our newsletter also includes new product reviews and a featured recipe or cooking tip, and it's sent only once a month (we won't bother you with any other emails or promotions, and we NEVER share your email address with anyone else).

Remember, our January VIP sale ends in less than 24 hours, so don't delay: Email me ASAP so that you can save today at our online store.

Zestfully yours,

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cuban Arroz con Pollo (Chicken & Rice)

Cuban recipe for arroz con pollo
My Mom makes the best Cuban chicken and rice ("arroz con pollo") on the planet. Honestly. And I'm not saying that just because she's my Mom. Go ask anyone who's had the pleasure of tasting her arroz con pollo and I'll bet you a case of your favorite hot sauce that they'll say the same thing. She's more than happy to share the "recipe," but there's only one problem: She doesn't use one. The ingredients are always the same, or so she claims: I've sometimes seen her squeeze lemon juice & the spices over the chicken and let it sit for 30 minutes before browning, but NOT always. Furthermore, she's never measured anything and yet she instinctively knows how to adjust the ingredient amounts and ratios regardless of how large a batch she's cooking. She relies on her decades of experience and always serves up a hearty feast.

One of my goals in life is to make an arroz con pollo that's as delectable and blissfully soul-satisfying as my Mom's. To that end, I practice as often as I can, using the ingredient list I've pried from my Mom and relying more on my senses than on precise measurements. Lately I've started taking the time to measure and document everything, including feedback on the results, and have used that data to tweak the recipe. Unfortunately, my Mom lives too far away to serve as a taste-tester, but if the feedback I've gotten from others is accurate, my Cuban arroz con pollo is pretty darn good, even if it's not exactly my Mom's.

Although my Mom uses a whole chicken cut into parts, I prefer to use thighs and legs exclusively. You could certainly use only breasts or even use boneless skinless parts, but I think you lose some flavor that way. Unless you consume NO alcohol, do not substitute water for the beer, because it's essential to the flavor of the dish. If you don't consume alcohol and need a substitute, I recommend low-sodium chicken broth. The following recipe serves 6 to 8, and leftovers taste even better the next day.

cooking arroz con pollo Cuban chicken & rice
Ready to serve
Approx. 2 lbs chicken parts
2 Tbs olive oil (I use Spanish olive oil)
2 bay leaves
1 Tbs dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sweet Spanish paprika ("Pimentón")*
1 tsp salt (I use kosher)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
4 medium tomatoes, chopped (OR 1 can diced tomatoes, 15-16oz, undrained)
Pinch of saffron
2 cups white rice (Arroz Carolina if available)
1 bottle of beer (nothing fancy or dark or too hoppy: a classic pilsner is a good choice)
1 1/4 cups water
1 1/2 cups frozen green peas, thawed (OR 1 can Green Giant very young small green peas, 15oz, drained)
2 whole Spanish fire-roasted red peppers aka "pimientos," cut into strips about 2" long and 1/2" wide**

*If unavailable, you can substitute other sweet (not spicy) paprika
**If unavailable, you can substitute Italian roasted red peppers or regular bottled roasted red peppers.

Heat the olive oil & bay leaves for a couple of minutes over medium-high heat in a very large, deep lidded skillet, Dutch oven or paella pan. Add chicken, season on both sides with oregano, cumin, paprika, salt & pepper, and brown on both sides. Add onion, garlic & bell pepper and saute until softened & onion is translucent. Add tomatoes & saffron and saute until the tomatoes break down (or 3-5 minutes if using canned). Stir in rice and saute for about 2 minutes, until all grains are coated and turning milky-white. Slowly pour in the beer & water, stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook at a very low simmer until the liquid is absorbed (about 35 to 40 minutes). Uncover, stir, taste for balance and add more salt/pepper if desired. Especially if using boneless chicken, it's ok for the chicken to be fall-apart tender. ***Note: If the rice has formed a crispy golden "crust" on the bottom of your pan, you have achieved Nirvana (trust me on this, the crust is quite tasty and highly desirable; when we were kids my sister & I used to fight over who would get the "raspa" or crust).

chicken and rice When the liquid has been fully absorbed, gently fold in the peas and cook on low until heated through (1-2 minutes). You can either fold in the roasted red pepper pieces at the same time as the peas for a "rustic" presentation when served on individual plates, or for "family style" service, arrange the arroz con pollo on a large serving platter with the pieces of chicken on top of the rice and the roasted red peppers decoratively placed on the exposed rice.

Zestfully yours,

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Top 10 Best-Selling Wing Sauces, Salsas & Condiments for 2012

blue crab salsa
Now's the time to start planning your menu for watching the Big Game, and we've got the zesty salsa, spicy wing sauces and full-flavored mustard & other condiments you need. Regardless of whether you and your friends are cheering for different teams in the Superbowl, you'll probably all agree that our best-selling products are crowd-pleasing winners.

Without further ado, here are the ten best-selling salsas, wing sauces and condiments at the Carolina Sauce Company for all of 2012:

1. Peppers Original Blue Crab Salsa: This is one of my favorite salsas on the planet. Made with chunky tomatoes and peppers plus real Maryland blue crabmeat, it's medium-spicy, freshly flavorful like homemade salsa, and will delight anyone who loves crab.

2. Dave's Insanity Ghost Pepper Salsa: This insanely hot tomato salsa is only for hard-core chileheads and serious fiery-foods fanatics. Smooth rather than chunky, a healthy (or unhealthy, depending on your perspective) helping of bhut jolokia aka naga jolokia aka ghost peppers is blended with tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, habaneros and a dash of capsaicin extract--as if the fiery peppers didn't provide enough heat.
Margarita hot salsa
3. Crazy Jerry's Margarita Butt Burner Hot Salsa: As its name suggests, this hot, tropical tomato salsa was inspired by the Margarita and is spiked with a shot of tequila. Limes and pineapples provide the requisite tangy citrus notes, while green chiles, serranos, jalapenos and habaneros deliver the heat. It's like a fiesta in a jar!

4. Pickapeppa Brown Sauce: Similar to a steak sauce in appearance and flavor, this spicy brown sauce is ubiquitous in the Caribbean where it is enjoyed with red meat as well as bean dishes and chicken. Medium-hot and with a robust, rich and complex flavor with a touch of sweetness and fruit, it's superb on steaks, burgers, chops, roasts and other hearty fare.

Key Lime Salsa5. Key West Key Lime Salsa: This sweet and citrusy tomato salsa gets is medium heat from jalapenos and its sunny island tang from real key lime juice. It's a natural with tortilla chips and other salty dippers, as well as on all your favorite Mexican, Tex-Mex and Southwestern foods. Try it with breaded shrimp instead of your usual cocktail sauce!

6. Bone Suckin' Sweet Hot Mustard: This North Carolina favorite is lusciously sweet with a sassy jalapeno kick. Slather it on sandwiches, hot dogs and burgers, enjoy it as a dip for pretzels or chicken fingers, use it as a glaze on ribs and ham, and blend it into your favorite prepared salads (e.g., tuna, egg, potato, macaroni, etc.).

7. Melinda's Jalapeno Ketchup: If you've been longing for a grown-up, wholesome spicy ketchup that tastes great, isn't too sweet and has a good medium-hot burn, this is the one for you. All-natural and with NO high fructose corn syrup, this mouthwatering ketchup is hot enough to please most fans of fiery foods but not so hot that you can't enjoy the flavor of your food.

Busha Browne's Planters Steak Sauce
8. DEFCON 2 Medium Wing Sauce: This award-winning Buffalo style wing sauce is probably my favorite of all the Buffalo wing sauces I've ever tried. Its classic cayenne tang will please the purist and its silky-smooth, velvety-rich mouthfeel is proof that it really is made with cream and not margarine or oil. Best of all, it won't drip off your wings (or Buffalo shrimp), so you can relish in every last bit of goodness and even lick your fingers if no one is watching.

9. Busha Browne's Planters Steak Sauce: If you're bored with everyday supermarket steak sauces and are ready to replace your tired old condiments, this spicy (but not fiery) steak sauce is for you. Mangoes and Seville oranges add a hint of tropical fruit to the traditional savory steak sauce base, and crushed red peppers provide a peppery kick to keep things interesting.

10. Melinda's Habanero Ketchup: This fiery-hot ketchup is just as flavorful and wholesome as Melinda's other ketchups, but significantly hotter thanks to the generous addition of fresh habanero peppers. Use with care or be prepared to burn (twice). But if you can handle the heat, go ahead and pour it on your burgers, scrambled eggs, French fries and anything else you'd normally eat with ketchup.

Zestfully yours,

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Quick Tip: Bacon-Roasted Garlic (and Garlic Bacon)

garlic bacon
Roasting garlic & bacon
If you're planning on cooking bacon and roasting garlic, here's a zesty tip:

Cook them together in your oven!

Cooking bacon in your oven is easier and less messy than frying it on your stove. And roasting the garlic cloves together with bacon produces mouthwatering results, both for the bacon AND the roasted garlic.

All you need to do is follow my instructions for cooking bacon in your oven, but before you put the tray of bacon in your oven add the raw garlic cloves to the tray, on or among the strips of bacon. The garlic will roast in the fat that renders as the bacon cooks, and both will be done at the same time. Especially if you place some garlic on the bacon, the bacon will pick up a subtle garlic flavor while the roasted garlic cloves will have a hint of smoky, meaty bacon flavor for a buttery richness and depth that's simply not possible when roasting "conventionally" in oil.

Here's an added bonus when you cook bacon and roast garlic together: If you save your bacon fat for cooking and using in recipes, this batch of bacon fat will be infused with marvelous roasted-garlic flavor!

spicy garlic mushrooms
Do you have a quick tip for bacon or garlic, or both? If so, please share it in a comment below, or post it on the Carolina Sauce Facebook page.

Zestfully yours,

PS:  If there's no such thing as too much garlic for you, be sure to browse our selection of garlic sauces & condiments, where you'll find everything from garlic hot sauce to garlic pickles, garlic mushrooms and more.

Monday, January 21, 2013

2012's Best-Selling Products at Carolina Sauce

Matouk's West Indian Hot Sauce Salsa Picante
The data has been downloaded, the numbers have been crunched, and we are excited to release the list of the Carolina Sauce Company's Best-Selling Sauces, Seasonings, Gifts & other Zesty Products for 2012! This list will soon be available on our Best-Selling Products page, which we are in the process of updating. We will also be releasing the category-specific (e.g., hot sauces, BBQ sauces etc.) lists of top-selling products for all of 2012, so be on the lookout for those on this blog as well.

1. Matouk's West Indian Hot Sauce dethroned the previous #1 (which fell to second place) to be the best-selling hot sauce AND overall best-selling product for 2012. This thick and zesty hot sauce from Trinidad & Tobago boasts tropical flavor and fire with its feisty blend of aged scotch bonnet peppers and sweet papaya in a tangy mustard base.

2.  Wells Hog Heaven Barbecue Sauce might be our best-selling sauce of all time and also the best-selling BBQ sauce for 2012, but it was edged out for #1 last year by our most popular hot sauce. Wells Hog Heaven is a traditional eastern North Carolina barbecue sauce from the almost-coastal town of Burgaw. Vinegar-based with no tomatoes, this thin and tangy sauce is best enjoyed on pulled or chopped pork BBQ but it also works well as a marinade for chicken.

Busha Browne's Pukka Hot Pepper Sauce
3.  Busha Browne's Pukka Sauce from Jamaica is made in the colonial, not indigenous, style and thus it tastes more like a classic vinegar pepper sauce (but with a richer, more flavorful taste) than it does a Jamaican jerk sauce. It's an excellent choice as an all-purpose, any-meal table sauce and your go-to hot sauce in recipes.

4.  Scorned Woman Hot Sauce is another perennial top-seller at the Carolina Sauce Company, and a longtime favorite of chileheads throughout the country. Made with a blend of chili peppers and black pepper in a savory vinegar base, it's fiery-hot without being scorching, and it will add heat without altering or masking the natural flavors in your food.

5.  Jamaica Hellfire 2 in 1 Hot Sauce blends native Jamaican spices and peppers for bright island flavor that complements any savory dish, whether you're using it to wake up your scrambled eggs & hash browns or spicing up your lunch sandwich or pizza, or boosting the heat in dinner entrees and sides.

6.  Matouk's Calypso Hot Sauce is similar to our best-selling product but hotter and without the mellowing influence of papayas. If you're looking for a full-bodied and full-flavored Caribbean scotch bonnet pepper sauce for firing up savory dishes (whether meat, poultry, seafood or vegetables), Matouk's Calypso will not disappoint.

NCSU Wolfpack hot sauce
7.  Walkerswood Traditional Jerk Seasoning (Hot & Spicy) is most likely the best-known authentic jerk seasoning or wet rub to come out of Jamaica. This fiery-hot aromatic paste lets you enjoy real Jamaican jerk chicken, pork, lamb, goat, fish or roasted potatoes at home. Simply spread on the surface (a little goes a long way) and marinate in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight (or 30 minutes for fish and seafood) and then cook any way you like.

8.  NC State Wolfpack Hot Sauce was a surprise arrival on our best-sellers list, no doubt boosted by strong holiday sales. This classic cayenne pepper sauce is made with all-natural ingredients and comes labeled with the officially licensed logo of NC State University, making it a great gift choice for NCSU students, grads, faculty, staff, and anyone else who's a Wolfpack fan.

9.  Matouk's Flambeau is the hottest of the Matouk's family of hot sauces, and considered by many fiery-foods connoisseurs to be the hottest non-extract hot sauce. Assuming you can handle the flaming fire of the specially selected aged scotch bonnet peppers that are the primary ingredient in this hot sauce, you won't be disappointed in the pure pepper flavor and thick, food-coating texture.

10.  Walkerswood Scotch Bonnet Hot Sauce is a traditional vinegar pepper hot sauce that's made with scotch bonnet peppers from Jamaica. If you crave the distinctive flavor and intense heat of this particular variety of chile pepper, this hot sauce will satisfy your craving and keep you coming back for more.

Busha Browne's Authentic Jerk Seasoning
11. Matouk's Salsa Picante Hot Pepper Sauce ranks somewhere between Matouk's Calypso and Matouk's Flambeau on the heat scale, with more of a robust, savory flavor than Calypso. Pair it with grilled meats or chicken, add it to hearty stews or bean dishes, or enjoy as a fiery sandwich or burger condiment.

12.  Busha Browne's Authentic Jerk Seasoning Rub is an intensely concentrated jerk paste or wet rub that's made according to a traditional recipe and delivers authentic Jamaican jerk flavor and heat to meats, poultry and seafood. Don't be fooled by the cute little jar: This is serious stuff, and powerful, too!

13.  Bone Suckin' Rib Rub is the original Bone Suckin' Seasoning Rub from the makers of the internationally-renowned and award-winning Bone Suckin' Sauce from North Carolina. Its sweet-savory flavor is finger-lickin' good, whether rubbed on ribs, brisket, chops or chicken, or sprinkled over any type of kabobs, or even used as a popcorn or french fry seasoning.

Pickapeppa Gingery Mango Sauce
14.  Dave's Ultimate Insanity Sauce is an extreme or ultra-hot hot sauce from the makers of the original Dave's Insanity Sauce that's credited (or blamed, depending on your perspective) for starting the extreme hot sauce craze. At least twice as hot as the original, this extract-enhanced sauce is more properly categorized as a "food additive," meaning that it should be used only by the micro-droplet to season food as you make it (e.g., in recipes), rather than used on served ready-to-eat food. You've been warned....

15. Pickapeppa Gingery Mango Sauce is the same zippy-sweet sauce that was made years ago by Ruth's Mango Sauces. The original recipe is now owned by Pickapeppa of Jamaica, and this gem of a tropical sauce adds mouthwatering spiciness and mango brightness to chicken, seafood, stir-fry dishes, and anything else that could use some saucy sunshine.

16.  Bacon Hot Sauce brings together two beloved flavors: Meaty, smoky bacon and peppery, tangy hot sauce. Use it anytime you want some heat along with bacon flavor, but don't want the added fat or greasiness from actual cooked bacon. Great on pizza, burgers, sandwiches, pasta, nachos, scrambled eggs and other savory fare.

17.  Susie's Original Hot Sauce can be very difficult to find outside of Antigua and the Caribbean, so we're thrilled to be able to offer it on the Carolina Sauces website. This unique pepper sauce has just the right amount of peppery bite in a savory, food-friendly base, to serve as an everyday hot sauce choice that will never disappoint.

country ham
18.  Several different styles of North Carolina Country Ham proved to be very popular products last year on the Carolina Sauce website, and we're happy to have partnered with Johnston County Hams to bring you their award-winning country ham. Traditionally smoked and cured, these hams are famous for their rich, salty flavor and buttery texture. Available whole or sliced, bone-in or boneless, cooked or uncooked.

19.  Bacon from Bacon Freak was also a much sought-after item last year, from traditional choices like hickory smoked or applewood to nitrite-free, vanilla-bourbon, chipotle-seasoned and other gourmet or exotic selections. Bacon gift boxes and bundles including themed packs for holidays and special occasions are also available.

20.  Completing our list of the best-selling products for 2012 were the different Wood Chips and Chunks that we now offer online. From hard-to-find Pacific alder and cedar to fruit woods like cherry and apple, as well as traditional hickory, southwestern Mesquite and elegant whiskey-barrel oak, you can find it on our Wood Chips, Chunks & Planks page.

Be sure to follow this blog if you want to see the upcoming lists of 2012's best-selling salsas, dry rubs, jerks, gifts, meats and more...

Zestfully yours,

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Zesty Turnips with Wilted Greens

turnips with greens
My inspiration for the following recipe was the Fingerling Potatoes with Wilted Kale recipe by Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide, a page that I follow on Facebook.

Originally, I wanted to make this using turnips AND their green tops, but alas the only turnips available had been trimmed of their tops. I did have some kale, however, so that worked out just fine. Instead of the paprika in the original recipe for potatoes, I used a bit of allspice because it complements the tart "bite" of turnips and kale. Here is what I did:

1 to 1 1/2 lb turnips, peeled & cubed (1 to 1 1/2" cubes)
1 large bunch of kale OR the green tops from the turnips, washed & tough stems trimmed
Olive oil or bacon fat (I used the latter)
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp caraway seeds
1/8 tsp ground allspice

Turnips with turnip greens & mustard
Cook the turnips until fork-tender, either in the microwave with a little water (3-5 minutes) or in boiling water on the stove (10-15 minutes), then drain & set side. While the turnips are cooking, tear the kale or greens into bite-size pieces. Heat the fat or oil in a large skillet over medium heat and saute the garlic about 1-2 minutes until softened and fragrant. Add mustard & caraway seeds and saute 1 minute. Add turnips, sprinkle with allspice and stir to coat the turnips with the fat & seasonings. Add the kale or greens and cook, stirring frequently, until wilted and tender -- this took me closer to 15 minutes rather than the 5 in the original recipe, but it could very well be due to my old electric stove. Use your judgement and cook until the greens are tender to your taste. Serves 2 to 4 as a side dish.

Zestfully yours,

Saturday, January 19, 2013

UNC Tarheels Gift Sets for BBQ &Tailgating

UNC Tarheels hot sauce
Good news for UNC Tarheels fans: The Carolina Sauce Company is now your online source for zesty sauces and sauce gift sets bedecked with the officially licensed logo and colors of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill!

You may already be aware that we offer UNC Tar Heels Hot Sauce and have done so for a while at the Carolina Sauces online store, and this classic cayenne pepper hot sauce has proven to be quite popular.

Its food-friendly medium heat level is just the right amount of spiciness for most people, but if you're a Tarheel fan who prefers milder sauces, we didn't have something for you -- until now.

UNC Tarheels BBQ Sauce gift
Our UNC Tar Heels Grilling Sauce Gift Set is the right gift for anyone who enjoys barbecue and grilling but who prefers rich, mouthwatering flavor over peppery fire. This gift box comes with a full-size (12 oz) bottle each of lip-smacking, finger-licking good Cajun, Lime and Peach grilling sauces. While all three are delicious with pretty much any kind of meat, poultry or seafood, I usually prefer Cajun for red meats, Lime for fish or shrimp, and Peach for pork and chicken, and any of them for grilled vegetables depending on mood. These sauces are excellent for marinating, basting and dipping, too, and their labels and the sturdy gift box decorated with UNC-CH's colors and Tar Heel logo leave no doubt as to where your school or NCAA loyalty lies.

UNC Tarheels tailgating gift
And for the Tar Heel who tailgates before the game, there's the North Carolina Tarheels Tailgating Gift Set, also with full-size products in a decorated gift box. This set comes with a jar of zesty picante sauce for dipping chips or pouring over nachos (it's also superb on burgers, in sandwiches, and any other way you'd enjoy salsa), a bottle of the aforementioned cayenne pepper Tar Heels Hot Sauce, and a bottle of tangy, all-purpose barbecue sauce that will complement whatever you throw on the grill.

You'll find all of these UNC sauce gifts on our main North Carolina Products page (make sure to click on that page because the gift boxes are not available on the main Carolina Sauces online store). You'll want to bookmark that page for the next time you need a gift for your favorite UNC-CH student, grad, faculty, staff or fan.

Zestfully yours,

Friday, January 18, 2013

Simple Skillet Supper: Spicy Red Beans & Beer Rice with Andouille Sausage

skillet red beans, rice & sausage recipe
Here's another simple dinner idea that you can throw together in about an hour and without getting all hung up on ingredient amounts. Other than the ratio of liquid to rice, everything else can be adjusted to taste and to what you have on hand. For white rice you should use 1 part rice to 1 1/2 parts liquid; for brown rice use 1 part rice to 2 parts liquid.

If you prefer not to use beer, simply substitute water or broth for the beer. My version below is a gentle mild-medium in heat: Just spicy enough to be noticed, particularly after a few bites, but not hot enough to burn. For a hotter, spicier dish, add a few splashes of a Louisiana hot sauce and/or an additional or a hotter variety of chile pepper. For a milder, less spicy dish, omit the hot chile and use a whole bell pepper instead of a half.

The total preparation and cooking time should be around 1 hour or less if using white rice, and 1 hour or a little longer if using brown rice. I used brown rice for the photos here, and my total prep & cook time came in at about 1 hr 15 minutes -- but keep in mind that I also spent time taking photos and jotting down notes, so even with brown rice it will probably take you little more than an hour.

1 lb Andouille sausage (I used Weeping Radish Andouille)
Optional oil or fat for frying (not needed if sausage releases enough fat)
1 bay leaf
Minced garlic: I used 6 cloves
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
1 red Fresno chile OR jalapeno (or other hot pepper), minced
1 large (or 2 medium) tomato, chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp Cajun or Creole seasoning (e.g., Slap Ya Mama or Emeril's seasoning)
1 1/2 cups rice*
12 oz beer, preferably a full-bodied golden lager (I used Weeping Radish Corolla Gold)
3/4 cup water
1 can (15.5) red kidney beans, drained & rinsed.

Spicy red beans & rice with andouille sausage*See note at top re: white vs. brown rice. The quantities listed here assume white rice.

Slice the sausage diagonally about 3/4" thick and cook in a deep large skillet at medium-high until lightly browned. Add bay leaf, garlic, onion & celery and saute until softened & translucent - if the sausage is very lean, you may need to add a little oil or fat to the pan (I added a dollop of bacon fat). Add peppers and saute until softened. Stir in tomato, thyme & Creole seasoning and cook until tomato is breaking down. Stir in rice and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add beer & water, stir and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until all liquid is absorbed: about 30 to 35 minutes for white rice, and 45 to 50 minutes for brown rice. Uncover, stir in the beans and cook on medium heat until heated through, stirring occasionally. Taste for balance; if desired, you can add more seasoning, or salt & pepper, or hot sauce. Makes 6 generous servings, and tastes even better the next day.

Zestfully yours,

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Introducing Jim's Own Safari Rub

Jim's Own Safari Rub
Buy Jim's Own Safari Rub
The makers of the award-winning Jim's Own BBQ Sauce recently released a brand-new barbecue rub and all-purpose seasoning called Jim's Own Safari Rub, and we're excited to be able to offer it to you now on the Carolina Sauce Company website!

This zesty spice rub is brimming with bright citrus, zippy pepper and aromatic coriander for an intriguingly savory flavor that hints at faraway exotic lands while seducing your taste buds. Warm without being hot-spicy, Jim's Safari Rub is a natural choice for lamb, venison, pork and other assertive red meats. But its more delicate and subtle flavor notes also complement all sorts of poultry, from chicken to goose, duck and even game birds like pheasant or quail. And of course its lemony citrus essence brings out the best in fresh tuna, salmon and all your favorite fish or seafood.

Whether you use it as a traditional rub before grilling or smoking, or as a seasoning in the kitchen when roasting or broiling, Jim's Safari Rub is a versatile and approachable all-purpose spice blend that the whole family can enjoy. But don't limit it to "surface applications" only: Mix it into ground beef for a change of pace when making hamburgers or meat loaf, or stir it into melted butter to drizzle over cooked vegetables. The possibilities are limitless, so let your imagination soar and send your mouth on a tasteful adventure!

Jim's Own products are proudly made in North Carolina by a small family-owned & operated business (just like us here at Carolina Sauce). You can order Jim's Own Safari Rub by the single bag or 6-bag case, along with other family-pleasing barbecue sauces and rubs from Jim's Own (including beautifully-appointed gift baskets), on our Jim's Own Sauce page.

Zestfully yours,

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Gloria's Spiced Harvard Beets

spiced harvard beets
Here is my spicy (but not hot) take on traditional Harvard beets. The original recipe is from Rodale's Basic Natural Foods Cookbook, which is one of the first cookbooks I ever owned. Instead of boiling the beets, however, I "oven-steamed" them using a method described in another cookbook, Greene on Greens. While that method takes longer than boiling, it produces a depth of mellow, earthy sweetness reminiscent of roasted beets, which you won't get from boiling. And because I find traditional Harvard beets to be too sweet for my taste, I added some warm winter spices to balance the sweetness of the honey, provide complexity and dimension, and enhance the natural flavor of the beets.

3/4 to 1 lb small beets, washed & trimmed
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup water
2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
Pinch* of ground cloves
Pinch of ground allspice
Pinch of mace

*By a "pinch" I mean less than 1/8 tsp, but feel free to adjust amounts to suit your taste

Preheat oven to 350°F. Individually wrap each beet tightly with foil, then place in oven for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours until softened but not mushy. Remove from oven and allow to cool to touch, then unwrap and slip the skins off the beets (they should come off pretty easily without need of a knife). Cut the beets into bite-size cubes (traditionally they're sliced, but I prefer the texture when cubed) and set aside while you make the sauce:

Whisk together the remaining ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Continue to stir or whisk while cooking until thickened and clear -- this will take about 10 minutes or so. Stir in the cooked beets and cook until heated through. Serve hot. Makes 4 side dish servings.

Zestfully yours,

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

NC State Wolfpack Gift Sets for BBQ & Tailgating

NCSU Wolfpack hot sauce
Good news for fans of the NC State University Wolfpack: The Carolina Sauce Company website is now YOUR source for zesty, officially licensed NCSU Wolfpack sauces and sauce gift boxes!

As you might already know, we've offered NC State Wolfpack Hot Sauce for some time now at the Carolina Sauces online store, and this classic cayenne pepper hot sauce has proven to be quite popular.

Its food-friendly medium heat level is just the right amount of spiciness for most people, but if you're a Wolfpack fan who prefers milder sauces, we didn't have something for you -- until now.

North Carolina State Wolfpack Grilling Gift Set 3-12 oz (Cajun, Lime and Peach)Our NC State Wolfpack Grilling Sauce Gift Set is perfect for the person who loves to barbecue or grill and who prefers full, mouthwatering flavor over peppery fire. This gift box comes with three full-size (12 oz) bottles of lip-smacking, finger-licking good sauces in the following flavors (1 bottle of each): Cajun, Lime and Peach. While all three are terrific with any kind of meat, poultry or seafood, I tend to go with Cajun for red meats, Lime for fish or shrimp, and Peach for pork and chicken, and any of them for grilled vegetables. You can marinate as well as baste and dip with these grilling sauces, and you'll show off your school spirit with their labels and the sturdy gift box decorated with NCSU's colors and Wolfpack logo.

North Carolina State Wolfpack TailGate Set (Hot Sauce, BBQ and Salsa) And for the fan who tailgates before the game, there's the NC State Wolfpack Tailgating Gift Set, also with full-size products in a decorated gift box. This set comes with a jar of zesty picante sauce for dipping chips or pouring over nachos (it's also excellent on burgers, in sandwiches, and any other way you'd enjoy salsa), a bottle of the aforementioned cayenne pepper Wolfpack Hot Sauce, and a bottle of tangy, all-purpose barbecue sauce that will complement anything you throw on the grill.

You'll find all of these NCSU sauce gifts on our main North Carolina Products page (make sure to click on that page because the gift boxes are not found on the other Carolina Sauces online store). You'll want to bookmark it for the next time you need a gift for your favorite NC State student, grad, faculty, staff or fan.

Zestfully yours,

Monday, January 14, 2013

Kale with Roasted Garlic & Fatback

kale with roasted garlic and fatback
This is NOT "health food" in the traditional or conventional sense. Any time you see "Fatback" in the name of a recipe, it's safe to assume that it won't be low-fat. If you're following a low carb diet, however, or aren't that concerned with fat content and want to eat more leafy green vegetables, then this kale recipe is for you. Even hard-core haters of greens will be seduced by the rich, savory flavor from the garlic and fatback.

Another disclaimer: The following is not really a "recipe" but rather a guide to cooking kale with roasted garlic and fatback. The key is to use the best-quality ingredients you can afford, ideally local organic kale and fatback from organic or naturally-raised free range pork. "Conventional" ingredients will work just fine, too, if that's what you have. The ingredient amounts are flexible and can be adjusted to suit your taste preferences and to fit what you have on hand. Don't sweat the small stuff, don't dwell on the details, and have fun when making this dish: Enjoy the texture of the raw kale in your hands, inhale the fragrance of the garlic as it roasts and the mouthwatering aroma of the fatback as it fries (think bacon on steroids), and let your eyes linger on the changing colors of the ingredients as they cook... And then indulge your mouth with the robust flavors and buttery/crunchy textures.

1 large bunch of kale
About 4 oz fatback
As many cloves of roasted garlic* as you like
Salt (I use sea salt), ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste
Juice of half a lemon (freshly squeezed is best)

*To save time, check out my post for quick stovetop "roasted" garlic or use store-bought roasted garlic.

New Year's Day good luck foods
Served with Hoppin' John & Bacon Cornbread for New Year's Day
Cut the fatback into 1/4"-thick strips, then crosswise into 1/2" to 1" pieces. Note: It's easiest to cut fatback while it is frozen or very cold; otherwise it can melt where you touch it, making it very slippery to hold while you cut it. Place the fatback in a large, deep frying pan and cook at medium heat until light golden and crisp, turning occasionally.

While the fatback cooks, thoroughly wash the kale, shake off excess water and strip or cut the tough stalks from the leaves, then tear or cut the leaves into large-bite size pieces (I prefer to tear by hand).

When the fatback is cooked, you can either add all of the kale to the pan or first drain off some of the grease leaving about 2 Tbs of grease in the pan and then add the kale and roasted garlic. Note: Excess fatback grease can be stored in the refrigerator and used like bacon grease to saute or flavor other recipes.

Saute the kale until wilted and tender (I like mine "al dente") then add the lemon juice and season with salt and peppers to taste.  Serves 4 as a side dish.

Zestfully yours,

PS: In the South, greens are often served with a splash or two of hot sauce, so feel free to do so if you enjoy spicy foods.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Saying Goodbye to Dave's Badlands BBQ Sauce

Dave's Badlands Barbecue Sauce
I have bad news for fans of Dave's Gourmet Badlands Barbecue Sauce: After many years of production, the manufacturer has decided to discontinue this savory mustard-tomato BBQ sauce and it is no longer available at the Carolina Sauces online store.

This is indeed very disappointing news, because many people had found Dave's Badlands BBQ Sauce to be a decent replacement for the also-discontinued J.T. Pappy's barbecue sauces.

Unfortunately, I don't have any idea why Dave's Gourmet would discontinue their barbecue sauce -- perhaps it simply wasn't selling in sufficient quantities, or maybe they have a different barbeque sauce in the works. I guess time will tell as to the latter...

Hank Williams Jr.'s BBQ Sauce
Ass Whoopin' Golden BBQ SauceIf you're looking for a similar barbecue sauce to take the place of Dave's Badlands Barbecue, you could try Ass Whoopin' Redneck Golden BBQ Sauce, which has a hint of smokiness, or Hank Williams Jr. Family Tradition Mild BBQ Sauce, which is a little sweeter and milder in heat.

If you try either of these barbecue sauces or find a different one that's a good substitute, please leave a comment to let us know what you think.

Zestfully yours,