Did you know that there is an item in your kitchen considered today to be a “common staple” that once was worth its weight in gold?
Peppercorns, during the Middle Ages, were used as payment for rent, debts and were considered to be one of five essential luxuries, including African Ivory, Chinese Silk, German amber and Arabian incense in which foreign trade with the Roman Empire was based upon.
Pepper is also known for it’s medicinal and health benefits.
World-wide, it is prized as a flavour enhancer and still accounts for one-fourth of the worlds spice trade.
Local entrepreneur, Ed Vermette is learning just how valued this spice really is.
Ed was given a bag of bourbon-smoked peppercorns to try last year and as the old saying goes….the rest is history.
“I couldn’t really taste a big difference and I thought I could do better,” explained Vermette. “So I went out into my back yard in the middle of winter with my Little Chief Smoker…and I smoked for days and days until I got it. Gave it out to my family and friends and they loved it.” He’s been experimenting and giving out samples since November of 2013.
The “it” of which he speaks is a full-flavoured peppercorn. An idea born of three facets of cooking that many people use…pepper, smoke and alcohol.
Rosemary Doughty, a local that has tried the peppercorns praised, “It is excellent, you can grind it easily… rub it on steak. The smokey bourbon flavour brings anything you put in on to life – it’s exceptional.”
Doughty has tried the Whiskey Jack Black Gourmet Peppercorns. “It’s really delicious – If you love to cook you’re going to love this product,” she stated.
Another of Vermette’s projects brought him and his now business partner together.
Brent McClelland had heard about Ed Vermette and his projects and decided to give him a call to ask about apple crates— one of Ed’s current projects.
“He came to the house,” said Vermette, “I had a bunch of my other products out with the apple crates. He looked in one of the apple crates and saw one of my bags -(containing black peppercorns) First thing he did was grab one of the bags. He opened it and smelled it, he did that approximately 40 times…couldn’t stop smelling it. Fell in love with the product and said it was going to be a best seller.”
After a bit of conversation between the two, McClelland left and told Veremtte he would contact him about the crates.
The next day, he returned but did not want to talk about the crates—he wanted to talk pepper.
McClelland had a few questions for Vermette and they discussed some solutions to make things work better (i.e. shorten time for production) as McClelland has a commercial kitchen at Doug’s Homestead.
“I don’t know if it was 15 minutes and the words out of his mouth were something about a partnership — my hand went out and we shook immediately,” said Vermette.
the smoking gun pepper co., was born and the official product release took place on May 16.
Manufacturing and the first selling point takes place right at Doug’s Homestead – home of the famous pepperoni, beef, jerky and gourmet meats shop located at 6245 Hwy 3, between Princeton and Hedley.
“We also have a place we’ll be selling it out of in Port Moody, looks like a place in Abbotsford and that’s just the beginning,” McClelland announced.
“I probably wouldn’t have taken it anywhere except local restaurants and markets if I hadn’t met Brent and Linette,” adds Vermette, “Their enthusiasm and partnership drives me to want to see it succeed.”
Linette McClelland is the muscle in the partnership, say the two men. She is the bookkeeper, the boss and communicator and keeps them organized.
Using their existing connections, Doug’s Homestead contacts, chef’s, restaurants and people they know in general, the product is getting out into the public. Word-of-mouth and FaceBook are getting it out there even further. A website is also currently under construction.
Local photographer, Eva Pratico was enlisted to take marketing photos for the company. As she was known by Brent and family (she had done family portraits for them) they felt she was right for the job. Pratico captured the essence of the company perfectly and the logo was created.
Vermette proclaims, “What we think we have is a product that nobody else has or has done. It’s unique in what we’re doing…the recipe and process are the whole thing, and thats about all we can say about the product.”
“There is other pepper companies that do a similar product,” chimed in McClelland, “Some blend different seasonings, others re-smoke peppercorns—we’ve figured out to how get the whisky, bourbon and the wine into the actual peppercorn.”
There are three flavours available now; Whiskey Jack, From the Vines (Shiraz) and Yo Ho Ho Rum. There are more on the way but the partners are not letting them out just yet.
“We’re not telling, it’s a trade secret,” they teased.
“There are endless possibilities for what we can do…. we don’t have to stop,” beamed Vermette.
“Things are going up,” exclaimed McClelland. Vermette adds, “Yes, up. We’re hoping for a long term thing and lot of growth. This is a perfect connection and it’s exciting.”
Stop in at Doug’s Homestead for a gourmet meat treat and to get your choice of smoking gun peppercorns. They are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily.
To keep up with the smoking gun pepper co., like them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Smoking-Gun-Pepper-Co/646162622141845 and watch for the website—coming soon.