Let’s Talk Food: Sauces from Underwood Ranches

  • Photo courtesy AUDREY WILSON Underwood Farms sauces.

Underwood Farms, who produced all the jalapeno peppers for the famous Huy Fong Srirarcha for 28 years, now has a line of their own line of sauces.

Underwood Ranches has been growing peppers, from bells to jalapeno, since 1867 and is the largest pepper grower in the United States, with more than 2,000 acres of red jalapenos in Ventura and Kern Counties in California.

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Their theme, “Seed to Sauce” means they not only grow the peppers, but also make the sauces. We ordered all six sauces, Sriracha, Roja, Verde, Spicy BBQ, Carolina Gold and Bibimbap.

Since they are the farmers, their goal is to highlight the peppers and these sauces surely do just that.

There are no preservatives or chemicals, just simple ingredients to make the peppers shine!

As Underwood Ranches says, “ Our recipes are free from artificial preservatives, natural, uncomplicated and made in the USA with peppers grown by Underwood Ranches in our fields in California, we truly are Seed to Sauce!”

We did a taste test with each sauce and these are our comments:

Sriracha: “Our special sriracha sauce highlights the boldness of the peppers’ flavor with fresh garlic and justenogut salt, sugar, and vinegar added to deliver a touch of tanginess. Works very well as an ingredient in any dish, sushi rolls, hot dogs and pizza.” I found it hot, spicy with a clean pepper flavor. With others, the vinegar taste is the bully, but with this sauce, the peppers are the bully or dominant flavor.

Bibimbap: “A fusion of Korean Gochujang made with red jalapenos and sesame oil. Spicy but not overwhelming. Compliments any dish or single item, try it as a sandwich spread for a new experience.” This sauce is mixed with bibimbap, a Korean one-bowl dish with lots of vegetables and either BBQ beef or chicken, mixed vigorously until the rice is red in color from the bibimbap sauce. I found the first flavors to be sweet and then, the pepper flavors come out later. As soon as we received the bibimbap sauce, we made bibimbap with all the wonderful vegetables that are available from our local farmers, and added it to our finished dish. It has the right ingredients but still needs to be tweaked.

Verde Hot Sauce: “Roasted green jalapenos with a subtle mix of spices and lemon juice. Pairs well with all Mexican food, eggs and seafood.” To us, it tastes like you are biting into a jalapeno pepper. Again, the green jalapeno flavors are very dominant and delicious on eggs.

Roja Hot Sauce: “Smoky mix of roasted red jalapenos with a blend of spices and a hot kick making this our spiciest sauce. Use Roja to liven up any Mexican dish, pizza or seafood.”

This Mexican red sauce is quite hot but layered and delicious.

Carolina Gold: “East meets West with a blend of our red jalapenos and a mustard based Carolina-style BBQ sauce. Great on pulled pork, hot dogs, French fries and chicken strips.”

We found the mustard to pop out at first, then the peppers hit us in the back.

Spicy BBQ Sauce: “Made with red jalapeno peppers and no tomato products. Fresh ingredients — pepper and garlic with a kick!” This is a finishing sauce for any protein, pairs very well with ribs, chicken wings and great for dipping. After tasting it, the heat on the tongue lingered, and the tomato flavors were apparent.

You can order the six Underwood Ranches sauces at UnderwoodRanches.com or from Amazon.

Last year, there was a lawsuit and a counter lawsuit against Huy Fong Foods and Underwood Ranches.

Huy Fong sued Underwood Ranches for $1.46 million in overpayment they claim they made for the 2016 harvest.

Underwood Ranches countered for $20 million, saying Huy Fong breached its verbal contract and owed for cost incurred on behalf of the hot sauce maker.

CEO of Huy Fong, David Tran, said in court, “We were like family. I really trusted him, but I never expected this. A relationship that lasted 28 years, today, we ended up in court.” He said he learned Underwood would not plant peppers for the 2017 harvest season.

Fearing that Tran would go out of business, he scrambled to find peppers to meet the demand to fill his orders. (Since then, I feel that the quality of his product has changed)

James McDermott, attorney for Underwood Ranches, told jurors that as Tran began to seek “more control over his legacy, it became clear that Huy Fong had “no intent” of following through with its 2017 agreement even though Underwood had already made preparation for the harvest.

With the rug pulled out from under it, without notice, Underwood immediately faced an avalanche of obligations, with razor thin margins.”

The company was forced to layoff half its employees and was obligated to pay a totoal of $16.5 million in related costs in 2017, 2018 and 2019” McDermott said.

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In July, Underwood Ranches was awarded $23.3 million and since then, has been producing sauces with their peppers, saying that the peppers make the sauce.

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.

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