Hello again, everyone. We’re fast approaching the end of the month and I would normally use this week to feature something just a little bit on theme for the winter season.
This year, though, I already highlighted Tom’s Curious Sauces‘ Cranberry, in the run up to december, and I’m fresh out of everything else with a christmas theme. So, instead, here’s a little gift set from me to me:
Three cherry-based sauces that can hopefully finally replace the long lost 💀T.N.T.💀 that I loved so much.
First up, we have Chilli of the Valley’s Dark Siren. A barbecue blend that’s made with rum porter, instead of the old cherry liqueur, but otherwise provides a very similar list of ingredients:
Brown Sugar, Black Flag Porter (25%), Montmorency Cherry juice concentrate, White wine vinegar, Tomato concentrate, Molasses, Salt, Chipotle powder (1%), Onion powder, Garlic powder, Pepper, Allspice
With a warning that, because of its alcohol, it also contains wheat/barley. So it’s not gluten-free.
Fortunately, though, I have no food allergies. So I’m good to give it a go and, when I do, it’s very much what I’d expected:
A dark, brown, sticky sauce with an equally dark, boozy aroma and a thin, easy-pouring consistency from all of its porter.
Its rich and sweet and molassesy, like any good barbecue-style product, yet that alcohol tastes dry and balances out some of the sugars with how pointedly unsweet it is. A fact which makes up for how, being more of a concentrate in this sauce, the cherry juice has lost pretty much all of its tang.
That cherry is definitely subtler in Chilli of the Valley’s barbecue than it was in Hot Plot’s but it still adds a delightful undertone of rich, dark fruit that wonderfully complements the dark sugar top notes and touch of tomato.
But then the sauce hits my throat and in comes the smoke. As well as the fire.
clearly amplified by the warmth of the alcohol and not just from the chilli, alone.
It’s far from being Chilli of the Valley’s hottest sauce, or even 📽️the hottest barbecue one📽️ that I’ve had, but it’s still remarkably strong for a mere one percent chipotle and it comes in so late that it really caught me off guard.
Yet, as surprising as the chilli is, its earthy, savoury, smoked flavour is a perfect finish to this sweet and sticky sauce. The Dark Siren is a fantastic product, though it does put a little more focus on Tenby Brewing Co.’s Porter than the cherry that I was hoping for.
So let’s move on to our second product of the day – Hecates Cauldron, from Hot Pods.
A decidedly different sauce, with none of the barbecue base but a whole host of fruit and chocolate.
Pears, plums, cherry puree (morello cherry 88%, invert sugar syrup 12%) (9.3%), apple juice, cider vinegar, kirsch, maple syrup, mixed super hot chillies (1.9%), chocolate (cocoa mass, cocoa butter, fat-reduced cocoa powder, raw cane sugar, vanilla extract) (1.7%), rapeseed oil, salt, cardamom seeds.
And I can smell the vinegar on it the moment that I open the bottle. Yet the green cardamom is definitely there, as well, and there’s far more to it, once it’s on my spoon.
This one is thick and sticks in the neck of the bottle in a way that, despite its sugar content, our previous product was simply too thin to. Hecates cauldron is much more viscous and even holds just enough of its shape for you to see where I poured from but what I find most interesting is its glossy sheen.
This is a far paler sauce than the Dark Siren, with the surface texture of satin paint. And, while I know that the thought of eating paint isn’t too appealing, that particular shine is both beautiful and informative.
It tells us that there’s a fine suspension of fats in this sauce that will provide us with a delicious, creamy taste and feel. But that’s not all. It also hints at the crystalline structure of well-tempered chocolate having somehow been preserved in the final product. Despite hot sauce needing to cook for far longer than something like the truffles that we last saw it in.
I don’t know how Stephen has done it but his sauce is silky smooth, aside from a few small shreds of fruit peel and cardamom. And yes, that texture really does affect the flavour.
This is a light and creamy, chocolate-forward sauce with equally smooth, subtle fruit undertones from its pear. With the cherry and plum adding a rather more obvious, deep, dark berry note a mere moment after.
Then, as the tiny seeds burst in your mouth, you get the green and lightly floral spice of the cardamom – Strong but not overpoweringly perfumed, like the whole pods – to remind you that you aren’t just indulging in a black forest gateaux. Before the spice of the chilli rounds out the experience with a surprisingly low
More medium than hot, let alone super, and more of a tingle on the tip of the tongue and a warmth in my throat than a full on burn. Yet I can definitely tell that they’re superhots.
This particular product may not be crazy strong when I eat it but the fact that its still the same medium several minutes later says a lot about the sort of peppers that it’s using. Though not quite enough for me to pick out any one particular variety from the few dozen in Stephen’s pantry.
And, while I definitely think that the warming feel suits such a decadent, chocolate and cherry-based sauce, his chillies bring absolutely nothing to its flavour. So, if he’s ever interested in making another mild product, I sure hope that he keeps this one in mind. ‘Cause I know that my mother would love it, if she could tolerate the spice.
Both of the things that we’ve seen, so far, would be too much for her, though, and today’s third sauce is even hotter.
This final item, the “Fue, Fume, Cerise”, from Henry’s Hot Sauce, roughly translates to “Fire, Smoke, Cherry”. And, while I can’t see where the smoke is coming from, in its ingredients list, the other two are pretty clear:
Cherries, tomatoes brown sugar, onion, celery, Bhut Jolokia chillies, white wine vinegar, (sulphates), soya sauce (Soya bean,water, salt, Wheat), Hendersons Relish (water, spirit vinegar, sugar, colour – caramel E150c, sugar syrup, salt, tamarinds, acetic acid-acid, cayenne pepper, cloves, sweetener- saccharin, garlic oil), spices, garlic, herbs and Churchfields salt
And, with cherries as the very first thing on there, this barbecue sauce definitely smells more of fruit than our first. But does it taste it?
Simply put, yes. This is another dark and sticky, thin and easy to pour spoonful but, unlike the first sauce, it glows red with all of its chilli and cherry content and hides a few small chunks of the candied fruit beneath its surface.
Its flavour is sweet cherry, first and foremost, with added red chilli depth, from the ghost peppers, clearly coming through, alongside the darkness of its brown sugar’s molasses and the two added sauces. Not that they soy is actually all that obvious here.
No, its the savouriness of the henderson’s relish – Essentially a vegan version of worcestershire sauce – that stands out, amidst the darkness, to me. Complementing the subtle savoury notes in the chilli and adding a little bit of extra complexity to what is, otherwise, a rather simple sauce.
Henry’s Hot Sauce’s Fue, Fume, Cerise lacks all of the smoke and intricately-flavoured alcohol that made Chilli of the Valley’s Dark Siren interesting, without providing much more to make up for it.
I certainly don’t taste any of the celery or herbs.
So, while it definitely packs the fruit and
heat that I was looking for, it’s actually my least favourite of today’s three sauces.
I’d still recommend it, for those who want a cherry barbecue with some serious throat kick, but more as a marinade for pork or an addition to already smoked meats than as the fantastic, albeit milder, all rounder that the Dark Siren is. I’d throw Chilli of the Valley’s sauce on just about anything, from pork, beef and chicken to chips, con carne, jackfruit and even white cheese pasta.
Whereas Hot Pods’ Hecates Cauldron isn’t a barbecue sauce, at all, and is far better suited to dessert applications, like cakes, brownies, mousses and even ice-cream. Where it still works, despite its obvious upfront tang, because the finish is so smooth.
Yet you can also toss it over chicken or your leftover christmas turkey, without worry, since its molé-like nature means that this sauce lends itself to savoury use over poultry or to top enchiladas, too.
I’m a huge fan of this one! It’s unique and special and, while its imagery makes it clear that I’m not the target audience, it definitely plays to my love of chocolate, fruit and green spices.
Neither it, nor the Dark Siren, say an awful lot about their contents on the cover but both clad themselves in purple, to at least hint at the fruit. Whereas the Cerise straight up shows it, while putting a tonne of focus on the reddish-pink colour that shares its french name.
Plus, all three feature a woman in their art, to either hint that these sauces might appeal to a more traditionally feminine palate or imply a level of seductiveness, from their blend of dark, rich, sweet and fruity flavours. Though, personally, I think that at least Henry’s could do a little more to get its dark flavour across.
With the Siren, its subtle but comes across in the darker shade and sinister nature of the classical mermaid, while the goddess of witchcraft, Hecate, implies black magic with her cauldron. A term that has long been associated with chocolate, even if that link feels a tad tenuous here.
Ultimately, they all look good, though, and taste good, too. None are quite the sauce that I’ve been missing but I’m happy to have all three on my shelf and I’d be just as happy to recommend any of them.