What guys do when their wives aren't home....
We started collecting bottles of hot sauce. It began years ago with the occasional purchase of something in a neat-looking bottle or something we had a sample of and found delicious. Tasty things got eaten, but neat-looking bottles usually lingered. So today, while Em was out, I decided to sample all of our current crop of sauces and let you know what's what in the hot-sauce world.
I've always been a huge Tabasco fan, and we have all of the flavors they make right now except the garlic hot sauce. We just happen to be out. I hate admitting we're missing something out of the full line. I even have Tabasco drinking glasses and a coffee mug, but I draw the line at neckties and underwear and lanyards and Christmas ornaments. We don't require an altar covered with Tabasco icons just to show support. Only two of the flavors happened to make it into today's test run because after I hit the last bottle of sauce listed, I simply couldn't go any further.
And so, armed with yogurt peanuts and chilled green tea off the get-go, then following through with Havarti cheese cubes in an effort to try and beat the lingering side effects, I braved my tongue for you, dear readers, in an effort to try and educate you a little on the wonderful world of hot sauces.
We'll call this trial Phase 1.
We begin with El Yucateco Salsa Picante de Chile Habanero. It's slightly off-red in color and comes in a blue and yellow labeled bottle from Merida, Yucatan. The bouquet is tingly hot and peppery. Upon first taste, my first thoughts were:
oh, oh! Oh! OH! Hmmmmm.....
Heat vs. Flavor? I found it intense, with a strong peppery flavor and a lingering heat. Not bad.
Next we have Historic Lynchburg Tennessee Whiskey Jalapeno Hot Sauce which does indeed have Jack Daniel's listed as an ingredient. It's a brownish red in a black and white labeled bottle, and the bouquet is subtle and peppery with vinegar undertones. First thought on tasting?
Heat vs. Flavor? Low heat and a pleasing taste. Edible without having to grab for a drink to cool the throat. Delicious.
I grabbed Melinda's XXXtra Hot Sauce next. It's bright coral red in an attractive bottle with a nice line drawing of Melinda surrounded by a wreath of plump peppers and pink flowers. This stuff comes from Costa Rica and has a mild bouquet of tangy heat. Upon tasting this, I thought:
Oh. Ah! Mmmm.
Heat vs. Flavor: sharp heat combined with a mild peppery flavor. I recently used this in place of Tabasco in a recipe called Perfect Rice you can find in The Firehouse Cookbook. It's my favorite rice recipe and one of my favorite cookbooks.
I next popped the cap on "Island Jewel" hot sauce. I remember buying this one simply because the label features a hot brunette in a bikini as nose art on a seaplane. Love airplanes. Love the tropical mystique. Reminds me of romantic stories of lost warplanes in the Pacific, Amelia Earhart, Christopher Moore's cargo cult in Island Of The Sequined Love Nun. Great stuff. "Jewel" comes from the tropical seaport of Ohio. It's kind of a milky rust color with a sharp, nose-tingling bouquet. First thought?
Heat vs. Flavor? The flavor notes struck first and I detected something fruity before a rather soothing heat washed over me and lingered at the back of my throat. You might want a drink handy if you imbibe in this stuff. Kinda hot.
Ty Ling Imported Hot Oil (Chili Oil) is not technically a hot sauce. It comes from Taiwan and is used in Asian cooking. I like to use it to boost the heat on hot sauces. It contains soybean oil and chili concentrate and is the color of a dark amber pilsner. It smells a little like slightly burnt peanuts, and the label is graded red. If you're familiar with this stuff, then you know I must be a true hot sauce afficianado because in the past I have whipped up batches of this oil with extra roasted garlic, whole dried chilies, crushed red pepper flakes and dried orange peel in order to give it more flavor and to make it still hotter. This is what happened when I just tasted a sample on a toothpick: Huh.....................................oh, waitaminute...!!!
Heat vs. Flavor? Tastes like nasty oil, then heat kicks in and starts smoldering like a small coal stuck in your mouth, getting stronger and stronger until the lips, tongue, back of throat and any skin that accidentally came into contact with it begins burning and your nose begins to run. The burning sensation lasts longer than anything else I tasted today and may have even affected the sauces I tried to taste next. The skin of my upper lip burned for a solid fifteen minutes before finally subsiding. I like it, though.
Gator Hammock came from Gator's restaurant and sports bar over by St. John's Pass. The bottle I bought is tiny and features a little green alligator breathing fire. The sauce is auburn with visible bits of flotsam and jetsam. The bouquet is piquant and peppery. First taste?
Heat vs. Flavor? Great flavor off the bat. Made me want to dip all my toothpicks in it and walk around chewing the flavor back out of them throughout the course of the day. The heat shows up as an afterthought and is soothing. Wonderful stuff!
Jim Beam Kentucky Bourbon Hot Sauce is a wine-colored reddish brown and features a label of black and gold. It actually comes from West Virginia, but that's pretty close to Kentucky, so I'll let it slide. The aroma is sharp and exciting. This is a more liquidy sauce than most of the others I've tried so far. First thoughts?
Ooh! Mmmm...eeee! Ah! O!
Heat vs. Flavor? The flavor is very nice, rich and distinctive. The heat hits late and lingers on the tongue, with the roof of the mouth burning later. Very nice.
McIlhenny Co. Tabasco Brand Green Pepper Sauce is my favorite accompaniment to egg dishes. It comes in a green bottle with the classic diamond label. They make it in Louisiana where flavor is as important as heat and an imbalance is considered a form of blasphemy. The bouquet is piquant and tangy with a memory of fresh rain on a garden. Upon tasting it, I thought:
Heat v. Flavor? The taste is green, peppery goodness. The low heat lingers on the tongue. I go through bottles of this stuff a year.
Lizard Liquid Intestinal Fortitude Pepper Sauce came from The Green Iguana Bar & Grill. Chris' friend Dave stole it. He's good at stealing interesting things left on tables and bartops. The bottle is colorful and shows a weeping iguana exhaling fire. The stuff looks similar to Gator Hammock, and the scent is almost unpleasant. I tasted it and thought:
Heat V. Flavor? My first impression was of a sourness followed abruptly by a hint of fruit strangeness, then trailed by lingering heat on the tongue and roof of the mouth. I've eaten this stuff on burgers and fries before with no problem, but Chris and Dave had some gastric discomfort later on that now makes them grimace whenever they happen to see the bottle.
Tabasco Habanero. Or, as Chris likes to call it, "Are you crazy?" Another classic bottle with a red and yellow label. The aroma makes my mouth water. I took a taste and instantly thought: Hiyaaaa! Ooh! Ah! Ooooh! Cough! Hack! Ah! Ah! Ah! Need drink, need drink! Cripes!
Heat v. Flavor? Don't remember flavor--mouth burns! Exhaling is painful! Ah! Yeah...a little goes a long way with this stuff. Pant, pant...
Now the Goya Salsita Salsa Picante with Smoky Hot Chipotle Chiles may have been influenced by the lingering effects of the Tabasco Habanero because Chris says he has this at home and dips chicken right in it with no problem, and I love chipotle so much I'll lick the bottle after pouring out what I need. Eeyeahh...you might wanna make sure I'm not using chipotle on anything I'm cooking if you come over for a visit. Or soy sauce. Or teriyaki...hoisin sauce...hmmm. Better bring your own bottle. This stuff is dark diarrhea brown and just as runny with a tangy/almost sweet aroma. The label is colorful and displays two dried-up chiles which look very unappealing. It comes from Secaucus, which might explain it a little. Anyway, when I tasted this right after trying the Tabasco Habanero, I immediately thought:
Ngha! Nnghya! Nnghya! Ah! Ahh! Ah! Oooh! Ack! Ah! Cheese! Somebody please cut my tongue outta my head!
Heat v. Flavor? Nose running. Something charred and peppery...crap, I'm drooling....
If you recall, I was using cheese to help calm the heat between sauces. Dairy products work well for this, but I've heard bread works, too. Not for me, it doesn't. By now, I was beginning to feel a little queasy from tasting all these different sauces. I didn't want any more cheese. My lip was still burning from the Ty Ling Oil. It was all in the name of science, though! Kitchen science! Or fans! Or...I'm bored and alone and feel like writing something but don't really know what...hey...look at all them sauces! Hmmm....
Bufalo Jalapeno Mexican Hot Sauce was a refreshing and soothing delight after what I'd just gone through. It's vivid coral red in a tall bottle with a red and green and white label. The bouquet is dry and peppery and almost unpleasant. The taste?
! Mm! Mmmm! Good!
Heat v. Flavor: Wonderful in-your-face vinegar heat. I'm actually partial to the vinegar-based sauces. Sometimes I just dip chicken in vinegar and eat it.
Now, I coulda kept going for some time if I hadn't hit this next sauce. This is one of the first sauces we bought when we began collecting. As I recall, there used to be a resin skull on a chain attached to this bottle, but Chris stole it. It's called Blair's After Death Sauce With Chipotle. It could have been After Death Sauce With Motor Oil or Dog Doo or Syrup Of Ipecac for all I knew because I can't actually remember the actual sensation of flavor occurring at any point when I was still suffering from it. The label is black and white with a charred skeleton standing in flames holding big red chili peppers and XXX Hot written across the top and "Feel Alive!" scrawled across the bottom. It did not make me feel alive. I barely recall acknowledging anything remotely resembling human sensation of any kind for maybe a full two minutes after tasting this stuff, although it was probably nothing more than a standing 15 second blackout. This stuff looks like a science experiment and coats the inside of the bottle like sediment settling at the edges of a naked slope after a heavy rain. The aroma is vaguely cigar ash, vaguely bottom of trash can. This is what happened when I dipped a toothpick in it and stupidly touched it to my tongue:
Mm! Whaaaah! AHHHHHHHHHH! Cough! Hack! Choke! Crying! AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHquigdgdhhdquhd8974n9yuiyoboep07435p83un8yp978p897q89p379-87np8y6p8975p8uw;,.u9p8670m8caaj9y5p8up8yup9q873908790uthfkjn;m098p07opqj,897589w34 I COULD SUCK A COW DRY AND NOT CONQUER THIS HEAT!!!!!!!!!!!! Holy cripesamighty! Hold me...I think I've got the shakes..................
At which point I chose to give up tasting hot sauces and rating them for you today...maybe for the rest of this month.
Em came home with chicken wings...sauce on the side thank God, and I found that plain chicken helped to ease the stinging away. I tried to explain what I was doing after she asked why my face was all red and I was sweating, fanning myself frantically, and couldn't gasp more than two words aloud between panting. She thinks I'm an idiot...but a funny one at least.
Now I know darn well there are folk out there who use hot sauce as a gargle after brushing their teeth who might wanna email me and tell me what a wuss I am, but I'm still under the impression that some of the previous sauces influenced the heat of some of the later ones. I even know a guy impervious to the sensation of pepper-type heat who now and then likes to mess with chefs by informing them they cannot make a dish too hot for him. It's a genetic thing he capitalizes on, getting free meals for himself and his family. If you're one of these people, then yes, I bow to you, you are mightier than I and your testes are probably bigger, but ya gotta give me credit for making an effort here, and know I'll be back in a month with another round of hot pepper sauce taste testes. Uh, taste tests. Heh, heh. Sorry.