Local Teacher Gets the Hot Sauce Right - TribPapers

Local Teacher Gets the Hot Sauce Right

George and Kathy Batten. Photo submitted.

Asheville – With backgrounds in chemistry and business broking, it’s no wonder George and Kathy Batten are making such flavorful hot sauces and pepper jams today. George has been a teacher since 2001 with a focus on chemistry and pre-calc, while Kathy used to be a business broker and has always had a passion for peppers. She has been interested in peppers ever since childhood, thanks to her early exposure to the industry by her father, who was a business professor and consultant who helped a group of Colombian farmers qualify their product for Tabasco 40 years ago. While sourcing peppers from South America in her own dealings as a broker, Kathy discovered a culture of chili heads who were taking it to the next level. This is when she noticed a balance of flavors was missing from the subculture of people chasing the hottest experience.

After marrying in 2013, the couple wanted to start a business right away. They initially looked into being business brokers specifically for peppers, but a market research survey revealed this wasn’t the best choice due to oversaturation in the market. This information sparked the idea to produce their own sauce, and with their 40-year-old Batten family recipe on hand, they had an excellent place to start. This was the birth of the Batten’s line of original hot sauces, ‘Chili Today, Hot Tamale’.

Their extensive knowledge of peppers and a penchant for experimenting in the kitchen were the perfect tools needed to develop all the flavors for their own line of sauces and jams. While the flavors are all cooked up at home, a talented staff working in the Imladris Farms kitchen crafts all the products being sold. After moving to Asheville last year to be closer to their children who had settled in town back in 2013, the Battens contacted Blue Ridge Cooperative, which in turn connected them with Imladris Farms. They’ve stated that this was an excellent move for them as a small business, as the biggest hurdle to jump in this industry is often costs. They were excited to be in contact with a local commercial kitchen not only for the affordable pricing but also to be involved with the local small business ecosystem that Asheville has created. With his history working as a chemist, George was familiar with FDA protocols and guidelines, so when the time came to fine-tune their business plan, a co-packer was the obvious choice; co-packers are responsible for quality assurance, manufacturing, and packaging. They source their peppers from Ecuador, Colombia, and Costa Rica, and their ingredients are all natural.

George and Kathy have traveled nationwide, attending barbeque and chili events, selling their flavorful sauces, and expanding their knowledge about chili peppers and different flavor profiles. George still works part-time as a teacher at Carolina Day School while Kathy runs their business from home full time, and while things might be smooth sailing now, they have had obstacles to overcome. In one such instance, the Battens had created what they considered to be the perfect recipe for one of their jams, but after sending the sample for FDA testing, it was rejected. The FDA would not allow the product to be labeled as “jam” because it did not contain enough sugar, but they would instead allow them to refer to it as a “spread”. Unsatisfied, George and Kathy went back to the drawing board to refine their recipe. After several tests, they developed a jam that contains enough sugar to claim the title of jam and stayed true to their original vision of flavor and heat combinations.

The Batten’s Gourmet Sauces are available in five flavors, varying in heat levels, such as: George’s Gourmet, the smoky, sweet, spicy sauce that pairs well with steak; Batten’s Brew, a habanero and jalapeno sauce that’s not too hot and a mainstay in Kathy’s home cooking; and the Thermonuclear Sauce, for those who like it extra spicy. In addition to their sauces, George and Kathy also make a line of chili-based jams, which can be used as a stand-alone condiment or as an additional ingredient to create a more complex flavor in traditional recipes. Currently, the jams come in three flavors: strawberry rhubarb, pineapple mango, and Georgia peach. George and Kathy’s sauces and jams are available at Kitchen Sink in Franklin, NC, as well as some specialty stores and restaurants in Georgia, but you can also access these hot products by way of their Facebook and Instagram pages: Chile Today Hot Tamale, or the company’s website: chiletodayhottamale.net.