Monday, July 30, 2007

20 Things I Learned From Spicy Foods

I ran across this article from Fusion Ring. Click and come back, it's worth the read. But here are a few that really struck me as funny:

Hot sauce is the new beige. It goes with everything.

The tongue is evil and should be punished.

Extra spicy means you won't have to share.
We did a list of Slogans We Didn't Use in the early days of Carolina Sauce. My favorite:
It's really good. Trust me, I'm in sales.

Hound's Brine

There’s really no limit as to what you can use in a brine, as long as you keep the water/salt ratio intact. Beer, wine, orange juice, chicken broth – everything works just great.

Many internet denizens consider "The Hound's Brine" to be the best:

1 gallon water
1 cup Kosher salt or 1/2 cup table salt
juice of 3 oranges
juice of three limes
juice of three lemons
rinds from same
1 sliced white onion
1 head of garlic, crushed
stems from a bunch of cilantro, chopped
serranos to taste, minimum of 4
rough ground cumin and coriander 2 Tbsp each
1/4 cup chili powder or any ground chile you prefer
(1/4 cup onion powder is optional)
(1/4cup garlic powder is optional)

But frankly, I don’t think you can go wrong with any brine. The improvement over the dry, burnt poultry you’re probably used to is so great that you’ll never go back.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Beer Can Chicken

A style of cooking called “Beer Can Chicken” has been around to try to solve the dry chicken conundrum. The idea is that you cook the bird with a can of beer inserted. As the bird cooks, the beer boils off and provides moisture. This sounds like it should work, but beware. Beer cans are aluminum. Aluminum is reactive, so the cooking process will tend to break down the metal. Guess where that flavor goes?

If you really like the taste of chicken cooked in beer, just soak the chicken in a beer brine overnight and grill normally. Substitute beer for water in your recipe. Or if you really want the experience of “Beer Can Chicken”, get a stainless steel replacement for the beer can. You can use wine, barbeque sauce, beer – anything you desire to provide the steam and flavor. It’s a lot safer and the chicken doesn’t taste like aluminum foil.

But frankly, there’s no point. Brining the bird provides all of the benefits of “Beer Can Chicken” without the drawbacks.

Friday, July 27, 2007

More Brining

Another in a continuing series of articles about brining.

You’re going to need a container to hold whatever it is you’re brining. For small pieces such as chicken quarters or pork chops, a good old Ziploc plastic bag is just the trick. But for something large, like a full sized turkey, you’ll need something really big. The easiest way is to use a food service bucket and place the brine and bird in a refrigerator. Since the brine is for flavoring and not preserving, you’ll need to keep everything at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don’t have that much refrigerator space, use a food service bucket and a big cooler. Keep the brine and bird in one end, and keep the other end cycled with ice. Or put the in a cooler with brine, then use ziploc bags full of ice to place on top -- we don't want the salinity of the brine changing as the ice melts.

For one event I needed to do 200 chicken quarters. I mixed up the brine and placed it in a 60 quart cooler. I then put in the chicken, and covered the rest with ice. I made the brine a little stronger, keeping in mind that eight pounds of ice is a little more than a gallon of water. I grilled the chicken on high heat and put a little of my sauce on at the end – the attendees at the event were unanimous on saying this was the best chicken they’ve ever had.

How long to brine is the source of many arguments among barbeque experts. In my opinion, it of course depends upon the size of the meat, but more is better. You’ll also have to take into account how strong the brine solution is – the more concentrated the salt level, the less time it will take to brine. But be careful. At the upper end of concentration you’ll actually be desiccating the meat, which is not what you’re looking for. The amount of time for a brine will range from a few hours for small pieces, to a few days for large undertakings. I once brined a twenty pound turkey for four days and the result was perfection. I had intended to cook the bird earlier, but the weather didn’t cooperate.

The magic ratio for brine is one cup of Morton’s Kosher Salt to one gallon of water, and equal parts of a sweet flavoring. Common sense would tell you that brining would make the bird salty, but in fact it’s the other flavors that come along for the ride that provide the flavor. Other brands or types of salt require different ratios, but stick with Morton’s Kosher Salt. It’s inexpensive, and it’s got the best taste.

The salt and other flavorings that you want to cross the cell walls must be completed dissolved into the solution. The easy way to do this is to bring one or two cups of water to a full boil and dissolve the salt. Then mix this with the rest of the water, stirring well. If the recipe has sugar in it, dissolve the sugar into the solution at the same time.

We’ll start off with a basic brine. You’ll be surprised at the difference this makes, even though it would seem to not impart much in the way of flavor:

1 gallon water
1 cup Morton’s Kosher Salt
1 cup sugar
juice and pulp from three lemons
¼ cup of Lawry’s Seasoned Pepper

Brine the bird for 2-4 hours if you’re doing small pieces, or 6-8 hours for a complete bird. Rinse the bird off in freshwater when you take it out of the brine, but don’t soak it. You’re just removing the outer layer of salt – you don’t want to start a process of reverse osmosis.

The only downside of brining is that the skin is saturated with liquid and tends not to come out crispy. In fact, it can be a little rubbery. If you’re looking for crispy skin, let the bird dry in the refrigerator for a few hours. You won’t lose much of the internal moisture, and the skin will come out as if it were grilled traditionally. I don’t eat the skin anyway, so I tend to go right from the rinse to the grill or smoker.

This part is very important: Now is the time to throw away the brine. It’s raw poultry and shouldn’t be used. Even if you boiled it there would still be bits of blood and meat floating in it that could go bad. Just get rid of it in a safe manner.

Cook the bird on a 325 degree grill until the meat reaches an internal temp of 180 degrees. If you press on the meat, the juices will run clear. Measure the temperature at the thickest part of the meat. Apply a glaze of sauce and let it caramelize on the grill and then apply a little more sauce after you plate it.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Weber 2820 Smokey Mountain Cooker/Smoker

This is one of my favorite rigs. The Weber 2820 Smokey Mountain Cooker/Smoker is an excellent choice if you're just getting into barbeque.

This is a very forgiving smoker. You can easily adjust the temperature with the vents. Once you've got a fire stabilized and the vents set, it will pretty much stay within your range by about 20 degrees. There's plenty of room with two racks, but be careful when using the bottom rack as it's closer to the fire and you'll get higher temps.

It's light enough that I can throw it in the back of my truck and take it anywhere. I've seen people using them while tailgating at Carolina Hurricanes games, although frankly it would be too hot to put away and I wouldn't want to leave it outside while I went in to watch the game.

It comes with a cover, but it's stainless steel. Mine spends most of its time uncovered, and there's not a bit of rust on it.

Many people fill the drip pan with water. That works to stabilize the heat, but it will also boil away the water and create steam, which limits the ability of the meat to take smoke. Instead, fill the drip pan with sand, and put a sheet of tinfoil over the sand.

It doesn't come with a thermometer, but since you're a pro you have wireless remote thermometer, don't you?

I can literally load my WSM with charcoal in the morning, get the temperature right, and come back in the afternoon to a perfect briskette, pork butt, ribs, turkey -- anything that requires a long, slow cook with smoke.

And it's an Amazon Prime deal, so if you're a member, you get the shipping for free.

Yes, Her Name is Hamburger

I came across this article about Zoe Hamburger while surfing. Yes, her last name really is Hamburger. At least she has a sense of humor:
When I was younger the cable company sent the bill to Bacon Double Cheeseburger instead of Peter W. Hamburger. My family thought it was hilarious. You have to have a good sense of humor if your last name is Hamburger.
And, of course, she has a recipe for her favorite burger:
Start with a half pound of freshly ground chuck quickly molded to a thickness of about an inch and a quarter. Chill it in the fridge, then season both sides with kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper, then put it on a hot, seasoned cast-iron pan with a tablespoon of butter for four and half minutes, flip it and put on a thick slab of blue cheese, like a sharp and creamy Roquefort, and cook it for barely five more minutes. The hamburger has a crunchy black outside, juicy pink center, no bun, but it is topped with sautéed onions, served on a warm plate with a pool of room temperature ketchup on the side.
While that burger sounds good, I can't say that it would be my favorite. It's missing the grilled taste.

How to cook a burger is a bit of a religious discussion -- everyone has their own beliefs and it's not worth trying to convince someone that they're wrong. Do you add "stuff" to your burger, or just go with natural beef? Cheese or no cheese? How about condiments? My wife and I disagree about mayonnaise -- I agree with Alton Brown that a thin layer of mayo should go on the bottom bun to form a fat layer to trap the juices from the burger. She finds the thought of mayo on a burger as disgusting as ketchup on a hotdog.

In North Carolina we have a topping method called "Carolina Style." That's a burger with chili, slaw, and mustard. The same way we do our hotdogs. It's good, but frankly it's a mess. I think the perfect burger can be eaten with a white shirt.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Jericho Cooks

Ok, Jericho Cooks is a cool site. They're assembling recipes that might be used in a real life Jericho. I'm not sure there will be a huge demand for that, but it's a cute idea and half the proceeds from the cookbook they're going to sell will go to the troops. I sent them my Grilled Nuts recipe.

So what are you waiting for? Go click.

Why Brine?

The secret to producing a moist and tender bird is brining. It doesn’t matter if you’re going to barbeque it, grill it, or even roast or broil it in your oven. In fact, this method works with any cut of lean meat, such as pork tenderloin, chops, poultry, etc.

There doesn’t seem to be much agreement among the “experts” as to why brining works, except that it does. If you’ll recall your introductory high school chemistry, you may remember diffusion (where dissolved substances will move from a region of higher concentration to lower concentration because of agitation, usually from heating) and an kind of diffusion called osmosis (the movement of a solvent across a semi-permeable membrane to equalize the concentrations on both sides).

Diffusion is pretty easy to understand. Just stir up some garlic and onions in olive oil on your stove and pretty soon the entire house has that wonderful smell. That’s diffusion – the gases given off from the cooking are equalizing throughout the area. Osmosis is a little more difficult. Remember the experiment you did in high school where you put a balloon full of salt water into a bucket of fresh water? After a while the water in the balloon had a different weight than when it started. That’s because the balloon is a semi-permeable membrane – it lets some things pass through it, but not others. The salt water and the fresh water are equalizing, so we get a different weight.

So how does this translate to submerging a chicken in brine for several hours? Again, the experts disagree on the mechanism, but my personal favorite is that the meat has a lower concentration of water and salt inside its cells than the brine solution. This situation creates osmotic pressure to pull the liquid into the cells, but more importantly, into the areas between the cells. The flavors in the brine come along for the ride. You end up with meat that’s bursting with water. I suppose I could prove it by doing a complicated set of experiments, but in reality the barbeque just gets eaten too fast to be spending time measuring it….

The end result is that the meat has much higher water content than usual. That translates into moist bird. It’s really amazing to sea a turkey burst with water and steam when you cut into the breast with the carving knife. But there’s another mechanism at work. The extra water inside and around the cells will reach the boiling point during cooking. This not only translates into shorter cooking times, but also serves to rupture the cell walls – thus creating a much more tender bird. Think of how much more tender meat is after you beat on it with a tenderizing hammer. The boiling from the inside does the same thing, on a much more uniform scale.

If you haven't gotten into brining, then you're missing out on Nirvana. Watching a crowd of people dig into a feast of perfect, succulent chicken is a very satisfying feeling.

It's poultry in motion...

Monday, July 23, 2007

Secret Recipe

This is another in my series of articles of "So You Want to be a Sauce Mogul?"

Everybody thinks they have a secret recipe that will turn them into sauce moguls. They keep the recipe for their sauce a closely guarded secret, terrified that someone will find out how they make it.

I'll let you in on a secret. The recipe doesn't matter. Not one bit.

Of course, your product has to meet a certain standard. But frankly, Kraft sells a lot of Bullseye Barbeque Sauce, and it's hardly the best available. It's not about what's inside. Your label will include your ingredient list, and any good chef can look at the list of ingredients, taste it, and come up with a reasonable substitute pretty quickly. It's about what's on the outside.

Here's an experiment. Go buy 10 cases of the best barbeque sauce you can find. Whatever you think comes the closest to your own perfect, secret recipe. Put that sauce in new bottles, with a new label on it. Put your price at half of what you paid for it. Now go out and sell it. Work really hard. If you're going to be a successful sauce entrepreneur, this will be your life, so give it a good shot. In 30 days, you'll be lucky if you've sold as much as Kraft sells in a day in one city.

The difference is marketing. The Kraft sauce was already on the grocery shelf. It has distribution channels and branding. People know about it. That's the key to success. You can have the greatest sauce in the world, but if you don't have the reach and distribution, you'll go nowhere.

The next time you're at the grocery store, take note of the amount of shelf space devoted to the mediocre national brands versus the local brands. If it's like most places, the big national brands have about 80% of the shelf space. A local brand is lucky if their section is three bottles wide.

That's not to say that there aren't plenty of wonderful "unknown" sauces out there. We started The Carolina Sauce Company to promote sauces that most people hadn't heard of. The quality of product available on the standard grocery shelf is pretty poor. They're just conglomerations of high fructose corn syrup, water, ketchup, and liquid smoke. There are all kinds of hidden gems out there produced to a much higher standard.

The reason you have to go looking for the hidden gems is marketing.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Here's a Tip

Here's a pearl of wisdom for anyone that finds themselves employed as wait staff:

Not only has no one ever won an argument with a customer. In the history of restaurants, an argument with a customer has never resulted in a larger tip.

You'd think that would be pretty easy to understand, but people miss this one all the time. Even when the customer is wrong, they're right. If you're going to argue with your customers, you may as well kick them out the door right then, because you've lost them as a customer.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Cuban Food

One of the great things about the internet is that no matter where you live, great ethnic food is only a few clicks away.

Perhaps one of the best kept ethnic food secrets in the world is Cuban food. Outside of South Florida and New York City, you're a lot more likely to find Thai or Indian restaurants than Cuban food. And those restaurants that do serve cuban food generally have it on a broader menu that includes other cuisines. And while most places you can get something that they call a "Cuban sandwich", if you've got a hankering for Bacalaitos, you're just out of luck. If you've never had Bacalaitos, go order a bag of the mixture right now. They're salted codfish fritters, and taste a lot better than they sound. Think "cuban hushpuppies" and you'll get the idea. These are always a hit when we bring them out at a party, and they're extremely easy to make.

I was very pleased to receive an email that told me about The Cuban Mega Store. All my favorite cuban foods that I've had to fill up suitcases with when traveling to South Floria or New York City are available.

Perhaps cuban food will see popularity once Castro lets loose the mortal coil and Cubans can get a taste of freedom. If you haven't tried it, you're really missing something special. Cuba Libre!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Greg's Happy Sauce

I can't believe I've gone this long without a post on Greg's Happy Sauce. This is the sauce that got me into the business. It started as a recipe that I mixed up and modified heavily over the years as a marinade for venison. Everyone who tried it told me I should bottle it and sell it. In 2003 I had the opportunity to do that, and Happy Sauce was born.

The key ingredients are olive oil, honey, soy sauce, garlic, onion, ginger and cayenne pepper. You'll notice there's no water, corn syrup, ketchup, or any other "inexpensive" ingredients. Yes, it's a little more expensive than most sauces at $6.95/bottle, but where can you purchase a 16 oz bottle of olive oil or honey for less than that?

This isn't your standard barbeque sauce, but it works in most of the same situations. Smoked back ribs glazed in Happy Sauce are about as good as it gets. Marinate salmon fillets overnight and then grill for a wonderful seafood treat. For a great party pleaser, marinate slices of portabello mushrooms and then grill on a grill wok. Marinate chicken breasts overnight for chicken so tender and juicy you won't recognize it.

I haven't tried anything that the sauce was bad on. It works great on pulled pork, hamburgers, eggs, or even just mopped up with bread. I'm not sure I'm willing to go as far as the customer that likes it on ice cream, but to each his own.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Daves Gourmet Insanity Sauce

About 20 years ago, I was introduced to the world of real hot sauces with Dave's Gourmet Insanity Sauce. This is probably the most popular of the specialty hot sauces in the world.

My first encounter with Dave's was at a bar in Ottawa. A friend and I ordered "Hot Wings". A different waiter delivered them with the question "Who ordered the suicide wings?" About two bites in my friend and I realized we had made a mistake, but neither of us was going to admit that we didn't have the manhood to finish the plate. After a lot of sweating and a lot of beer we were able to finish it. I then ordered a milkshake! Another tip: if you're going to use this sauce, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before you go to the bathroom. And you might not want to schedule a flight for 6:00AM the next morning, because if you eat a lot of it you're not going to be feeling that good.

But for a little bit of soul scorching heat, a dab of Dave's Gourmet Insanity Sauce is a very good choice. The hot sauce world has grown up quite a bit in the last 20 years and there are a lot more options. But Dave's will always be the gold standard.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Tech Economy is Improving

I have incontrovertible proof that the technology economy is improving again. In fact, the entire economy is downright booming.

This has nothing to do with financial analysis. It's based on the RSI, or my very own Restaurant Service Index. When times are good economically, the RSI tends to be low because people that would normally be employed as wait staff are able to find better jobs. So the people you find working in the back of the house and waiting tables are the people that couldn't do any better, even though there are plenty of good jobs.

When there's a downturn, the RSI rises. Software engineers find themselves competing for jobs as waiters. This puts more people into the market for these jobs, and the overall quality increases.

Back in 2000-2003, during the height of the tech crunch, restaurant service in RTP and Silicon Valley was outstanding. I just got back from a trip to Silicon Valley, and I can verify that it's the same now as RTP. In general, restaurant service is terrible these days. The RSI is quite low.

Which is very good for your pocketbook.

It's just a shame that when I've actually got money to go out to eat the service is bad...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Secret to Perfect Scrambled Eggs

Ok, this is one of the few things I don't grill. But I've certainly cooked them outdoors on the side burner.

I had an appetizer in a restaurant consisting of Scottish salmon and scrambled eggs. The were the most wonderful cheesy eggs I had ever had up until that point. I asked the manager what the secret was.

He said "We use very high quality cheese, finely grated. And we use heavy cream instead of milk."

Wow, so it's not exactly health food. But just a little heavy cream (perhaps half of what you would normally use in water/milk) provides a wonderful taste and texture. I'm sure Alton Brown could discuss the how the fat binds with the proteins and the viscosity helps the eggs form a custard, but take it from me, these are mighty fine eats.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Grill Wok

Here's another grilling tool that I couldn't live without: A Grill Wok. I have three of these in service.

It's excellent for tossing vegetables or seafood such as shrimp or scallops on the grill. I usually add some Greg's Happy Sauce for a stir fry effect, but just about anything will work.

At my last cookout one of my neighbors said "Is there anything you won't grill?" I couldn't think of anything. My wife mentioned that carrots hadn't worked out too well...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Buffet Etiquette

Having spent a few years offering samples of my sauces at trade shows,
barbeque festivals, supermarkets, parking lots, and just about anywhere that would take me, I thought I had seen it all. Many people have absolutely no concept of food safety.

Our normal tasting set up was a tray of pretzels with small bowls of sauce. To sample, pick up a pretzel, dip it in the sauce, and enjoy.  About 20% of the people who did this liked it so much they dipped again -- using the same pretzel.  We generally just quietly threw away the bowl that got double dipped and put out another one. It didn't take us long to figure out to use small bowls.

The one that blew me away was the lady who said she didn't like pretzels. I offered to get her some bread, but before I could react she dipped her finger in the bowl, smiled, and said "That's really good!" and dipped her same finger in again! I wanted to toss the bowl at her, but I just smiled and rotated out another bowl.

I don't usually eat at buffets having seen the way people treat food safety., and I never sample "open" samples. Things that the health department would close down a restaurants over are perpetrated by customers every day. Using tongs that other people have used and then eating just isn't that appetizing. If you think I'm being too uptight, just think of how many people you see skipping the hand wash phase of using the restroom and then think about those tongs.

But last weekend we had a strong hankering for sushi and dim sum, and there's a place nearby that has both, as well as a chinese buffet. The sushi bar is watched closely by the sushi chef, so it's pretty safe. It's also darn good sushi for a buffet.

Over at the dim sum table there was a single bean curd roll left. A lady was looking at it, deciding if she wanted to try it. Instead of picking up the tongs, she pressed her finger into it. Obviously it didn't pass her touch test, because she left it.

There ought to be a law that says it's okay to slap people like that. "She was stupid and dangerous, your honor."

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

So You Want to be a Sauce Mogul

This is the first in what will be a series of articles about bottling and selling your own sauce. I went through this exercise when I created Greg's Happy Sauce, so you can have the benefit of some of the things I've learned.

So you've got a great family recipe for a barbeque sauce and you're convinced that it's much better than the bottled sauces you buy at the grocery store. You've figured out that a bottle of sauce costs you about $2.00 to make, and you think it will sell for $3.00 -- a tidy 33% profit!

That business model only works if you're going to sell your sauce directly. Which is pretty tough. You'd have to sell 6 bottles an hour, 8 hours a day, just to make minimum wage. That's 12,000 bottles per year. And we haven't even gotten into the overhead costs such as insurance, gas, warehousing, etc.

You're not going to be able to make more than a small income from selling sauce directly. You're going to need distribution channels, such as grocery stores or over the internet. But you don't have any room in your 33% profit to share with the grocery store, so your price has to go up, perhaps another 25%. So now that $3.00 bottle is $4.00. So, armed with your slightly higher retail price, you start to approach the big grocery chains.

You can spend months doing this and get nowhere if you don't already have business contacts at the stores. Showing up at a local grocery store and giving the store manager a bottle to try may sound like a good idea, but it's not going to get you anywhere unless the store is a standalone store. The big chains do their buying through central purchasing, and they've set up business processes designed to make it very difficult for new products from unknown vendors to make it into the store. They're not in the business of helping you launch your business, they'll only be interested once there is a demand.

Now you try to find a broker for your sauce -- someone who has all the contacts and can open doors for you. Oops, you'll need to add another 25% to the retail price because brokers don't work for free. So now you're looking at about $6.00/bottle retail. Now you're triple what a bottle of Kraft barbeque sauce costs on the shelf, and no one has heard of you. The chances are the broker won't be able to get anything done for you until you've got some outside traction, so you've got a high price and still not enough sales. And six bucks is a lot of money to shell out for a sauce you've never tried.

We're in the era of Web 2.0, so just create a web page and start selling, right? That's a great idea, except 1) You'll have to market your site which is something professionals expend a lot of effort on, and 2) It's pretty hard to sample a sauce over the internet. The internet works great if there's already a demand -- people will purchase a sauce if they've tried it before. Yes, there are lots of stories of people that hit it big on the Internet, but there are thousands times more stories of products that didn't even cover the web site fees.

So what about the big websites that sell specialty products, such as The Carolina Sauce Company? They can certainly give you exposure, and they have more traffic than you could hope to generate for yourself after a few years of work. And they do it full time. But you'll still need to generate demand, because people don't buy sight unseen from the Internet. The big specialty foods websites are an ideal solution for fulfillment of orders, but you'll still have to convince the general population that your sauce is something they want to buy.

One of the mistakes many people make is that they compete with the big specialty foods websites while at the same time trying to sell through them.  The big sites need a 50% margin just to make a go if it.  Any less than that and they probably won't carry it.  If you give them 50% off your $6.00 retail price, and then turn around and sell the same sauce on your own website for $4.50, they're going to drop you like a hot potato.  Why should they bother to publicize your sauce and establish an internet presence for it if you're going to turn around and undercut them?  Most websites are flat out not interested in dealing with a vendor that's going to compete with them.  It's fine if you want to pursue direct sales, but your price to consumers needs to be the most expensive in the entire distribution chain. 

How about specialty stores? Just hit the Mom and Pop stores and get them to carry it? That's your best bet. The Mom and Pop's will need about a 50% margin, so you're still in the $6.00/bottle range. Why so much margin? Mom and Pop don't move much inventory, and their shelf space is small so they have to maximize their revenue from every inch. And your costs will go up in dealing with them -- you'll have to arrange for deliveries to all these little stores. Shipping or gasoline will cut heavily into your margins. And you'll have to actively demonstrate the product in order to generate sales. People still won't buy it without trying it.

The bottom line is that this is a very tough business to succeed in. You can see from the simple math that a $2.00 cost per bottle probably can't succeed. You've got to be closer to $0.50-$0.75 in cost to make a go of it. And then you've got the problem of getting people to buy it. The best way seems to be to generate a buzz by demonstrating the product every chance you get. You'll be giving out dozens of samples just to get a single sale, and you'll need dozens of sales to get a repeat customer. And you'll need thousands of repeat customers just to make minimum wage.

At some point you'll transition out of the specialty stores and websites and into the traditional grocery chains.  You can't do both.  Neither of the other two distribution channels will be interested in carrying a product they have to sell at $6.00 to remain whole and compete with the local megamart selling it at $3.50.  Making this jump is a critical juncture.  Do it too soon, and you end up on the other side without any demand.  Do it too late, and you may never make it.

But it can be done. There are success stories out there. It seems to take about 7 years to go from a recipe to when it's a real going business. Generate the buzz, get into the small stores, land a few brokers, get it on the internet, and eventually you can break into a giant nationwide grocery chain where they're selling 1,000 cases/month and you've got a real business.