A Hot Sauce Tale

Blame it on the exotic zoo manure.

A friend of mine mentioned that his mother, Fran, had some extra jalapeños. I adore Fran — I used to help her plant vegetables in the blazing hot sun on a hardscrabble patch of land that she turned into an organic garden — improbably set in the middle of a zoo for semi-retired showbiz animals. I’m not making this up. The garden was surprisingly prolific — and we attributed this in a big way to the exotic zoo manure. Our major worries were the somewhat disturbing frequency of breakouts; the peacocks would make short work of the tender pea shoots, the goats, too. When the lion cubs escaped to chase the goats? Well, that was just chaos.

At any rate, last year a chef down in Greenville asked Fran to grow him some jalapeños. Then he flaked, leaving Fran with a bunch of unclaimed peppers. Her son helpfully suggested that I take them — after all, I am sort of the foster mom to scraps. Extra berries? Dump ‘em on me and you might get a jar of jam back. Just try to discard bones or shrimp shells around me, and you might get a good-natured discussion about how to make stocks out of your supposed “garbage.” My friends and family call this “lecturing.”

I’m not sure what the original estimate was on just how many peppers Fran was trying to unload, but her son showed up at my house with a pickup truck, its bed pretty much filled with cases of peppers. I suggested he might want to keep a few for himself, but being the ever-generous friend that he is, he gave me every last damn pepper — plus a couple of cases of semi-rotten tomatoes, a bag of onions and about 50 heads of garlic, dirt still clinging to them.

I imagine that my roommate at the time was none too pleased, but she remained patient with the fact that literally every surface of the kitchen was covered in boxes of overripe vegetables emitting small clouds of fruit flies. I remember it being quite lovely outside at the time, with all sorts of things going on around town. The soon-to-be-moldering pile of vegetables, however, needed my attention. So, naturally, I went to the store, purchased a ridiculous amount of yellow beer, a heap of hickory chips and fired up the smoker. How long could it take to smoke all of those peppers, anyway?

The answer: seemingly freaking forever. Plus, once the peppers, tomatoes onions AND garlic were all smoked, there was the task of peeling and deseeding each of those blazing-hot little things. I went through about six boxes of gloves and who knows how much cheap beer. In the end, I had to find buckets and an industrial-sized stick blender to puree it all with some vinegar and lime juice. I ended up with — no joke — five gallons of double-concentrated super-hot sauce. I think the whole process took about two weeks (hey, I have to go to work, too, people).

That, then, is the story of what came to be Mackensy Lunsford’s “Slap yer mom” hot sauce. The name isn’t intended to be offensive, though I guess it could be taken that way. It’s just that the first person to taste the smoky, super-hot stuff declared it “good enough to make you wanna slap your mom.”

No, I don’t know what that means, either, but it cracks me up — and I love my mom. So, Xpress staff, there’s a jar in the fridge. Everyone else, I have about four gallons left, available for barter. It’s mom-slappingly good.

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