Back in the ‘70’s I was living in New York City deeply embedded in the art community. My girlfriend at the time was a belly dancer. I became obsessed with the idea of creating an old time medicine show and touring the south! Neither the belly dancer nor anyone else seemed to think this was an artistic venture worth pursuing. So, eventually I let it drop. If I knew then what I know now about chilies I might have brought this concept to reality, and salt brine fermentation chile sauces would have been my snake oil.
I have learned that not only are chiles essential spices in most of the world’s fine cuisines (as well as being tasty and nutritious fruits alone or combined with other vegetables, either raw or cooked) but have medicinal qualities that make them one of the most important herbal remedies in the plant kingdom.
Through a confluence of circumstances over three decades long, making salt brine fermentation chile sauces and encouraging their use has become the primary focus of my life. Like most obsessions this one does not come without thorns. The biggest thorn, the one causing the most pain at this time, is complying with Tennessee’s decidedly unprogressive “food production regulations”. In spite of the fact that the fermentation process and the high concentration of vinegar in the finished sauce are by their very nature anti pathogenic, Tennessee law requires that they be produced under the most stringent regulations - commercial kitchen. Production in an off farm facility is a logistical nightmare and an unsustainable time sink. On the other hand, the cost of constructing and equipping an on site facility is hard to financially justify at the scale I am currently capable of maintaining. ( Keep in mind that I grow the chiles, an important aspect in my extremely high quality standards, and that even if I were willing to work with whatever was available, most of the chiles I grow are simply not available anywhere else. In Fact, one of the chilies I grow (Tennessee Cherry Chile) is available no where else.).
Altruism has always played a role in the choices I’ve made with what to do with my life. As a result, I have no regrets regarding the moral and ethical implications of my past or present, but it has been a difficult life financially. My life is simple and frugal, the work is hard and the hours are long. Without my Social Security check, which pays the mortgage on the land that I farm this venture would not survive. I do not persevere because I have to, but rather, I believe that in a rational social system everyone should grow as much of their own food as possible and a significant percentage should grow as much as possible. Knowing what I know, I believe that I am obligated to do what I am doing.
Clearly, I am not seeking my fortune through a chile sauce dynasty, and it is not monetary gain that I seek from you, but rather, the opportunity to continue my good work without working myself into poor health or destroying my fragile financial security. Over time I would expect to modestly expand production by offering my friends in the region who are trusted chemical free growers contracts to grow chilies for me, thus benefiting the local community in another way. I also hope to encounter a younger person (I am 66, born January 10th 1948, 01-12-48) interested in partnering with me to learn what I can teach, take over the adventure, and build on it!