During the last farmers market of the year, market master Bob Shepherd was excited to announce one of the vendors was now offering an award-winning product.
When Jocelyn Engman created her fiery hot Prairie Fire olive oil, made with habanero peppers and a touch of ghost and scorpion peppers, it was a birthday gift for her husband, Tim. Tim had always loved hot food. She describes Tim as a “chili-head’ who even goes so far as to grow his own peppers and breed them for heat. On his 40th birthday, she created the oil. The couple had a contest among their customers to determine the name for the new oil.
“We actually crowd sourced the name Prairie Fire,” she said. “I’ve been following the Scovie Awards for a few years now, since I began infusing hot oils. We didn’t think we had a chance, but we decided to enter. The judges give feedback and we figured we would get some kind of feedback from them. We ended up winning first place.”
The Engmans took home the trophy for Top Chili Oil during the national contest. The Scovie Awards evolved from the National Fiery Foods and Barbecue Show in 1996. It was renamed to the Scovie Awards to honor Wilbur Scoville, the scientist who created the heat scale used to measure the heat of peppers.
The Engmans have been bringing their “Pickle Creek” oils to the Washington Farmers Market, only a short drive from their hometown of Brighton, for about two years now. Engman said the market is the best evening market she has been to.
“This year was tough because the weather was hot and muggy for so long,” she laughed. “Still, this is a great market to come to and a great time. You meet so many new people here. It is more like a social gathering.”
Shepherd said the weather this year had been a problem for people raising produce to bring to the market, but that the vendors of the market had overcome this obstacle and were still able to bring good product to the market. He said traditionally the market ends the week after the first hard freeze of the year. Shepherd had predicted the first hard freeze this year would be Oct. 18. He was very close. In fact, it was Monday, Oct. 15.
“We have had a good year,” he said. “I’ve really been impressed with the food trucks this year and I think they have topped out. We always seem to find some new vendors.”
He called Thursday a “perfect evening” for the last market of the year, saying if the market had gone on another week, the produce offerings would have greatly diminished.
When the market began 30 years ago, Shepherd wanted it to be a social event as well as a market. He said it has drawn some of the best people in the area, on both sides of the table.
“We just get really phenomenal people,” he said.