Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day 2014

This Memorial Day, Carolina Sauce Company is remembering the fallen who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and our freedom.

May we never forget....


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Hitting the Road for the Big Move

Dear friends of Carolina Sauce Company:

Tomorrow, May 26th,  Greg and I will begin our long drive to Montana, with our RV in tow behind Greg's truck and two cats in my SUV (lucky me). We expect to reach Bozeman by the first or second of June, assuming all goes smoothly -- yes, theoretically the drive should take no more than 4 days but we are taking the southern, aka "BBQ" route, which will take a little longer but hopefully result in some memorable meals along the way.

While we are traveling, I will have limited internet access and might be posting even less frequently than I've been able to lately. I'll do my best to check email at least once a day, and with any luck I'll also check Facebook etc. But I can't make any promises, as there's no telling where we'll end up camping on any given night. So please bear with me, and if you need immediate help on anything, please email Customer Service at our warehouse and they'll be able to help you out.

Thanks for your patience and understanding!

Zestfully yours,

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Mushrooms in Tarragon Sherry-Cream Sauce

Mushrooms in Tarragon Sherry Cream Sauce
The following recipe was inspired by three different people: Two of my friends who appreciate good food but have never met each other, and my dear husband who, after almost 26 years of marriage, still surprises me by occasionally declaring that he hates or loves a particular ingredient.

Case in point: Greg recently complained that I "never buy mushrooms," and then informed me that he he loves them. Well, perhaps if I'd known this sooner, he'd have enjoyed more home-cooked meals featuring mushrooms (and of course he could have bought said mushrooms anytime he went grocery shopping...).

And now you know why mushrooms have been appearing in more of my recipes.

The following creamy mushrooms are lovely served over baked, roasted, broiled or grilled chicken or turkey breast; absolutely divine over pork chops (my favorite way to enjoy them) or pork loin; magnificent with steak or brisket; and probably also quite tasty with venison and game meats, although I haven't tried that yet. You can also enjoy them as a rich side dish on their own, which is what we did the first time I made this recipe. For a thinner consistency, add a little more half-and-half or a splash of milk -- and for a thicker consistency, use a little less or cook a little longer.

2 Tbs plus 2 Tbs butter
Mushroom sauce recipe
8 oz mushrooms (brown or white), sliced
2 Tbs flour (I use whole wheat)
1/2 cup half & half
3 Tbs dry sherry
1/2 tsp dried tarragon (or more to taste)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Melt 2 Tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add mushrooms and saute until just softened. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the mushrooms to a small bowl and set aside. Add remaining 2 Tablespoons butter to the saucepan and melt over medium heat. Slowly stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, to make a blond roux -- this takes about 4 minutes, and the roux should be the consistency of a paste, have a light golden color and emit a nutty aroma that indicates the flour has cooked.

Busha Browne's Spicy Hot Pepper Sherry
Pepper Sherry
When you have a blond roux, stir in the sherry and cook, stirring constantly, until you reach an even consistency. Slowly pour in the half & half, again stirring constantly to produce a smooth consistency. Stir in the tarragon, salt & pepper, then add the mushrooms along with any juices in the bowl. Continue to cook, stirring gently, until all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated and the sauce is as thick as you want it. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Zestfully yours,
Carolina Sauce Company

PS:  To add a little bit of a spicy kick, add a splash or two of Busha Browne's Hot Pepper Sherry, or substitute up to 1/2 Tbs of regular sherry with the hot pepper sherry for a bigger peppery bite.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Don't Get Left Out of our Invitation-Only BBQ Sauce Sale!

Click for your BBQ Sale invitation & Free Newsletter
Time is short, so I'm skipping the small talk and getting straight to my point:

In the very near future -- as in, early this coming week -- the Carolina Sauce Company will be launching an invitation-only coupon sale in celebration of National BBQ Month. The coupon will be good on all barbecue sauces and seasonings, indeed on ALL products sold at our online store, and will be good through May 31st.

If you're a member of our free VIP Club, you'll receive your invitation in the next few days.

If you are not currently in our VIP Club and want an invitation, click here to sign up for our VIP Club. You'll receive your invitation and coupon upon completing the sign-up process (it's really easy, simply click the confirmation link in the email you'll receive when you first sign up).

If you're a VIP and don't receive your invitation by Friday, or if you have any questions or would like help signing up, please email me and I'll make sure you get invited.

Zestfully yours,

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Spicy Vodka Risotto with Spinach & Mushrooms

This recipe is what happens when I'm desperate for a creamy, richly flavored risotto.... and I have nary a drop of white wine but a nearly full bottle of vodka.

Prior to creating my spicy vodka risotto with spinach and mushrooms, I had never heard of anyone using vodka in a risotto. But being an adventurous sort in the kitchen (except when it comes to pressure cookers, of which I am terrified), I figured I had nothing to lose by giving it a try especially since I was cooking only for myself. To my relief, delight and gustatory satisfaction, the risotto was not only edible, it was downright delicious -- and Greg can back me up on that as he did try a bite of the leftovers the following day.

A note about the rice: Most people are familiar with arborio rice for risotto. Somewhat less well-known is carnaroli rice, which happens to be what I had in our RV kitchen and therefore what I used. Feel free to use either type of rice, as both are equally good for risotto. While on the topic of ingredients, be sure to use a decent quality vodka that you consider good enough to drink.

Some words of caution: Vodka can burst into flames if added to a very hot cooking vessel. I recommend taking your pot off the burner before pouring in the vodka, and then pouring it in slowly while stirring. Also make sure your kitchen is well-ventilated, as the evaporating alcohol fumes can get intense (at least they did in my tiny RV kitchen, until I opened up some windows). Finally, if you are sensitive to hot and spicy foods, use no more than half the amount of red pepper flakes listed below. On the other hand, if you are a serious chilehead, feel free to add more than the listed amount, or even add a dash or two of ghost pepper powder or dried jolokia chili powder.

3 Tbs olive oil
8 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
Carnaroli Long Grain Italian Rice by Gli Aironi
Click to buy Carnaroli rice
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 medium bell pepper, chopped
4 oz (half of an 8oz box) brown mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 bag (6 to 8 oz) baby spinach
1 Tbs butter or olive oil
1 cup Carnaroli rice
1 cup vodka
2 1/2 to 3 cups water or broth (chicken or vegetable)
1/2 tsp sea salt (or Kosher or table salt if that's what you have)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup (or more to taste) shredded parmesan cheese

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottom large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add garlic, onion & bell pepper and saute until onion is turning golden and the pepper has softened. Add mushrooms and saute until just softened. Stir in the oregano, thyme and red pepper flakes, then add spinach and cook, stirring frequently, until spinach is wilted. Use a slotted spoon to remove sauteed vegetables to a bowl and set aside.

Vodka risotto recipe
Cooking after adding vegetables
Add the Tablespoon of butter or oil to the pot and melt (or heat) over medium heat. Stir in rice and cook, stirring frequently, until rice is coated and turns translucent on the edges with a white spot in the middle (about 3 minutes). Remove pot from heat and slowly pour in the vodka, stirring constantly. Return pot to burner and cook at a simmer, stirring constantly, until almost all the liquid is absorbed, then slowly pour in half a cup of the water or stock. Continue to cook at a simmer, stirring frequently, until almost all the liquid is absorbed. Continue to add water or stock in half-cup increments, following the same cooking method, until the rice is creamy and almost fully cooked but still somewhat firm in the middle, and reserving 1/4 cup of water or broth for later. Note: Your rice might absorb anywhere from 2 1/2 cups of liquid to 3 cups, or a little more or a little less. Use your judgement and preference for "creaminess vs. chewiness." Don't feel compelled to use all 3 cups of liquid, or worry if the rice absorbs less than 2 1/2 cups before reaching your preferred doneness.

When rice is almost done, stir in the sauteed vegetables along with any liquid remaining in the bowl, and also stir in the salt, black pepper and reserved 1/4 cup of water or broth. Cook and stir until the vegetables are evenly incorporated into the rice and the rice is tender. Add the parmesan cheese and stir until combined and melted. Taste for balance and add more salt and/or pepper if desired. Serve hot. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Zestfully yours,

Monday, May 12, 2014

Ole Ray's Apple Cinnamon BBQ Sauce Now in Gallon Jugs!

Ole Ray's Apple Cinnamon Barbeque Sauce
Attention BBQ fanatics and lovers of great tasting barbecue sauces:

The Carolina Sauces online store now sells Ole Ray's Apple Cinnamon BBQ Sauce in gallon jugs!

Perfect for whenever you're cooking for a crowd, these food-service gallon jugs of one of Ole Ray's most popular barbecue sauce flavors is not just for catering, family reunions, charity BBQs or other special events: It's also a very economical way to stock up on tangy-sweet, thick and sassy apple cinnamon barbecue sauce for the summer. Not only do you save money buy buying "in bulk" when you purchase the larger size, you also save on shipping by ordering one or two of these plastic jugs rather several glass bottles throughout the course of the grilling season. In short, these gallons of Ole Ray's Apple Cinnamon BBQ Sauce are a no-brainer for anyone who loves outdoor cooking, grilling and smoking.

Fantastic as a basting, finishing and dipping sauce for pork or beef ribs, this award-winning barbeque sauce is also wonderful with brisket, pork chops, grilled chicken, veggie or shrimp or meat kabobs, and even on burgers, in meatloaf and in other more creative recipes that benefit from a good barbecue sauce. The sweet apple flavor marries beautifully with the rich tomato and cider vinegar base, while mustard, a pinch of cayenne and savory spices add a touch of zest without making this sauce hot or spicy. Cinnamon, molasses, brown sugar and natural smoke add depth and mellow warmth, for a luscious flavor the whole family will love.

Ole Ray's BBQ Sauce
If you'd rather buy barbecue sauce in "regular" 16 oz. bottles, don't worry, we also sell Ole Ray's Apple Cinnamon Barbecue Sauce in pint bottles. And if you're interested in other flavors of this award-winning line of cooking, grilling and barbeque sauces, check out our huge selection of Ole Ray's Sauces, all of which are on sale now.

Zestfully yours,

PS: This is merely one of the several different sauces we sell in larger or "food service" sizes. Click here to see our full selection of BBQ & hot sauces in gallon and  half-gallon sizes.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Spring Salad with Strawberries & Chocolate Balsamic Vinaigrette

salad with strawberries & feta cheeseThe following recipe is an elegant twist on "throw cooking," a technique that eschews specific quantities for the ingredients and invites the cook to omit or replace any "supporting" (not principal) ingredient to suit personal preferences and what's on hand at the time, e.g., omit the celery if you don't like or have it, replace the sweet onion with spring onions or red onion, etc.

While the idea of using a chocolate-infused balsamic vinegar on a green salad might strike you as odd, trust me on this one. As long as you drizzle it on with judicious discretion instead of wild abandon, the overall effect will be one of velvety, mellow, dark cocoa and wood flavors rather than the sweetness of candy chocolate.

And no, I didn't mix together the vinaigrette separately to pour over the salad. Again, trust me on this.... although you are certainly welcome to do so if you prefer, or to otherwise improvise and add your own touch, of course. After all, that's the whole point of throw cooking:

To inspire, not dictate.

Young spring lettuce leaves, washed, patted dry & torn
1 small, slender stalk of celery, trimmed & sliced (I include the leaves)
1/2 small young cucumber, quartered, seeded & thinly sliced (I don't peel)
A few paper-thin slices of sweet onion
Several ripe strawberries, sliced
Extra virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt
Cracked black pepper
Dried or fresh thyme
Chocolate balsamic vinegar
Crumbled feta or goat cheese

Place the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl, drizzle with EVOO to taste, sprinkle with sea salt, pepper and thyme to taste, then gently toss. Lightly drizzle with chocolate balsamic vinegar, then gently toss. Transfer to individual bowls or salad plates and top with crumbled cheese. Enjoy!

Stawberry salad with chocolate balsamic dressing

Zestfully yours,

PS: Do you enjoy the interplay of savory and sweet when adding strawberries to recipes? And do you like spicy foods? Then check out the strawberry hot sauces & salsa available at the Carolina Sauces online store!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Carolina Reaper Salsa is Here!

The Reaper Super Hot Salsa
Trinidad Moruga scorpion chiles? C'mon, they're sooooo last-year.

Ghost peppers or jolokias? Get serious, that's ancient history. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

Habanero or jalapeno peppers? Puh-leeze! Those are for wimps and newbies.

OK, then what about pepper extracts or capsaicin oil? Totally unnecessary if you're dealing with GOOD super-hot salsa made with high-quality ingredients and enough hot peppers.

If you're SERIOUS about SEARING chili pepper heat, nothing but Carolina reaper peppers will do.

And if you're also uncompromising as to flavor and quality, then we have the salsa for you:

Introducing Cajohn's Reaper Super Hot Salsa, featuring the NEW hottest pepper in the world, the Carolina Reaper chili!

Sure, this baby is powerfully hot and showcases the reaper pepper in all its fury, but it's more than just another super-hot salsa. The Reaper Salsa from Cajohn's actually tastes good, is made with quality all-natural ingredients, and delivers multi-layered heat thanks to the addition of habanero peppers and jalapeno peppers. Garlic, onion and secret spices deliver zest, fresh tomatoes provide the rich traditional salsa base, and a touch of turbinado sugar takes the edge off and brings everything together harmoniously while letting the fiery heat take center stage. There's no pepper extract or capsaicin oil in this product because there's no need for artificial enhancement of the heat level, and thus your enjoyment of this salsa won't be marred by chemical- or metallic-tasting off-flavors, unnecessarily painful heat or any tongue-numbing side-effects that would prevent you from enjoying your food.

Are YOU brave enough to try a hot salsa made with the infamous Carolina reaper pepper? Then get yourself a jar of Cajohn's Reaper Super Hot Salsa from the Carolina Sauces online store, while it's on sale, and you'll earn yourself some serious bragging rights if you can handle the heat!

Zestfully yours,

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Vegan Recipe: The Unlucky Hunter's Lentils Cacciatore

Lentils Cacciatore vegan recipe
When Greg's away, the Glo will play -- in the kitchen, that is, and with carbohydrates, which are otherwise verboten for the sake of his diet.

Lentils are one of my favorite legumes because they don't require overnight soaking or lengthy cooking periods. I also appreciate their earthy, "meatier" and less "beany" flavor, and their small size makes them useful in a wider variety of recipes than larger beans.

I had been craving lentils for some time now, so one recent morning when Greg informed me that he'd miss dinner due to an afternoon appointment back in Durham followed by a late-night hockey game in Raleigh, I jumped on the opportunity to play in the kitchen with carbs, and more specifically, with regular brown lentils. The following recipe is what I came up with, which was inspired by a friend's request for vegan Dutch oven recipes.

The name is a play on "Chicken Cacciatore," or hunter-style chicken (cacciatore means hunter in Italian), a traditional Italian dish that traces its roots back to earlier times when a hunter would bring back a rabbit or wild fowl to throw in a pot along with tomatoes and other vegetables from his family's garden, some herbs, maybe a few foraged mushrooms and a splash or two of wine. Presumably, an unlucky hunter would have to settle for a meatless stew, perhaps one like this...

1 cup lentils, picked over & rinsed
2 cups water
cooking lentils1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
2 Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small bell pepper, or 1/2 large bell pepper, seeded & chopped
6 cloves garlic, crushed
4 oz (1/2 of a package) small brown mushrooms, cleaned & quartered
1/2 cup dry red wine (something Italian is perfect)
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp of each of the following dried herbs: rosemary (crushed lightly with your fingers), rubbed sage, thyme, parsley
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp (or to taste) red pepper flakes (or hotter crushed chilies if preferred)

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat, add onions and saute until beginning to turn golden. Add garlic & bell pepper and saute until softened. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the mushrooms and the salt, stir and bring to a simmer. Partially cover with lid and cook at a simmer for 20 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Stir in the mushrooms, bring back to a simmer, partially cover with lid and cook at a simmer for another 10 minutes or until lentils are tender. Stir in the salt, taste for balance and adjust seasonings as desired. Serve in bowls, either "as is" (shown on left here) or spooned over cooked pasta or rice (shown over rotini in the large photo at the top of this post). Makes approx. 6 servings and leftovers are delicious reheated the next day.

Zestfully yours
Carolina Sauce Company

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

You Think Shakira is Hot? Check Out these New Colombian Imports!

Amazon Green Hot Sauce
Attention spicy-foods lovers with a taste for the hot and exotic:

Amazon Hot Sauces from Colombia have three new flavors now available at the Carolina Sauces online store, and they're all currently on sale!

Amazon Green Hot Sauce, aka salsa picante verde in Spanish, is made with green Amazon peppers and turmeric for an eye-catching pale green color,  moderate heat level and savory-tangy flavor. Food-friendly and approachable, it's an excellent choice for everyday and every-meal use at the table and in the kitchen when a recipe calls for hot sauce. Enjoy it on anything from breakfast eggs and potatoes to lunchtime sandwiches and salads, cookout staples like burgers or kabobs, appetizers like nachos or fried finger food, party fare like pizza or dips, and with dinner entrees ranging from steak and chops to broiled seafood, roast chicken, casseroles and sides, and more.

Amazon Habanero Hot Sauce
Amazon Habanero Hot Sauce is a solidly hot, all-purpose savory hot sauce made with ripe red Amazon chiles and fiery red habanero peppers, for a unique fiery flavor that's bright and almost fruit-like but not sweet or fruity -- rather, there's a mellow roundness to the peppery flavor, obtainable only by using ripe rather than green chiles which have an edgier, sometimes "grassy" or vegetal quality (think of the difference in flavor between red bell peppers and unripe green ones). The light touch of cane sugar harmonizes everything together without turning this into a sweet hot sauce. Amazon Habanero Hot Sauce is great with more robust foods like grilled meats and poultry, rice & bean dishes, chili, stews casseroles, pizza and pasta.

Amazon Mild Sweet Mango Hot Sauce
Amazon Mild Hot N' Sweet Mango Sauce is an alluring, piquant blend of juicy sweet mango with just the right amount of spicy habanero peppers for a playfully zesty sauce that adds sweet excitement and tropical intrigue to lighter foods like fish, seafood, chicken, stir-fry and other rice dishes. But that's not all: This sweet & savory hot sauce is a welcome companion to salty tortilla chips, french fries, calabash shrimp and other crunchy-salty fare. This is the mildest of the Amazon hot sauces, but most definitely not bland or boring when it comes to palate-friendly flavors. Made with exotic ingredients such as passionfruit, mango vinegar and turmeric, it's a memorable sensory experience that will enthrall and enchant you.

These are only three of the newest products to arrive at our warehouse partner, and we have more showing up regularly. Click here to see all new products.

Zestfully yours,

Monday, May 5, 2014

Our Favorite Cinco de Mayo Recipes (Not the Usual Stuff!)

Bread recipe for Cinco de Mayo
¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo! Or, Happy 5th of May!

Surprisingly, Cinco de Mayo is a much bigger deal here in the U.S. than it is in Mexico, perhaps because so many Americans enjoy having an excuse to eat hearty Mexican food with lots of big, zesty flavor and drink beer, tequila shots and margaritas.

If you're planning on celebrating today with Mexican food or dishes inspired by Mexican cuisine and are searching for recipes for Cinco de Mayo, you've come to the right place. Here are some of our favorite Cinco de Mayo recipes at the Carolina Sauce Company, several of which are refreshingly different from the usual "rice & beans, cheese & sour cream, guacamole & chips" fare (not that there's anything wrong with those, but sometimes it's fun to change things up):

Cinco de Mayo Skillet Bread: As easy to make as a cornbread, but made with flour instead of cornmeal and loaded with cheese and chili peppers yet relatively healthy in comparison to other quick breads, this crowd-pleaser is fantastic with any meal, and not just on the fifth of May. Its also festively colorful, as you can see from the photo above on the left. Click for the recipe for Cinco de Mayo Skillet Bread.

Five-alarm chili recipe
Five-Alarm Chili: I can't resist including this recipe, even if not truly authentic in terms of Mexican pedigree. But with a five in the name, and plenty of fiery heat along with ingredients frequently used in Mexican cuisine, this HOT chili is a natural fit for Cinco de Mayo, especially if the weather is still fairly cool in your neck of the woods. Click for the recipe for Five Alarm Chili. By the way, this chili is shown on the right with home-cooked tortilla chips, which are extremely easy to make, a lot tastier served warm from the oven (yes, they're baked but blow away the "baked" chips sold in supermarkets), and far better for you than store-bought chips. Click here for how to make healthy tortilla chips.

crock pot chili recipe
If you want to serve chili today but prefer a milder, more family-friendly recipe that's more about the flavor rather than fiery heat, you can't beat my Crock Pot Chili, which I not-so-humbly call the Best Ever Chili Recipe. Are you skeptical about my boast? Go ahead and try my recipe, and I bet you'll agree -- just as everyone has who's already tried it. It's also very easy to make, and you can make it as mild or as spicy as you prefer. Click here for the Best Ever Crock Pot Chili Recipe, which is also shown on the left.

avocado tuna melts recipe
Another non-traditional but Mexican-inspired recipe that's appropriate for Cinco de Mayo is my recipe for Avocado Tuna Melts. This one is extremely popular on Pinterest, and also among followers of low-carb diets. It's high in protein and healthy fats because of the avocado, and is devilishly spicy without being overwhelmingly hot. The avocado becomes decadently creamy when roasted in the oven, resulting in a luxurious and satisfying mouthfeel. It also looks pretty as well as tasting great, and even if you're a hard-core bread addict like I am, you won't miss the bread once you experience a bite. Click for the recipe for Avocado Tuna Melts.

Mexican tuna salad recipe
Continuing with the healthy but zesty theme, I give you my Mexicali Tuna Salad, another low-carb recipe featuring Mexican flavors without restaurant-food guilt. Especially if you're celebrating earlier in the day and don't want to get weighed down with the more traditional rice and beans or heavy cheese and sour cream, these feisty and festive spicy salads are perfect -- and they wash down nicely with margaritas or beer. And yes, you can turn the salad into Mexican wraps by spreading it onto flour or corn tortillas and rolling them up, or dig into it with tortilla chips if carbohydrates aren't a concern. Click for the recipe for Mexicali Tuna Salad.

For more Cinco de Mayo recipes, click here.

And if you're in the market for genuine Mexican hot sauces, the Carolina Sauces online store is the place to go -- you can search by country from our "sauces by country" drop-down menu on the left margin of any page in the store, and just select Mexico to see what we have.

Zestfully yours,

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Smoked Garlic, or, How to Roast Garlic on a Smoker

salad with smoked garlic
I love garlic.

Whether served raw and slivered paper-thin into EVOO with a sprinkling of coarse sea salt and cracked peppercorns as a gloriously pungent and assertive dip for artisan bread, or mellowed into robust yet elegantly well-rounded earthiness through slow roasting, sauteing, baking or frying, I can safely say that garlic is one of my favorite things to eat.

My favorite way to enjoy garlic has always been roasted -- that is, until yesterday.

Yesterday, Greg made smoked garlic.

Cooking garlic cloves on a smoker produces the most wonderfully smooth, rich roasty flavor and buttery-soft spreadable texture I have ever experienced in garlic. To my surprise, the smoked garlic had just a light, subtle kiss of smokiness that played a complementary supporting role to the almost sweet, toasty and deeply complex roasted garlic flavors. And there was absolutely no pungency or sharpness. In short, the roasted garlic tasted sublime.

If you enjoy garlic, especially when roasted, you'll be happy eating smoked garlic as an appetizer with crackers, crostini or bread (you can mash a bunch of smoked cloves into a paste or use a knife to spread a clove onto your cracker etc.); blended with cream cheese and sour cream to make a roasted garlic dip; spooned over sliced roast beef, London broil, grilled pork chops, roasted chicken or turkey, or with other similar main courses; tossed with cooked vegetables or a salad; and even on its own.

cooking garlic on a barbecue smoker
Smoked garlic is virtually foolproof to make, and takes practically no effort, especially if you're already firing up your smoker to cook other things.

In the photo on the left, Greg smoked the garlic in a tray along with a separate tray of jalapeno cheddar cheese, placing both trays on the smoker when the chicken he was smoking had about an hour left to cook.

If you can buy containers of already-peeled "dry packed" (not in a jar with liquid) garlic cloves at Whole Foods or other supermarket, I recommend make a large batch because you can store the smoked garlic in your refrigerator if you place it in a small jar or other tightly lidded container and cover the smoked garlic cloves with olive oil.

Here's how to cook garlic on your smoker:

raw garlic clovesLots of peeled garlic cloves (at least a couple dozen)
Olive oil or butter (about 1 Tbs per 15-20 cloves)
Kosher salt or other salt

Start your smoker and bring to about 250° to 275° F. Place the garlic in a small aluminum foil pan, such as the disposable ones for baking mini-loaves of bread if smoking 2 or 3 dozen cloves; a larger foil pan for larger quantities. The garlic cloves should be spread out to cover the bottom of the pan as close to a single layer as possible and not more than a double layer in depth, as shown on the right, to ensure even cooking.

Add the olive oil or butter, then sprinkle very lightly with salt -- Greg used no more than 1/4 tsp for this batch of about 30 cloves.

how to smoke garlic

Place the pan on your smoker and cook until the garlic cloves are golden-brown and extremely soft -- this takes about 45 to 60 minutes, and below is what they looked like after 30 minutes:

how to roast garlic on a BBQ smoker

Cooking time will vary depending on how much garlic you're smoking, the smoker temperature, and weather conditions that may influence smoker temperature (e.g., winds, humidity, cold, etc.). You might also prefer a deeper or a lighter roast. Here's how we like our smoked garlic, at about the one-hour mark:

smoked garlic

That's it!

Zestfully yours,

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Foo Foo Mama Choo -- Say WHAT??

Carolina Reaper Sauce
The newest hot sauce from High River Sauces is called Foo Foo Mama Choo and is made with the Carolina Reaper pepper, which recently dethroned the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion Pepper as the NEW hottest pepper in the world.

Unlike other hot sauces that are quick to jump on the "hottest pepper" bandwagon, this one doesn't cut corners when it comes to quality ingredients and great flavors. High River Sauces takes pride in producing what some would consider "artisan" hot sauces, which is really just a fancy way of saying that their sauces are as much about tasting really good on their own as they are about delivering fiery heat. Their latest creation is true to that commitment to quality, and will please both the serious chilehead as well as the discerning and educated palate.

Roasted red peppers and fire-roasted tomatoes are blended with rice wine vinegar to provide the backbone or base of High River Sauces FooFoo Mama Choo Hot Sauce, for an incomparably rich, smooth, and never harshly tart initial presence on the tongue. You then experience the distinctively bright, almost fruit-like Carolina reaper, with its searingly hot bite -- but because there are no extracts or artificial heat enhancers in this hot sauce, your taste buds won't get blown out. Instead, assuming you're experienced with VERY hot sauces, you'll be able to enjoy the harmoniously complementary flavor notes from zippy fresh ginger, pungent garlic, savory soy sauce and a touch of brown sugar to round everything out, along with High River Sauce's secret blend of herbs and spices.

Intrigued? Then get yourself a bottle and experience what a well-made Carolina reaper pepper hot sauce should taste like. Buy Foo Foo Mama Choo Hot Sauce online from the Carolina Sauces online store while it's on sale.

Zestfully yours,

Friday, May 2, 2014

A Delightfully Simple Strawberry Dessert with an Unusual Twist

chocolate infused balsamic vinegar
Have you ever tried chocolate-infused balsamic vinegar?

I received a lovely little bottle of this luxuriously unctuous, magnificently complex and mysteriously opaque liquid as a gift, and was immediately seduced by its satiny mouthfeel and marvelously mellow balsamic flavor that lacked any sharp vinegar edginess. The card tied to the neck of the bottle explained that the balsamic vinegar had been aged for at least 25 years, resulting in an almost syrup-like consistency with lusciously layered wood notes reminiscent of a fine, well-aged red wine. The infusion of chocolate provided sumptuously deep, nuanced, dark cocoa notes that harmonized beautifully with the other flavors

The thoughtful and generous friend who gave me this gourmet treat explained that chocolate balsamic vinegar can be used with oil to dress salads or blended with cream cheese for a dip, and the card on the bottle suggesgted drizzling over vanilla ice cream or fresh berries, or using as a marinade for chicken and pork. I bet it would be fantastic drizzled over New York cheesecake, too, and possibly on bread pudding, warm brie or rice pudding as well, and even as a marinade for wild game.

Inspired by the thought of berries and creamier style cheeses, I came up with the following dessert which is deceptively simple in terms of ingredients and preparation, yet remarkable in its layers of intriguingly unexpected yet delightfully complementary flavors. There is no need to measure the ingredients -- use the proportions that look, sound and taste good to you. You could also choose to add one or more of the following ingredients, none of which I've done yet (simply because I haven't had them on hand yet) but each of which I suspect would work quite nicely and add a pleasantly complementary flavor note: A chiffonade of fresh basil or mint leaves; a gentle dusting of very coarse sea salt and coarsely ground peppercorns; a light sprinkling of thinly sliced spring onions (a little bit of the green tops as well as the white bulb).

If you try this dessert or any variations thereof, please leave a comment below to let us know what you did and how it turned out! Click here to buy chocolate balsamic vinegar (it's surprisingly affordable and available through one of our trusted partners).

strawberries with feta & chocolate balsamic vinegar
Fresh ripe strawberries (perhaps 5 or 6 per person)
Crumbled feta cheese or goat cheese
Aged chocolate-infused balsamic vinegar

Wash and dry the strawberries, cut off the green tops and halve lengthwise. I like to leave 1 strawberry per serving untrimmed and uncut to use as a garnish. Arrange several strawberries in each serving bowl, sprinkle with as much cheese as desired, then drizzle as desired with the chocolate balsamic vinegar.

Note: If using any of the following additional ingredients, I recommend adding as follows:
Sprinkle the herb chiffonade after you've drizzled the berries and cheese with the vinegar
Lightly sprinkle the salt & pepper over the berries before topping with cheese and vinegar
Serve the berries and sliced spring onion together before topping with cheese and vinegar

Zestfully yours,
Carolina Sauce Company

Thursday, May 1, 2014

April's Best-Selling Carolina Sauce Products

habanero popcorn
The weather wasn't the only thing that was crazy in April: Last month saw major shake-ups to our list of best-selling sauces, snacks & seasonings at the Carolina Sauce Company. From first-time top-ten finishers to the displacement of longtime list regulars, along with a complete surprise in the number one slot, the following list has quite a few names on it, and a little bit of almost everything we sell on our online store. For more info or to buy any listed product, click on its name below or on the photo shown.

1. Ass Kickin' Habanero Microwave Popcorn: Talk about making a dramatic entrance -- I'm pretty sure it's the first time that this spicy microwave popcorn has broken into the top ten, and it was our best-selling product for April! When supermarket spicy popcorn isn't hot enough and you're craving a hot snack to enjoy with a cool beverage, it's time to graduate to Ass Kickin' Habanero Popcorn for real heat.

2. Jamaica HellFire 2 in 1 Hot Sauce is once again on our top-ten list, and high in the rankings as usual. This zesty hot pepper sauce is the brainchild of a Jamaican doctor who uses his own special blend of island seasonings and sun-ripened tropical chiles for incomparable flavor and solid heat level that asserts its presence without destroying your taste buds.

Pappy's White Lightnin' Barbecue Sauce
3. Pappy's XXX White Lightnin' BBQ Sauce moved up to third place after finishing ninth in March, a clear sign that this big, bold, tangy-sweet and fiery hot Kentucky barbecue sauce is growing in national popularity. It's "fortified" with a splash of real Kentucky bourbon for depth of flavor, and the whiskey-flask bottle adds to its visual appeal (this barbeque sauce makes a great gift). Whether you slather it on ribs and chicken or pour it over brisket or pulled pork, Pappy's BBQ sauce is a winner every time with fans of hot & spicy food.

4. Wells Hog Heaven BBQ Sauce slipped a few spots from its usual #1 finish, but continues its domination as our all-time best-selling barbecue sauce. Most people enjoy this thin, spicy (not hot) and tangy vinegar sauce on Carolina style smoked & pulled pork BBQ, but it's also good for marinating chicken or for seasoning cooked greens like collards or kale.

Honey Habanero Wing Sauce
5. Our first of three ties last month featured two newcomers to our list of best sellers: Pain is Good #37 Honey Habanero Screamin' Wing Sauce, a fabulously sweet & spicy hot wing sauce for Buffalo wings, Buffalo shrimp, and anything else you like to slather with or dip into a good hot wing sauce; and Green Ghost Hot Sauce, a powerfully HOT ghost pepper (aka jolokia) sauce made with unripe (green) ghost peppers and habaneros plus jalapeno peppers for extra green-ness and peppery tang.

6. Another tie, this time for the sixth slot, included Naga Jolokia 10 Wing Sauce, an extremely HOT (hence the "10" in the name) Buffalo style wing sauce made with jolokia (aka ghost) peppers, making this sauce ideal for "suicide wings" and other insanely hot appetizers; and Cajohn's Lethal Ingestion Bhut Jolokia Hot Sauce, shown below on the right in its "lab chemical" box. As the name suggests, Lethal Ingestion is an ultra-hot pepper extract made from super-hot jolokia chiles, rendering it too intensely hot to be used in greater than micro-drop quantities. Both of these sauces are new to our monthly top-sellers list, to the best of my recollection.

Lethal Ingestion Jolokia Hot Sauce
7. Our final tie was between two "regulars" on our list, which also happen to be "old timers" in the ever-changing world of hot sauces and condiments: Matouk's Flambeau Sauce, which is hands-down one of the hottest non-extract sauces on the market but also delivers phenomenally tasty and well-balanced flavors from aged scotch bonnet peppers pureed with West Indian seasonings for an unusually thick, rich texture; and Scorned Woman Hot Sauce, a classic all-purpose savory vinegar pepper sauce made with a variety of hot chilies plus black pepper.

8. Busha Browne's Pukka Sauce dropped one spot from its March finish but continued its history of popularity among people who like to splash some hot sauce on many different kinds of savory food. Savory, tangy and spicy without being overpowering, Pukka Sauce will add zip to everything from scrambled eggs & hash browns to burgers, subs, pizza, wings, nachos, spaghetti, chili, stews, casseroles, stir-fry dishes and more.

9. Ass Kickin' Chile Lime Microwave Popcorn made its best-seller debut this past month with a very respectable ninth place finish. This spicy southwestern style popcorn delivers zesty citrus flavor with just the right amount of sassy chile pepper spice. Chile Lime Popcorn is perfect for snacking along with a frosty margarita or cold beer, as well as with your favorite soda or summery iced tea.

Jim's Own Slow & Smokey Chili Mix
10. Jim's Own BBQ Sauces, Rubs & Chili Mix made it back onto our list of top-selling products. These North Carolina barbecue sauces and versatile dry rubs come in a variety of flavors ranging from traditional Piedmont-style (western NC) tomato-vinegar BBQ sauces in Mild and Hot to South Carolina-inspired mustard barbecue sauce, all-American Smokey sauce and several different barbecue spice blends influenced by Mexican, South African and American cuisines. Jim's Own also makes a hearty, all-natural chili mix (shown on the left) and offers a wide selection of gift baskets and gift sets for any occasion, plus t-shirts with their "best dressed pig" logo and sturdy, roomy two-pocket BBQ grill aprons for the backyard chef.

Zestfully yours,