Damien Gonsalves and Steve Parker, the masterminds behind Damien’s sauces, came up with the idea to launch the hot sauce company in 2014. “Like many friends who decide to start a business, it all started with one too many ales. We figured between Damien’s incredible recipes and my advertising background, we’d actually have a chance of making a go of this, ” said Parker. Just three years later, Damien’s Sauces are now sold online and in over 100 stores in central Canada.
We asked the hot sauce experts to share their spicy secrets with cooks who want to try their hands at sauce-making in their own kitchens. Here’s what they had to say:
Be open to experimentation.
“I’m definitely into experimenting,” said Gonsalves. “As a vegan, if you’re not creative, you’re eating a whole lotta French fries.”
So get into the habit of trusting your gut in the kitchen, and adding in new ingredients if you think they might work.
Know that sauce-making is part experimentation, part science.
Just like when it comes to baking, make sure to keep the ratios of peppers and other ingredients in mind when you’re crafting a hot sauce.
Pick a proper pepper.
“I love habaneros and scotch bonnets. They’re both packed with flavour and have great heat without being overwhelming,” said Gonsalves. “For something milder, try pimientos. They’re sweet, delicious and have just a wee bit of spiciness.”
Go fresh or go home.
“Always go with fresh ingredients if you can,” advised Parker. “Powders are easy, but the flavour just isn’t the same.”
Practice safe sauce-making.
“Don’t touch your eyes! Or any other sensitive bits, if you get my drift. Soap is your best friend after you’ve been handling peppers,” Parker warned.
Avoid an emergency kitchen evacuation.
Another (literally) hot tip from Gonsalves is that “when you’re washing up, use cool water, not hot. If you pour steaming water into a pot used to make hot sauce, everyone’s going to have to leave the house for a while.”
Round up the right tools.
When asked what the essential hot sauce-making kitchen appliance Golsalves suggested that everyone needs a hand blender. “The bigger the pot, the bigger the blender,” he added.
When it comes to adding other flavours, think outside the hot sauce bottle.
Once you’ve mastered the basics, get creative. “Cloves make anything taste exotic and mysterious,” said Gonsalves, “and the flavour goes well with chillis. Just don’t go hog wild with them.”
“We have one friend who uses cucumber to give a really bright, summery taste,” added Parker. “It’s subtle and definitely surprising.”
Use your sauce often… and on everything.
Is there anything hot sauce doesn’t go on? “I actually use our sauces on almost everything, and just make little adjustments to make the sauce suit the meal,” said Parker.
“Mix one with a little oil and it’s a marinade. Mix with mayo or BBQ sauce and you’ve got a great dip or sandwich spread. Hot sauce can kind of do anything. Like Superman,” Gonsalves explained.
No really, there’s nothing that can’t be made better by hot sauce.
“I once put our fresh lime sauce on lemon sorbet at a big dinner party,” said Parker. “Next thing I knew everyone was doing it and raving about how we should launch an ice cream company. Spoiler alert: we’re not launching an ice cream company.”
“Then there’s popcorn,” added Gonsalves, “and oranges. I mean I could go on, but all you can do is trust your heart, you know?”