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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Sauces/Rubs/Marinades

PRODUCT: Hot-Hot-Hot Ghost Pepper Salsa

Here’s a salsa to enjoy while listening to Donna Summer belt “Hot Stuff.”

It’s the first salsa we’ve tried from an artisan producer that uses the world’s hottest chile pepper—the ghost chile, or bhut jolokia.

Salsa is a billion dollar industry in America, with consumer preferences trending to hot. Lots of people think that, for food, heat can’t be beat. If you’re one of the many who like it hot-hot-hot, get some of Mrs. Renfro’s Ghost Pepper Salsa. It recently won at the 2011 Scovie Awards, the world’s leading competition for hot and spicy products.

Ghost Pepper Salsa is the fastest growing product in the company’s 71-year history. It’s also one of Mrs. Renfro’s three best sellers, along with two other hotties: Habanero and Green (jalapeño) Salsa.

How hot is ghost pepper?


Hot! Hot! Hot! Hot stuff, baby! Photo by River


  • The ghost pepper chile, or bhut jolokia, from northeast India, has been certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s hottest chile.
  • The chile is so hot, it’s used by the Indian military in tear gas—and it’s an ingredient in pepper spray, hand grenades and smoke bombs.
    The “explosive” Mrs. Renfro’s Ghost Pepper Salsa is available at retailers nationwide, or online at The cost per 16-ounce jar is $3.25 (prices will vary by market); online sales from Mrs. Renfro’s are in four-packs.

    Try it at your own risk. Says Mrs. Renfro’s: “This Ghost Pepper Salsa is scary hot!”

  • Check out the different types of chiles in our Chile Glossary.
  • How many different types of salsa can you name?


    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Barbecue Month & Brothers Sauces

    Brothers BBQ sauces: layers of flavor.
    Photo by Sue Ding | THE NIBBLE.


    May is National Barbecue Month.

    Among all the products people send “over the transom” for us to try, the largest category by far is barbecue sauce.

    We often say that, if aliens invaded THE NIBBLE offices, they’d think that earthlings lived on barbecue sauce.

    Much of what we’re sent is very simple and sweet: ketchup or tomato paste with added sugar, brown sugar, and/or high fructose corn syrup, plus onion powder, Worcestershire and/or hot sauce. The number one ingredient on the label is often one of the sweeteners listed above, if that gives you an idea of the taste.

    We call these products “meat sugar.” While we like tomato-based sauces, we really don’t like sugar sauce on our meat.

    Only one barbecue sauce has ever been memorable enough to make Top Pick Of The Week, and we happen to sell it in The Nibble Gourmet Market: Grandville’s BBQ Jam (it’s as thick as jam). Treat yourself to a bottle or two—it’s a great Father’s Day gift.


    What about all that barbecue sauce that arrives weekly at our office?

    Every so often, a product comes along and stands out from the rest. In the past, we’ve written them up as a group:

  • The Best Barbecue Sauce: 2006
  • The Best Barbecue Sauces: 2007
  • The Best Barbecue Sauces: 2008
  • The Best Barbecue Sauces: 2010—this review includes an explanation of the seven different styles of barbecue: East Carolina, Kansas City, Kentucky, Memphis, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas
    You may have noticed that we didn’t do a “Best” review in 2009. What happened? Not enough contenders for an article.

    But we do have a nominee for 2011: King Brothers.

    In 1986, the King Brothers—George, Barry and Darryl—plus Daddy King had a friendly family barbecue cook-off. The winner continued to make his sauce for his family and friends.

    The fan base grew, and wanted more barbecue sauce than King could supply. Friends said that they would gladly buy it. One sauce-addicted friend referred to the sauce as “The GOLD,” which became the name of the first sauce produced under the label Brothers Sauces.

    “The GOLD” was followed by “The HEAT,” a wing sauce, and Spicy Brown Mustard “GOLD.” Whether on beef, chicken, pork or seafood (some people use it as salad dressing, too), the multi-layered tastes shine through. Sweet and tangy flavors join the rich tomato base to create a noteworthy suite of sauces.

    You can purchase Brothers Sauces from the company website.

    The brothers also make Granny Georgia’s Brown Suga Dessert Sauce. It’s a bit sweet for us, but our neighbor, to whom we gave the jar, was thrilled.



    TIP OF THE DAY: A Savory Chocolate Garnish

    Our friends at Chocolates El Rey tweeted an idea that may sound odd, but actually is a tasty touch:

    Grate bittersweet chocolate over red sauces: barbecue and pasta dishes, for example (hold the grated cheese). Beyond grating, chocolate provides richness in savory recipes: chocolate with meat and chocolate with chicken, for example.

    Savory chocolate dishes go back a long way. Mole (pronounced MOE-leh) poblano, perhaps the most famous dish in Mexico, was created in the 16th century in Puebla, by nuns in the Convent of Santa Rosa in Puebla de los Angeles. The sauce has some 20 ingredients, including chocolate.

    You can include chocolate in every meal. We’ve attended a few such dinners, and have salivated upon reading reports of others. Ideas include:

  • Appetizer: Cocoa-coated goat cheese rounds, caviar with grated white chocolate
  • Salad: Your favorite salad with cacao nibs (beets, goat cheese and carrots go well in this)

    Beef in mole sauce in a taco shell. You can
    grate dark chocolate over it prior to serving.
    Photo courtesy of McCormick & Company.
    Get the recipe.

  • Main Course: Chicken in mole sauce (or chicken skewers with mole dipping sauce), hanger steak with a chocolate-infused gravy, chocolate-and-chile-marinated flank steak, any meat with a cocoa rub, cocoa-enhanced ravioli dough filled with butternut squash.
  • Cheese course: Cocoa-rolled goat cheese log (try the Capri chocolate goat log from Westfield Farms)
  • Dessert: Lots of options here!
    Find a wealth of cooking-with-chocolate recipes at

    Try these recipes for:

  • Chocolate Barbecue Sauce
  • Braised Beef Tacos With Mole Sauce
  • Cocoa Chile Pork Ribs
    And check out the book, The Essence Of Chocolate: Cooking And Baking With Fine Chocolate, by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg, founders of Scharffenberger Chocolate. Read our review of the book.



    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Chef Gerard & Chuck’s Salsa Verde

    Salsa verde is made from the green tomatillo
    berry, which is not a tomato. Photo by
    Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.


    We’re a nation of salsa lovers; but much of that is salsa roja, red salsa.

    In Mexico, the land from which we obtained our love of salsa, it’s the opposite. Only the northern states of Mexico, closest to the U.S. border, have red salsa as their tradition.

    Green salsa is based on the tomatillo, which is a distant relative of the tomato (the difference between tomatoes and tomatillos).

    We’ve had salsa verde from jars, but only recently experienced the joys of fresh salsa verde, from Chef Gerard & Chuck’s. It made us ask, why isn’t there more fresh salsa verde on the market?

    Of course, that’s the very question that got Chef Gerard into the business!

  • Read the full review.
  • Watch the video and learn how to make salsa verde.
  • Check out all the different types of salsa in Latin America, including 20 types you’ve probably never heard of.
  • The history of salsa, all the way back to the Aztecs.
  • How did salsa, the food, become salsa, the dance? The origin of salsa dancing.


    PRODUCT: Sugar-Free Barbecue Sauce

    Barbecue sauce can have as much refined sugar as dessert (we call the super-sweet ones “meat sugar”). People on sugar-free diets have limited choices if they want some BBQ.

    One manufacturer offering help is Chef Hymie Grande. The company has created a line of all-natural barbecue “glazes” flavored with low-glycemic agave nectar instead of other sugars.

    Chef Hymie Grande claims to be the first BBQ sauce [glaze] to carry the American Diabetes Association mark on the bottle’s label; the company contributes 5% of sales to the ADA. The line is also vegan-friendly.

    Three varieties are available:

  • Mild New Mexico Sweet Barbecue Glaze, sweet and gentle-tasting with a suggestion of sweet spice (think cinnamon).
  • Polapote* Barbecue Glaze made with ancho and chipotle, billed as medium-heat but delivering a nice amount of mild-to-medium heat.
  • We have no idea what “polapote” means. It’s not in the dictionary.


    An BBQ glaze for people on sugar-free
    diets. Photo by Katharine Pollak | THE NIBBLE.

  • Cascabel Express Barbecue Glaze labeled “Surprisingly Hot,” but actually a full-medium heat.
  • All three glazes have a nice texture from crunchy onions. Two tablespoons contain 30-35 calories plus 5g-6g sugars, 7g-8g total carbohydrate and 15mg sodium.

    By the way, glaze is a thin sauce. If you haven’t used glazes, the consistency is more like a vinaigrette dressing than a traditionally thick barbecue sauce.

    If you’re looking for a sugar-free traditional barbecue sauce, take a look at Bellycheer Grilling Sauces.

    Find all of our favorite barbecue sauces in our Rubs, Marinades & Glazes Section.


    PRODUCT: Best BBQ Sauce

    There’s a big difference in BBQ sauce quality.
    Photo by E.Z. Foryu | IST.


    We receive a lot of barbecue sauce to taste. In fact, we receive more barbecue sauce than any other product. We joke that if aliens invaded THE NIBBLE offices, they’d think that earthlings lived on barbecue sauce.

    However, it’s no joke that most of the sauces we taste are indistinct and overly sweet—a mix of ketchup, molasses and brown sugar, often with high fructose corn syrup.

    But every year there are a few true standouts. Check out our favorites of 2010. In alphabetical order they are:

  • BBQ Stu’s Pennsylvania Gold Barbeque Sauce
  • Grumpy’s Goodnight Loving BBQ Sauce
  • Jube’s San Francisco 1906 BBQ Sauce
  • Marian Davis’ Barbecue Sauce (kosher)
  • Ribber City’s New Jersey Blueberry-Chipotle Barbecue Sauce
  • Smokin’ Willie’s Classic BBQ Sauce
  • Texas Tasty BBQ Sauce
  • Read the full review. You’ll also learn the difference between Kansas City-style, Memphis-style, North Carolina-style, Texas-style and other types of barbecue sauce.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Rubbed the Right Way

    If you’re invited to a barbecue, bring the hosts a gift sampler of different-flavored rubs. Even if they blend their own herbs and spices, they’re certain to discover something new…and invite you back soon!


    TIP OF THE DAY: Yogurt Marinade

    Yogurt is not just a healthy food, a tasty food, a diet food and a multitasking dip and partner for fruit and granola. It’s also a great marinade for meat. In addition to imparting flavor, it has excellent tenderizing properties. Add garlic, herbs, macerated onion and any other favorite seasonings to your yogurt marinade. Your “secret blend” may become as sought-after as your special barbecue sauce!


    PRODUCT: Texas Tasty BBQ Sauce


    Tasty from Texas: BBQ sauce with a strong mustard flavor.

      Like French’s mustard? Like BBQ sauce? They married and had a child: Texas Tasty BBQ Dippin’ & Grillin’ Sauce. The sauce has a strong mustard flavor, and is a welcome, tangy change from a parade of sweet BBQ sauces we’ve been tasting lately.

    A 16 fl. oz. bottle is $4.95 at

  • Make your own: a recipe for Harry’s Texas Barbecue Sauce.
  • Recipe for Scharffen Berger Chocolate Chili Barbecue Sauce.
  • THE NIBBLE’s Best Barbecue Sauces 2006.
  • THE NIBBLE’s Best Barbecue Sauces 2007.
  • THE NIBBLE’s Best Barbecue Sauces 2008.
  • Top Pick Of The Week Barbecue Sauce: Grandville’s Gourmet BBQ Sauce.
  • Top Pick Of The Week: Sweet Sunshine Chili Sauce.
  • Learn how to barbecue with The Basics Of Barbecue.
  • Comments

    PRODUCT: Oregon Dan’s BBQ Sauce

    We probably receive more barbecue sauce than any other food product. Is there that much barbecue/barbeque/BBQ sauce in America, or is it just a favorite product for people who want to be in the specialty food business? (It’s the latter.) Many people think their sauce (jam, fudge, cookie, whatever) is “the best,” and are encouraged by friends to go into the business.

    While the world may need a better mousetrap, it isn’t looking for another sauce (…whatever). It’s tough even for spectacular products to survive. Some of our Top Picks Of The Week—the best of their kind we’ve ever had—have been shuttered (and by the same token, some truly mediocre products continue to sell well, year after year—a phenomenon previously noted by H.L. Mencken). In better economic times, we saw someone develop a unique and needed product to make tofu taste great, and the world did not beat a path to her door. Unless a close family member is CEO of a major food chain, getting distribution for a new product is like swimming upstream, without the genetics of a salmon. That doesn’t make us happy, because people who make specialty foods tend to be nice people, and we always want the best for them.


    BBQ sauce with a focus on fruit. Photo by Emily Chang | THE NIBBLE.

    Oregon Dan’s BBQ Sauce arrived recently: four attractive bottles in Original (pineapple), Medium Spice (Original/pineapple with a kick), Apricot and Habanero Hot. “Pure Ingredients!” exclaimed the bottle, and it is true that they are all natural, although the first ingredient is sugar. (Pure doesn’t mean healthy.) The recipes are complex. Original also has pineapple juice, tomato paste, onion, pineapple, distilled white vinegar, butter, cider vinegar, blackstrap molasses, sherry cooking wine, cornstarch, red pepper flakes, vanilla, spices and salt. That’s as classy a set of ingredients as we’ve seen on many a barbeque sauce bottle. Habanero Hot adds habanero purée (a quality ingredient—many sauces use the cheaper habanero extract), Apricot adds apricot purée. Oregon Dan calls the whole line “Hawaiian style,” although apricot and habanero are not part of traditional Hawaiian cuisine, as far as we’ve seen.

    The puzzler is, why is Oregon Dan selling Hawaiian recipes. Given that the snowy mountain peaks on the bottle labels are not Mauna Loa and the website survey suggests the next flavor will be coming from Oregon (bing cherry, boysenberry, marionberry, peach, pear and raspberry are the options—cast your vote), Dan might want to forget the “taste of Hawaii inside each bottle” and sell “BBQ Sauce With Fightin’ Fruit.” A 12-Ounce jar $5.50 at The line is gluten free.


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