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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: 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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10 top tips to tell how hot a chilli sauce is.

10 Top Tips to Tell How Hot a Chilli Sauce is

So you’re at a market, in the food hall at a country show, at a food festival or perhaps at a specific chillifest and you find yourself in front of someone selling chilli sauces.

You want to try some of the samples on offer BUT you want to avoid feeling like a nail’s been driven through tongue, right?  Or maybe that’s just what you’re after.

Well, having just started rewriting and reformatting the recipes section of our website, it got me thinking: what’s the difference between mild, medium and hot and how can you tell?

The dictionary definitions are:
Mild – not severe, serious or harsh
Medium – halfway between two extremes
Hot – containing or consisting of pungent spices or peppers which produce a burning sensation when tasted

However, we all have our own tolerance levels, so what’s TOO hot for you?  The following list should give you some ideas of what, or what not to look for.

1) Prepare in advance.  Know your basic chilli strengths.
A little bit of preparation never lets you down and the producer will be glad to give their time to talk to someone who knows their stuff.  As a quick guide, Jalapenos (the ones you get sliced on pizzas) are pretty mild.  Habaneros (a cousin to the Scotch Bonnet) are pretty hot.  The Bhut Jolokia, sometimes known as a Naga chilli or Ghost Pepper, is very hot.  The Trinidad Moruga Scorpion is (currently) the hottest.  I won’t go into great detail about the Scoville Heat Scale here but this article might help, as might this one.

2) How hot is the sauce described on the bottle?
This seems obvious right?  Well, that’s not necessarily so.  In fact, it can often be downright misleading.  This isn’t only because of your personal tolerance level but that of the sauce producer too.  What one may find mild, another may find tortuous!

3) What colour is the sauce?
If it’s red it must be hot, right?  Is ketchup hot?  No.  Are tomatoes?

4) Are there seeds visible?
Dur!  Everyone knows it’s the seeds that are the hottest part of the chilli.  Well actually, no.  Blame the celebrity chefs for this one, although they’re gradually catching on.  In fact, it’s the membrane or placenta around the seeds that are the hottest part.  The seeds themselves contain no heat.  Any heat attached to them is just residual heat from the placenta.  Besides, a lot of hot sauces are blended so that no seeds are visible.

5) Don’t take anyone else’s word for it.
This goes back to your personal tolerance levels.  Whilst the person on your left might be struggling to breathe, that doesn’t mean that you will.  And how many times have I heard someone try tricking a friend or loved one into trying the hottest sauce by telling them it’s the mildest?

6) Look at the ingredients list.
This goes hand in hand with tip number 2, but not just because of what’s in it.  For example, although we make an extra mild mango sauce, I’ve tasted a lot of mango sauces that will blow your bloody head off!

7) How high up the list of ingredients are the chillies?
Ingredients should be listed in order of quantity used, so if your chillies are right up there at the top, as a rule of thumb it’s likely to be hot.  However, seeing as you’ve already followed tip number 1, you’ll already know which chillies are the hottest.  However, beware the use of chemical extracts.

8) Have a darn good smell.
If your nose starts running and your eyes start streaming, well, you pretty much know what’s going to be coming if you put some in your mouth.  Be especially aware of any chemical smell.  It’s unmistakable when you know what to look, or indeed smell for.  This is pure capsaicin, the chemical compound that makes chillies hot.  It only takes a drop in a batch of hot sauce to have an effect so it’s likely to be way down the list of ingredients.  It might be listed as capsaicin extract, pepper extract or derivatives thereof.  Not only might it make you want to tear your head off but it’ll also make you feel like someone’s forced a ball of pure pain down your throat to sit right on top of your stomach.  Until it probably comes back up.

9) Talk to the person selling them.
This is more likely than not going to be the person who actually makes the sauces, or if not then the person should at least know what they’re talking about.  Either way, they should be pleased to talk to you about what’s in them, how it’s made, how it’s best used, etc.  If they make chilli sauces for a living then they probably know a good bit about what’s hot and what isn’t.  If they say it’s hot or if they say it’s very mild, then it probably is, but again bear in mind those personal tolerance levels.

10) Taste them.
After all, you were always going to, right?  But do so as directed.  If there are tortilla chips on offer, use them, don’t glug down the whole bottle.  At least not until after you’ve bought it.  However, DON’T start with the hottest.  Chilli sauces, like any sauce or indeed any food, should be made for the taste.  It’s not always a Man Test thing, although we’ve probably all been there.  If you try the hottest first, how are you going to know what the others taste like?  You’re probably going to be missing out on a whole world of taste and possibilities.  And bear in mind too that you’re pretty much sampling them neat.  Any good hot sauce maker will probably have made their sauces with certain uses and recipes in mind where the sauces will of course be diluted by the use of other ingredients.  They should be only too please to discuss these with you.

Happy tasting!

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Hot Sauce – perfect for winter

habanero and naga sauce

habanero and naga sauceYour nose is running anyway, right? Your throat’s on fire. Your head feels about to explode .

May as well add some extra chillies to this pasta dish then. I’ll go for some 7 Pot. Or perhaps a dark naga. Just a half should do, finely chopped.

If you’re into hot sauces then you already know the score: Capsaicin – the chemical compound that makes chillies hot.

It commonly produces feelings of pleasure, perhaps even euphoria. And if you’re on that New Year’s diet, there’s evidence that it may also lead to decreases in weight regain.

If “I don’t like hot sauce” sounds like you then now could be the perfect time to take your initiation, with our most fiery sauce: Reason…