While he was growing up, chef and Red Clay Hot Sauce creator Geoff Rhyne would spend summers down in Georgia with his grandfather as he collected information, stories and content for his publication, Georgia Farmer Magazine.
Traveling alongside his grandfather, Rhyne met plenty of farmers and saw plenty of farmland. Red clay, a reddish type of soil that primarily gets its color due to iron oxides prevalent throughout Georgia, was something else Rhyne saw in great abundance. So when Rhyne ended up developing a hot sauce that had a familiar hue after starting to experiment with fermentation sometime in 2013, it was pretty clear what to call the company.
“The hot sauce just happened to have this particular color that reminded me of red clay and my youth,” Rhyne tells InsideHook. “It was kind of cool to be able to launch the company with a tip of the cap to my granddad. Every single time I see red clay, I think about him. I think about those times growing up in Georgia. It’s a way to carry that with me forever.”
Hailed as “Tabasco of the 21st century” by Food & Wine Magazine, Red Clay’s barrel-aged hot sauces come in a variety of flavors and heat levels (original, verde and habanero) and the Charleston-based brand also has offerings including hot honey and a hot pepper conserve.
The latter is an updated take on the unassuming red pepper jelly that Rhyne would see on the table during the holiday seasons in his youth.
“The thing about the red pepper jelly is that it was just kind of homogenous glop that was super sugary and made with food coloring,” he says. “How could we make that delicious and have it be something people don’t pull out just for the baked Brie? We used habanero liquid to create some spice. We only use turbinado sugar, the crystals, and don’t use processed white sugar. We have a little bit of heat, and we don’t have this really sweet thing. You can still use it on cheese, but you can also use it as a glaze on a pork chop or on a piece of salmon. You can also put it in between bread on a sliced turkey sandwich or something, so it’s a lot more fun.”
Red Clay’s conserve, which is classified as such instead of jelly or jam due to its sugar content, is a key ingredient in a dish Rhyne has been making for about a decade, blistered shishito peppers.
“I don’t like super intense heat, I like balanced heat. Crunching on a jalapeno is not necessarily my forté, but shishitos have a really nice flavor profile, and one out of every 20 will have a pretty good kick to it,” he says. “They’re delicious peppers and an ingredient I think it lends itself really well to a bunch of different applications. Whenever you’re creating recipes or creating ingredients to use in a recipe, I think versatility is incredibly important. I like to eat vegetables, but vegetables can be boring. How can we dress them up? The red pepper conserve. You get this smokey, charred, earthiness from the peppers tossed with that sweet heat. That glazed balance of sweet, sticky, heat matches with the smokiness, and it’s really delicious. The flavor profiles play together in a super simple dish.”
Here’s how to make it.
Red Clay’s Blistered Shishito Peppers
- 1 pint shishito peppers
- 1/3 cup Red Clay’s Hot Pepper Conserve
- 1 tsp fresh mint, chopped
- 1/4 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 Tbl buttermilk
- 1 Tbl sesame seeds, toasted (or “benne seeds” as we call them in the South)
- Heat 1-2 tsp of grapeseed or avocado oil in your favorite skillet. Once hot, cook shishitos for 5-7 minutes (or until blistered and charred) then remove from skillet.
- While shishitos are cooking, make the dressing. Mix together 1 cup sour cream or crème Fraiche, 1 tbl Buttermilk and 1 tsp lemon juice.
- Add the dressing as a base of buttermilk dressing onto bottom of the plate and scoop shishitos on top.
- Spoon a heaping scoop of Red Clay’s Hot Pepper Conserve over the shishitos and top with mint and toasted seeds.
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