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Bottle a Recipe & Sell it

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Breaking Into the Homemade Hot Sauce Business

Many hot sauces begin as a homemade concoction, which grows into a legend among friends and family and eventually develops into a business that one hopes is lucrative. Maybe you run a restaurant, have a sauce that your customers crave, and decide to take the plunge and bottle it, to sell at the restaurant or to a wider audience. Or maybe you are a hot sauce collector, have tasted hundreds of sauces, and think you could make one that’s better. Perhaps you’re a computer programmer by day and an amateur sauce maker by night, you have been dreaming up culinary concoctions and think you’ve stumbled upon a great formula. Whatever your pathway to getting sauced, the first step is to come up with a recipe. There are several aspects to consider.

Test, test, test. Work on your recipe, refine it, change it, experiment with it. Take your time and really develop it. As Miracle Max said in The Princess Bride, “You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.” Once you’re convinced that you’ve got a few great versions, invite friends whose palates you trust to come over for a tasting and some honest feedback. Perhaps you decide to serve three different styles of a sauce you love — one’s hotter, one has more curry, one has more ingredients. Set them out in bowls to test, and within each of those three categories, offer two or three versions (maybe one has a teaspoon of cinnamon, or mustard, while another doesn’t). Ask people to comment honestly; ask which sauce they’d buy for $5. Keep a careful log of comments and a record of what ingredient proportions went into each sample. Keep repeating these tastings, throwing out the versions no one likes, and asking strangers to taste them as well, until you hone in on a recipe that you and others think you can’t live without.

As you develop recipes, think about cost. I once came up with an awesome recipe for ginger-fig chutney, which I still adore; I make it every fall to give away as gifts. People love it. However, the price of the ingredients (fresh figs, fresh ginger) made the chutney prohibitive to bring to market. Plus, I could get fresh figs only in the fall. When tested using ground ginger, it wasn’t good, and dried figs didn’t work either. So the recipe died on the vine. If you make a sauce at home, say, with fresh artichokes, consider that you’ll want fresh artichokes (and what that implies in terms of cost and availability) when you bottle it, too.