Hey folks, it’s that time of year again. Christmas is fast approaching and, if you’re anything like me, you’re panicking over what to get your friends and family. So, this thursday, we’re going to go over everything I’ve had in the last year, seeing what would and wouldn’t make great gifts.
It’s time for my yearly recap.
But, this year, we’re not going to go by month. We’re going to go by theme.
So feel free to skip ahead to the bold heading that interests you or your gifts’ recipients most.
First up, let’s take a look at those who are both the easiest to buy for if you know your stuff and pretty hard if you don’t.
The pure heat seekers.
These people just want the hottest but I wouldn’t recommend extract sauces like Chilli Pepper Pete’s Dragon’s Blood unless you know that they can take them and will use them responsibly. Instead, I’d recommend nature’s hottest.
In terms of straight up strength, Devon Chilli Man’s Death at the Crimson Altar takes the crown and, while it does come in a bigger version too, the mini bottle that I tried would be ideal as a stocking filler for this group.
But it’s not the only ten out of ten that I’ve had this year. We’ve also had a Carolina Reaper sauce from South Devon Chilli Farm, a Trinidad Scorpion one from Hot-Headz and a fruity fusion in the form of Burning Desire Foods’ Critical Mass.
All of these have their own merits and all of them have proven very similar in heat. To find out what sets most of them apart, you’re going to have to click on their names but I will give you my opinion on which to go for in this very post.
Anyone actively seeking the strongest sauce will have tried others with scorpion and reaper in and they’ll be used to pure pepper sauces. The Critical Mass is my recommendation to change things up a bit. To give them a flavour utterly unique among products in its heat bracket, backed up by a chilli that most people will never have heard of – Fatalii Gourmet’s jigsaw pepper.
It’s a potential future world record with no number yet to its name but, if it can make a 35% chilli sauce hit like a 60% reaper one, you know it packs some serious punch!
Still it’s only one of several potential future world records and, while I can’t say much about most of them, I do know that The Hot Pepper Company’s chocolate bhutlah powder and peppers are equally impressive, with a rich, earthy and almost cocoa-like flavour to boot.
Unfortunately, the place I got my seeds for these two peppers is now out of stock but, should your heat loving friends and family be of the green-fingered variety, they should still be available elsewhere. Just make sure you find a trustworthy seller.
And then, finally, there’s Hot-Headz’ Man the F🔥🔥k Up. It’s a purée of the reaper and scorpion and, at least according to the labelling, nothing else but salt. Nearly 100% chilli. It’s the hottest all natural product I’ve had but it’s also very raw. Better for adding to cooking than for pouring over a finished dish.
Now, let’s move on to the fruitier side of things.
For those who like it sweet and fruity, there is always the aforementioned Critical Mass but most of this group won’t want it that hot. They won’t even want it as hot as Upton Cheyney Chilli Farm’s Megalodon.
If those you know are in that minority, the flavour and humour of the Megalodon would make an excellent gift but most fruit lovers will be wanting a more sensible heat.
For them, I would recommend something in the medium or standard hot segments of my scale. Somewhere between a 2 and a 3.5. My favourites of which are probably Mr Vikki’s Banana Habanero pickle, The Chilli Alchemist’s AuRum and Chilli Pepper Pete’s Dragon’s Blood Hot Fruity Sauce.
Each of these provided a slightly different take on the idea, with AuRum being nicely spiced from its rum and great for dessert, the Banana Habanero pickle having elements of mango chutney to it and the fruity Dragon’s Blood showing off the fruit-like side of its scotch bonnet.
Or, for something extra out there, there’s always Simpson’s Seeds’ ever so sweet and pretty peachy Funky Monkey or the more savoury Mango sauce from ChimouliS. Not to mention Daddy Cool’s most interesting blend of fruit, mustard and lightly smoked garlic, the Fatalii Attraction.
Or, should they have an interest in cooking, consider looking into some Lemon Drop Powder. It’s an excellent addition to brighten up a curry or add a unique dried citrus flavour to dishes.
We’ve had a lot of interesting fruit items this year but there’ve also been a couple that have used fruit to augment another flavour.
Hot Plot Chilli Co were an excellent company who’s cherry and chipotle ”T.N.T.” barbecue sauce bowled me over with an amazing blend of fruit and sweet smokiness but it is, to my major disappointment, no-longer available. The company disbanded several months back.
You can, however, get a similar, if a little less berry-heavy, blend of flavours from the blackcurrant and cranberries in Chilli Pepper Pete’s Dragon’s Blood Hot BBQ Sauce – Again a little bit different but a great barbecue sauce.
And, while we’re on the subject of dark, smoky and fruity, Daddy Cool makes a fantastic brown sauce with just a tiny hint of chipotle that he calls Broon. It’s not hot. It’s barely even a chilli product. It’s just a great, artisan brown sauce.
So, while we’re on the subject of dark and smoky, let’s look at what the smoke and barbecue lovers are going to like out of this year’s reviews.
The three mentioned just above were all excellent smoky items, even if only two still exist, but there have been other, less fruity, ones as well.
Vic’s Ol’ Smoky and Chimpotle from the Screaming Chimp, for example, had a bit of fruitiness from the way their tomato base was prepared but most certainly weren’t your typical fruity sauces. And they were more on the savoury side to boot.
Whereas Burning Desire’s Chipotle Chilli Syrup with Bourbon Whiskey wasn’t fruity at all, just dark sweet and rich in a way that worked beautifully on deserts, breakfasts and meats alike. It blew me away with its increadible flavour and was going to be mentioned as the star of my smoky section this year. Until I got a little bottle from Dorset Chilli Shop.
I didn’t do a proper review on that item, though, merely using it for my own take on one of their recipes instead.
Both were little bottles with a pipette. Both contained unconcentrated extract of a mild chilli. Both were meant as a flavouring, not a food stuff. But only the Chilpōctli belongs in this smoky section.
I’ll talk about the other in just a moment but, for now, I just want to mention how well-rounded the taste of Dorset Chilli Shop’s little bottle was. So full of every little detail of the chipotle chilli flavour.
They list it on their site as being “for the brave” but I’d say it’s more for the experimental. It’s a way to add the taste of smoked chilli to anything from your con carne to your winter drinks. It works just as well in baking as in hob cooking and, despite being quite a high heat per volume, you need so little for the flavour that you’re never going to add too much.
It’s highly versatile but not as much of a last minute addition as sauce can be. It won’t be for everyone but those who appreciate it will really love it.
Or, for the less adventurous chefs, there is also chilli powder. I still swear by Hot-Headz’ red chipotle powder, as featured in my chipotle nutella cupcakes last year and my nice and toastie chicken korma this one.
As with its Chilpōctli cousin, this little bottle is for the experimenters and kitchen alchemists among you. It’s for adding small drops of flavour to dishes, drinks and desserts, not pouring on like a sauce.
Yet it’s green and refreshing, not deep and smoky, and it forsakes the pure chilli flavour for a blend with citrus by using lime oil. Flavour-wise, the two are nothing alike, even if every other element of them is practically identical.
We did also see a powder belonging in this section – A green jalapeño one from Chilli Britain, featured in my extra indian potato pancakes – but, if it’s sauces that you’re after, this year’s had a few of those, too.
From Chilli Pepper Pete, we saw an extra roast flavoured Green Salsa that would be excellent with mexican food, but Marie Sharp’s also brought us a slightly hotter than usual green sauce that I’m told is great on or in burritos.
All three of these were pretty medium in heat but they still seem to be the mildest of this year’s green things. We didn’t get any mild green chilli products this time around but we did get two hotter ones.
For those who like hot and want something different or for those who enjoy jalapeño flavour but want more heat, The Unusual Chutney Company’s Fiendfyre held roughly the same strength as a good ghost pepper sauce but without anything like the same red flavour.
It came across a little bit bitter, what with some of its superhots not normally being intended to be eaten green, but it should still satisfy anyone craving the combination of jalapeño and very high heat.
Quite unlike South Devon Chilli Farm’s Extreme Chilli Jam, which was definitely green but seemed to be mostly bell peppers, amped up by a little bit of ghost. It was sweet enough to cover any of their bitter elements but still had a touch of savoury to it as well and is probably my favourite product from the company.
If you’re one of the select few who want jalapeño flavour specifically, it’s going to leave you wanting but, for those just after a good amount of green pepper flavour, this will most certainly prove delicious. If very hot.
And I guess there were a couple more jalapeño items but they belong in my next section. The one full of snacks.
So we’ll start it off with those two: A pair of vegan jerkys from cowley’s fine foods.
The ones from them with jalapeño were their sweet potato sort and their mixed mushroom sort but, while I thoroughly enjoyed the heatless versions of both that they also sent me, I didn’t really like how the pickled green jalapeño flecks combined with the sweet potato strips.
Though, since that one most definitely lived up to its name, I wouldn’t advise it for everyone. Just those who like some serious heat.
Then, moving on to another company that we’ve seen a fair bit of, I would recommend absolutely any of The Chilli Alchemist’s Melliculus popping candy. Perhaps even the full “book” thereof.
I’ve technically only looked at the black and the Reaper versions of them this year and the black was my least favourite of the bunch but it was still a good and, with talk of the range being discontinued, I’d like to briefly mention the delicious Aji and Tropicus varieties as well.
They were, after all, some of my favourites and one of the things that inspired me to start this blog. It seems only fitting that I do my best to help them go out with a bang. Or at least a pop.
Next up, I also took a look at a whole host of chilli gummy bears, any of which would make for a bit of a silly holiday treat. Some came from Hot-Headz, some from Efrutti and some from Cowley’s Fine Foods again. They featured pretty heavily under snacks this year.
But, even so, I think that’s about it for them. Just time to look at a drink that might go with your chilli snakes before we move on.
Pimento make an absolutely delicious, alcohol-free ginger ale that’s gentler and smoother in taste than any ginger beer but still has just a little more kick than the hottest of them. Which puts it squarely at a medium 2.5/10 on my scale.
And now it’s time for the miscellaneous other stuff – A strange mix of more typical red chilli flavoured products that can’t be categorized as anything else and ones that are simply too different to fit the other sections.
Let’s kick it off with The Jam Horse’s Chilli Extra Jam – A very simple preserve for those who want pure red chilli flavour. Or, if you’d rather a bit more in the way of scotch bonnet, their medium heat Horse Kicking Hot variety might be a more fitting taste.
But we do have a serious, super hot sauce or three left to look at.
At the start of the year, I was still looking at ChimouliS’ samples and that included their Purple Scorpion sauce, since dubbed a “ketchup”, despite being nothing like the tomato ketchups most people know.
It’s completely tomato free and its sweetness is of the natural sort, stemming from its red onion and black carrot content but it does, I guess, still have a tiny touch of that sweetened vinegar taste to it.
Then, later in the year, The Hot Pepper Company agreed to send me a sample pretty much out of the blue and, while the sauce itself was a goody, I can’t reccomend the Devil’s Choice that they import. Nothing that hot should be allowed such shoddy bottle design.
By all means, go to them for peppers and powders, just not for that sauce.
It’s rich, thick and absolutely bursting with flavour, as well as having a strong 5/10 dorset naga kick. Plus, it’s also available as part of 🔥a triple pack🔥.
Yet, if I’m perfectly honest, I wouldn’t advise that pack unless you want a travel set or don’t know the heat tolerance of the person you’re buying for.
The flavour differences between the sauces are so subtle that they might as well just be three different heats of one product. In fact, I think that’s what they’re meant to be.
Yet the fact that you can get a hot, extra hot or super hot version means that it’ll suit a wider range of people, at least. And, from a pure taste perspective, it’s hard to go wrong with any of them.
And, in a similar vein of hot but not super, I have two more Screaming Chimp sauces to mention that didn’t quite fit elsewhere.
But, up there with that Stinger and just below the super hots are another couple of sauces. More unusual ones.
And, sticking with that darker theme in more ways than one, I also wound up trying T-Rev’s Original Food Co’s Fifty Shades Hotter.
It was clear from the get go that that sauce was a mere joke and, having only seen it at one local streetfood stall, I have no idea where you’d find it but, against all odds, it wound up having a pretty decent, medium heat, mexican style taste.
I’m not going to say go out and buy it but, if you see this sauce and know someone who’d find it funny, it’s not going to go unused after christmas. And that, in my mind, is a good thing.
But, back on the serious and very hot side oncemore, there was one sauce I had this year that was very ketchup-like and that was Encona’s Carolina Reaper sauce.
It was very mild for its chilli but still a good 4.5/10 and one of the better tasting supermarket extra hots I’ve had. You may still be able to pick it up cheap in stores and, if you can, it seems perfect for the people who think they can handle anything. You know, the ones who really can’t.
Unless, of course, you hate those people. Then see my first section.
There have been very few items I wouldn’t recommend as a gift this year but, now that I’ve covered just about everything, it’s time for the best of the best!
Top Five Edible(ish) Gifts of 2017:
–Chilli Britain’s chilli powders for the chefs, because nowhere else I know has jalapeño, chipotle, lemondrop and kashmiri, all in one place. All 4 have unique and amazing flavours to them.
-And go on, who can resist Grim Reaper Foods’ chocolates for the chocoholics? They even have a pre christmas sale on right now.
My Personal Favourites this Year:
-Hot Plot Chilli Co’s ”T.N.T.” barbecue sauce for its blend of berry and barbecue smoke. I’ll miss this one.
–Dorset Chilli Shop’s Chilpōctli, even though it made me question my pronunciation, simply because of its pure flavour and variety of uses.
And the Best Stocking Fillers:
–The Chilli Alchemist’s Melliculus popping candy for a fun new sensation before it’s gone.
Have a great holiday and we’ll do this all again next year.