CBT: Why did you start making pepper jelly?
CH: I love pepper jelly. I didn’t invent it; I just perfected it. It was always watery or wimpy so I started to experiment about 10 years ago. It took me about two years to perfect and I came up with a recipe that I’ve followed ever since. It’s no longer a work in progress; I have it nailed. I started making an extra hot pepper jelly, which just means double the amount of peppers, and that is exclusive to Camana Bay’s Farmers Market. It is not available anywhere else except at Camana Bay on a Wednesday.
CBT: Where do you source your peppers?
CH: The majority of my peppers I grow myself. But when there’s a glut on around June and July, farmers cannot get rid of their product. So instead of buying peppers around $10 a pound, which is what they usually go for, I can buy them between $4 and $5 a pound. I crush them, put them in Ziploc bags and freeze them, and they’re good for five or six years.
CBT: What are the challenges in growing your own peppers at home?
CH: I do container gardening in five-gallon pots. They’re sprinkled throughout my yard between the bougainvilleas and hibiscus; you’ll see peppers growing everywhere. I disguise them so it doesn’t look too commercial. I do have some problems with the white fly and I have to be careful with how I treat the plants because I’m making an edible product. So I use natural neem oil and insecticidal soap to keep the pests away. I also always have people coming over and “borrowing” peppers, but part of the joy of growing is sharing.
CBT: Where do you make your pepper jelly?
CH: I make it home in the kitchen four days a week. My family complains and moans because it does have an odour, but after a couple of hours the smell goes away. I wear a mask and snorkel – to breathe – when I make it and I also wear surgical gloves. Sometimes I will still feel a burn because the capsaicin in the peppers is so strong it will go through the surgical gloves. It’s hard work, but it’s more unpleasant than hard.
CBT: What is the most enjoyable part of this business venture for you?
CH: What I enjoy most is when I’m at the Camana Bay Farmers Market and someone tastes my pepper jelly and raves about it. That’s the rewarding part because I know it’s a very gourmet product. I am asked all the time about shipping to the United States, but I just can’t; it’s cost prohibitive. I tell the visitors they just have to come back to Cayman.