Talking hot sauce with Tara Hill of Roasters
We chat with Tara Hill of Roasters on getting in the hot sauce game and witnessing her husband eat the spiciest pepper in the world.
When Tara Hill and her husband Austin had kids they realized that the days of super spicy meals were behind them and their taste buds yearned for the kick of the habanero. So, they got on the sauce, the hot sauce.
The two were not impressed with the selection out there, which were ladened with sugar, salt, herbs and spices that taste good in a freshly opened bottle, but not so good six months later.
So, like true foodies, they started to make their own. Austin would roast the habaneros on the bbq – hence the name ‘Roasters’ – to enhance the flavour and pretty soon they were shilling their natural sauces out to friends and family.
“Eventually, a friend of ours asked what was stopping us from going commercial. The answer was money,” said Tara. “We asked him if he had some money he wanted to throw our way, and it turns out he did.”
The financial boost was enough to get them set up and to start sourcing peppers from local growers like Sole Food Street Farm.
“I had this dream that we could source local peppers from the farmers and at the time I didn’t really realize you could grow Habernos locally, but I saw Sole Food Street Farms have them and it all came together.”
Tara’s first career was in science research, so when she got into working with peppers, she really got into it and has even presented on the molecular structure of the pepper.
She can nerd out on how capsaicin – the molecule that gives peppers their spice – is not actually in the seeds, but in the white tissue literally called the placenta. She can also tell you about the anti-fungal properties of the spicy peppers, which is probably why people started eating peppers in the first place.
“Nobody really knows,” said Tara. “It’s one of those things that worked because it worked.”
The couple applied their research methods to recipe development. Hill recalls one particular experiment in which her husband sampled a Carolina Reaper (the world’s hottest pepper) after warming up his pallet with a Ghost Pepper.
“His first words were, ‘fruity ’and then his next words were, ‘and intensely hot’ and then it was two hours of a pretty intense experience,” said Tara. “My husband is definitely more of a chilli head than I am.”
They ended up landing on three more palatable flavours: Garlic and Jalapeno, Habanero Pineapple, and straight up Habanero, which they sell commercially and at local markets.
All their sauces are made with only fresh organic peppers that, whenever possible, locally sourced. Everything is fire roasted, giving it a nice smokey and charred flavour, and they use a fraction of the salt used in most commercial hot sauces.
“I didn’t think we’d be here making hot sauce, but over time we’ve been able to cultivate it into a local food brand,” said Tara.
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