Dear Saucy fans,
We ended our 2013 ketchup production season just a week ago. As Thanksgiving lurks around the corner, I wanted to take this time to tell you what we have been working on in the past few weeks and months, in our first big(ger) production season that we are very proud of.
|Total Production||Srirachup||Classic Ketchup|
|# of tomatoes processed: ~11,000 lbs or 5.5 tons||Bottles made: ~7,000||Bottles made: ~500 bottles|
|# of golden jubilee tomatoes: ~1,000||Cases: ~580||Cases: ~42|
|# of early girl tomatoes: ~10,000|
2013 YEAR OF FIRSTS. Early in the year, we started contract growing with 2 local farmers - Frog Hollow Farms and Avalos Organic Farms in the bay area for our tomatoes and peppers, 50,000 lbs of tomatoes, and 10,000 lbs of peppers. We upgraded from our 3 gallon sauce pans we used in a shared commissary kitchen last year, to 2 commercial 30 gallon braisers that we used on our tomato farmer’s commercial kitchen. We hired staff and workers in the local area to help us with production (vs. having our friends work for us on Labor Day ;)) We used a semi-automatic filler machine to help us fill all the jars. And with all of the firsts this year, I am happy and proud to say that we were able to scale our production from 2,000 jars to ~7,500 jars, and with no comprise to quality.
This year, we worked out an arrangement with our tomato farmer to be able to process the tomatoes in their commercial kitchen, which is located on their farm. This way, it ensured the time it took from picking to processing was minimal and we could use the freshiest tomatoes picked off the vine. When the tomatoes are picked, we implemented a mini assembly line to hand-sort all the tomatoes to make sure only the ripe and good tomatoes were used in the ketchups. The tomatoes are cleaned in 2 water baths and then the tomato water is hand-pressed out for the pulp to go into our ketchups. It’s quite a process from start to finish to make ketchup. It takes us an average of about 2 hours to make one batch of about ~100 bottles of ketchup. Because we don’t use any thickeners, we slowly let time to naturally reduce the tomatoes down to a thick consistency. We find this to be the best way to concentrate all the flavors of the tomatoes into our ketchup. Each jar of ketchup is hand-closed, and hand-labeled. We taste each batch to make sure the flavors are good.
LEARNINGS. One of the biggest challenges this year for us was the supply of our tomatoes and peppers. This season, we only worked with one farmer for our tomatoes and one for our peppers and both of them had a very late planting and therefore a late harvest. Because of the late harvest, we were only able to get about 15-20% of our initial tomato and pepper volume and unfortunately this led us to having to cancel some of the orders with Whole Foods. We also had to push back one of our flavors, Thaichup, because of the orange tomato shortage. But I think things happen for a good reason and this shortage has allowed me to focus more time on local accounts that we have signed up, to support them to make sure they do well. And for me to concentrate on making 2 products very well. There will always be next year for Whole Foods and Thaichup.
We also dived into organic certification too early. Because we were organic, when it came to finding more vendors to work with for tomatoes, and peppers, we were limited to a very small group and very premium priced group. There were a few non-organic farmers that don’t spray and don’t use pesticides (yes, organic farmers could also spray pesticides, they are organic but still pesticides) of whom I wanted to work with, but couldn’t because of our certification. We did find 2 organic farmers – Enos Farm in Brentwood and Blue House Farms in Pescadero who supplied us awesome and amazing early girl tomatoes. During this whole process, I talked to about 30 farmers in the bay area and visited another 5 farmers on their farm to learn about their farming practices. I am very excited to continue our conversation and look forward to working with these great farmers next year for our 2014 season. Something is telling me we will have an abundance of supply next year…
Now that we have made the ketchups, you will be seeing us a lot at local stores doing demos and samplings. Follow us on our website for events and please come say hello next time you will be near us. It’s always great to meet you all and thank you personally for the support. Making ketchup is a labor of love and we couldn’t have done it without your generous and fanatical support.
I hope you enjoy our ketchups from the 2013 season. It’s from me to you.
(Breaking ground on our acre of land for tomato growing)
(Our 1st year celebration - farm dinner with our friends)
(A lot of tomatoes to process, ~1500 lbs)
(Tomatoes being hand-carted away into production room)
(Chili peppers for Srirachup)
(The ketchups are hand-mixed and never left unattended)
(Odd shapes we found during sorting)
(The ladies behind our ketchups)
(I love when ketchups are made and when we roll them out… it's like finishing a surgery and you are rolling out the patient)
(Our first pallet of ketchup, building in progress… Xiao you look handsome)
(End of production celebration at Golden Dragon Buffet with the ladies)
Cheers to 2014 season ahead!