Funny thing, I was hunting for truffle oil, not pepper sauces.
But four pepper sauces were tucked in my box of truffle oil. They were a gift from the small business that makes both truffle oil (from Oregon white truffles) and now pepper sauces.
I contacted the company — Oregon Truffle Oil, Inc. — and explained that I don’t ask for or generally accept free product. (In the interest of full disclosure, most, but not all, of the cookbooks Linda Avery reviews for Pen & Fork are sent to her from publishers.) I asked the company for a bill for the sauces I didn’t order. They countered with, how about we send you an invoice for the extra shipping? Fine.
So, these sauces were free (save the extra $5 shipping plus the original $51 order I placed for their truffle oils — more on those another time).
All four sauces ($8 each, or $25 for all four) are wheat free and contain no preservatives. The first ingredient is Pinot Noir wine, hence the name Pinot & ____. It makes sense. The company is based in Willamette Valley, Oregon, arguably home of the best American Pinot Noirs.
In fact, all four have a winey nose when you take a sniff. The wine taste, however, is lost in a myriad of other flavors, but it seems to be a good base for a sauce, just as tomato concentrate is.
All four sauces contain gluten-free soy sauce, and cornstarch as a thickener. From there, it’s lemon juice and/or distilled vinegar for tartness, some brown sugar to cut the acid, and salt and spices.
Sodium content ranges from 170 mg (7%) to 370 mg (15%) per tablespoon, which seems low to normal for sauces, but all taste salty straight from the bottle. Could be because soy sauce is the second ingredient and table salt is also listed in the ingredient list. For comparison, my beloved A-1 sauce has 280 mg (12%) of sodium per tablespoon. Once I cooked with the Pinot sauces, however, the saltiness mellowed, although it did impact how much additional salt I used.
The most intriguing of the bunch is the Pinot Szechuan. It has Chinese 5-Spice notes and a hefty heat kick. According to the ingredient list, it gets its kick from habanero chile, not Sichuan peppercorns (perhaps Sichuan peppercorns are included in the generic “spices” ingredient). No matter, it’s still an intriguing sauce.
The chipotle flavored sauce is appropriately smoky, and the habanero is appropriately fruity hot — make that HOT, but in a pleasant lip-numbing way — (it has a touch of orange peel, and even chipotle to add some smokiness). In fact, the habanero might be my favorite, and I’ll try it out in creamy coleslaw and even on a baked potato. (Why not? I have been known to load up a baked potato with A-1 sauce instead of butter. Try it.)
I used the Pinot & Pepper Sauce to make the Bloody Jack, a recipe included with the sauces. It wasn’t the best bloody Mary I’ve ever tasted (that would be this one) but then again, I never claimed to be a cocktail maven (smoothie savant, yes, cocktail savant, no).
Still, it was a fine bloody Mary (I garnished it with feta stuffed olives from Queen Creek Olive Mill) and it made reading the local newspaper all the more fun.
CZAR’S Bloody Jack
(adapted from CZAR’s Fine Foods)
Makes 1 small cocktail
3 ounces tomato juice (I used low-sodium V-8)
1-1/2 ounces vodka
1 ounce Pinot-Pepper Sauce
1/8 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 ounce lemon juice (about 1/4 of a medium lemon)
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker (without ice). Shake and strain mixture over a small cocktail glass filled with ice. Garnish with celery stick, cucumber spear or olives.