DULUTH — Jeremy and Amity Bennett’s kitchen filled with savory and smooth scents, as garlic and onion steamed and simmered on the stove.
With gloved hands, Jeremy Bennett emptied a gallon bag of ruby-red Carolina reaper puree into a stockpot. “We learned the hard way you’ve got to rinse everything with cold water, not hot water, because the steam will pepper spray you — it’s pretty brutal,” he said.
The couple behind
prepped their Fear the Reaper hot sauce ahead of this weekend’s
at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
The company’s Squeal of Approval, Devil’s Kettle and Original Red sauces line the shelves at the Little Kitchen Company in Fitger’s, Blue Heron in Dewitt Seitz and the Goat Hill Marketplace in Lincoln Park, among others.
Of their eight options, their Damn Good Mustard is easily their bread and butter, said Amity Bennett. And, if you dine in the Twin Ports, you’ve probably tried it — at 7 West Taphouse, the Breeze Inn on Jean Duluth Road or the Social House in Canal Park.
Jen Wright of Duluth experiments with the Bennetts’ products at home and at work.
She recently used the Damn Good Mustard in a slower-cooker roast, and she was more than pleased with the results.
The general manager of 7 West Taphouse’s Miller Hill location said the restaurant started offering Lake Superior Spice products in their caddies about a year ago.
Then, Wright featured the Damn Good Mustard on a coney-dog-style pizza, which was a hit with customers, she said.
Experimenting in the kitchen is how this homegrown company got its start.
At the time, “we were using sriracha like ketchup,” recalled Jeremy Bennett.
With a fridge full of hot sauces, they watched celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse whip one up in 10 minutes with ingredients he had on hand.
The couple followed suit, playing with different seasonings and heat levels. They worked to earn their cottage food license and with three hot original sauces in hand, they attended Festival By the Lake as a vendor — and they sold out by 2 p.m.
That was the sign they had something special, he said.
While the Midwest may be known for a delicate palate, “People kept asking for hotter and hotter,” he said.
People are more adventurous here than we think, said Amity Bennett.
With the Damn Good Mustard, we’ve actually converted a few people who claim not to like heat, added her husband.
So the Bennetts added more to their repertoire, the Devil’s Kettle and their hottest, Fear the Reaper.
“It’s a delayed heat, takes 20-30 seconds to start ramping up,” he said. “Some people start hiccuping, some start sweating, some start crying.”
And while they make it hot-hot-hot, taste is their No. 1 priority.
“There’s a lot of sauces out there where they’re putting capsaicin extract in it just for the sake of causing pain. We decided when we started, we wanted everything to taste good. We don’t want it to be a novelty,” said Jeremy Bennett.
“We want it to be a product that everyone enjoys,” he continued.
In 2022, the business became Jeremy’s full-time focus, and in the past year, they’ve doubled their wholesale sales. They researched buying their own bottling facility, but taking a tip from “Shark Tank”: “To be successful, you can lean on the people who have done it before,” he said.
So, they work with Croix Valley Foods in Hudson, Wisconsin, which bottles their products that aren’t made at home.
Since they started the business, Lake Superior Spice Company added Squeal of Approval, a barbecue sauce for folks with milder palates. And, the Bennetts’ latest mad-scientist creation is the Boundary Waters Blue, a sweet and spicy blueberry habanero sauce, which debuted at Ely’s Blueberry Festival.
Quirky names are old hat in the hot sauce industry. While the Bennetts feared including a swear word in one of theirs, it hasn’t been a problem for them. (They know of one person who has refused to buy it due to its moniker.)
And from the sounds of it, theirs is tame. Across the country, there are hot sauces
, and outfits
“With hot sauces and spicy things, you can get a little whimsical with the names because it fits,” he said.
You can find more information about the company at
Festival of Trees
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, 350 Harbor Drive
Admission: $6 on Saturday; $4 on Sunday; children 12 and younger are free. Get $1 off with a donation of a non-perishable food item for Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank
Parking: $10 per vehicle (ticket for re-entry is valid until midnight)
Great Hall Marketplace
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 16
Where: The Depot, 506 W. Michigan St.