Alright party people, it’s march and we’re kicking this month off with a bang!
Why? Because I’ve got Fiesta Fever:
Now this celebratory number is the third of my Saucey Lady freebies and, as a result, I am obligated to talk about it in a timely manner but I’m also genuinely excited to do so. Because, much like her Fireman’s Watch, this sauce uses some very british fruit that I’ve never seen in another chilli product.
Its first ingredient is gooseberry.
It’s wild, to me, to think that such a red product can be made from such a green fruit but the fact that we can see that without opening the bottle is already an advantage over last week’s product. Saucey Lady may use the same label for everything but we can still tell the difference between this and her St. Clements at a glance.
And, of course, she also puts names on her products, to distinguish the more visually similar of them.
It’s not rocket science but, after Chilli Brothers failed so drastically at it, I feel like I need to point out how Kaz’ packaging doesn’t suck. Though she could still stand to highlight her unique fruit use on the label, if you ask me.
Moving on to what’s inside, though, her sauce is thick, pulpy and a little bit sticky.
In a lot of ways, its consistency reminds me of ketchup, yet the shreds of chilli and spices make it very clear that it’s going to taste different. As does its aroma.
What I smell of this sauce is a strong, fruity, pepper-based body with hints of freshness, tanginess and something earthy and hard to place.
So I give it a try and wow! It’s definitely heavy on its assorted red peppers and I can now tell that its earthy aroma came from the addition of fennel but the most obvious taste of all is the tang of its berries. One that’s vaguely reminiscent of unsweetened cranberry but only vaguely.
The gentle green notes of gooseberries are nothing special, in my opinion, but their tartness – The element that dominates this sauce – is delightfully distinctive and, even if I’d never seen the ingredients list, I’d know that it was them at play.
I love how unique they make it!
Saucey Lady’s Fiesta Fever is an unusual, yet delicious, use of a sorely under-represented, british fruit, which is otherwise almost exclusively used in desserts. Its pepper content keeps it from fitting any of the fruit’s common pairings but, looking further afield, I find interesting ideas, like mackerel and gammon, to get my mouth watering.
This sauce does, indeed, belong with strong, oily fish or with a meat, like pork, that can benefit from both fruity and earthy flavours. Yet it’ll also pair beautifully with a tart, white cheese like wensleydale, mild goats cheese or stilton. Especially in or on something like crackers or a posh cheese on toast, where there’s little else going on.
And, despite its tang and its fruit content, this product is neither particularly sweet nor particularly acidic, making it very different to the other sauces that I use on my enchiladas but no less at home in that usage. Or, for that matter, in other cheese and tomato-based dishes.
As for what peppers go into it, I don’t really know. There might be a little touch of a “chocolate” variety, in order to enhance its earthy notes, but I don’t taste any of the lemondrop’s citrus qualities, nor anything that hints at scotch bonnet content.
Of the chillies that I’ve seen Kaz use before, the pepper flavour here most resembles the indian bird’s eyes from her Birds & Bonnets, both in their dry, almost bitter, mildly fruity, red chilli taste and in the sauce’s fairly potent
Though that heat does come on rather later and more throatily than I’d expect of a frutescens-type strain.
So I’m not entirely sure what peppers go into today’s product and Kaz, herself, only lists them as “mixed chillies”. But, whatever they are, the fact that I get to enjoy every facet of the sauce’s flavour first is far from a bad thing.
And, as for the rest of the ingredients, we do have quite a handy little list of those:
gooseberries, peppers, mixed chillies, onions, *garlic, ginger, fennel seeds, lemon, white wine vinegar, sugar
Nothing too complicated or out there, aside from that first item, but clear confirmation of the high fruit and low acid content that I was picking up on. As well as two other ingredients – The garlic and ginger – that might be adding to the fennel-forward earthy note that I mentioned earlier.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the list, though, is the allergen advice on the garlic. No other sauce that I’ve had has given any and, while I do know people with a mild intolerance to alliums, that family also includes onions. Which Kaz doesn’t make note of.
I’m always happy to see producers caring about their customers’ dietary needs but I am a tad curious about this one. It feels like there’s a story behind it.
Whatever that story may be, though, it doesn’t change my final verdict: That the Fiesta Fever is both a good sauce and great showcase of what gooseberries can do, when removed from their dessert-based comfort zone.
It’s probably not going to be a product for everyone but, if you like gooseberries, enjoy tangy fruit in your hot sauce or are simply looking for a change of pace, Saucey Lady has you covered.