ODTUG Member Series: A Man and His Hot Sauce

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Guest Blogger: Opal Alapat

 

 

 

This is not a story about technology. No, this is a story about a man and his hot sauce. Very good hot sauce, I might add.  

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 (Wayne and his beautiful wife, Cynthia)

  • Name: Wayne Van Sluys
  • Age check box: 35-44
  • Current career age: ~15 years
  • # of years involved with ODTUG: 5
  • Company: interRel Consulting
  • Technology identifiers: All things BI, OBIEE, OBI and MapViewer, BI track content selection committee (and BI Track Lead for Kscope15), Oracle ACE Associate, and the very first person to register for each Kscope conference – 6 years in a row!
  • Blog: http://beyond-just-data.blogspot.com
  • Twitter: @wvansluys

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What is hot sauce? When asked to describe it in one phrase, Wayne stated that it is “an added spice to life.” For him, it's a flavor enhancer. And let me tell you – this man lives by flavor. Everything he eats and drinks – even beer – has character. You can see it in the many food and drink posts on his Facebook account. He hates generic. He says he uses hot sauce to enhance the bland.

Wayne is no unknown in the ODTUG world. He is one of many unique individuals who, much like his hot sauce, adds character and flavor to the community. He shines in the BI world and is very popular at the annual Kscope conference event. He recently celebrated his entry into the Oracle ACE program (congrats!). However, he has a secret (actually, he doesn't keep it a secret; he just doesn't always advertise it). He makes hot sauce. Gallons of it. Every. Year. He grows his own peppers in the family garden, and when he's done making all the salsas, jellies, and infused whatnots, he freezes the extra peppers. When he hits his pepper low in winter, that’s when the magic happens. Hot sauce is made.

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Wayne has been married to his better half, Cynthia, for more than 12 years. He’s stepfather to her awesome son, Clark. Luckily, Cynthia is a gardening enthusiast. It's clear from the photos posted to Facebook that Cynthia has the green thumb. Wayne’s hot sauce can be partially credited to her skilled gardening habits.

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Wayne says he first got involved with hot sauce on a complete lark. Around 2006, he and Cynthia were trying to grow a garden and overpopulated the peppers. He liked peppers, so why not? After making one too many salsa recipes, he decided to freeze the remaining 2 gallons of peppers until he could figure out what to do with them. Then he started to research hot sauce.

“Store-bought hot sauce lacks flavor,” he comments. “It also makes for great gifts.” Therefore, he started a journey to improve upon it. So each year he ends up making one quart to a half-gallon of hot sauce for himself and then gives away the rest. Family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers count themselves in the lucky Van Sluys Hot Sauce circle. He never sells it.

The Process

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(Courtesy of wikiHow)

“The process for making hot sauce is fairly easy,” Wayne laughs. (So easy, in fact, that this may become a pet project of mine this fall.) He grows his own peppers either from seeds or seedlings. The regular peppers in his bunch consist of several varieties of jalapeños, serranos, and Anaheims. Normally he grows 12-24 types of pepper plants (with several varieties of each), but he was limited this year by other time commitments and therefore settled on five types. When the peppers turn red, he picks them.

As his stash grows too large and he's done making the usual fresh pepper dishes, he stores the overflow in freezer-safe bags and packs them into the freezer. During the pepper lull in early winter, he then takes the frozen peppers out and turns them into one gigantic batch of hot sauce. Sometimes he'll break out part of the batch and make it extra hot by adding some ghost or habañero peppers. That version he gifts to friends who prefer heat level “mouth-on-fire.”

When used from the freezer, the peppers turn into a mush when they thaw. This actually makes them easier to convert into hot sauce, he comments. Sometimes he'll need to prep the peppers by removing stems and some seeds. He'll put the prepped peppers into a blender, mix with vinegar, and turn the blender on high until the sauce becomes “milk-smooth.” Then he'll let it sit for a while, breaking up any runaway big chunks. If the peppers are too large or the job is too hefty, he'll switch over to a food processor. Then he cans the hot sauce through hot bath canning or pressure canning to give it a longer shelf life.

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The process takes the better part of an afternoon. It generally yields 2-3 total gallons per year.

A New Beginning: Sriracha

Since his original hot-sauce revelation, Wayne has expanded his skills with peppers. He's pickled them, infused them, made jellies and hot sauces wit them, and dehydrated them. This year he ventured into fermented hot sauces. His first experiment was with Sriracha!

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(Courtesy of wolvesband)

Sriracha is something of an American pastime. Found commonly in Vietnamese pho restaurants and other Asian cuisines, Sriracha is fast becoming a staple of the American food culture. An awesome, short documentary on Sriracha will teach you the basics; you can watch it for free on Amazon Prime and Hulu.

“Sriracha differs greatly from regular hot sauce in that it requires garlic and fermentation,” Wayne mentions. He explains the process he experimented with this past winter: First, you mash the peppers with garlic and sugar. Then you let it ferment for two weeks. You have to stir the mash every day and strain it well, so this takes a bit more work than regular hot sauce. You halt the fermentation process by mixing the mash with vinegar and salt. Then you pressure-can it to increase the shelf life and protect against harmful bacteria.

The result is something beautiful and very unlike the rooster bottle sitting in my pantry. As you can see from the picture catalog I took below, it's thicker and chunkier. In addition, it has only a subtle vinegar flavor, which I personally prefer. I LOVE it and the moochers family members who visited my home for the Fourth of July holiday weekend also enjoyed it and ate greatly into our stash.

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(Note: I nonchalantly mentioned to Wayne that my husband and I are now down to half a jar, as shown in the bottom-right picture. We are slightly panicked. He just laughed.)

Working with the Hottest Peppers in the World

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(Courtesy of The Huffington Post)

As mentioned before, Wayne sometimes incorporates ghost peppers (the hottest pepper in the world) into his mix. He also uses habañeros from time to time. When working with insanely hot peppers, he recommends the following:

  • Wear heavy-duty food-safe gloves.
  • Be cognizant of everything you touch, splatter on, and drip onto with the sauce.
  • Have a plan for how you're going to take off the gloves when you’re done making the hot sauce.
  • Wear protective eye covers.
  • Clean everything well afterward with hot, soapy water. Sometimes a second and third cleaning are necessary.

Hot Sauce Rules the World

Hot sauce is a pretty common condiment in the United States. Below is a map of popular brands across the nation.

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(Courtesy of Thrillist)

Hot sauce can be used to enhance the flavor of pretty much anything. Wayne's personal favorite uses for hot sauce include adding it to:

  • Eggs
  • Pizza
  • Mac and cheese
  • Soups
  • Burgers
  • Chili

In addition, he's been known to get pretty creative with his peppers. Below is a picture of raspberry-and-habañero-infused tequila. Sounds delish!

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One dish he makes frequently is Louisiana-style hot wings. Yum!

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The Secret Sauce: Tips for Being Successful

If you'd like to venture into the world of homemade hot sauce, Wayne offers these general tips:

  • His bible and ultimate reference guide is a book called Too Many Chiles! by Dave DeWitt.
  • Myth: Hot sauce is hotter due to the inclusion of pepper seeds.
  • Jelly jars are cheaper than glass hot-sauce jars.
  • Capsaicin doesn't stick long to glass.
  • Overwatering a pepper plant decreases its heat level.
  • If you eat a pepper that is too hot for your own good, you can stop the pain with some dairy (milk) or sugar.
  • If you’re a newbie to hot sauce, try a few drops on something to get desensitized to it. Then try a few more drops. Keep adding until you can handle the heat!

Thank you, Wayne, for the fabulous interview! Happy hot saucing, everyone! :)

2 Comments
2 Likes

A Really Nice Break from the Daily Grind

July 17, 2015 09:53 AM by Monty Latiolais

I grow Golden Cayennes, Dragon Cayennes and Cowhorns (which is a large Cayenne) and Jalapenos. Wifey eats them faster than I can accumulate them. Guess I should plant more.

Dragon Cayennes and Cowhorns?

July 30, 2015 11:17 AM by Opal Alapat

Monty, your list of peppers sounds intriguing and very fantastical. I guess I shouldn't be surprised given your roots and locale. :)

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