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Made for the Taste

“What’s the hottest one you’ve got?”
When we’re selling direct to the public with tasters available, that’s a question we get asked a lot!  My usual response is “Well, that’d be our Habanero and Naga Sauce but none of them are crazy hot; they’re all made for the taste rather than the pain factor.  There’s no chemical extracts used, it’s just the natural heat of the chillies.  It’s still hot but there’s bags of flavour too.  It’s not going to feel like someone’s driven a nail through your tongue for 2 hours after you’ve tried it”  Or something along those lines…

Why “Made for the Taste”?
Before I got into the business I’d tried a lot – and I mean A LOT – of hot sauces and most of the time all I was tasting was vinegar with heat, leaving me feeling somewhat underwhelmed and disappointed.  So when I first started making chilli sauces that was something I wanted to go all out to avoid.  We’ve since won Guild of Fine Food Great Taste Awards and had unsolicited online reviews like this one from The Norfolk Chillihead: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBPapUBFHes so I hope that all goes to show we’re doing something right.

So why no extracts?
Look, don’t get me wrong – and I certainly don’t want to alienate myself from some of the other great UK hot sauce makers out there who I’m sure use it to great effect – sauces with extracts have their place.  It’s just for me that tends to be sat at the back of the cupboard for all eternity!  It might possibly get to see the light of day when the lads come round and then it surfaces for a few moments of “fun” whilst everyone tries to prove to each other how hardcore their heat tolerance is.  Personally, I can smell it a mile off and will have a good idea what it’s going to taste like.  And besides (and I know this might well be somewhat controversial) from a hot sauce manufacturer’s perspective, isn’t it kind of cheating?  I came across a sauce the other day made with Reapers, Nagas and extract.  For the love of God, why do you need to add the extract!?

Do you completely rule out ever using extracts?
No.  At the moment though I’m just having too much fun creating real flavours from natural ingredients.

So how are your sauces best used?
Well, each sauce has its own distinct flavour, character and heat level.  Each one is so different from the others and were carefully put together with a range of uses and recipes in mind, so much so that we’ve put a bunch of them on the website.  We even brought out our own Recipe book on the Amazon Kindle Store.

What’s the best part about your job?
That’s a tough one!  Coming from a corporate background where a daily dose of bullsh*t, b*llocks, backstabbing and posturing is de riguer, anything else is great!  So that’s everything then; I think I even enjoy the labelling!

And the worst?
Going back to the first question, it’d be the time wasters at the direct sales events.  Chilli festivals excepted – where the public are generally quite knowledgeable – it does sometimes seem like we’re a free sideshow or all-you-can-eat buffet.  However, you can usually pretty quickly tell people who are genuinely interested in your products and you learn to turn a blind eye to the others.  It goes with the territory and hell, often they can be hilarious!  However, touching on Sidekick Sauce’s James Bryson’s piece on Lick My Dip, for what it’s worth my opinion is that until the British public can distance themselves from the Richmondesque man test mindset born from Man v Food, I think we still have a way to go…

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Another Great Taste Award!

Extra Hot Habanero and Naga chilli Sauce

Hey, we did it again!
Hot on the heels of last year’s award for our fantastic Habanero and Lime sauce, Essence, this year we won a gold star for our hottest sauce yet, our Extra Hot Habanero & Naga sauce, Reason.
This year’s award is doubly pleasing in that it goes some way to prove what we’ve been saying about our sauces all along; they’re made for the taste, not just the heat!

Here’s what the judges had to say about it:
“This sauce is not for the faint hearted. The Judges who enjoy heat really enjoyed this sauce. It has a great smokiness from the Habanero chilli and a bit of acidity on the palate before the heat kicks in. We felt the sauce was very well balanced. Table 2: We agree with table 3 in terms of “not for the faint hearted” – it really packs a punch but the unique flavours of each chilli really do sing, the slight sourness and acidity work well and are well balanced.”

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How did the Ghost Chilli get its name?

Ever wondered this?  I did.  What’s the difference between a naga chilli, a bhut jolokia chilli and ghost pepper?  Indeed is there a difference?  Sure, it’s no longer the world’s hottest chilli but it set the standard the others now follow and for many it’s still the go-to chilli if you’re after real heat.

So I did a little research.  Well, actually quite a lot.  Bear with me… (My initial signposting there might lead you to think this is going to be a bit of bumpy ride and you’d be right, but take a deep breath and hold tight because it’ll be worth it in the end.)

Wikipedia will tell you that the bhut jolokia is also known as the bih jolokia, u-morok, ghost pepper, ghost chille pepper, red naga chilli and ghost chilli.  This is echoed by bhut-jolokia.net. It then adds that jolokia is the Assamese word for capsicum, or pepper.

It continues to state that in Assam, India (one of the regions it’s produced) it’s widely known as bhot jolokia or bih jolokia and is believed to be named after the Naga warriors inhabiting the plains and hills of Nagaland, which to me conjures up images of a chilli-based theme park.  Bih jolokia apparently means “poison pepper” because of its heat.

An article on ushotsuff.com also states this but hints that the bit about Naga warriors might be just an alternative source of the name.  (Whatever, the Naga bit obviously means it’s got something to do with Nagaland.)

However, as with different wine growing regions within a country, differing types of soil, temperature, amounts of sunlight, etc, will produce different tasting wines from the same grape varieties, so it’s the same with chillies.  This is one of the reasons for the ranges of Schoville heat ratings for the same type of chilli.  So it follows that in different growing regions the same chilli may vary in size, shape, colour, taste and ultimately name.  People living north of the Brahamutra River call it the Bhot Jolokia whilst those living to the south call it the Naga Jolokia.

The article  goes on to state that the Bhut reference relates to a distortion of the colloquial nomenclature of Bhot to Bhut, the former meaning “of Bhotiya origin” or something that has come from the hills of adjoining Bhutan.  It adds that experts in Assam were becoming concerned about the distortion because Western media were misinterpreting the word Bhot (Bhut) to mean Ghost.  However, researchers from the New Mexico State University asserted that “bhut” (or “bhoot”) does indeed mean “ghost”, an assertion echoed on many other websites.  Other websites will tell you that it was originally picked and traded by the Bhutia tribe, also known as the Ghost People.

Other sources will tell you the name “ghost” derives from the fact that after you’ve eaten one you wish you were dead or that it will come back to haunt you.  To me the former seems a bit extreme and the latter would indicate a length of time has to pass before it affects you, which isn’t the case because you know about it straight away!

So without a doubt, Jolokia means capsicum or pepper.  The Bhot/Naga aspects undoubtedly seem to relate to the areas it was originally grown.  The Ghost part?  Up for debate.  Personally, the distortion from Bhot (origin) to Bhut (translation to ghost) sounds most plausible although the reference to the Bhutia tribe may have some merit.

Whatever the names’ origins, there seems no doubt that they’re essentially the same thing.  That’s not to say that the Dorset Naga or Naga Viper are exactly the same because they’re not, just hybridisations or variations on a theme if you prefer.

One thing is for sure though, the name Ghost Chilli has certainly taken hold in today’s pop culture.  When trying our sauces I’ll often get people ask me what a Naga chilli is but when I ask them if they’ve ever heard of the Ghost chilli they know exactly what they’re in for!