Magic in a bottle

Van Kwartel Flavor Science Pepper SaucesOur bottle is not only beautiful, it is an embodiment of generations of family values.

When the family emigrated from the Caribbean, glass bottles were not manufactured locally in the abundance we have today. Like many immigrant families of that era, they would be completely unfamiliar with today’s throw away culture. Every type of packaging brought into the home would be re-purposed and reused in as many iterations as creativity would allow. Careful mending and repairs applied when needed and when broken beyond repair, reimagined as the building blocks for something new.

A beer bottle would hold the latest batch of pepper sauce, a jelly jar would house homemade preserves, and when chipped beyond that use morph into containers to organize screws and nails in grandpa’s workshop, hold notions in a sewing box, or nurse an avocado seedling. We honored this tradition by carefully selecting our packaging to be durable, reusable, a reflection of our cultural heritage and commitment to bring you freshest and most delicious sauces, marinades and spice blends.

We were the first local food company to use these bottles in Utah; they’re expensive but worth it to us because you’re more likely to reuse it in your home. If you don’t want to keep the bottle, we sterilize and reuse them and give you $1 off your next purchase. This summer, our customers have already kept more than 350lbs of glass out of the waste stream.

What is a Pepper Sauce?

What is a Pepper Sauce?

Pepper Sauce is a Caribbean style hot sauce.  These spicy condiments are made in small batches from the freshest ingredients available.  Thicker in consistency than sauces we are accustomed to purchasing in stores, a little goes a long way.

Our sauces are made fresh each week without preservatives or additives and should remain refrigerated to preserve that special taste.  Shake well, as there are no emulsifiers in our sauces.

Special Edition Pepper Sauces are made with locally grown chilies while the varietals are producing and in season. Our latest, Purple Tiger’s Claw, features Purple Tiger and Hot Portugal peppers from Earth First Eco-Farms and Purple Cayenne Peppers from Mololo Gardens.  We thank them for their long standing commitment to bring delicious, healthy produce to market.

How would I use it?

Red, Green and Orange Pepper Sauces: add a few drops while cooking to add depth of flavor to your meal, or after cooking for full strength heat.  Mix with sour cream, yoghurt or mayonnaise to achieve the level of heat you desire in a spicy spread.

Jerk Marinade: coat your meats, game, poultry, fish, tofu or vegetables with a thin layer and cook. Reserve a portion of the marinade for use as a sauce after cooking.
Sofrito: enjoy with chips like a salsa, use as tradition states to flavor your rice, bean and vegetable dishes. Marinate delicate flavored shrimp, seafood, fish or chicken breasts before cooking. Add to soups and stews before serving to add bright, fresh flavor.

Sofrito: enjoy with chips like a salsa, use as tradition states to flavor your rice, bean and vegetable dishes. Marinate delicate flavored shrimp, seafood, fish or chicken breasts before cooking. Add to soups and stews before serving to add bright, fresh flavor.

City Weekly: Downtown Farmers Market Finds

We’re one of the picks at the market featured in City Weekly:

“The Van Kwartel booth is always a bit intimidating for me each week and I admit I had yet to try it before now. I can not handle spicy and I am a complete baby when it comes to pepper seeds. There are six marinade and sauce blends and each of them features a very striking color. I tried a dip of each on tortilla chips and I have to say that they are bursting with flavor. The Jerk Marinade, one of my favorites, had some great sweetness to it and a close second was the Green Pepper sauce, which was the perfect amount of hot. There was only one sauce that I could just not handle, The Ghost Fire Pepper Sauce. The name of it almost burns to say and tasting it is even tougher. Luckily, they did have a salsa-like product called Sofrito to cool down my mouth. I had never tried Sofrito but it was definitely my favorite dip/sauce because it was fresh, chunky, and soothing…”

We’re psyched to be mentioned along with our friends at Grandma Sandinos and Proof Pawsitive.

Introduction to the Herbs and Spices of the Caribbean at ACE

This month we offered our first class at ACE – Alta Community EnrichmentIntroduction to the Herbs and Spices of the Caribbean was a wonderful way for us to give back to an organization that has been so supportive of our venture and hosts some of the most fun and informative events in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Participants created their own versions of Sofrito and a Curry Powder blend, enjoyed a meal of a traditional fish stew, and vegetarian curry over sofrito flavored rice, and then took home a spice mix pack to further their artistic adventures in their home kitchen.

Check out the photos, courtesy of ACE on their Facebook Page.


Bajan Mustard Blend

Pan Seared Mustard Crusted fish

Pan searing – known as frying by my grandparents, is a great way to enjoy a Bajan (native of Barbados) favorite, Mustard. Mustard is in the pepper sauces (hot sauce) and flavors flour and egg dredges used on fish. 2 tablespoons of this blend mixed with 1/3 cup white vinegar refrigerated overnight will make a great mustard for a sandwich a good accompaniment to meats and veggies.

2 fillets of a mild white fish
2 tbsp of Bajan Mustard Blend
2 tbsp of olive oil
1 tsp butter
1 small onion

Rinse the fillets and pat dry. Rub in the mustard blend and set aside for 10 minutes. Heat oil in a heavy skillet and slice the onion. When the oil is hot, sear the fillets on one side. When it’s time to flip (turning opaque on the edges) place the onion in the pan and turn fillets on top of the onion. When cooked to your desired doneness, pull the fillets and sauté the onions in the seasonings and butter.

Serve cooked onions over the fillets.


Za’atar on Pitas

One of the great gifts from the Lebanese Diaspora in the Caribbean. I find some commercially available mixes to be heavy on the sodium, this mix allows you to add salt to your taste. Explore sprinkling this on hummus or baba ganoush.

2 tsp of Za’atar
1 tbsp of olive oil
Pinch of salt to taste
Pita bread, toasted

Combine Za’atar with olive oil to form a nice slurry. Taste, add more salt if you prefer, dip in pita. Enjoy. Repeat.

Caribbean Style Curry

Curry Chicken

My first taste of curry was from family friends from Trinidad and Tobago. Milder in flavor than the commercially available “Curry Powder” add a scotch bonnet or habanero pepper, or two, for the traditional taste.

1 lb chicken breasts or parts of your choice
2 tbsp Caribbean Style Curry
3/4 cups water
1/2 onion
1 potato
1 tablespoons of vegetable oil
2 tsp thyme
1 clove garlic
1 scotch bonnet pepper or habanero
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces, chop the onions and mince the garlic. Marinate the chicken with all of the ingredients except the water and potato for at least 30 minutes.

Dice the potato and in a heavy pot, sear the chicken pieces on all sides, approx 5 minutes. Add potatoes and water and simmer for 45 minutes or until juices thicken.

Garnish with Panch Phoron Onions

Panch Phoron Blend

Panch Phoron Onions

‘5 spice’ could reference Chinese Five Spice Powder or this blend of seeds, which I now know is a Bengali favorite. Not sure how this got to us via Trinidad. However this mixture shines when sprinkled on dal, sautéed with onions or potatoes or as an accompaniment to curries.

1 large Spanish (yellow) onions, sliced thinly
2 tbsp Panch Phoron Blend
2 tbsp butter, plain or clarified.

Heat butter in a skillet on medium and when melted toss in the Panch Phoron and when the first seed “pops” stir in the onion. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook until the onions are slightly caramelized.

Sweet Chili Blend

Chili Lime Glaze

Sweet, hot, sour and salty combine in this quick and easy sauce that is good for grilled seafood, fish and meats. To use the ingredients in a marinade, combine ingredients, but do not cook. A pinch of sweet chili in your hot chocolate will recall the Maya tradition of chili and chocolate.

1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp Sweet Chili Blend
1 tbsp olive oil or grape seed oil for higher temperature cooking.
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons lime juice

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a light boil and reduce by about three quarters to one half. Drizzle over grilled goodness.

Sweet Spice Blend

Mini Apple Galettes

A dessert as American as apple pie, but also infused with the sweet spices of the Caribbean. Adapted from the Tasting Table’s Rhubarb Galette.  Or add a teaspoon to a 50/50 mix of box wine and rum for an island style gluhwine.

2 tbsp Sweet Spice Blend
2 apples
Juice of 1/2 lemon


1 cup all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 /4 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2.5 tbsp ice water

Mix the butter, flour and salt in a food processor until the butter forms peas. Slowly drizzle in the ice water until the dough forms a ball. Cover in plastic wrap and rest for 1 /2 hour.

Slice the apples thinly and toss in the Sweet Spice Blend and lemon juice.

Divide the dough in half and roll out two circles. Arrange the apples in the center of each round of dough and fold over approx 1” edge on the top. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 1.5 hours. Let cool and enjoy with ice or whipped cream.

Tikin Xic Spiced Pepper

Maya Dry Rub

Pronounced “Teekeen Sheek”. Traditionally, this is a roasted fish in banana leaves with a fire red spice coating. Use this pepper as a dry rub on your favorite fish or meat or sprinkle it as a substitute for traditional pepper. Simply rub on, sprinkle some salt to taste and grill over high heat.

Szechuan Nori Pepper

Hot Sprinkle

Szechuan and black peppers combine with nori for a dramatic presentation packed with umami and the mysterious numbing effect of Szechuan pepper. Use as a dry rub on fish or game or as a finishing pepper on soups.

Herbed Salt Blend, Sal Piquant & Sal Con Jamaica

Garnish, Season, Marinate

Use these blends instead of the usual augmented salts. Sea Salt and Hibiscus flowers combine for the Sal Con Jamaica. Jamaica’s tangy flavor and vibrant violet color can encrust chevre on your cheese plate and add dramatic presentation to any dish. Herbed Salt Blend encrusted fish or shrimp is delectable. Equal parts Sal Piquant and olive oil create a marinade that transforms your go to salmon preparation.

Sal Con Pimenton Ahumado

Spiced and Smoky Shrimp Skewers

A grill favorite, or pan sear in butter for a quick treat.

2 Tbsp Sal Con Pimenton Ahumado
2 Tbsp lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 lb shrimp, cleaned and de veined

Combine the Sal Con Pimenton Ahumado, lime juice and olive oil. Marinate the shrimp for 10-15 minutes. Slip onto skewers and grill until just opaque.

Jerk Marinade

Jerk Chicken… Jerk Every and Anything

If you love this unique combination of heat and spice and can resist the temptation to eat the entire jar with chips, continue on.

1 lb of chicken, protein or tofu
1 jar Jerk Marinade

Marinate your protein of choice and 1/2 jar of marinade from 20 minutes for fish and seafood to 45 minutes for chicken, goat, etc. Grill or roast in the oven until the protein is done. You are looking for a dry crust of marinade on the outside but juicy inside. Use the remaining reserved marinade as a garnish.

Keep refrigerated.

Red Pepper Sauce & Smoked Spicy Aioli

Sprinkle and Smear

Every Caribbean household seems to have it’s regional twist on hot sauce called ‘pepper sauce’ on the table with most every meal. Sprinkle a little on your breakfast eggs and soon you’ll be adding it to lunch and dinner as well.

Use this smoky blend of peppers and mayonnaise to enliven your sandwiches and french fries.

Better than those commercial brands full of preservatives, keep these refrigerated.