Hot. Hotter. Hottest.
If that's the way you like your food, check out Erik's Edibles, a local operation specializing in pickles and sauces - much of it delightfully spicy.
Owner Erik Guthrie is a vegetarian who initially crafted the concoctions for his own consumption; at the urgent coaxing of friends and co-workers, he began selling publicly about two years ago.
JOSEPH W. SMITH III/Sun-Gazette Correspondent
Erik Guthrie, owner of Erik’s Edibles, sells his products from a booth at the city Grower’s Market. He offers more than 40 products, including pickles and pickled cauliflower.
In the lush and lovely gardens spread out around his Grove Street home, Guthrie grows many of the ingredients that go into his highly sought mixes.
"Right now I have 1,100 pepper plants, collards, kale and my spices," Guthrie said in an interview one morning at the Williamsport Growers Market, where his goods were selling briskly. "Tomatoes, too. But I don't let any of those ripen; they're all picked green."
Erik's Edibles has grown so fast that Guthrie must now supplement his own produce from outside sources, especially in winter; but he makes an effort to ensure that everything is locally grown.
His line includes more than 40 different products, all prepared and bottled by hand in his own kitchen:
Spicy bread-and-butter pickles, sweet curry pickles, candied vegetables, green tomatoes, pickled cauliflower, spiced garlic, spiced onions, spiced carrots, "fire and ice peppers" and a potent hoagie sauce that is becoming legendary.
"I put that stuff on everything," declared Jim Winner of Montoursville, grabbing some hoagie sauce at the Growers Market. "I had one taste, and I just couldn't get away from it," added Winner, who also does his own peppers.
"They need bigger jars," remarked Winner's wife.
Just as popular as the hoagie sauce are Guthrie's hot peppers, running from "mild hot" through "industrial hot," "OMG hot," "FORGIVE ME brutally hot" up to "insanely hot" at the top of the line.
And if you can't find exactly what you want, Guthrie might make something tailored to your dietary needs.
He said some of his regular customers are allergic to onions, garlic or certain oils; so he prepares batches without these ingredients - including "Lady V's Banana Peppers in Vinegar," made and named for an Indian customer who must avoid both garlic and oil.
Guthrie also relates the story of a customer from New Jersey who nabbed some pickles at the Growers Market and later came all the way back from the Garden State for more.
"He found me by looking in the phone book and showed up at my house in a Cadillac on Christmas Eve, holding up empty bags: 'I gotta get more of those pickles!' He bought $50 worth for his brother in New Jersey."
Similar stories are told by Guthrie's grandmother, Mary, who lives with Erik and his wife, Kate, in the Grove Street home that's been in Guthrie's family since the late 1700's.
"People call the house asking, 'Where's the pepper man? Where's the pickle man?' " Mary recounted. "I gave one jar to my foot doctor, and he ate the whole thing while driving around to see patients one day."
Open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on summer Saturdays, the Williamsport Growers Market is located downtown at Fifth Street and Pine - near Helmrich's Seafood and Pine Street Methodist Church.
Erik's Edibles are also available during the week at Le Chocolat in Williamsport, the Mountain View Deli in Linden, the Cosmic Sage in Montoursville and Jiffy Mart in Jersey Shore.
At the latter locale, his spicy goods are popular with Marcellus Shale workers from pepper-loving places like Texas and Oklahoma.
While the Growers Market runs from late April to early November, plans are afoot to make many of its goods available through a year-round, Monday-to-Saturday storefront called Local Fare, which should be open in a year or two at 519 State Route 87.
Eventually, Guthrie hopes to retire from his full-time job and devote all his energy to making goodies.
Asked how he juggles his second-shift job and his burgeoning business, Guthrie replied, "I don't sleep."
When it was suggested that this sounded like a lot of work, he added, "This isn't work. This is a labor of love."