Sherry Stoppelbein and her Datil pepper sauce have a long history in St. Augustine. Both lay claim to a heritage from the Minorcans.
Transported in 1788 from the island of Minorca off the coast of Spain to northeast Florida as indentured servants to Scottish speculator Andrew Turnbull, the Minorcans eventually rebelled against the harsh conditions, disease, and suffering. They settled in St. Augustine, becoming the core of the population. Stoppelbein and her husband were born in St. Augustine and proudly assert that they are part of the roughly 26,000 Minorcan descendants that live in the county.
The Datil Pepper
While the introduction of the datil pepper is somewhat in dispute, Stoppelbein asserts that the Minorcans brought the peppers with them, reputedly from a stop for supplies in Cuba.
Stoppelbein has been working with the datils her whole life. “When I got out of culinary school, the first thing I did was develop my own hot sauce,” she said. “Now I’ve got around twelve different items using the pepper, including several jams, and four levels of heat in the datil pepper sauce.”
The datil is an extremely hot pepper, similar to a habanero. While the peppers are grown in various places in the United States, the vast majority are grown in St. Augustine. “They seem to like the climate and soil here,” said Stoppelbein. “It’s our little claim to fame, and they are an important part of our lives.”
Stoppelbein began cooking as a second career. When her daughter went off to college, so did Stoppelbein. She graduated from the culinary program at First Coast Technical College in St. Augustine. Instead of starting a catering business as she had planned, she instead opened a coffee shop in a strip mall off U.S.1 in 1990. Her sandwiches were a big hit. She closed down the sandwich shop and opened the Hot Shot Bakery, but people were clamoring for her sandwiches, so she added them to the menu.
When the shop’s location in downtown St. Augustine became available, Stoppelbein didn’t hesitate. Directly facing a stunning park square and part of Flagler College, customers can sit and consume their delicious fare while gazing at one of the most beautiful historical downtowns in the country. As an added bonus, in addition to tourists, the location brings in students, teachers, and staff from the college.
Read more about Sherry Stoppelbein and her St. Augustine datil peppers sauce in Epicure and Culture.
You may also be interested in: