By ALLIE KLAUBERT
When Beth Thomas needs a little extra flavor in her dishes, she reaches for a sauce that her family has made for years— a sauce so popular among family and friends she has shared its spunky, Southern flavor with others.
“We use the sauces all the time,” said Beth, whose husband Randy developed the recipes behind Sweet Melissa’s Sauces and Seasonings. “I’m always snacking on it. I just don’t ever get tired of it.”
Although the Thomas family has used the sauces for decades, it wasn’t until 2008 that they decided to turn it into a business.
After Beth retired from Bellsouth and Randy retired from his career as a welder, the Altadena Valley residents looked around for a new venture. When Beth completed a three-day breast cancer walk, a friend encouraged her to finally pursue this idea that had always floated around in her mind.
“You have to be passionate about what you’re doing, and I am passionate about this,” said Beth, who serves on the board of directors for Buy Alabama’s Best.
Sweet Melissa’s offers three flavorful sauces and seasonings. The Ruby Red sauce is a cider vinegar-based sauce with chunks of onion and jalapeño pepper. Randy developed its spicy, flavorful kick through a friendly grilling competition with his father.
Once Randy had perfected the Ruby Red sauce, his middle daughter, Melissa, begged for a sauce that was not quite as spicy. To please his daughter, Randy developed the Jalapeño Dippin’ Sauce. The sauce, which is similar to a pepper jelly, has a sweet flavor with a little kick.
Sweet Melissa’s also offers dry rub that is excellent for marinating meats or even to use seasoning. The rub is “not hot, just flavorful,” said Beth.
The potential uses for the sauces are even more diverse than the flavors.
“We find every product without exception to be extremely versatile,” said Birmingham Bake and Cook Co. owner Susan Green. “Even if you don’t grill or barbeque, there are so many different applications.” Green has carried the sauces and seasonings since 2008 as one of the cornerstone products of her store’s Birmingham 100.
The sauce with the most versatility is the Jalapeño Dipping Sauce. With only five ingredients, the simple sauce boasts a huge flavor for anything from tilapia to vegetables. “You can put it on cream cheese as a quick appetizer,” she said, “but it really goes on everything.”
Beth tests all the recipes they are sent. Recently, she tried the Ruby Red sauce on shrimp and rice, which she said was really good.
In her own cooking, she uses the sauces at least twice a week and has a go-to recipe for the sauces. She marinates ribs in the Barbeque Dry Rub and mixes together the Ruby Red and Jalapeño Dippin’ sauces on top.
“It’s what we’ve done with the sauces since the beginning,” she said, “and it’s still my favorite.”
Sweet Melissa’s Sauces and Seasonings retail for $4 – $10 and are sold at Birmingham Bake and Cook Company, Greystone Antiques and Market Place, and Pepper Place, as well as other retailers throughout the state. For more information about Sweet Melissa’s or to order online, visit www.sweetmelissassauces.com.
Sweet Melissa’s Mouthwatering Grilled Salmon
2 T. Sweet Melissa’s Barbeque Rub
1 T. brown sugar
4 salmon filets
1/4 cup Sweet Melissa’s Jalapeño Dippin’ Sauce
Mix together Barbeque Rub and brown sugar. Pat mixture on each salmon filet. Grill salmon until it flakes. Heat the Jalapeño Dippin’ Sauce and drizzle over the top of the grilled salmon.
Sweet Melissa’s Tangy Meatloaf
1.5 lbs. lean ground meat
1 cup chopped onions and green peppers combined
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup Sweet Melissa’s Ruby Red Sauce, divided
Combine all ingredients, mixing well. Form into a loaf and put in the baking dish. Make an indention down the center of the loaf. Pour the remaining 1/4 cup of Sweet Melissa’s Ruby Red Sauce in the indention and pat closed. Bake at 350 degrees.