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 local interest in the sauce began to increase, I started to pump up the volume and I renamed the vegetable 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 learned a lot about the specialty food biz. We even 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 chose to move the business 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. I began cooking and bottling the sauce at the Vermont Food Venture Center in Fairfax, Vermont in the Fall of 2008. In 2011, I moved over to New World Enterprises in Winooski, VT which is a small commercial kitchen where local producers make everything from hot sauce, mustard and salsa to salad dressing, jams, jellies and pickled products.
In September of 2015, we moved into our own facility which we share with another small specialty food producer in Morrisville, VT. It is such a relief to have our own small commercial kitchen where we can make sauce, engage in new product development, and simply mellow out.
Over the last few years, I have come up with a few new sauces and two certified organic 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 is nothing like anything else out there. Over the past few years we have been able to develop a strong relationship with local farmers throughout the great state of Vermont. We have been able to use 100% Vermont grown chiles in all of our hot sauces since 2009. We now source over 2,000 pounds of organic Vermont grown chiles every year from half a dozen local Vermont farms.
Below is a breakdown of our flavor profiles:
- 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 Chipotle Grande has a very distinct smoky sweet onion maple garlic flavor it is intensely addictive.
- The Mango Habanero is your classic summertime sweet-hot with an extra fresh flavor. No added sugar though, just fresh organic mangos in every batch.
- The White Hot, which is nicknamed “the guido killer”, is an onion and garlic based jolokia (ghost) fortified torture trip…but with flavah!!!
- The Old Coy Dog, is our fresh Vermont take on a classic red southern style hot sauce. We use the ghost chile but not all that vinegar because we don’t make hot vinegar, we make hot sauce.
- Poto Rojo, our hottest blend made with Carolina Reaper Chile Peppers and organic Sicilian Blood Orange Juice. Yeah sure it is pretty warm, it has a bright southern sour flavor with a nice escalating heat.
All sauces are made with non gmo and organic ingredients. I don’t use any filler ingredients like xanthan gum, pepper mash, salt, sugar, flour, corn syrup, or any artificial flavors or preservatives. Currently, we have 7 products that are either certified organic or are NON GMO PROJECT VERIFIED. We are in the process of obtaining NON GMO PROJECT VERIFICATION for the rest of the products as well.
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 fresh and unique product that is always made with organic and non gmo 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