My eyes are burning, and it’s hot—air-blasting-and-windows-open hot. On the stove is our biggest pot, a four-gallon stainless, with a half-pound of chilies de arbol simmering in vinegar-water and salt. Two other burners hold pots of tomato-slurry: our hand-crushed fruit, maple syrup, mustard, and spices. The heat, the burn: these are the sacrifice of homemade sauce—tart and spicy, deep with smoked paprika and tellicherry pepper, sound in tomato’s natural sugars. After our summers of struggling to create our perfect sauce, I believe that we can now put our Dreamland on the shelf and cook through the discomfort.
Which reminds me of the first days of the spice company, when we worked out of Niedlov’s Breadworks. In one corner of the 1600-square-foot space was an oven the size of a mini bus; there was no ventilation system in the facility: no AC, not even a window unit; no fan; no open windows. Mid-summer, the temperature reached easily over 100 degrees and, as we ground spicy blends like our Memphis Dry Rub, the particulates would rise and settle on our arms, moist with sweat; on the apples of our cheeks; and sometimes, god forbid, in our eyes. And would it burn. Needless to say, with two young couples and the heat, emotions ran high—ecstasy and humor, hysteria and annoyance.
It was a great time. Rent was low; labels were homemade; and we still felt awe that people wanted what we were making. As I’ll feel Saturday, carrying my three gallons of Alchemy Chili de Arbol Vinegar Sauce to christen the pig. Glasses up; let’s eat some pork.