Courtesy photo: Artisan saucier Nick Curry holds up his Egil’s Ale pineapple curry hot sauce. Curry said making hot sauce is fairly straightforward as it requires the proper ingredients and a blender. However, the challenge is being able to achieve the best combination of ingredients so the end result is both flavorful and spicy.

A Brookings entrepreneur has turned a job loss into a career opportunity, creating a spicy concoction to help his customers thaw out this holiday season.

Nick Curry says his new product – Halogi Hot Sauce – is a sure-fire way to add a kick of spice and flavor to a favorite dish. The hand-made, small-batch hot sauce brand is only months old and came to fruition after Curry was laid off due to the pandemic.

“The name is Halogi, and all the names within the brand and the sauces – they’re all inspired by Norse legends and mythology, sagas from Iceland, Norway, and a bunch of different parts of Scandinavia,” Curry said. “I would say a lot of that has to do with my strong interest in Norse mythology and it seemed a good fit for the hot sauce world – it doesn’t have a lot of presence of Norse mythology in terms of branding.”

Halogi is a character that comes from Norse myth, a being that was the personification of fire living in a land of ice.

Family influence

Curry said family influence led to his hot sauce creations. His mom is very sensitive to spice and as a result, does not care for it. His dad is at the opposite end of the spectrum.

“And growing up, my dad loved spicy things and would add lots and lots of seasoning and things like that. He’s the guy you can bring the hottest hot sauce to and he’ll give it, at best, if he says it’s respectable, that’s when you know you’re onto something while everyone else is crying,” Curry joked. “I’ve gotten there (spice wise) … but it takes time.”

“When I was a kid, mom would do the cooking because, if dad cooked, he would want to add something that would be too much, but I grew up in a house where ketchup was considered spicy,” Curry said. 

His older brothers eventually got into hot sauce, but Curry was more hesitant. Slowly sampling from his dad’s collection led the pair to the garden to experiment.

“We fell off the deep end, and we were gardening all sorts of peppers and finding new sauces … and we’d try it that way.”

“So we started making our own, but just simple stuff like cayenne peppers and habaneros, and we’d throw in some vinegar and salt in there. It was just to make it really hot for fun,” Curry said. 

Curry said he’s working on growing a new batch of Carolina Reapers for some of his sauces. The pepper currently holds the record for world’s spiciest pepper which is around 1.6 million Scoville heat units (or SHU, the metric for measuring spice.) An average jalapeño typically sits between 2,000 and 8,000 SHU.

Eventually, he started bringing hot wings and different sauces to work potlucks, just for fun. 

“I would get questions every so often … from people wondering where I got this sauce from and that it was really good. I assumed people were just being nice,” Curry said. 

After 13 years as a professional writer, Curry was let go from his position with a New York-based company when COVID-19 hit, at the end of March.

On Father’s Day, his kids gave him a bottling kit, “little five-ounce woozy bottles, and I thought ‘OK, you know we’ll have some fun with this,’” Curry said.

For a socially-distanced Fourth of July event, Curry made a batch of hot sauce for the taco bar, using his favorite recipe with a pineapple and curry base. He started getting requests to purchase the hot sauce at the party and in the days afterward.

Research, development

Curry said he did some research prior to selling his hot sauce to figure out the odds-and-ends of selling condiments. He said he received a lot of help from South Dakota State University Extension to get Halogi up and running.

“Balancing out the level of acid in the hot sauce is critical for A: safety and B: taste. People are familiar with that kind of sting of bitterness from sauces like Frank’s Red Hot or Tabasco, and that’s because they’re very vinegary, but that’s just the nature of their beast. 

“But if you want to have a sweet sauce, the question becomes, ‘How do you counteract the acid?’ So, do you add salt to reduce the bitterness … do you throw sugar in it? It ends up being a combination of those: the salt takes away some of the bitterness and just enough sugar to elevate the flavors,” Curry said.

Curry started with his five favorite recipes, and all received the approvals they needed to be sold. 

“And at that point at the end of September, Halogi was born,” Curry said.

Curry’s new profession offers him a lot of opportunity to experiment and explore new flavors and levels of heat for certain sauces, he said. He has offered – for limited-time specials – dessert sauces that have combined unique flavors like apples, caramel, cherries and limes in concert with various spicy peppers. 

He said his inspiration comes from favorite dishes and sometimes even his own children offering creative ideas.

Good reception

“The response from the community has been absolutely unexpected – not as a lack of faith or anything like that – but recognizing that in the Midwest, hot sauce is not as cherished as it is in some other places, like the South. But people have been coming out of the woodwork, and it’s amazing how it went from my circle of friends to friends-of-friends to complete strangers,” Curry said. “It went from ‘this is fun,’ to ‘this is a pretty decent side-hustle,’ and now I’m looking for commercial space to set up a production line.”

Curry locally sources as many items as he can find for the production of his sauces, specifically naming Wayward Springs Farm for offering him some space to continue to grow and expand his pepper operation. He also emphasized that all his products are made with natural, non-GMO vegetables and seasonings.

“Failure is not a place to stop. It’s a reroute – it’s an intersection where you can choose to proceed toward your goals or to your next project. I don’t know if I want to say I’m determined or stubborn,” joked Curry, “but I’m always striving for the best. I want to have a combination of heat and flavor that is unique.”

“My dad called my hot sauce respectable. That was a big moment for me, it really was,” Curry said.

To purchase some bottles, visit Curry’s Facebook page at Halogi Hot Sauce and send him a message to place an order.

Contact Matthew Rhodes at mrhodes@brookingsregister.com.

COURTESY OF: The Brookings Register

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