Hi, my name is Sunny Bang, and I’m starting a probiotic hot sauce company in Brooklyn, NY. I am a chef in New York City, having cut my teeth with Chef Tom Colicchio (yes, of Top Chef fame). Those five years spent at Craft, Craft Bar and Craft Steak NY formed the cornerstone of my philosophy on food, which I still espouse today.
• Locally source the best ingredients you can find (and if you can’t find it, have a farmer you trust grow it for you)
• Use the proper technique to bring out the full flavor of those ingredients (in this case, lactic fermentation) and keep it simple so the flavors shine
• Present it in a way that is appealing to both the eye (hence the reuseable, swing-top whiskey flask) and the senses (I’ll get to that in a moment)
This is what I’ve done with Sunny Bang Private Label Probiotic Hot Sauce. First, a couple of Facebook test batch testimonials and then I'll tell you how this project came to be.
"Sunny, the sauce is a hit. It's different, you really did something original. I've got mustard, vinegar and tomato based sauces, Harissa, Kimchi, ghost pepper derived sauces, etc, and it doesn't fall into any of those categories. I love it, you can actually taste the pepper. It's become a staple, very, very well done. This stuff is fantastic, Sunny has creating something original and addicting." ~ Morgan W.
"Sunny. You have truly captured lightning in a bottle. This hot sauce is like none other. It gives you a nice bolt of heat but does not get progressively hotter like all other sauces I've had - masking what it's meant to compliment. Like a lightning strike it wows you each and every time, leaving you looking forward to the next. Thankfully I can plan when and where it hits next. I am a fan for life!" ~Brian O. (Executive Chef, Primehouse New York)
In August of 2008, I decided to take a hiatus from being a chef (feeling a little burnt out as we all do from time to time) to stay home and take care of my then one year old son. I spent my free time experimenting with a myriad of different recipes related to food and technique (as good chefs do). I decided to get back to roots, shopping religiously at farmers’ markets and using those ingredients to develop better, fresher tasting Indian food (my wife is ethnically Indian), a ton of Korean food with non-Korean ingredients, and pickles in all their forms. Being Korean, I have an affinity for pickles (in particular, the over 100 different varieties of kimchi and the process of lactic fermentation that is essential to their creation). Being from Texas, I also have an affinity for heat and spice. That’s when I happened upon some hot cherry peppers at the market and made my first batch of probiotic hot sauce. It was surprisingly good, but I never thought of producing it on a larger scale. It was something I did for friends and family.
The one difficult aspect about making my own probiotic hot sauce was finding enough fresh peppers (that's not a jalapeno, serrano or habanero) to quell the addiction to make more (yes, it's that good). There is only a small window of availability at farmers’ markets, if they have them at all. Last year though, at the end of summer, I found these smallish peppers that were shaped like chicken hearts and bought maybe a bit more than the stroller holding my then one year old daughter could carry. (Because who knew when they would be getting more?) These peppers were perfect with just the right amount of heat (think lower end of the Scoville spectrum for Habaneros or Scotch Bonnets) and fruitiness.
After a month of lactic fermentation, I was on to something special. I dropped them in the blender and bottled it up in 4-oz swing top bottles, and the response from my friends and family was overwhelming. The first thing that they noticed was that when they opened the bottle and sniffed it, their salivary glands would kick into overdrive. That’s the beauty of lactic fermentation; it awakens the senses because your body knows it’s good for you.
Upon further research, I learned that the Rote Hinkelhatz (that’s Red Chicken Heart for you non-German speakers) Hot Pepper was indigenous to the local agricultural area, having been cultivated in the Pennsylvania Deutsch Land for well over 150 years. However, these rare heirloom peppers had been placed on Slow Food’s US Ark of Taste “catalog of over 200 delicious foods in danger of extinction” if we don’t produce and eat them more. Now, don’t get me wrong! I’m not a crusader by any means, just a simple chef who wanted to make delicious hot sauce for his friends. But serendipity is not to be scoffed at and neither is my wife.
Recently, New York Magazine (April 23, 2012) had a cover article on the wealth of artisanal food coming out of Brooklyn in recent years entitled, “Is Artisanal Brooklyn A Step Forward For Food Or A Sign Of The Apocalypse? And Does It Matter When The Stuff Tastes So Good?” In the middle of the article is a two-page photo spread of many of the people producing these products. The conversation with my wife went something like this:
Wife: You know some of these people, right?
Wife: Out of all the products made by them, what don’t you see?
Me: Hot sauce?
Wife: YOUR HOT SAUCE! If you don’t get on this now, someone else is going to do it, and you’re going to feel stupid and a lot of regret.
Who could argue with such persuasive reasoning? So I decided to start this little company called Sunny Bang Private Label. I use only the best local ingredients I can get my hands on to bring this 8-oz bottle of pure chile pepper pleasure to your table. (FYI, most hot sauce bottles are 5-oz.)
• The peppers are growing at Selah Farms in Lincoln University, PA by a grand old lady cut from the old cloth named Bernadine Barnum (“Please, just call me Bernie.”). She has a small farm where they sustainably raise the sweetest corn and the tastiest beef this side of the Appalachian Mountains.
• The hint of white wine vinegar I use to enhance flavor and help induce the growth of lactic bacteria (that’s the good bacteria that’s found naturally all around us, as well as in our gut, which aid digestion) is produced by Brother Victor at Our Lady of the Resurrection Monastery in upstate NY. Their artisanal organic vinegars are based on a monastic recipe from the Middle Ages which utilizes “a slow boiling process with a mixture of fruits, herbs, and a variety of spices” left to stand for 24 hours then fermented with a mother for “8 to 12 months minimum so that each vinegar may develop its own flavor.”
• The unrefined sea salt is from the Maine Sea Salt Company, which is “the first salt works in Maine in over 200 years.” They make their “sea salt naturally, through the evaporation and reduction of sea water in solar green houses and shallow pools.”
• These three ingredients and filtered New York City tap water (some of the best tasting water in the country and the reason, FYI, that bagels in New York taste so special) are all that go into the recycled 25 gallon whiskey barrels from the Breuckelen Distillery used for fermentation.
• Pure and simple. Gluten-free, vegan, live-culture deliciousness!
My thought process is that in this day and age where so many more people shop for their produce and meats at farmers’ markets and purveyors of local goods, the efforts of the home cook who uses these goods (or who just simply take pride in making delicious, homemade food) should not be masked by heavy-handed, vinegar-based hot sauces with all the life cooked out of them. Instead, my probiotic hot sauce, alive with flavor and digestive health benefits, would add not just heat but the fresh-flavored sweetness of the peppers and complexity of artisanal monastic vinegar to enhance your dishes, lovingly prepared with so much effort. If you feel the same way, please support my project.
Although Bernie is a nice lady and all, she won’t hand over these peppers without payment for nurturing and growing this rare heirloom varietal. (More importantly, if we get enough funding, Bernie can start a seed bank by letting some of the pepper plants fully mature thereby proliferating the species through next season's crop.) Also, the cost of artisanal ingredients such as Brother Victor’s vinegar and Maine sea salt are not as cheap as the industrially produced alternatives. Plus, there is the cost of barrels, bottles, labels, packaging, Robot Coupe food processor, Vita-Mix blender, rent for the production space, graphic design and website production. This is why I need your backing. What's more, you’ll satisfy not just your belly but your good nature as well, knowing you’re helping to keep an endangered chile pepper around for future generations to enjoy. Plus, it's delicious and hot! AND how cool is it that the vinegar in the hot sauce is made by a Benedictine monk?
Thank you for your interest and support!
- (32 days)