From Hobby Gardeners.
We started growing chillies as a hobby in our back garden greenhouses when we moved from the city to rural Devon way back in the late 1990s. We never realised that chillies would be so easy to grow, so delicious and so completely addictive!
In 2001, we had an opportunity to rent a polytunnel and decided to give it a go, to see how many different varieties we could grow. Suddenly, we had lots of chillies and didn't know what to do with them all. Fortunately, at about the same time, farmers markets had started to become popular and so we took our amazing crop of fresh chillies to the markets and some local shows.
We got an immediate positive response from members of the public and realised there was a widespread fascination with chillies; it was great to be able to share our interest and help people discover with us, the huge variety of shapes, colours and tastes of chillies, as well as the varying levels of spicy heat.
Although our fresh chillies were very popular, we didn't manage to sell all of them and so we headed to our kitchens to experiment with different recipes for preserving the chillies.
Our very first product was the Hot Apple Chilli Jelly which we made with apples collected from local orchards, simply boiled up with sugar and a little chilli; the jelly sets naturally with the pectin from the apples. Chilli jelly was a perfect way to use local hedgerow fruits too and we created a whole range of fun flavours as the seasons changed: elderflower, rosehip, elderberry, sloe, blackberry, crab apple.
We went on to create other chilli preserves using either vinegar or sugar as natural preservatives. As well as being a natural way to preserve chillies, we found the taste was so much better, with no after tastes or gloopiness, which often results from artificial additives. We still stick to our original method of preserving and still make all our products in small batches, retaining their lovely home-cooked flavour.
We also used drying and smoking techniques as a way of preserving our crop, creating sweet, rich flavoured, dried chillies. As lovers of Mexican food, it was really satisfying to be able to oak-smoke our Devon-grown Jalapenos and create the wonderful, classic Mexican Chipotle chillies.
Following our successful drying techniques, we went on to try out an Aztec-inspired recipe by combining a secret mix of dried chillies and chocolate - which soon became one of our most popular chilli products.