Connie Caulfield: Hot Sauce Queen
Caulfield Provision Company: woman owned; small family operated; Seven gourmet hot sauces you can feel good about
The Meat & Potatoes
54 years young
Potomac, MD by way of Silver Spring
Pasta with lots of butter, salt, and pepper. Growing up my brother and my cousin and I would cook noodles with butter for lunch on summer break.
I have a knack for being able to pick out actors in old movies.
Connie Caulfield, owner of Caulfield Provision Company and fellow Maryland gal, is one bad ass small business owner. She serves up the most flavorful and unique line of hot sauces, which can be used in anything from chili and breakfast burritos to vinaigrettes and salsas. The thing that drew me most to Caulfield Provision Company were the ingredients. Connie uses whole foods and fresh ingredients with little to no fat, sodium or sugar. The colors and flavors are natural, accentuating the glory of each ingredient used. What started as a hobby with her husband turned into a full-time business and a product that you should absolutely get your hands on. Hangry fiancé and I have a shelf in our fridge dedicated only to Caulfield sauces - they’re THAT good! Check out my interview with Connie below and gain some inspiration for following your dreams and supporting local businesses.
Tell me a little bit about Caulfield Provision Company:
We are a woman owned, small family operated company which produces a line of seven flavors of gourmet hot sauces. I started using the adjective gourmet because they are not your usual hot sauces. They are more complex and have more depth than most hot sauces in the grocery stores. So they can be used not just as a hot sauce, for dipping or relish but also as marinades or basting sauces. They can be incorporated into your own unique recipe. We have some recipes and serving suggestions on our website and on our Facebook Page. As we developed our sauces we realized that they pack a lot of flavor while adding little or no fat, sodium or sugar. The colors of our sauces come strictly from the ingredients we use.
Why did you start making hot sauces:
This is a funny story.
My husband Patrick had mentioned over the years how he thought it would be fun to make our own hot sauce. So in the spring of 2016, I decided that the time had come for us to have a hobby to do together. Maybe we could make some gifts for his clients and our family and friends. We had been married almost 27 years by the time we started our little hobby. During the course of our marriage I have really loved cooking and creating meals for our family. Growing up, my parents tried to expose my three older brothers and I to all kinds of cuisine. My dad and mom taught us a love for creating and enjoying family meals. By the time we embarked on this little hobby of ours, I had lots of practice in coming up with my own versions of various recipes. I am the type of person who can spend hours in grocery stores, farmers markets and specialty food stores exploring and reading labels. I felt I had more experience for the recipe writing but wanted to encourage him and this new hobby we were going to do together.
My husband on the other hand did not have much practice cooking. In fact, when we were dating, he once set his kitchen on fire when trying to cook for me! But he was eager to try this cooking thing again. In fact, he was pretty set on being the creator of the recipes. His reasoning was that I have never kept great records on how I make many of my recipes. I kind of do it by eye and taste and rarely wrote anything down. He, on the other hand, is a master at keeping detailed records when he decides to do something. So after we started fooling around with various recipes we had researched, he came up with his own hot sauce recipes. And he kept copious notes and did three variations of each of his recipes. I stayed in the background, helping chop and dice and stir and all the while had my own ideas swirling in my head about what these sauces could be. But he did not want to hear about putting carrots, or ginger, or tomatoes or red peppers in hot sauce. So being the patient woman that I am, I watched and supported his efforts. But there was only one key problem to his recipes….his sauces were way too “pure” pepper. They were so powerful that the tiniest drop could numb your tongue. Only the most die hard pepper heads could enjoy these concoctions. He came up with 55 different recipes! After about a month or so of his experimenting and our tongues being scorched, I suggested he give me a chance to come up with some recipes. He finally relented. I swore I would weigh and measure every ingredient and keep detailed records of each recipe. He returned from work that first day and I greeted him with ten new recipes. He tasted the first one and burst out laughing, saying these recipes were great and agreed to retire as the recipe creator. I spent a couple more days creating a few more varieties of sauces. We had friends and family taste test and give us feedback. You will note that our sauces have numbers as part of their names. You will also note that #56 is our first sauce!
By the time we had reached this point in our adventure we had done further research on the production of sauces. We realized we wanted to work with a co packer to manufacture our sauces and to have them made in a professional kitchen with a company who had twenty plus years experience and who could scale up our recipes accurately. The more we examined the investment, we realized we had a viable business. With the guidance of our co packer we finalized our first eight recipes to be bottled. Little did I know that I would end up becoming the owner of a small business from this little idea of a hobby creating our own hot sauces together! We have since involved our four kids in various ways.
What did you do before you were a sauce maker?
When we were first married I was studying to be an interior designer. I got my degree and worked for a local company for a few years before I had our first child. I decided to put the interior design career on hold, thinking I would come back to it later and I decided to be a stay at home mom. Our family grew over the years and we welcomed our fourth child ten years after our first child entered this world. We have two daughters and two sons and it has been a wild adventure I would not trade for anything! I cannot believe that our oldest child Tierney just turned 27. She is exactly half my age! Where did those years go???
Over the years I found cooking to be a great creative outlet. I scrambled to get to the newspaper’s food section each week, and watched loads of cooking shows over the years. Researching and studying cookbooks and magazines is evident by the stacks of both all over our first floor! I enjoy shopping in little international markets, the large Asian super markets, and food halls like Union Market in DC or Oxbow Market in Napa.
where Do you source your ingredients from?
We were blessed to find a co packer in Maryland. We were talking with the owner of Matteo’s, a local restaurant near our beach home in Fenwick Island, and asking him where he makes his sauces, how he sources his ingredients etc. He mentioned that he sometimes makes sauces in his own kitchen but that he had hired a co packer in Randallstown. The next day we googled Maryland Co packers and found Mama Vida. It has been a wonderful relationship from day one. They too are a small family business and create their own salsas, marinaras, and Bloody Mary mixes. They try to source as many ingredients as possible locally. There are just some ingredients that are not grown in the Delmarva area.
why is important for you to use fresh ingredients?
It is always the ideal to use fresh (and local if possible) ingredients. The peppers and some of the produce we use are IQF, which means they are individually frozen chopped peppers. We priced our recipes using fresh peppers and the cost was prohibitive. IQF is the next best thing. And in some cases might be fresher than if they were brought in to the co packer and chopped on site. They risk spoiling or being damaged while being transported.
Why is supporting small businesses important?:
Small businesses help create authenticity to each locality. If you are visiting Maryland, there is nothing more special than finding a local crab house and sitting down, drinking a small craft beer made in Maryland and sharing a big feast of crabs, oysters, clams and corn from the Eastern Shore. Supporting our local businesses creates a sense of community. There is care and attention to customers and quality that you can not get when you buy from a national business. There is something special about purchasing a product that is made locally. Money goes back into the community. We were so happy to find co packer that was in Maryland. They may be the only one in Maryland at this time. They too are a family business and have been operating for more than 20 years.
Where do YOU get inspiration for different sauces?
I like to think about various cuisines and/or herbs and spices when I am coming up with different sauces. Perusing cook books, magazines, newspaper articles and of course cooking/food/travel shows are always inspirational.
Is there an ingredient or food you absolutely hate?
I am not a huge fan of curry or fennel. I am not sure there is anything I absolutely hate and will never eat. Unfortunately, that is probably why I weigh too much! I pretty much love all kinds of food! Ed. Note: You are beautiful, Connie! You’re a bad ass bawse lady, who weighs exactly the right amount!
What is your favorite thing to to make using our sauces?
Probably two answers for this. I love coming up with really fast and easy weeknight recipes for people to try using just our sauce and maybe a few other ingredients. For instance you can literally make Chilli or Tacos using only our sauces for flavor. I think this is pretty great. Not only is it simple, but it is a healthy way to add flavor without adding unnecessary fat, sodium or sugar. Have you ever read the ingredients on a taco or chili spice pack you can buy in the grocery store??? Yikes! The sodium is usually off the charts! That makes me feel great to share those ideas because I feel like I am helping people create a healthy meal for themselves and their families.
My other favorite thing to use our sauces is grilling and smoking. About a year and a half ago I decided to learn how to use a charcoal grill/smoker. So I got our family a Green Egg for Christmas that year. I figured it was a gift not just for me, but for the entire family as they will benefit from the many meals cooked on this device. I have made some really delicious brisket, ribs, wings ..you name it, on our Green Egg. I tend to use #61 and #64 the most when grilling. But I am always mixing it up and trying different sauces different ways. There is definitely a learning curve when cooking with charcoal. Getting the grill set to the correct temperature and maintaining that temperature is still hard for me sometimes. In fact, this summer, I broke down and bought an electric smoker for days when I just do not have the time or energy to devote to charcoal cooking.
Where can we find your products?
We have an online store www.caulfieldhotsauces.com.
We are also in a variety of small shops and farmers markets in the Delmarva/DC Metro area. Butler’s Orchard in Germantown, Parsons Farms Market in Dagsboro Delaware, O’Donnell’s Market, and the Market at River Falls in Potomac, to name a few.
We also sell at various food/gift/craft markets in the Delmarva area such as Georgetown Visitation’s Esprit de Noel, Holy Child’s Mayfield Market, Our Lady Of Good Counsel’s Christmas Boutique, St. Elizabeth’s Sip and Shop, St. Rae’s Girls Night Out! We are constantly looking for new shops and markets/festivals to sell our products.
How do you find balance in life?
Finding balance in life can be hard sometimes, right? I feel like I am often scrambling to catch up one way or another. I never completely master balance! Either I am super focused on some work project/event or I am obsessed with some family or home project. I enjoy spending time with family and friends. I try to remind myself that whatever needs to get done will get done one way or another. I recently discovered podcasts and audible as great ways to learn/read while also working on a task. So if I have to pack up some shipments or straighten up the inventory…I can listen to some great interviews or a fantastic book while I am completing that task. I love to watch or listen to stand up comedians and have found this to be my most favorite thing to do if I am feeling run down or worn out or overwhelmed. One of the cheapest and most simple of life’s joys is laughing so hard that your stomach hurts. Ed. note: Preach, Connie!
Do you have any advice for people considering to start their own business?
Talk to as many people as you can that are in or related to the business you are trying to start. I am always astounded at how other people are willing to share their time, experiences and advice. It has been one of the most amazing things I have learned in the past two plus years. I go to various food events or shows and connect with all kinds of wonderful people. And I have yet to find some one unwilling to share their wisdom from their experiences. Find books, industry magazines and anything you can get your hands on to help you better understand the area of business that you are thinking about.
If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
That is a really hard one. I do not know if I could pick just one! I will give two answers. But just know that I could come up with a dinner party of about six or eight interesting people dead or alive that I would want to dine with!
I think Anthony Bourdain would have been a trip to meet and dine with. Like everyone else, I was stunned and heart broken when I learned of his death. I have read all of his books and literally have laughed out loud with tears in my eyes. Then I would make whoever was near me listen to the excerpt read aloud as I try to stifle the laughs. He just had a way with words both written and spoken Whether it was one of his books or one of his shows. His description of some of his adventures was fantastic. And it made me want to travel to more places and explore more cuisines than I thought possible. But I think I would have been intimidated him lol!
The other person I think would be a lot of fun and interesting would be Guy Fieri. He has this positive energy that is palpable. I do not think you could be around this guy and not have a smile on your face. I really admire that he, like Jose Andres, offered his own time and energy to feed people after natural disasters. I believe he took a crew of people in a caravan of food trucks/buses to Houston after Hurricane Harvey. I love that he finds great little mom and pop places all over our country.
is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?
I guess that I feel pretty darn blessed, at this mid point of my life, to have accidentally fallen into this hot sauce career and running a small family business. As I mentioned above, I have met so many interesting people that I might never have met, including you Michelle! Thank you for sharing my story of our sauce adventures!
Connie and I shared a meal at a local restaurant, One Coastal, right between our two beach houses in Fenwick Island, DE. We shared our love for the Eastern Shore and growing up in Maryland (yes we love crabs), our passion for food and cooking, our eagerness to create something we love and share it with the world, and the importance of knowing where your food comes from. I urge you to order some sauce, or check out one of the local spots that sell the sauce because they are worth eating and supporting. I can’t wait to see what #72 + have in store for us!!! Thank you for sharing your story, Connie.