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Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011

Local Hot Sauces With a Gourmet Twist

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As convenient as they are, mass-produced hot sauces don't offer much variety or nuance. Most are just simple combinations of vinegar, salt, garlic and cayenne pepper. Like many spicy-food lovers, Milwaukee's Byron Jackson grew tired of the big-brand hot sauces and longed for something more complex. Inspired by the massive variety of hot sauces he discovered while traveling the South during his time as a UWM basketball player, Jackson began tinkering with his own recipes in the mid-'90s. After testing them on friends and family in his backyard, he perfected about a dozen for his own line of MBF Sauces.

MBF is short for “man's best friend,” and the hot sauces are canine-themed. Each takes its name from a breed of dog and is flavored to roughly reflect that breed's temperament. The Chihuahua, then, is MBF's mildest sauce, its jalapenos tamed by kiwi and cilantro, while the Pit Bull is one of MBF's most aggressive, a citrusy composite of fiery orange habanero peppers, vinegar, garlic and peaches.

“I wanted to create sauces with the most interesting flavors that you could find in a hot sauce, so I use a lot of interesting pepper combinations, unexpected ingredients and varying heat levels—I wanted a good mix of some mild stuff and some wild stuff,” Jackson says.

With assistance from his girlfriend, Jackson makes his sauces in small batches in the kitchen of the Coffee Makes You Black café. Most of his recipes include fruits like apples, pears, blackberries and strawberries. The medium-heat Dalmatian sauce is a brick-red pairing of smoky chipotle peppers and sweet cherries. Jackson's personal favorite, Komondor, is one of MBF's hotter varieties, a Caribbean-inspired blend of banana peppers, curry powder, thyme, brown sugar, pineapple and mango, rounded out by just a hint of rum and ginger.

“A lot of people use Komondor as a marinade,” Jackson says. “I like to use it on a lot of naked foods. Pour some of that on unsalted fries and it's the best thing ever.”

MBF Sauces are sold at Outpost, Beans & Barley and the Riverwest Co-Op, as well as at MBFsauces.com. They retail for about $5-$7 a bottle.

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