The products at the heart of Santa Cruz Chili & Spice Company, family owned and run since the 1940s, are sundried Anaheim chilies ground into a gorgeous red powder or made into luscious and versatile chili pastes used by chefs all over the United States.
The people at the heart of the chili company today are Jean England Neubauer, her husband, Dr. Bill Neubauer and the extended cadre of multi-generations of employees, some more like family, who have assisted with the labor intensive process of producing high quality chili products for two generations. When I spoke with Jean recently she explained that one year of inventory is harvested in just four days. With fall in the air, those intense harvesting days are nearly here.
Jean, who left the corporate world to carry on the work of her parents, keeps the authentic spirit of their ingenuity thriving while exploring all that the modern world of planting, harvesting and processing can throw at her. Her father, Gene England, started the business on the ranch he acquired in the early 1930’s when he put up his airplane and pearl-handled pistols as collateral. Her mother, Juliet Kibbey England was the daughter of a prominent Mexican ranching family.
Located in the Sonoran desert south of Tucson, AZ this is a land of extreme temperatures and little rain. A visit to the spice company feels like a trip back to the Santa Cruz valley in its early years when tall cottonwood trees dominated the entire valley of the Santa Cruz River. Turning off the main highway in the small town of Tumacacori, and crossing the frontage road, enjoyed by bicyclists and cattle alike, the road winds south to the Spice Company.
Entering the adobe brick building with its shelves filled with a variety of chili products including picante sauces, chipotle paste or my favorite, the green chili paste, alongside a wide variety of herbs and spices encourages one to take a deep breath, slow down to ranch
speed and experience the fresh and lively spices competing for your attention and your next recipe. Check out the products on the Santa Cruz Chili Company’s website: http://www.santacruzchili.com/products.htm. The prices are extremely reasonable too!
Anaheim chilies are grown in fields beyond the mountain ranges to the east near the Chiricahua Mountains and the Chili Company harvests over two hundred tons of chilies each year to create their selections of vibrant paste, powders and sauces. Santa Cruz Chili works in tandem with the Curry Seed and Farm Company, and Ed Curry is a national leader in breeding chilies. Ed is the scientist behind customizing chili profiles for flavor and yield. Ninety percent of the green chili seed planted in the United States comes from Ed’s farm and are non-GMO.
Santa Cruz Chili & Spice Company and the Curry Seed and Farm Company complement one another today to grow, process, package and distribute a variety of authentic and tasty chili products offered to the food industry throughout the United States and available online. To experience the unique smells and sounds of the sturdy spice company surrounded by both dirt roads and highways is to step into the past and sometimes the subtle authenticity of the region. Santa Cruz Chili and Spice Company is located just down the road from the Mission of San Jose de Tumacacori, founded by Jesuits in the late 17th century.
Jean’s gorgeous cookbook can be purchased at the company’s website: www.santacruzchili.com. The recipe for Cowboy Cassoulet has my attention as does the Spicy Orange Flan made with Santa Cruz Red Chili Paste. Maybe I’ll try the mole sauce, a Oaxacan classic made with chili paste, chili powder and unsweetened cocoa. Check out the recipe section on the website to find a recipe for a perfect enchilada sauce: http://www.santacruzchili.com/recipes.htm . Simply put, I can’t make chili without my Santa Cruz Chili powder and my family is hooked on the products, hoping that the next gift they open from me will be a chili paste or sauce!