Hot – Hot – Hot! Ventura County Garden Club Tours Red Hot Salsa Co. in Santa Paula

By Sheryl Hamlin

What is an entrepreneur? An entrepreneur fills a void with an innovative idea, sweat equity and a commitment to deliver the best product in his or her product space. With a career in the restaurant business, Butch Baselice created a line of products for direct sale to the general public. In the case of the hot salsa business, this meant plant cultivation, professional canning, marketing and direct sales. The Red Hot Salsa Company in Santa Paula, a “hot” agricultural entrepreneurial venture, is unique in the food space with their retail and commercial services extending to consulting and commercial clients.

On March 2, 2016, the Ventura County Garden Club (VCGC) was treated to the cannery operations in Santa Paula. The tour included cultivation, food preparation, canning and measurement. As we waited for members and guests to arrive, Butch treated everyone to tastes of various salsas served on chips.

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Butch Baselice

Below is a picture of the VCGC members sampling the sauces and two locals, Gabrielle Muratori with Vice Mayor Crosswhite partaking as well.

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VCGC members

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Gabrielle Muratori with Vice Mayor Crosswhite

Burma Baselice gave the tour of the food preparation showing their huge cookers in 80 and 40 gallon sizes. The entire batch is poured manually into the bottles and is stored upside down overnight, then labeled, boxed and counted. They maintain measurements for each batch including the time it was cooked, heat temperature and all contents. The pH level tests with samples are also required. This data is required for the State of California and for their private label clients. Burma noted that they will not use any ingredient on the State of California allergen list, such as peanuts or olive glaze, hence there are no food warnings on their labels. They will not use garlic from China. The picture below shows Burma with the cookers.

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Burma Baselice

Butch gave the tour of the cultivation operation. Since water is a major part of the cost of cultivation, Butch has created a mechanized system of collecting rain and dew with which he waters the plants. Quality and consistency is essential in the boutique food business, so the company creates its own seeds, taking the seeds from the plants with tweezers and drying them for later use. The plants are incubated in squares made of rockwool, a growing material made from natural ingredients that looks much like the material used by florists to create vases of cut flowers. Once sprouted, the baby plants are transported to the greenhouse, where the temperature must be above 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The large temperature gauge showed 85 on the day of the VCGC tour as shown in this picture.

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The plants are set into a pipe structure where there is a wick below each plant to collect water runoff, if it occurs. No water is wasted. Baby plants are watered with pure water in bottles from Crystal Geyser. The baby plants are eventually transplanted to larger containers until they are deemed ready to be released into the open. The picture below shows a plant in the greenhouse with tiny red peppers in process.

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Plants in the greenhouse are separated so that they do not cross-pollinate. Butch makes his own dirt for the plants from yard cuttings supplied by Santa Paula’s Recology mixed with Perlite or Vermiculite. In addition to the sauces, the pepper plants shown below are also for sale.

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As part of the retail side of the business, there are five retail locations in Ventura County. This picture shows the Santa Paula store. Popular products include four-packs ready for gift giving.

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After this food focused tour, the VCGC members and guests headed down 9th street to another successful entrepreneurial venture, Rabalais Bistrot, for lunch, essentially taking over the main lunch room. Thanks to Tracy Lippert, owner, and her well-trained, friendly staff for orchestrating this large lunch so efficiently.

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Dining at Rabalais Bistrot,

The April meeting is a tour of Beylik Family Farms in Fillmore with lunch at a local eatery on April 6th 11:00 am. For information or to rsvp, please email [email protected].

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For more information about the author, visit sheryhamlin.com

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