When a father-son duo both found themselves in between jobs, they decided to start making hot sauce for a living.
Ed Martin IV was in and out of the music industry, working in management and promotion. His father, Ed Martin III, who lives in Long Branch, had to close down his Middletown ski shop Outer Limits, which he owned for 35 years.
The two grew up making hot sauce together for fun, but the idea to go into business came from Martin IV’s wife, Chelsea Martin, who noticed how much others enjoyed their home creations.
“I’m aware of the (music) industry and how stressful it is. I just would see him doing all this pepper hot sauce on the side, and I said, ‘You seem really happy doing this.’ ” Chelsea said. “I could see tons of people were really liking the sauce and his father was coming off of closing off the family business — I was like, ‘Why don’t you guys just do this together? You’re both in a place where you can try something new.’ ”
The two began making large batches, taking their latest creations to Grateful Dead and Phish shows, giving out samples in the parking lot to test people’s reactions.
When the two received positive reactions from Deadheads and Phish heads, they decided to start a Kickstarter campaign at the end of 2013 to raise the money needed to start their own business.
The duo raised $11,100, and today their business Outer Limits Hot Sauce — named after the family ski shop — has taken over Jersey and even beyond. Their hot sauce is FDA approved and sold in 24 locations. The two even work with artists and musicians to create bottle labels and custom flavors.
“My dad and I have been growing peppers since I was a kid — we really enjoyed spicy food,” Martin IV said. “A lot of the sauces, like the Tabascos and Frank’s didn’t have any heat that we wanted or didn’t have the flavor we wanted so when we started making our own we enjoyed it more than what we were finding in stores. That’s when it clicked that maybe other people will too.”
Throughout the years, Martin IV’s kitchen in his home in Bayonne often became the spot where he would test out new recipes.
The windows to their apartment would be wide open, airing out the potent smell of peppers.
“A lot of it is getting the right peppers and then you cook them, blend them. When we made the batches for testing we did it in his apartment in Bayonne — we’d have to make 10 gallons,” Martin III said. “It’s very crazy because it’d be hard to be in the house. His wife had to leave. It burns your eyes.”
Chelsea joked she is the “supportive hot sauce wife.”
“I just kind of look at it and find it comical,” Chelsea said. “I’d be coming home and walking down the block — three or four houses away and I’d start to get a whiff. I’d be like, ‘Oh he was making hot sauce today.’
“I’ve seen him through a lot of different types of jobs, but I’ve never seen him as happy or passionate as when he does the hot sauce,” Chelsea said. “I watch him at the hot sauce table — he’s a kind of shy guy, but whenever he gets behind his hot sauce and has people testing it he comes to life in a different way.”
Outer Limits Hot Sauce currently sells four signature flavors, which include:
1. Habanero Hot Sauce
It’s their spiciest flavor out right now. “It’s not watered down like other hot sauces with carrot juice or mango juice,” Martin IV said. “You get a real taste of the habanero pepper — it’s citrusy, smokey and there’s a little bit of garlic in there.”
Martin IV added he can’t eat eggs without the Habanero sauce.
2. Jalapeno Lime Hot Sauce
This milder flavor uses fresh squeezed lime juice for a citrusy flavor.
“I love to use the Jalapeno Lime sauce to marinate shrimp. Mix that with a little bit of olive oil and salt and pepper, then roast the shrimp for 6 minutes at 400,” Martin IV said. “They come out super flavorful, and really tender every time.”
3. Serrano Cilantro Hot Sauce
This is Outer Limit’s first green sauce. It has an “herby” taste with fresh cilantro, a medium level heat and then subtle hints of onion and garlic in the background. Best paired with pork or beef.
4. Jalapeno Hemp Seed
This hot sauce Outer Limits worked with the heavy metal North Carolina based band Weedeater to create their own signature flavor. The hot sauce has a creaminess to it and mild heat. It uses a blend of green jalapenos, shelled hemp seeds and a hint of garlic.
“It’s fitting that a heavy metal band would get the hemp seed,” Martin IV said with a laugh.
5. To Be Released
Outer Limits is currently working on creating a ghost pepper and roasted garlic flavor.
Combining art and food
Every hot sauce bottle has its own label designed by a different artist — all of whom have a connection to the music industry.
“One of things I really liked about that side of the world was the creative people we got to work with whether they were musicians or people who did album art,” Martin IV said. “When I did the sauce one of the things I knew right away was that I wanted to bring that world in.”
Outer Limit’s logo and signature Habanero hot sauce bottle are both done by David Cook, an artist who’s worked on t-shirts for Phish, Young Widows and Mastodon.
Artist Rich Hall designed the Jalapeno Lime hot sauce label, who has worked on flyers for New York City over the years with his company 1000 Knives. Boston-based artist Tofu Squirrel designed the Serrano Cilantro label, and the band Weedeater worked on the artwork for their custom hot sauce flavor.
Outer Limits Hot Sauce is frequently at local markets along the Jersey Shore. They will be at the Trenton Punk Rock Flea Market from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 2.
“I love being there with the product that I made and watching the smile on others’ faces when they enjoy it,” Martin IV said. “I love seeing people come back and telling me all the things they’ve used my sauce for — it’s a pretty great feeling when someone comes up to you and tells you that something you made is their favorite thing.
“You get to sell hot sauce, and hang out with your Dad all day — it’s not the worst thing in the world.”
For more information or their online store, visit outerlimitshotsauce.com.