We got in touch with Tim Bucolo, a Florida native and founder of San Augustin Hot Sauce, which is a nod to the old town of St. Augustine’s exceptionally hot datil peppers. Combining his passion for smoking just about any food under the sun with his newfound love for his home state’s pepper, Tim – along with his wife and good friend, sought out to make a one of a kind datil table sauce that’s definitely one for the books.
How did San Augustin Hot Sauce come about?
My neighbor gave me a datil pepper plant when I lived in St. Augustine. Apparently, it’s a pepper that was brought over by Minorcan immigrants and it only grows in that region of Florida – which is odd because I was born and raised in Florida and I’ve never heard of it! There are a lot of datil peppers in the St. Augustine markets, but what I found is that most of them are made with ketchup, are super sugary, have a lot of starch, and some of them even have a gelly-like consistency. There wasn’t a savory datil pepper sauce, so I started growing it in my backyard and tried to make my own sauce.
How did that go?
Well, first off, I love to smoke meat. So, I was smoking pork one day, and I had just picked a batch of peppers. I said, “I’m going to throw these peppers in the smoker and see what happens.” I slow cooked it with musket wood and charcoal – the old school way. And instead of ketchup, I used simple ingredients like tomato, fresh onion, and fresh garlic. I was like, “This is it. This is the stuff. There’s nothing else like this out there!”
Can’t go wrong doing it old school! What was the taste like?
It was a unique smoky and sweet flavor. You get the heat at first, and then the heat kind of dissipates the smoke. We actually had a local winery in the area, and they got great sherry wine. I told myself that the next batch I’ll make, I will put sherry instead of sugar. It tasted great! It probably took about 2 years of trying different things before I got the recipe down.
Sounds delicious. Have you always wanted to start your own hot sauce business?
I kind of fell into it! It’s something I like doing. We’re not a huge company by any means, and people would ask me why I still do this because I don’t make much money, but I like doing it. It’s fun. My wife and I always find time to go to farmers markets and do festivals.
So, it’s just you and your wife smoking peppers on the weekends?
It’s me, my wife Catherine, and my good buddy, James! He loves the sauce so much. He would be out there at farmers markets with us and help me smoke the peppers. He did it for nothing; he just liked the sauce and wanted to be a part of it. He put a lot into it for basically no money – just his time.
You’ve been in business for about 4 years now. How do you like the experience so far?
I enjoy that people like my sauce. When I go to farmers markets, sample it, tell the story of the peppers and how I made it… people really get engaged and love the backstory. You also get the reaction of how they take the flavor or their interpretation of it, and you get to ask the customers what they use it for. Nobody smokes their peppers like we do, so when I show people the ingredients, they’re like, “Wow, this is great. This is what we’re looking for.” It’s like we filled a niche that didn’t exist.