By Dylan Thompson and Megan Wilson
If you believe most foods taste better with extra spice, you need to know about Poor Devil Pepper Company. Founders Laura Webster and Jared Schwartz create great-tasting, organic, no-vinegar, fermented hot sauces in Columbia County that benefit the gut and give back.
In 2013, the couple left their Boston jobs and moved to Hudson. “When we first started visiting friends who lived here, we were amazed by the level of community,” says Webster. “We didn’t feel that way in Boston. After meeting so many people farming in the area, we felt inspired to be part of the movement.”
Schwartz got a job making sauerkraut at Hawthorne Valley Farm in Ghent where he learned about fermentation. Webster honed her skills by farming in the summer seasons (also at Hawthorne Valley) when she wasn’t busy bartending (you can still find her mixing drinks at Gaskins in Germantown).
When the two decided to start a business, they focused on hot sauce because Webster is a self-proclaimed fan of fiery condiments. Once they learned the basics, they began perfecting recipes and identifying local farms that grow organic hot peppers like Hepworth Farms in Milton and Ironwood Farm in Hudson. Poor Devil ferments peppers without vinegar to elevate natural benefits—probiotics, intense spice, and vibrant color—and create a raw, gut-friendly product that is unique on the crowded hot sauce grocery shelf.
They choose ingredient partners based on growing practices such as regenerative agriculture—to ensure the sauce tastes great and to support the region. “We want to make an environmental impact and make a difference in the community,” says Webster. Part of that commitment includes drying unused peppers and grinding them into chili flakes; sending orders to customers downriver aboard the carbon-neutral Schooner Apollonia; and donating 100 percent of the profits from certain products to organizations that are important to them. Their line consists of six varieties: Evil Possessor, a mild umami sauce; the honey mustard Gold Tooth; Buffalo-style Little Frankie; Mountain Mama, a red pepper blend; the sweet and spicy Smoke Shifter; and their best-seller Green Widow, made with jalapeños. “I can’t get enough of it, I use it on everything from eggs to tacos to burgers,” says Webster.
You can find Poor Devil at Noble Pies in Warwick, Olsen & Company in Saugerties, Tivoli General in Tivoli, and more.