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Tessemae's teams up with Baltimore restaurateur Spike Gjerde to sell hot sauce nationwide

Tessemae’s, the local dressing and condiment maker, has teamed up with Baltimore restaurateur Spike Gjerde to begin selling his Snake Oil hot sauce to customers across the country.

The Essex-based organic dressing maker began selling Snake Oil through its website on Monday, and could ultimately offer more products from Gjerde’s group if sales of the hot sauce take off.

Woodberry Pantry, the canning arm of Foodshed restaurant group, has been making Snake Oil for several years. The hot sauce is processed and bottled by hand — the fish peppers that give the sauce its zip are washed, sorted and ground; the mash is transferred to barrels where it ages for six months; and it’s then milled, mixed with apple cider vinegar and bottled. Foodshed owns and operates restaurants including Woodberry Kitchen, Bird in Hand and Parts & Labor.

Gjerde estimates his team produces about 20,000 bottles of the sauce per year.

“We’re probably better at making it than selling it,” Gjerde said.

To this point, the sauce has been available on its own website, at shops and in restaurants, including Foodshed’s restaurants like Parts & Labor. Its addition to the Tessemae’s website will take the sauce to a national customer base.

“I hope that it kind of helps build a little bit of awareness of Chesapeake cooking and the great culinary tradition that we have here,” Gjerde said. “I still think the Mid-Atlantic and the Chesapeake are a little underappreciated when it comes to having its own food identity.”

Greg Vetter, Tessemae’s CEO, said he hopes national sales of Snake Oil will help support Maryland farmers growing fish peppers.

“Can the Tessemae’s brand and all of our consumers… actually create the volume necessary to then in a full-circle-type mentality help these farmers grow more fish peppers and then kind of put the control back in the farmers’ hands?” Vetter said.

The partners will test the market this year, and may add more Woodberry Pantry products, such as jams and jellies, to the Tessemae’s site in the future.

“The plan is to basically see what the response is and then, depending on the response, begin integrating other products that people wouldn’t typically have access to or knowledge of,” Vetter said.

Beyond providing another avenue to sell Snake Oil, Vetter said Tessemae’s could later provide production space for Snake Oil and other products. Gjerde said he’s open to the idea.

“There’s a lot of manufacturing expertise that we can help him with if he wants it,” Vetter said.

Snake Oil is available individually or as part of Tessemae’s four- or six-packs for $8.99* per 6-ounce bottle.

*Correction: A previous version of this story listed an incorrect price for Snake Oil hot sauce on Tessemae’s website. The bottles are $8.99 each. The Sun regrets the error.

smeehan@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sarahvmeehan

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