Merry christmas, everyone! Or christmas eve, I suppose, but it’s the closest that I’m going to get, what with my weekly, tuesday upload schedule. And I’m doing a themed post either way!
Why? Because I don’t make a penny from my blog work. I do this all for my own enjoyment. My passion for my craft and for others’ craft sauce.
It may seem cheesy to some of you but it’s a tonne of fun, for me, to break from the norm and force my writing to fit a secondary topic. Be it a holiday, a recent film or just a game that I’m into. And it’s even better when I get to explain a lesser known celebration, like walpurgis nacht.
I’m going to keep doing these seasonal specials and I’ll try my best to make them as topical as I can but today’s something of a weird one.
I can’t show you something all christmas gifty or suited for xmas eating, because no small business is going to offer next day delivery on the biggest holiday of the year. It has to be something that’ll still be relevant in the months to come, so here’s what I’ve come up with:
The three ghosts of christmas.
Only, instead of past, present and future, we have Hot-Headz, Morrisons and Meat Lust. All three making full use of the legendary first superhot, yet each bringing its own flavour, texture and price point to the party.
Read on to see what I make of them.
First up, we’re going to be breaking from Charles Dickens’ narrative a bit to show you your death on the first ghost. In the form of Hot-Headz’ massive, flaming skull:
Their “Satan’s Sweat” is pretty upfront and honest about its intent. It wants to provide a killer burn and that’s all, according to its imagery. Though I will say, I’m quite fond of how the little uptick on its T mirrors the apostrophe to become a pair of devil horns. That’s a nice, subtle touch.
Its ingredients are:
Water, Naga Jolokia Chilli Peppers (44%), Salt, Onions, Lime Juice, Acetic Acid, Passion Fruit, Citric Acid, Garlic Pulp, Xanthan Gum (Natural Stabiliser).
Yet, while that gum is also a thickener, this sauce is anything but thick.
It has the watery consistency of Tabasco and its taste is similar, too. A blend of red chillies, vinegar and salt that, despite their forty-four percent content, does remarkably little to highlight the variety of peppers that it uses.
I only know that they’re nagas (ghosts) because it says so and because of their raging
that strikes the tip of my tongue at first but soon works its way back to cover most of the mouth.
If you enjoy Tabasco, Crystal, Frank’s or any other luisiana-style sauce, this is basically just that but hotter. And, from today’s sole artisan sauce, that doesn’t impress me. Even if it may suit some of you.
Then, second in line, we have the “Tiny Tim” of our line-up – Our poor man’s sauce, from Morrisons. Their own-brand.
It, too, attempts to look deadly with a flaming skull but its execution is weak.
Small, white and without any actual contact between the fires and bones, Morrisons’ label looks more like a bad biker tattoo than anything else. Were it not blandly named “Ghost Chilli Sauce”, there might be room for misinterpretation.
Honestly, though, at a mere pound a bottle, I’m quite glad that my money isn’t going on art. It’s the sauce inside that I care about and it looks like nearly every penny is going on that. Here’s its ingredients list:
Glucose-fructose syrup, Water, White wine vinegar, Ghost chilli pepper (12%), Spirit vinegar, Rapeseed oil, Sugar, Mustard flour, Salt, Tomato paste, Dried onion, Red chilli, Stabiliser (xanthan gum), Colour (paprika extract), Preservative (potassium sorbate), Garlic powder.
It’s a little sweet and a little tart, with a sharp burn that feels like it comes from dried peppers. And, while it takes a moment or two to get there, it definitely reaches a
that lingers in my throat for quite a while.
It is milder than the previous sauce but not enough so to warrant a lower rating and, curiously enough, it does taste rather more of bhut jolokia. Despite its lower content.
Of course, its vinegar is still a major flavour, alongside the chilli, salt and dehydrated onion, but the fact that I can make out the variety of pepper in this one is a pleasant surprise. As is the peri peri tinge from the product’s rapeseed oil.
Morrisons’ sauce is not special and I can tell that it’s been made cheaply, yet its heat and flavour are remarkably good, for something so inexpensive. Its one major failing, in my opinion, is in its texture.
The sauce does flow but its thick, sticky and almost jellied, to a somewhat off-putting degree. Whether you can cope with that is up to you.
For those who can’t, though, there is a third option. One in between artisan and own-brand:
Meat Lust’s Ghost Chilli sauce – Sold in supermarkets and on offer in pubs but not branded after or made specifically for either.
The company’s logo of chunky lettering between two lines, with cow horns emerging from the top, instantly brings about thoughts of beef and burgers, while the red sauce seen through their transparent bottle and the white ghost, positioned front and centre, make it equally obvious what goes into their product. Their labelling is top notch but is that all that I’m getting for the extra cost?
The quick answer is “No.”.
I’ve had this sauce before and I know that some effort has gone into it but, last time I tried it over a pub lunch, it was a different recipe. One that used chilli extract for most of its heat.
I mentioned this to the company, on twitter, and told them that I’d like to taste more real chilli and, to my surprise, they took my feedback on board. They actually made adjustments. Here’s what goes into their sauce now:
Water, Spirit Vinegar, Sugar, Tomato Paste, Garlic Puree, Spices (Paprika, Cracked Red Chilli, Cayenne, Coriander, Cumin), Modified Starch, Naga Jolokia Mash with Salt (2%), Salt, Dried Onion, Lime Juice Concentrate, Natural Garlic Flavouring, Colour; (Paprika Extract)
And no, the new recipe isn’t entirely extract free but it is free from capsaicin oleoresin, which is the one that can most easily ruin a sauce. Garlic flavouring and paprika colour are far less offensive.
That said, though, the former, at least, does play a part in changing this sauce. It’s not the sweet, tomatoey condiment that I remember.
This time around, Meat Lust’s product is pepper-forward, rich and rather more savoury. Albeit still a little tangy and sweet, too.
It’s a blend of flavours that falls just short of the mark, when sampled straight from the spoon, but also one that will come together rather better over burgers, roasts and wings. And it’s going to be perfect for stir-frys, as well.
Its chilli content isn’t entirely the ghost pepper that I was wanting but the rich deep flavour of that bhut now echoes throughout the sauce, along with the dry, peppery notes of cayenne and some highly, highly cooked down and enriched tomato hints.
This ghost chilli sauce, dubbed “Scary Spice” in small print by its makers, is definitely not perfect. Yet it dares to stand out and have a less generic flavour than the other two items we’ve seen. As well as a rather more pleasant and natural consistency. Thick and clingy, yet far from gummy or jellied.
It may be a ghost of my christmas past but, of the three on show today, it is definitely the one that will see most use in my future. Even if its slow onset, high
makes it the mildest of the bunch.
It still packs enough heat and flavour to fulfil the bottle’s promise to me.