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O'Hara mom creates sauces for slow cookers

| Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013, 8:56 p.m.
Susie Schwartz created Jesben Slow Cooker Sauces, which were designed just for slow cooker meals. Jesben LLC
Susie Schwartz created Jesben Slow Cooker Sauces, which were designed just for slow cooker meals. Jesben LLC
This brisket meal was made with Jesben Slow Cooker Sauce. Jesben LLC
Jesben Slow Cooker Sauce Jesben LLC
Jesben Slow Cooker Sauce Jesben LLC

You can cook meat and top it with barbecue sauce, but a condiment like that might not hold up well in a slow cooker over several hours.

That is the idea behind an O'Hara mother's new creation: Jesben Slow Cooker Sauces, designed for meals you make in a slow cooker.

Susie Schwartz — who named her company as a hybrid of her kids' names, Jessica and Ben — decided to make the sauces professionally after hearing so many friends rave about her slow-cooked meals.

“It's my original sauce that I would use for my own slow cooker,” says Schwartz, 51, a clinical psychologist. “I always got a lot of compliments on it.”

She told her family and friends: “I don't know why they wouldn't make something like this. We should sell our own sauce.”

Schwartz searched for a professional kitchen to cook and bottle her sauce commercially and spent a year sending samples back and forth, to get the homemade sauce recipe just right.

“We kept comparing until we got it to match exactly,” she says. “People say it has a very homemade flavor, like something their mother would make.”

Jesben sauces — which come in Original BBQ and Italian Tomato, Peppers & Herbs — are a bit thinner than regular condiments, and the vegetable chunks melt into the sauce during cooking to enhance the meat's flavor rather than overtaking it, Schwartz says.

Schwartz, who is now working on three new sauce flavors, says that the sauces have many uses: barbecue sandwiches, chicken, sausage and tofu, for vegetarians.

Preparing meals with a slow cooker gives Schwartz opportunities to prepare meals for her family — husband Aaron, and Jessica, 13, and Ben, 11 — more easily and conveniently, she says.

She tested out the Jesben sauces at the 2012 Fancy Food Show in Washington, D.C., and got great feedback. The sauces — available at area Giant Eagle stores and online — have attracted a solid customer base.

“We're just pretty blown away with response to this,” Schwartz says.

“It's such an amazing learning experience,” she says about her journey creating the sauces. “I've been a foodie for quite some time even before I knew that was a word.”

Details: www.jesben.com

Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at kgormly@tribweb.com or 412-320-7824.

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