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Jojo’s Sriracha

June 22, 2012

Life is serendipitous.

A year ago, I/Tickle Sauce participated in Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Home Grown event, which catered to local Brooklyn foodies, local artisans and small business owners to get them exposure at a minimal cost, while providing a reason for people to experience all that the Garden has to offer.

It rained cats and dogs all day, which kept most people at bay, except for an aspiring sriracha maker from Park Slope, Brooklyn.  Jolene Collins, or “Jojo”, as she prefers to be called, and I talked through the afternoon about the process of getting a product to market in New York State.  We started by talking about Cornell’s Food Entrepreneur program, which led to us talking about NYSSFPA and other resources that were available.

Jojo’s story with sriracha began back in February 2010 in Denver, CO.  While training to become a yoga instructor, she started to cut refined sugar out of her diet.  This move away from refined sugar would transform the way Jojo looked at food and lead to the creation of a very special sauce.

Cutting out refined sugar from a diet essentially means you’re going to make all of your food at home, since most foods in the commercial market contain it.  Her favorite condiment was sriracha sauce, so Jojo set out to create her own at home.

Fast forward through several test batches to a batch of homemade sriracha that was shared with friends who would say, “This is delicious.  You should bottle it.”  Like most people experimenting with creating a sauce, bottling and selling it is a far off aspiration.  Jojo was no different.

She moved to NYC in May of 2010 and almost immediately started volunteering time at Queens County Farm.  It was through making meaningful connections with the farmers there, discussions about her aspiration to create sriracha and their interest in testing out their peppers that she was able to start experimenting with batches again.  They loved what she produced and helped her connect with Eckerton Hill Farm and Oak Grove Plantation to have access to more peppers of different varieties.

With the warm support of these farmers and the exponential variety of peppers, the sauce flavor was developing rapidly.  This was her “aha” moment, when Jojo realized that connecting with local farmers, utilizing locally sourced ingredients and producing a flavorful sauce to share with the community was what she wanted to do.

The next step was doing ground work and puzzling out how to get the sauce from her kitchen to a store shelf.  Sriracha is a different type of sauce that requires more care than most:

  • Special equipment not available in all commercial kitchens;
  • Storage space to allow time for the batch to ferment; and,
  • A kitchen that allows products with capsaicin (i.e., cooking with peppers permeates the entire kitchen and often some kitchens don’t allow these types of products to be produced so as not to contaminate equipment or otherwise permeate the overall space).

If you seek to produce your own sauce, consider 3 hurdles: education and certification (i.e., Better Processing Control School certification), finding the right kitchen space and making sure the equipment available for use fits your product.  Each state’s requirement is different.  In New York State, Cornell’s Food Entrepreneur Materials and their office as a “phone call away” resource, have been extremely helpful in making progress.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that Jojo’s only product will be sriracha or even culinary-based.  Her talents are multi-dimensional, and she has been developing face and body scrubs, oils and a whole separate line of holistic products for a better well-being.

Jojo can be reached at loveofjojo@gmail.com.  Like her on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/loveofjojo.

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