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Gourmet hot sauces have been a rising culinary trend globally.
Unique variations utilizing peppers popular to various regions attract connoisseurs of this versatile condiment that’s partnered with everything from bacon and eggs and burgers to even sweet treats like chocolate. Aruba’s Madame Jeanette pepper, with South American origins, is widely grown and consumed on the island. A relative of the habanero and Scotch bonnet pepper varieties, the Madame Jeanette features tropical and citrusy notes and a respectful 125,00 to 325,000 Scoville heat units (that’s up to 130 times hotter than a jalapeño!). This pepper lights up the tongue at the first bite, unlike other peppers that take their punch to the back of the throat. This mouthful of heat can make the pepper feel even spicier.
In Aruba, we call hot sauce “pica,” and although today there are a number of versions of pica, Hot Delight was the first commercially produced hot sauce that is still one of the top-selling on local shelves. “Hot Delight Papaya” is the brand’s original and signature sauce, made with Madame Jeanette peppers and papaya. The company was started by Aurelio Ruiz more than 30 years ago, based on a secret family recipe created by his grandfather more than a century ago. Before the company was officially founded, Aurelio, who worked full-time as an engineer, had been making batches of his pica di papaya for friends and family as a hobby, and then, as word spread, it became a side job during his free time.
His first client was a supermarket in the Dakota area, with the sauce being jarred in recycled baby food jars and the peppers and papayas grown at home. Demand increased so much that Hot Delight became an official company in 1993.
“My father grew our family business solely on word-of-mouth,” explains his daughter Rose-Ann, who, along with her brothers Kelvin and Anthony, make it a true family business. To this day, Hot Delight does little to no marketing, enjoying that their products—including a second sauce, known simply as “Hot Delight Madame”—have been mainstays on supermarket shelves and on the tables of many restaurants as well as local homes for decades.
As of January 1 of this year, Aurelio has retired, leaving Rose-Ann, Kalvin, and Anthony to run the family business. With so many repeat visitors to Aruba enjoying their sauces year after year, the family has sought the advice of a consultant to help the company export the sauces globally. “Each country has its own set of standards and regulations for importing food products, and various certifications are required to take Hot Delight internationally,” shares Rose-Ann. The family is excited for the next chapter to unfold over the next few years. Visitors can always pick up a jar of Hot Delight to take back with them from most local
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