Happy tuesday again, everyone!
Today marks the first of my july reviews and, with it, the end of my unexpectedly hectic birth month. This week, I get to relax a little and try out two simple chilli jams, from A Bit of a Pickle and The Smokey Carter.
Each using a different, named chilli – One habanero and the other scotch bonnet – but both relying on a base of sugar and red bells to carry them.
Obviously, these aren’t going to be the same sort of breakfast jam that we saw in South Devon Chilli Farm’s elderflower. They’re going to be a pepper forward, somewhat savoury pair that’s better suited to spreading over cheeses and meats. But how much of that pepper flavour is actually going to come from their namesake varieties? And how different will these two be?
I’m very curious to find out.
Externally, both come in red and black packaging, with a small amount of their text in white for extra legibility.
On A Bit of a Pickle’s jar, that text is the two different fonts of their company name, set against the same black background with a rectangle of colour that we saw on their curd. The only differences are the colour of that rectangle – Now red to reflect the product’s chilli content – and the product name that sits atop it in black.
It still looks just as professional as before but its appearance says even less about the product inside. Whereas The Smokey Carter put a little more effort into making each of their products stand out from the rest of their range.
Their jar puts its white emphasis on the words “Chilli Jam” and, despite using a red background, it still pairs the colour off against black on all sides.
Down below, we see a black border, filled with serving suggestions. Up above, equally dark text tells us what chilli is involved. And, to the sides, we actually get to see that pepper, used like bullet points in shadowy silhouette.
Peppers which, I might add, can also be faintly seen wrapping around the right-hand side of the jar. Mirrored, on the left, by stylised flame silhouettes.
It’s not the best of scotch bonnet pictures, mind you. It more closely resembles supermarket mutts than any carefully cultivated, heritage strain – So it doesn’t look like the proper, caribbean pepper – but perhaps that’s the point. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what the average customer now recognises as the real chilli.
If so, those people are missing out but, well, I guess not everyone can grow their own, MoA-approved seeds.
Whatever their reason for using that particular pepper design, though, I’m not going to judge the quality of their jam by the art on their jar. I’m going to try it first:
The Smokey Carter’s jam is a bold, vivid red, visibly thick and filled with pepper chunks. You can see the high pepper content and comparatively low amount of sugar from the spoon but what you can’t see is how easily it pours, despite its thickness.
This jam may have a high fruit content but that fruit is all pepper and, as a result, has very little of the natural pectin used to set most other preserves.
A Bit of a Pickle try to combat this in their own jam, through the addition of apples – A fruit known to be very high in pectin – and it works. To an extent.
Their even chunkier, relish-like product clings to my spoon rather well but you can see its liquid separating off a little at the edges, even so.
Neither has quite the perfect, jellied texture but, unless you’re wanting to use them as a glaze, that shouldn’t be an issue. Both will spread just fine into sandwiches or over meats or crackers.
So, what do they taste like?
Well, The Smokey Carter’s is sweet, bold and fruity, with a delicious blend of tomatoes and red wine vinegar to support its namesake scotch bonnets. It’s definitely pepper-forward and has the expected savoury notes to it, but it has plenty more going on and even a slight undercurrent of ginger to promote pairing with the pork in their logo.
As well as, perhaps, to enhance its slow
in the back of my mouth
It’s not smoky, like their misspelt company name might imply, but it sure is going to go great with smoked meats.
Whereas its competitor offers me rather more tang, rather more brightness and substantially more burn, peaking at a low
in the throat and roof of my mouth, when eaten alone, and still packing a fair punch over a burger or cheese sandwich, too. Yet I feel like its chilli actually comes through a little less in flavour.
It’s there, certainly, but the almost citrussy quality of the acidified apple does a far better job of offsetting the rich, savoury taste of the bells and garlic than the hints of orange habanero. Those are, truth be told, quite subtle.
I enjoy the upfront flavour of both and I’ve been using A Bit of a Pickle’s habanero jam to liven up all sorts of dishes, from simple sarnies to burgers, pasta sauces and even shakshuka. Yet it wouldn’t be my favourite of the pair if it weren’t for one upsetting detail about its competitor.
The Smokey Carter’s scotch bonnet jam may be delicious when I’m eating it but it leaves me with a bitter, metallic aftertaste that none of its ingredients account for. And that really puts me off using it.
I can’t say, for sure, where that flavour comes from but I do have one guess: That it may well be cooked in a non-stainless, metallic pan or vat that reacts with the jam’s own acidity.
If that’s the case, Smokey Carter, please fix this problem because your product is otherwise delicious and I’d love to have a version without the lingering taste of regret.
In the mean time, though, I can only recommend A Bit of a Pickle’s jam but I can leave you with the ingredients for both.
Red Peppers, Apple, Sugar, Habanero Chilli, Vinegar, Tomato, Garlic.
While The Smokey Carter’s uses:
Red pepper, sugar, tomato, red wine vinegar, cider vinegar, scotch bonnet (4%), garlic, ginger, salt, acidity regulator (citric acid).
Thanks for reading and I’ll catch you again next tuesday. If not before.