Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hot Hot Hot.

The thing about having too much time on your hands during the week is that you come up with some really funny things to write about.  During our normal Monday night Mexican meal, my husband expressed some significant distress over the lack of hot sauce in our fridge.  This normally isn't a problem, I just hadn't hit up the the condiment aisle at our local market recently.  As he handed me the sad remnants of one bottle, I thought to myself, "this is a problem, shame on me for letting our collection get so low!"

Thus, the hot sauce tasting.  I went out to the store that day and bought about 15 different bottles, ranging from very mild to blow your head off HOT.  We stood around our kitchen island, contemplating the various flavors, laughing, tearing up and waving our hands furiously in front of our mouths as the heat increased.  There's nothing more amusing than seeing the shock of a creeper hot sauce finally cross the palate and hit the throat.  This was a wacky way to spend a weeknight, but I did manage to find some super awesome sauces that we both insist occupy the top two shelves of our refrigerator door going forward- let's start with the most mellow...

The classic Cholula.  "Cholula Hot Sauce Original is all about Flavor, Fire and Fun. More than any other Hot Sauce, Cholula's delicious blend of piquin peppers, chile arbol and signature spices enhances food flavors without overpowering them. It's a combination that has defined Cholula as The Flavorful Fire. Cholula makes your enjoyment of eggs, omelets, soups, pizza, dips, appetizers, drinks - virtually all your favorite foods - a more festive experience you will want to share with others."  I don't think anyone who loves sauces would argue that this is a staple condiment for any kitchen.

Next we have one of my favorites, which I absolutely always have stocked is Tapatio.  I could probably just pour this sauce in a glass and drink it but that would make me a little weird.  Who doesn't love Tapatio??  It's mild, savory, saucy goodness! It lasts forever! It tastes good on just about everything from tortilla chips to fruit!  Go buy a bottle, or a case for that matter, of 24 for $20 bucks on their website.

I don't purposefully go out of my way to purchase Valentina but it always happens.  When I'm grocery shopping, almost anywhere, I end up with a bottle of this stuff in my cart.  This one is a good everyday sauce, not too spicy but still packed with flavor.  This is probably one of the only Mexican style sauces that you can find at practically any store out there- I even found some amongst the hundreds of Asian style hot sauces at our local Asian market, which made me giggle.  A solid sauce that's been around for a long time- worth having around.

A friend brought this sauce back from North Carolina for me, but you can find Texas Pete online as well.  According to their website, their "famous blend of 3 different types of peppers, aged to perfection to bring out the natural, bold flavor. The result is a rich, delicious sauce with strong cayenne overtones. This is the sauce that true hot sauce lovers have used since the 1930's to spice up barbecue, eggs, pizza, chicken, veggies, and just about everything else."  Both the hubbs and I like having this sauce around, but it's not nearly as spicy as other options.  It does, in fact, make a good addition to other sauces, like BBQ sauce, and I always use it in my meatloaf recipe to give it a little kick.

I'll have to admit, this label got my attention- I'm not usually sucked in my marketing ploys, but I really wanted to believe the faces on this bottle of Pain is Good Jalapeno Hot Sauce.  "The pain gang is at it again! The Sultan's of Sizzle have been scheming together and concocting their secret recipes to bring you the latest in their line of hot! They've taken a break from their signature sauces to bring you back to a simpler, more traditional style of sauce. So whether you're eatin' some crawdads, eggs, tacos or a big fat juicy ribeye steak, this jalapeno hot sauce will do you just fine, so enjoy!"  This is a good, mild-medium sauce that is perfect to pour on a bit of bite.

Ah, the spicy vinegar tastiness that is Trappey's Red Devil Cayenne Pepper Sauce.  This sauce can be easily found at most major grocers and is well worth the purchase.  "Trappey's is one of the oldest hot sauce brands in the United States. It is produced by the New Iberia, Louisiana-based company Trappey's Fine Foods, Inc.  The company was founded in 1898, when Louisiana entrepreneur (and former McIlhenny Company employee) B.F. Trappey grew tabasco chilies from Avery Island seed."  Both the hubbs and I were surprised by the spice in this one- it's an unexpected spice burn that sneaks up on you after a few seconds.  I use this in seafood dishes for a traditional southern slap to the tastebuds.

Speaking of the McIlhenny Company, let's chat about Tabasco.  "TABASCO® Sauce is still made on Avery Island, Louisiana, to this day. In fact, about half of the company’s 200 employees actually live on Avery Island, with many of their parents and grandparents having worked and lived there as well. Paul McIlhenny, the current Chairman of the Board and CEO, is the sixth McIlhenny in a chain of direct descendants who have strived to preserve the legacy and traditions of the company’s creator."  I decided to give their Habanero sauce a try- we of course will always have classic Tabasco sauce on hand at all times in our home, but I'd never sampled the HOT hot version.  All I can say is quality, heat and good flavor in this little bitty bottle.  Whew!

I have to give a shout out to Trader Joe's for producing their very own shockingly hot version of a Habanero sauce.  I stupidly assumed that because it was just an in-house TJ's sauce that perhaps it wouldn't measure up to the other big boys of the hot sauce world.  Boy, was I wrong.  I chuckled as the cashier asked "have you tried this stuff before?" in a suspicious manner.  I answered, "naw, is it good?"  She retorted, "if you like your tongue to be numb!"  Sweet.  Sounds good, sign me up.  Both the hubbs and I were blown away by the intensity and strong Habanero flavor- an almost homemade taste, which is awesome.  A great sauce overall, we will be buying it again.

I chose this next sauce for originality, Brother Bru Bru's African Chili Pepper Sauce.  "Brother Bru-Bru is a fun-loving, robust fellow who has spent a large portion of his life in the pursuit of wine, women, song, food, etc. His lifestyle caught up with him in his 50′s; a routine medical check-up revealed a severe case of high blood pressure, a common diagnosis for many African Americans. When his doctor told him to lose weight and, worse yet, sentenced him to a life term of salt-free food, he was devastated. Almost all his favorite recipes called for salt, and the commercial hot sauces to which he was addicted were all loaded with salt. He was determined to put some joy back into his diet, so he started experimenting, researching, collecting and blending peppers and spices. Bru-Bru was a lover of African culture and music, having played with Hugh Masekela and Olatunji among others. Well- traveled, he was familiar with many of the exotic flavors of the mother continent and started incorporating them into his emerging blend. Brother Bru-Bru realized that he had fallen into an almost magical potion that would take your taste buds on an exotic journey, give you an intense, endorphin-pumping, habanero-powered heat rush, earn you the respect and admiration of your friends (for being able to endure so much heat) and make you healthy, all at the same time."  Long story short, both the hubbs and I LOVED this sauce.  Smoky, savory- the perfect blend of flavors.  Can't wait to use this when we BBQ.

I was curious about Panama Red Hot Sauce due to the incredibly shiny sticker that read "Winner 2012 Fiery Food Challenge."  How could I not be?  "PanCali Foods began with two cousins who share a love for all things spicy. With Panama Red, Mike and Eddie have brought the same authentic Panamanian Aji Chombo Hot Sauce their family has made and enjoyed for generations and made it available to all who want an alternative to the common hot sauce or one that only brings heat and not flavor.  We use only the highest quality all natural ingredients available to ensure that you and your family will enjoy our hot sauce as much as ours does. We stand behind every bottle made and guarantee your satisfaction."  This sauce is fiery alright, and thick.  Very thick.  It's almost salsa-rific.  The hubbs kept pouring it onto tortilla chips, which means he highly approves.

This sauce was shelved with the BBQ sauces in the grocery store, which was confusing.  Busha Browne's Pukka Hot Pepper Sauce "is the ultimate sauce for devotees of wickedly hot food. Made from fragrant fresh Jamaican Scotch Bonnet peppers, this sauce has stamina and an outstanding and an flavour. The term "Pukka" comes from India and means "authentic, genuine, and first class," truly applicable to this prize winning sauce.  Pukka does not burn the mouth. It warms the heart and soul."  I was pleased with the smokiness of this sauce, although I'm still not sure why it was sitting next to regular BBQ sauces- suggestive perhaps, as it would be great slathered on some ribs.

Another Busha Browne's sauce- Spicy Jerk.  I've just recently ventured into the realm of jerk chicken, which I've fallen in love with.  Although I don't believe this should necessarily be grouped in with traditional hot sauces, it's still one spicy sauce.  "An aged sauce of prestige, this sinful blend of mangoes, raisins, onions, tamarinds, peppers and spices, adds a curiously delightful flavour to casseroles, stews , meats, poultry and seafood dishes."  You can definitely taste the quality in Busha Browne's products.

Venturing into the oh-my-goodness heat world, I picked up some of Melinda's Red Savina Fiery Hot Pepper Sauce. "Melinda’s® Original Habanero Pepper Sauce is credited with making the Habanero a household name. Melinda’s mission is to continue to produce products with integrity, quality, freshness and a dedication to balancing heat and flavor."  Part of the reason I bought this sauce is because I'd never heard of "Red Savina" so I figured, hey, that must be hot.  The Red Savina pepper is a cultivar of the habanero chili (Capsicum chinense Jacquin), which has been selectively bred to produce hotter, heavier, and larger fruit.  And yes, to answer the question, this sauce is hot hot hot.  I think this is the first sauce to make the hubbs turn a bit pink when he tried it. 

Another Melinda's sauce fell into my basket, the Naga Jolokia Pepper Sauce.  "Melinda’s Original Naga Jolokia Pepper Sauce is pure heat. Our hottest offering by far, the Naga Jolokia is confirmed by the Guinness Book of Records to be the hottest chili in the world (1,041,427 Scoville Units), unseating the Red Savina for the title. Also known as the Bhut Jolokia (Ghost Chile), the Raja Mirchi (King Chile) and the Naga Morich, this chili is grown primarily in the Northeastern region of India. The names are different depending on region, however, one thing remains the same — these peppers are hot and should be consumed with caution."  This is basically where the laughter began.  Laughter, tears and deep breathing.  This sauce is borderline 3 alarm fire, causing significant tongue tingling and watery eyes.  Love it!

And now, the hottest of hot sauces.  It's kind of a tie, for varying reasons.  Dave's Insanity Sauce has been mentioned so many times, in so many different articles, online and in print.  When you read about a product as often as I have about this "insanity sauce" you can't help but wonder, "is it true?"  Yes my friends, yes it is true.  Very true.  Dave's got this to say, "this is the original hottest sauce in the Universe and our best seller. In fact, it is the only sauce ever banned from the National Fiery Food Show."  Now that's some hot hot hot stuff.  The hubbs even had a problem getting this stuff down, but was laughing the entire time.  We then shared it with friends last weekend who both had trouble eating a little more than a drip on a chip.  This is a fabulous, smoky hot sauce that only the bravest of sauce lovers need try.

Furthermore, the good people at Dave's Gourmet decided to up the anty with Dave's Ghost Pepper Hot Sauce.  I don 't even really know what to say about this sauce- I've never tasted anything like it.  Again, using the Naga Jolokia pepper to create a sweet, fruity undertones and some serious fire, this is the sauce of sauces as far as I'm concerned.  Nostril burning intensity mixed with a mouth on fire is the perfect way to describe this bomb of bottled tears.  By far one of the most sizzling, silly (but spectacular) sauces both the hubbs and I have tried.  Yowza!!

After all this hot sauce tasting I feel like I should be chugging a gallon of milk and reaching for a box of Kleenex, but man it was a fun review to cover.  We're always looking for new and fun foods to try out and are certainly interested in discovering even more hot sauces in the future.  It seems like everywhere I turn these days I'm stumbling across new and different brands- too many to cover in one article.  Perhaps this article should be titled "Hot Hot Hot #1"?



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