Friday, December 30, 2011

In hot sauces, don't forget to look for the black label

Valentina's spiciest hot sauce carries this black label. I tried some this morning on a sweet potato frittata and baked sweet potato, below. (Updated on Nov. 18, 2014.)

Editor's note: Today, I discuss a hot sauce that won't hide the taste of food, extra-virgin olive oil from the Middle East and Costco produce that doesn't list a weight. 


Valentina Salsa Picante has been made in Mexico for 50 years and I'm hoping this wonderful hot sauce will be around for another half-century.

We were almost out of Valentina when my wife picked up two 34-ounce bottles, which were $2.49 each as part of a "Manager's Special" at Hackensack Market on Passaic Street.

Four 12-ounce bottles of Valentina were $5, so the larger bottles were a better buy. Once opened, the hot sauce requires no refrigeration.

But my wife brought home the milder of two Valentinas, and I had to exchange the bottles for ones carrying a black label and marked "Extra Hot."

This is a thick, dark-red, spicy sauce that doesn't obliterate the taste of your food. And it's a much better deal than Tabasco, which was selling for $6.79 (12 ounces) and $3.49 (5 ounces) today at ShopRite in Englewood.

Valentina is made by Salsa Tamazula, and the ingredients list is short: water, chili peppers, vinegar, salt, spices and 0.1% sodium benzoate as a preservative.

I use Valentina on fried eggs, egg-white omelets and Jamaican ackee and saltfish, and the hot sauce can elevate an ordinary veggie burger into something you actually look forward to eating.

But even Valentina can't save Meal Mart Vegan Falafel Balls, one of the few food duds I've found at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack. They are fully cooked, but extremely dry after being warmed up in the oven.

Hackensack Market, 120 Passaic St., Hackensack; 201-996-9177

Oil from Jordan

I picked up a 3-liter bottle of Nablus-brand extra-virgin olive oil at Brothers Produce in Paterson with a label that didn't specify the country of origin, so I called the importer listed, Mediterranean Expo LLC (973-553-2640).

Brothers carries more than a dozen large tins or heavy glass bottles of extra-virgin olive oil, many from Lebanon and Syria. But I was told Nablus oil is 100% Jordanian.

The price was $14.99 or about $5 a liter.

Weighing in

Labels on Costco Wholesale's premium fruits and vegetables don't always list the weight, so you don't really know the price per pound.

Today, I bought six mixed sweet peppers -- yellow, red and orange -- for $6.79, and three large seedless cucumbers for $3.99. Neither package had a weight listed.

On the other hand, 5.5 pounds of large Gala apples from Washington State were $7.99, and 3 pounds of bananas were $1.39.

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  1. I always wondered why Nablus oil never listed the country of origin on the bottle. Thanks for the info.

  2. The man told me Nablus oil has a light taste, but that if I wanted a frutier oilive oil, I should buy Al Amaz oil, also from Jordan, because the olives come from trees in the mountains.

    Is that right, Chuck, Al Amaz? I'm not sure of the spelling.

  3. Yes I believe it is Al Amaz. I had thought that Nablus would be from Lebanon because there is a brand called Beirut which has the exact same bottle and label as Nablus. I purchased Baraka brand a few months ago at Fattals which was from Lebanon.

  4. Hoo! That makes my mouth water! I bet you love spicy food. What food do you love to dip in this particular hot sauce? But if you're gonna ask me, I would love to add this favoring to my creamy tomato pasta!

  5. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Valentina Hot Sauce...and it has to be the EXtra Hot!!!! I only get the 34 fl oz bottles which last 2 weeks for me if I'm lucky! I love to toss my wings in the sauce with a little Franks to throw people off. Also, it does wonders for chorizo and fish...ok , now I'm hungry!

  6. My Boyfriend and I are completely in love with Valentina Salsa picante, we put it on nearly everything! Including Italian pastas and our bbq ribs not to mention any type of pita or taco. The fact that it's so inexpensive is a double win!

    1. This comment praised Valentina's low price, and is from the same person who commented below.

  7. My boyfriend and I, are completely in love with Valentina Salsa Picante! We put it on nearly everything! Including Italian pastas and bbq ribs, not to mention any pita or taco it's a mandatory item on our grocery list.

  8. Really enjoy the Valentina as well. Does anyone know where the water comes from to make the sauce though?

    1. I'm sure it is purified water. I've vacationed in Mexico in the past 40 years, and on my last trip in 2009 or 2010, restaurants, hotels and so forth all used purified water.

  9. Thank you Victor for your reply.
    I have since moved on as the preservative they use is carcinogenic when ingested with vitamin C (ascorbic acid). Evidently the Sodium Benzoate and ascorbic acid combined, create Benzine which is deadly. A real shame , because I had to throw out two bottles of my favorite sauce.

    1. Gee, I don't know, Anthony. If what you say is true, I should be dead by now. The Valentina label says the amount of sodium benzoate is 0.1%. I take a multivitamin with 100% of my daily requirement of Vitamin C (absorbic acid). There is so little sodium benzoate in the hot sauce I use maybe once a week I can't see how it can pose a danger to me or you or anyone else.

      And if it did, this product would have been pulled off the market long ago.

      Too bad you threw those bottles away.


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