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BEHIND THE SCENES: U of G creates honey for those that like their sweet with a little heat

GuelphToday's Taylor Pace takes us behind the scenes

In each “Behind the Scenes” segment, Village Media's Scott Sexsmith sits down with one of our local journalists to talk about the story behind the story.

These interviews are designed to help you better understand how our community-based reporters gather the information that lands in your local news feed. You can find more Behind the Scenes from reporter across Ontario here

Today's spotlight is on GuelphToday's Taylor Pace, whose story 'U of G creates honey for those that like their sweet with a little heat' was published on Nov. 17.

Here is the original story if you need to catch up:

A University of Guelph student is creating a buzz on campus with the launch of her sweet and spicy new product: hot honey. 

Every year since 2018, the Guelph Food Innovation Centre (GFIC) at the university has helped students grow and harvest hot peppers and turn them into Cannon Fire, a hot sauce named after the cannon on campus. 

This year, fourth-year food science student Krupa Thakkar noticed there were a lot of peppers leftover once they had finished production and wanted to make sure they were used up. 

It was also a chance for them to try something new, she said. 

So with the help of GFIC director Derek Vella, Hot Honey was developed. 

She wanted to make a honey product because it was a staple for her growing up in India; her mom would often serve it with a homemade flatbread called roti. 

Plus, hot honey is a popular product right now, she said. It’s offered at restaurants; it’s sold in grocery stores and markets. 

“Honey is sweet, and then if you make it spicy, it’s going to be like two opposite things, but they complement each other,” she said. 

But there is a key difference between U of G’s hot honey and the one’s you find in the grocery store: Thakkar said the U of G's is way hotter. 

“Grocery store hot honey, it’s not hot enough,” she said. “So we decided to use spicier peppers and make a spicier version of it so that it’s a little different from the store bought ones.” 

The honey is infused with three of the peppers that make the Cannon Fire sauce: the Trinidadian scorpion, roulette habanero, and the bhut jolokia peach pepper. 

“The ingredients we used were mostly just vinegar, salt, honey, and peppers,” she said. 

The Trinidad scorpion pepper and the bhut jolokia peach pepper give it heat, Thakkar said, while the roulette habanero gives it a pepper taste.

The sauce is registered on the Scoville scale (a scale measuring the pungency of peppers and chillies) as just over 24,000. 

“It’s not super hot, but it’s pretty hot, because a regular jalapeno pepper is like 3,000 to 4,000,” she said.

The vinegar, meanwhile, is used to wind the pH levels down to make the honey safe, and increases the shelf life while adding a tinge of sourness to it, she said. 

The finished product combines sweet and buttery honey with notes of citrus and intense heat from the peppers. Thakkar recommends drizzling it on things like pizza or vanilla ice cream. 

Since it was made with leftover peppers, there is limited availability with just 180 bottles made. Thakkar hopes it will continue next year with an even bigger production, and thinks it will sell out fast this year. 

Alongside the Cannon Fire hot sauce and the Hot Honey, each GFIC student cohort creates their own limited-edition sauce; this year’s is Molten Mango-Lime, which she said is a must-try with “refreshing and tropical notes with a kick of spice.”

The three sauces are being sold online until stock runs out, and at Fair November from Thursday to Sunday at the University Centre.