It all started back in 2004 while I was working as a waiter at Mexicali Rose restaurant in Montclair, NJ. Putting the house hot sauce on my burritos, soft tacos, and chimichangas, became a daily lunchtime ritual. The sauce that they bought for the restaurant was quite good, with just the right mixture of citrus and vinegar. However, it lacked something that I was beginning to crave at the time ….HEAT!
After trying some more popular sauces such as Dave’s Insanity Sauce, Blair’s Death Sauce, and the ever so famous Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, I began experimenting in my kitchen at home. At the time I had a large supply of fresh cayenne and jalapeno peppers from my organic vegetable garden behind the house that I was renting with a few friends in Montclair,NJ. After drying a whole bunch of hot peppers, I thought that making hot sauce would also be a great way to preserve the chiles. a few trial runs later I thought I had perfected the ultimate balance of flavor and fire and thus, a delectable addiction was born. In the beginning I just slapped a hand written label on it and called it “Benito’s Orange Pepper Sauce” . Friends and family started to really dig it and I began to receive a lot of feedback as well as recipe ideas.
Eventually, once people’s interest in the sauce began to increase, I began to pump up the volume and I renamed the organic hot sauce “Benito’s Naranja”. I formed an LLC (Benito’s Hot Sauce) and approached an old friend, Steve Connelly (owner of the Laughing Burrito). Steve agreed to let me begin making the homemade hot sauce at his restaurant on Roseland ave in Caldwell, NJ. We had a solid run of it the first couple of years in the Jerz. We got into a few local stores and enjoyed some surprisingly successful days at a handful of local summer street fairs and fall harvest festivals.
In July of 2008 I permanently relocated to the beautiful Green Mountains of Vermont. I began cooking and bottling the sauce at the Vermont Food Venture Center in Fairfax, Vermont in the Fall of 2008. I am currently preparing and bottling my sauces at New World Enterprises in Winooski, VT, which is a small shared kitchen where local producers make everything from hot sauce and salsa to salad dressing, jams, jellies and pickled products. I chose to move to Vermont because of a statewide emphasis on the importance of locally made products and supporting the local economy along with the State’s commitment to sustainable organic agriculture.
Over the last few years, I have come up with a few new sauces, three Vermont maple BBQ rubs and two chile pepper infused Vermont maple syrups. , I wanted to incorporate a range of heat levels with various flavor schemes. All of the sauces have an extra fresh flavor that can only be accomplished through the torturous monotony of chopping fresh veggies for hours on end before each production run. Over the past few years we have been able to develop a strong relationship with local farmers and I am now exceptionally proud to say that we are currently sourcing all of our chile peppers from few dedicated local Vermont farmers.
Below is a breakdown of our flavor schemes:
The Original Naranja is for the seasoned hot sauce enthusiast but is also a crowd pleaser. It is a solid medium and goes well on anything.
Joe’s #1 Jalapa has a jalapeno/cilantro/ citrus lime flavor (great on Mexican food).
The Old Bricktucky Cayenne has a very distinct mild/sweet cinnamon cayenne flavor.
The Mango Habanero is your classic summertime sweet-hot with an extra fresh flavor.
The White Hot, which is nicknamed “the guido killer”, is an onion and garlic based jolokia strengthened torture trip .
Our hottest blend is the Old Coy Dog, it incorporates bhut jolokias and organic limeade for a sweet citrus filled blast of heat.
We also make various seasonal blends such as the Local Tang (seven varieties of Vermont grown organic chiles with a red bell pepper base and organic lime juice) as well as the Table Sauce ( a blend of organic Vermont grown butternut squash, local Vermont apples, pure Vermont maple syrup, organic local jalapenos, organic crushed black pepper and local cider vinegar). Our newest seasonal hot sauce is a smoked Pennsylvania peach hot sauce called the Crisp Smoke (organic Vermont grown chipotle peppers, organic Vermont grown red jalapenos, fresh Pennsylvania Amish grown peaches, red bell peppers and organic lime juice).
All sauces are made with all natural and organic ingredients. I don’t use nonsense filler ingredients like xanthum gum, pepper mash, salt, sugar, flour, corn syrup, or any artificial flavors or preservatives. Our products are 100% sodium free. I also make all of my sauces myself in small batches and bottle them myself by hand.
Ultimately, the purpose of what we do at Benito’s is not about big name recognition. I have no desire to become the next Tabasco sauce. I am simply about producing a unique product that is always made with fresh organic and all-natural ingredients. I love to hear that people are experimenting with our sauces, learning more about sustainable organic horticulture and participating in the creation and stewardship of local food systems.
- Ol’ Benito