For many, giving homemade gifts — pretty jars of cookie mix, quince preserves, cherry brandy — is an annual tradition.
For former caterer Bob Page, it was the start of a new business.
“I always give my employees for Christmas some handmade gift, a food gift,” said Page, who runs the cafeteria at Land’s End Corporation Headquarters in Dodgeville.
“Over a couple-month period, I played with different (barbecue) sauces, then gave the first five flavors to my employees,” he said. “They absolutely loved it. It grew from there.”
Page started bottling barbecue sauces in his kitchen and giving them to friends. When Gray Dog Deli in Mineral Point asked to sell them, Page decided to move his operation into the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen, also located in Mineral Point.
Bob’s Bitchin’ BBQ launched on July 1. Page and his sauces can now be found at the Mineral Point Market on Saturdays and the Monona Farmers’ Market on Sundays. In addition to Gray Dog, Schurman’s Cheese in Dodgeville sells the sauce and Midway Lanes uses it in specials.
Styles of sauce include BrewBQ made with Spotted Cow beer, mustardy Carolina, Habañero (“not so spicy that it overpowers the food”), sweet Razzberry and the original, which has a touch of liquid smoke. All of them start with ketchup and brown sugar.
“I believe in doing flavors that are going to make the food stand out more than the sauce,” Page said. “You’re tasting the food — you get a little burn (from the habañero) as it’s going down your throat, but it’s not so much that you’re going to need a glass of water.”
More recently, Page has added a Honey Chipotle version (with “a little more sting to it”) and a dry rub made with paprika, cumin, chile, seasoned salt, cayenne, garlic, brown sugar and onion.
“I make a chipotle mayo,” Page said. “I’m going to get into different mayos, like a pesto … there are more things in the works. It’s finding time to develop it.
“There’s definitely growing pains,” he added. “We’re learning as we go.”