Happy thursday, folks! It’s been a while since my last inedible post but, now that we’re heading into december, it’s time for my yearly, pre-christmas recap. That seasonal special where I go over everything that I’ve tried, throughout the year, and tell you which I would and wouldn’t recommend as gifts.
And, speaking of special, I’ve got a brand new special category today:
This year, I’ve been working with The Chilli Project and, while we’re still fleshing out the details of my first affiliate link, you can now find my writing on almost all of their individual product pages. Descriptions of each of their items from yours truly.
I’ve been trying out all of their sauces and indian pickles, behind the scenes, and discussing my thoughts on each with the company’s owner, as I’ve done this job. So, while you’ve not seen any reviews of them and you won’t be doing so any time soon, I’ve had the lot and can genuinely vouch for their quality.
Their Garlic & Naga, Brinjal and Scotch Bonnet are three of the best indian pickles that I’ve ever had, positively bursting with flavour, and their old-fashioned brown sauce is just as intense, despite being their mildest, heat-wise. If you’re looking to buy for someone who likes it bold, has traditional british tastes or loves indian cuisine, they definitely have that covered but they also do plenty more besides.
I’ll be going over the lot, through the course of today’s post, but I won’t be going into too much detail on any particular item. Because, well, I’ve already done so over on their website.
Now, let’s get on with today’s recap article.
Starting, as always, with
The Extreme Items:
Of which the absolute strongest that I featured this year were Wiltshire Chilli Farm‘s 🔥Regret🔥 and Chilli of the Valley‘s Phwoar Koff and Dai. Two rather ridiculous extract sauces, crafted purely for their burn, yet still possessing a relatively pleasant chilli flavour. And, in Wiltshire’s case, a fair hit of bourbon, too.
Then, on the more natural side of things, High River Sauces’ tequilla-infused Thunder Juice is the first sauce that I’ve seen utilise the chocolate bhutlah to its full potential, for both chart-topping heat and dark, rich, brown chilli flavour.
So, for the absolute hottest of the hot, those are what I’d recommend but others items, like Brighton Hot Stuff‘s Armaggeddon and A Bit of a Pickle‘s 📽️Tân y Ddraig📽️ have come very close with equally exciting potential future world records. And, if you’d rather something featuring on of the current top two, we have plenty of them, as well.
Both Tom’s Curious Sauces‘ Scorpion – Formerly known as 📽️Nuclear Bum📽️ – and Psycho Juice‘s 📽️70% Scorpion📽️ do a fantastic job of highlighting the fire and sharp, fruity flavour of the trinidad scorpion. Both now come in some rather stunning packaging, too, though the most impressive – Dr. Burnorium‘s 📽️dark arts box📽️ – will set you a little bit extra and come with free nuts.
Then, from the reaper, we haven’t seen any ten out of ten heat sauces, this year, but we have witnessed some wild flavours that still packed an extreme punch, including Torchbearer’s intense Garlic Reaper, Chilli of the Valley‘s rich, dark Black Death, The Unusual Chutney Company’s 📽️🔥Draught of Living Death🔥📽️, for any Harry Potter fans who are into serious heat, and Diemen’s 📽️Inferno📽️. The last of which used a unique, tasmanian berry with a powerful black pepper quality, perfect for steak.
Yet I think that this year’s most interesting extreme sauce has to have been Hot Pods‘ Rampage, with its light, green, fresh flavour and an almost nasal burn, born from a blend of peas, pears, superhots and horseradish. Nothing else tastes or feels anything like it!
But don’t forget The Chilli Jam Man‘s 📽️Podfather, Ginger Ninja & Carolina Reaper jams📽️ either, if you’re looking to switch things up from a sauce, or 546cheese‘s Scorpion Cheddar for any cheese fans who like it hot.
For the real traditionalists, though, who just want something sharp, red and vinegar-heavy, Hot Headz‘ Satan’s Sweat and Brighton Hot Stuff‘s charity Bird’s Eye may not be the hottest but they sure would make great superhot alternatives to something like Tabasco. As well as fitting ever so well into our next category.
The Stocking Fillers:
Brighton Hot Stuff‘s Armaggeddon and Bird’s Eye sauces, from the extreme section, both come in little fifty millilitre bottles, perfect for smaller gifts and stocking fillers. As is also the case with the ever so slightly milder Purple Pain & Cranberry, from Tom’s Curious Sauces.
So, for those who like their superhots, there’s a good range of stocking fillers to choose from, this year, but I’m afraid that I can’t offer much for anyone else. Even this category’s last item – Foraged Fire‘s Wild Garlic “Capers”, while utterly delicious and fancy as all hell, are about as hot as a ghost pepper sauce.
Speaking of those Wild Garlic “Capers”, from Foraged Fire, they may be great with fish or in scrambled eggs but they also make an amazing addition to cheese crackers, for an ultra stylish canapé, so I’d say that they also warrant a place in this here snacks section. Alongside 546cheese‘s superhot Scorpion Cheddar (though I wouldn’t combine the two), Dr. Burnorium‘s 📽️Ghost Pepper Nuts📽️ and The Chilli Project‘s sweet, pickled Hotshot Jalapeño slices. As well as all of the chocolate that I’ve eaten this year.
Daddy Cool’s Cranberry White I was a little less sold on, truth be told, yet it was far from bad and his Salted Caramel Fudge version – Made with caramelised white chocolate – was delightfully special.
Moving on from the snacks to
The Mustard and Caribbean-Style Products:
Dalston Chillies‘ Bajan Hot Sauce is almost a perfect example of what my fifth category is about, yet it adds a slight twist of its own to the traditional west indies-style, in the form of turmeric. Whereas Queen Majesty’s blend of Scotch Bonnet & Ginger swaps out the mustard, entirely, for an equally earthy root with a touch more bite. Both are sure to please fans of a classic island sauce.
Yet there’s more to the caribbean than just earthy, yellow sauces. As Foraged Fire‘s fermented red Caribbean, Glenroy’s jerk-spiced Bunkum Bay and Island Girl LTD‘s radish-tinged Ooft! all demonstrate.
So, yes, caribbean sauces can work with little or no mustard but so, too, can mustard sauces do without the caribbean. In fact, Daddy Cool’s showed us a traditional, german-inspired mustard BBQ style, this year, in his All Up in My Grill. While Farraday’s Tasty opted for a Surinamese piccalilli and Dr. Burnorium just went to town with the sharp spice in his Mustard Ghost Pepper Psycho Juice.
The Sharp and Citrussy:
Though, if you’re buying for a marmalade fan, Grim Reaper Foods‘ boozy Yellow Lemon Habanero and Blood Orange Cranberry would definitely be my first picks. And, while we’re looking at jars, A Bit of a Pickle‘s Aji Chilli Lemon Curd is still just about in season, so get on that while you’ve got the chance!
Or, if you’d rather jam than curd, The Chilli Project‘s Lemon Drop Jelly also makes great use of that citrus-like chilli. While Chilli Brothers‘ Apple & Yuzu sauce is just as sweet and focusses on an actual rare citrus. Whereas Up the Garden‘s Scotch Bonnet & Lemon is sweeter still and takes things in more of a vibrant, citrus-lightened, thai-style product.
Badger’s Artisan Foods‘ Mango & Lemon involves a non-citrus fruit, yet remains sharp and almost sherberty, and, despite containing pineapple instead of citrus, the Calypso from Chilli of the Valley makes for an equally zingy, yet smooth, coconut sauce.
But you know me and I can’t end off a fruit section without recommending something weird so do consider Foraged Fire‘s acidic blend of Fatali, cape gooseberry and salmonberry or, if you’re in a region with access to it, Spicy Ninja Sauce’s 🇺🇸D__th S_★r O.G.🇺🇸. The lemon oil flavour of the starfruit makes seafood taste amazing!
The Smoke Sources:
and we’re starting with another weird pair. Daddy Cool’s south carolina-style All Up in My Grill barbecue sauce and The Chilli Project‘s Charlie’s Brown. Both subtly smoky but one a mustard-based twist on the barbecue genre and they other a proper oldschool brown sauce.
Or, for pure chipotle, it has to be Tom’s Curious Sauces‘ Chipotle, enriched with soy sauce and adobo spices but very much smoked chilli-forward. Though Burning Desire Foods does offer an amazing Chipotle Chilli Syrup for those who have more of a sweet tooth.
Then there are Hot Pods‘ 📽️Quarantine📽️ and Jock’s tangy habanero Hot Sauce, which use fresh chillies and smoke their other ingredients for a rather different flavour. Or Angry Goat Pepper Co.’s Hippy Dippy Green, where the charred peppers add a rather smoky note, despite it being a green sauce.
The Jams and Sweet Stuff:
Their Lemon Drop Jelly, as mentioned above, is also delightfully citrussy and apple-tinged and A Bit of a Pickle‘s Habanero Chilli Jam was a goodie, as well. But we couldn’t mention jam without including The Chilli Jam Man, now could we?
We saw his 📽️Ultra Jams📽️ in the extreme section but he also does a more reasonable range, including Gorgeous Garlic, Scotch Bonnet and a milder Bhut Jolokia flavour. All of which are available in TNT-themed gift packs, should you want to buy something bigger.
Then, on the more saucy side, Hot Face Sauces’ 📽️BBQ Bonnet📽️ didn’t really fit my smoky section, with its mild smoke content, but it sure does fit in here as a delightfully sweet, scotch bonnet sauce. While Up the Garden take that one step further into sweet chilli territory with the Scotch Bonnet & Lemon from my citrus section.
Magma Sauces‘ Jalapeño Sour Mango is even fruitier, though, and has a sweet and sour quality to its otherwise green chilli and mango mix. A quality which also comes through extremely well in The Chilli Project‘s more extreme Hotfox and Badass Badger. While Chilli Brothers‘ Apple & Yuzu is so fruit-based that it could pass for a dessert sauce.
And finally, to round out the sweet stuff, we have four more jars from Russell Williams, of Grim Reaper Foods and The Chilli Alchemist – His boozy Yellow Lemon Habanero and Blood Orange Cranberry marmalades and his Scorch and Blaze chocolate and salted caramel spreads
Then, for a bit of contrast, lets more on to
All Things Green:
And this section has a clear top dog, this year, in the form of Daddy Cool’s End of the Lime. A sauce which is just that bit greener than everything else. Though Sauce Shop‘s 📽️Green Sriracha📽️, Chilli of the Valley‘s Hulk Juice and Jarlic and Foraged Fire‘s Wild Garlic “Capers” all rival the intensity of its flavour in a more garlicky fashion.
Then we’ve already seen Magma Sauces‘ Jalapeño Sour Mango, The Chilli Project‘s Hotshot Jalapeño slices and Angry Goat Pepper Co.’s Hippy Dippy Green but their use of under-ripe chillies earns them a spot among the green sauces still, as well as the sweet and smoky.
The Fruity Fun:
Begins with Magma Sauces‘ sweet, green Jalapeño Sour Mango again. Followed by Char Man Brand’s Caribbean, Dorset Chilli Shop‘s Dorset Punch, Marie Sharp’s Pure Mango Habanero and Prices Spices‘ Hatian Sensation, for your more traditional mango products. But it’s worth noting that the last of those also comes as a Junior Sensation, with none of the heat and all of the chilli flavour, for those who like it milder.
Or, if you’d prefer a blend of tropical fruit, The Chilli Project‘s pineapple, Habanero and mango Bongo Chilli Sauce is great over seafood and tacos.
Then Saucey Lady works her usual magic with her super hot, berry-based Midnight Mischief and a rather milder Fiesta Fever that contains both gooseberries and fennel. A weird but tasty, tangy fruit blend.
Plus Hell’s Kitchen’s 📽️🇺🇸Solgard Scorcher🇺🇸📽️ was similarly bizarre, yet good, with its use of cooked watermelon and mint to balance out its reaper chilli. Definitely worth a shot, if you see it, but probably not worth the price of importing into the UK.
And, after that, it’s just apple. Adding subtle, sweet, fruity undertones to Hot Headz‘ Apple Chipotle Bourbon and Flavour Before Fire‘s 📽️NEUK Naga sauce📽️ but standing out a lot more in Chilli Brothers‘ Apple & Yuzu from earlier.
Now, for those who just like red chilli
The Pure Products:
Starting off with Brighton Hot Stuff‘s Jaz Coleman, which complements chicken and fish with its pomegranate content but never really lets it come to the fore enough to be considered “fruity”. And their Bird’s Eye, while a little on the extreme side, makes for an amazing luisiana-style mini-bottle.
As, for that matter, does Hot Headz‘ ghost pepper Satan’s Sweat or son thereof. While The Chilli Project‘s Hammerhead comes in at a more sensible heat and hides just a touch of pineapple, beneath its scotch bonnet, yet only comes in a full-size bottle.
Then Tom’s Curious Sauces‘ Ghost Pepper product proved to be a little different, with rather more peppery funk, but is still all about that chilli. As is South Church Salt Co.’s 📽️🇺🇸Ghost Pepper salt🇺🇸📽️, if you can get your hands on it.
The Rooty Ones:
Sauce Shop‘s 📽️Red and Green Srirachas📽️, Torchbearer’s Garlic Reaper, Marie Sharp’s Original Garlic, Daddy Cool’s Garlic Okra Pickle and The Chilli Project‘s Garlic Naga all did exactly what they promised, this year, with a serious garlic hit. While Chilli Scrumptious First Date and Fire Foods‘ Fire Garlic took that and mixed in their own special twist, with earthy beetroot and indian curry flavours, respectively.
Then Upton Cheyney‘s Roast Garlic & Ginger came along with an amazingly dark, rich, sweet and savoury, caramelised garlic flavour, matched only by The Chilli Project‘s Grizzly Garlic. Though the black garlic in Chilli of the Valley‘s Black Death does have its own dark, rich and balsamicky taste.
Plus, I’m going to throw Island Girl LTD‘s original Ooft! into this section, too, since it was the fermented daikon radish that provided its unique, mellow undertones. And Foraged Fire‘s Wild Garlic “Capers” belong here, too, I think. Not because they contain any actual root vegetable but simply because they taste so much like they do.
The Indian Items:
Conveniently covers The Chilli Project‘s three astounding pickles – Their Brinjal, Scotch Bonnet and Garlic Naga – but was actually invented to give a home to things like Fire Foods‘ Tandoori (peanut) Butter and Fire Garlic or to A Bit of a Pickle‘s ridiculously hot 📽️Tân y Ddraig📽️ chutney.
Daddy Cool’s milder Garlic Okra Pickle belongs here, too, and I could easily include anything with the naga in it, given the origin of its pepper. But, actually, I think that I’d rather keep this section short and stick exclusively to the indian flavours.
Then I can move on to
The Adventurous Ones:
Products that either represent a certain foreign culture not covered by another section – Like the tasmanian pepper berry in Diemen’s australian 📽️Inferno📽️ or the strong moroccan spices in Carrington’s Chillichup – or do something extremely out there with their ingredients – Like Hot Pods‘ pear, pea and horseradish Rampage or Foraged Fire‘s Wild Garlic “Capers”.
The american meets german nature of Daddy Cool’s All Up in My Grill fits the first requirement perfectly, while his caramelised Salted Caramel Fudge chocolate is just straight up unusual enough for the second.
Torchbearer’s Garlic Reaper is equally german in its creamy garlic base, while Chilli of the Valley‘s use of the root in their black garlic Black Death is new and unique. Dark, like El Niño‘s Hot Sauce and Fair Dinkum Fare‘s Crumbs, yet with its own blend of rich and balsamicky garlic notes.
Harry Brand‘s Harissa Mayo represents north african cuisine and Brighton Hot Stuff‘s Bird’s Eye helps african children, while Badger’s Artisan Foods‘ Mango & Lemon sounds sane but actually blends lemon zest an coriander seed in a crazy, almost sherbert-like way.
El Jefe’s Volcán and The Chilli Alchemist‘s Dark Matter both provide interesting sensations but one is the traditionally surinamese, dry and mustardy heat of the madame jeanette pepper, while the other is a crazy blend of chilli, mint and popping candy. And, if sensation seeking is your thing, The Chilli Jam Man‘s 📽️Ginger Ninja📽️’s extensive use of ghost pepper, ginger and szechuan peppercorns makes it feel both unique and intense.
Chilli Hills’ Bulgarian Carrot hails from its pepper’s bulgarian home, while Brighton Hot Stuff‘s Kimchi is oh so korean, Spicy Ninja Sauce’s 🇺🇸D__th S_★r O.G.🇺🇸 uses hawaiian starfruit and Foraged Fire‘s Fatali uses fruit that most people have never even heard of. Whereas, while the idea of candying green chilli slices is just as unheard of, over here, The Chilli Project‘s Hotshot Jalapeño slices are a classic american treat.
Saucey Lady’s Fiesta Fever and Hell’s Kitchen’s 📽️🇺🇸Solgard Scorcher🇺🇸📽️ also both use quite unusual fruit, while Island Girl LTD‘s original Ooft! uses a unique choice of root, yet is somehow also traditionally trinidadian.
And the Products Which I Wouldn’t Give as Gifts:
A list which, I’m sad to say, is even bigger this year. Though perhaps I’ve simply managed to feature more stuff.
Starting with the extract sauces, Dr. Burnorium‘s Psycho Juice 📽️Extreme Ghost📽️, Tom’s Curious Sauces‘ Angry Ass and Dorset Chilli Shop‘s 📽️Melt Your Effing Face off📽️ all tasted too much of chemicals, while Heatonist and First We Feast’s 📽️🇺🇸The Last Dab Apollo🇺🇸📽️ had a far more natural, yet equally unpleasant bitterness.
Hot Face Sauces’ Killer Ketchup and Scorpion Scorcher didn’t taste too great, either, and, while I preferred their 📽️💀Birdseye Burner💀📽️, it was sadly discontinued. Along with Sauce Shop‘s 📽️💀Yellow Sriracha💀📽️, Oreo’s 📽️💀Red Hot, Wasabi & Chicken Wing flavours💀📽️, Hot Pods, Love My Chillies and The League of Fire‘s 📽️💀original Chug Challenge💀📽️ and, by the looks of their broken website, Pepper Kitchen‘s 💀Very Hot and Dangerously Hot💀 trinidadian mustard sauces.
Boundless‘ 📽️Seeds & Nuts📽️ made decent snacks but just weren’t gifty. Much like how Morrison’s Ghost Pepper Sauce and Encona‘s Carolina Reaper Sauce are simply too obviously cheap to make good gifts.
Plus that “reaper” sauce didn’t exactly live up to its name. Just like how Rock a Doodle Do‘s Can I Play with Mangoes? was a pleasant sauce but very light on the namesake fruit and Fairley’s Fine Condiments‘ 📽️Frightfully Hot Carolina Reaper Sriracha📽️ was more of a stupidly strong ketchup.
Chilli Seed Bank’s 📽️World’s Hottest Tortilla Chips📽️ were oddly bland, for something so spicy, while Harry Brand‘s Harissa more than made up for their missing salt and both Chilli Brothers‘ Lemon Lime & Blueberry syrups and Mahi Fine Foods‘ Cayenne & Cranberry were awful blends of sweet and savoury that didn’t work.
The Smokey Carter‘s Scotch Bonnet Chilli Jam could have been great, without its metallic aftertaste, while Cornish Chilli Co.‘s Barracuda was just too intensely vinegary and Hot Headz‘ Reaper BBQ was both sharp, from its reaper, and a little artificial, from its smoke flavouring.
Whereas I just found the tanins in Island Girl LTD‘s Chipotle Ooft! rather too cloying to enjoy and Brighton Hot Stuff‘s C🔥nn🔥bis almost certainly comes with the wrong impression. Even if it is a fantastic green sauce.
So, in summary, here are
The Top Five Giftable items of 2020:
–Prices Spices‘ Junior Sensation to give a huge hit of mango and tropical chilli taste, without the heat, to anyone who eats mild and even those who wouldn’t normally touch chilli at all. Or kick it up a notch with the Hatian Sensation to get the same, full-bodied, fresh fruit flavour with a scotch bonnet burn. Either way, you’re onto a winner!
–Hot Pods‘ 📽️Quarantine📽️ for those who like it hot and have a sense of humour about the current global predicament. Because it’s actually a rich tomato sauce with gorgeous smoked onion undertones, not just a jokey name.
–Dr. Burnorium‘s 📽️dark arts box📽️, filled with his ghost pepper nuts and 📽️70% Scorpion Psycho Juice📽️, to really wow the extreme heat crowd with the flavour, the fire and that super stylish, laser-cut packaging.
–The Chilli Alchemist‘s Dark Matter for the milder sensation seekers. It’s a top notch dark chocolate that’s cool and spicy at the same time, with an added pop when you take things slow and savour it. So it definitely gets my recommendation.
My Personal Favourites this Year:
–The Chilli Project‘s Grizzly Garlic with its red wine undertones, adding an extra layer of decadence to the already practically addictive, sweet, dark, umami-filled flavour of Upton Cheyney’s caramelised garlic sauce.
–Pepper Kitchen‘s 💀Very Hot sauce💀 because it was just that wonderfully creamy of a mustard blend and their lightly floral scotch bonnets were perfectly balanced with that earthy, yet equally fragrant, spice. It’s a real shame that their website isn’t functioning and I haven’t been able to get a hold of them since the pandemic hit.
And the Best Stocking Fillers:
–Saucey Lady’s skull bottles, for those who prefer it fruity.
Once again, I hope that this post has helped fix some of your christmas woes and I’ll see you again on tuesday for whatever I decide to review next.
Catch you then!