Hey folks, here’s another one that’s been on the cards for a while: The third and final of my Somerset Chilli Co. reviews. And also their most fiery.
This is “The Circus” – Named after the georgian townhouses in bath – and it’s their carolina reaper product. Their fruity take on the world record chilli.
But, more interestingly for me, it’s also the first strawberry sauce that I’ve seen in almost two years. And, while that last one was not to my tastes, the Fire Breathing Idiot’s strawberry and scorpion “Ball Breaker”, before it, most certainly was.
I’m very eager to see if The Somerset Chilli Co. can recapture that magical mix of sweet strawberry and roasted red peppers here. And what the added mango – My favourite every-day fruit – brings to it.
First, though, I want to address a bit of an issue that I had with writing this review. Because the bottle that you see up top is not the bottle that I’m reviewing now.
Both had the same contents and the same labelling – With a big tent and ringmaster for the icons of the “Circus” flavour – but what I’ll be tasting, in today’s post, is my second bottle. Because the first fermented before I could write about it.
And I want to be clear that that’s not Somerset Chilli Co.’s fault. Both of the bottles that I received were well sealed and well shrink wrapped, with no fizziness upon opening. The problem arose afterwards and is more about how I store my sauces.
You’ve all seen my shelf. An old version of it acts as the header for this very site and it’s always in the background of my YouTube videos. So it should come as no surprise to you that I don’t refrigerate my sauces. Since, while they all say to do so, most don’t actually need it.
The primary ingredients of hot sauce are chilli and acid – Usually in the form of vinegar – and both of those act as preservatives, in their own ways. So, even in the relatively low-acid, artisan sauces that I review, there’s very little chance of bacterial or fungal growth. The worst that’ll normally happen is a slight browning and maybe a small change in the flavour, from oxidation. And that takes quite a while to occur.
There is, however, one type of bacteria which is well known to survive in the harsh environment that is hot sauce. Lactobacillus. The bacteria responsible for the fermentation of many different vegetables and the production of lactic acid.
In a controlled environment, lactobacillus is actually good for us. It helps our gut to digest such foods and the acid that it produces inhibits the growth of any more harmful bacteria. Plus, when it reaches a certain concentration, that acid prevents the lactobacillus from multiplying, as well.
So, in the case of chilli products, lactobacillus-based fermentation usually only happens prior to bottling, if at all. Since the finished condiments are usually high enough acid to stop the process from taking off.
Unfortunately, The Circus appears to be an outlier. It’s low in vinegar, like all of The Somerset Chilli Co.’s sauces, yet it doesn’t make up for it with acidic fruit, like the other two. And the fruit that it does use contains a lot of natural sugar for the bacteria to feed on.
So, while it’s fine while it’s sealed, if you leave this one out of the fridge for too long, after opening, it will ferment. And the carbon dioxide that the bacteria produces, as a byproduct, will create enough pressure for a hot sauce fountain.
This product actually does need to be refrigerated, after opening, and, now that I know, I will be doing so. Even if I do find that low temperatures dull the taste a tad.
Now, with that long and technical warning out of the way, let’s get on with trying it.
It’s thick and chunky, vibrant and pinkish-orange. The mango makes the base of the sauce incredibly smooth but there are plenty of seeds and large, red pepper shreds to give it substance.
Roasted red pepper shreds that provide exactly the rich depth of flavour that you’d expect, with a subtle sweetness which, in turn, pairs beautifully with the gentle undertones of red fruit. It’s just as delicious as it was in the FBI’s sauce but this one doesn’t focus on it nearly as strongly.
Instead of letting that sweet and savoury combo be the star of the show, Somerset Chilli Co. have added touches of lemon and lime, to highlight another contrast that I enjoy rather less. That of their smooth, sweet mango and the sharp, abrasive heat and bitter sourness of their roasted chillies. The reaper seeming particularly vicious, when cooked in that manner.
It’s an intense and unforgiving
that comes in fast and stings like mad, across the tip of my tongue. And it may even make it as high as an
on the occasions where I hit a particularly large pepper shard. Not the absolute top of my spice scale but still extremely hot and very much the type of heat which makes me regret my life choices, all the same.
This is a sauce that I will only ever use in cooking. Because, contrary to what many of you may assume, I am not a masochist. I’m a sensation seeker.
I appreciate the smooth feel of the mango and how it contrasts with the chunks of pepper. I relish the complexity of that smooth, fruity flavour. And I love the subtle strawberry and roasted red bell undertones. But I just don’t feel the same way about that reaper. And I feel like it dominates the experience rather too much.
So, for me, The Circus is going to work its way into otherwise mild and fruity or creamy curries, like the korma, the kashmiri and my banana special, in order to add extra layers of sweet, delicious, tropical fruit, while tempering the product’s heat.
Because this one definitely has potential, even if I’m not convinced on its chilli.
Here’s what went into it:
Strawberry (25%), mango juice, white wine vinegar, mango (13%), Carolina Reaper pepper (9%), red pepper, onion, carrot, lemon, lime, garlic, salt, black pepper.
And here’s the page for that carolina reaper, if any of you actually are into that. I won’t judge.