Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Trappey's Red Devil -- Hot Pepper Sauce Review #3

Now for Trappey’s Red Devil, we see these ingredients:

Distilled Vinegar
Red Cayenne Pepper
Guar Gum
Xanthan Gum
Ascorbic Acid

Trappey’s is brighter red in the bottle, must be that ascorbic acid (Trappey’s says to preserve freshness) and It looks thicker and more viscous, probably from those gum suspender-thickeners. Hmmm … is that necessary?

nose notes a Lemony Vinegar first, and then a small amount of Aged Pepper and Brine, somewhat milder than for the Crystal, but similar.

tongue says Lemony-Salty first of all and then a little Aged Pepper and some small Heat, along with a thicker texture to the sauce. Not a lot of Pepper or Aged Pepper.

Once again
the main effect on food will be to add a good dose of lemony sourness and some salt, but with minimal pepper flavor and heat.

You know, in many places in the South, where we used to travel on business, and where these sauces originated and are popular, restaurant goers are asked, "You want some Vinegar Sauce with that?"

Next time we'll look at Frank's Red Hot.

Yours in heat and flavor,


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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hot Pepper Sauce – Hot? Salty? Sour? Good?

How does a Hot Sauce taste? Is that a silly question? Maybe, but maybe it’s worth thinking about. Is it just hot? What does it taste like in food?

Why do we put Hot Sauce in our food? Another silly question?

Is it for Heat? Really? Or is it for the salty-sourness that vinegar and salt provide?

Are we trying to "kick it up a notch?" Are we succeeding?

Most domestic American and many other Hot Sauces taste like vinegar and salt, with a little bit of heat thrown in. The overwhelming flavor is that of vinegar, or sourness, followed by saltiness, and then by some heat.

This is what people use across the country – it is the flavor profile of choice, or at least of the choice we are given by major brand marketers and supermarkets.

It’s not really a balanced flavor profile, but more like a single ingredient, that changes in a fairly major way the taste of the food to which it is added.

And it’s not always a good thing to add to many foods.

Why is that?

I like to think it’s because of balance, or lack of it.

So what do I mean by balance?

In Thailand, where they know something about spicy food, there is a well known culinary principle of balance in the 5 major flavors that they recognize -- Sweet, Sour, Salty, Hot, and Bitter. And Thais expect these flavors to work with one another and to be in balance in the foods they eat. I really like Thai food, and that may be one reason why.

The balance in these flavors is particularly useful in understanding both Hot Sauce and American Food flavors as well, even though it is a Thai concept.

Most American Hot Sauces are not very well balanced by that standard – they are too simple, too crude, and usually based on a few ingredients with just a few strong flavors, which permanently skew the flavor profile of the food or dish they are added to … out of balance.

Unless they are added to a very strongly flavored food. You might do very well adding Tabasco, for example, to a Hamburger with ketchup, tomato, onion, pickle, bacon, and cheese. I mean, there are so many strong flavors there it would take some work to ruin the burger.

So, how do you get around that?

Find ingredients that make a Hot Pepper Sauce balanced. Add them in quantities that give a balanced flavor, and stick to the predominant flavor of Pepper. Stay true to the desire to have a Pepper based flavor profile.

Don’t ruin the flavors of the ingredients you use by cooking or aging them. Or masking them with other ingredients. Remember it's a hot PEPPER sauce. OK, you can age them if you want -- if that's what you want to call storing them in salt for a long time -- I do like that "Aged" Pepper flavor. Do not think it compares to Fresh Pepper Flavor, though.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could have a hot pepper sauce that tasted like Habanero Pepper or Cayenne Pepper or the Pepper of your choice (with Heat and Flavor), and with just enough salt to bring out the taste of the Pepper, and just enough sugar to enhance the natural sweetness of the Pepper (if any sugar were needed), just enough acid sourness to brighten everything up, and just enough bitterness (the complexity that comes from herbs or unripe fruit) to add interest and mystery?

That would be a Hot Pepper Sauce in Balance. I think that would taste good. I think it would make food taste good, too.

Surprise, it does!

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Crystal Hot Sauce - Hot Pepper Sauce Review No. 2

Image courtesy of Dupre's Cajun Market
Crystal Hot Sauce

Continuing on with the 4 Hot Pepper Sauce Reviews, now let’s try Crystal Hot Sauce, also a Louisiana product like Tabasco, which lists its ingredients as:

Aged Red Cayenne Peppers,
Distilled Vinegar

has a very similar appearance to Tabasco in the bottle, somewhat redder and a little more opaque – hey it does say right on the label that Cayenne Pepper is the major ingredient, and it is the only sauce to list Pepper 1st.

The nose says Vinegar sourness and Aged Pepper right away along with a Pepper Pungency and a little Briny finish. Again pleasant, with a little more (not hot) Pepper assertiveness than Tabasco.

And the tongue registers a strong lemony sourness with a pronounced Aged Pepper flavor, and almost no Pepper Heat at all, then a quick finish with not much lingering on. I am surprised. And a little sorry. I loved the robust Cayenne Pepper flavor but, gee, no heat and no finish. Sigh. The flavor is gone in a flash.

This is definitely the Hot Sauce for people who don’t like Hot Sauces. I mean this in a nice way -- there is a good flavor. This sauce will affect the acidity of foods with a big addition of lemon-vinegar flavor and will add a some Aged Pepper flavor, and a little saltiness. Love that brief, but deep Aged Pepper flavor.

Where did the heat go?

Next up in the 4 Hot Pepper Sauce Review series is Trappey's Red Devil.

Yours in Heat and Flavor,


Previous post in this series: Tabasco Review

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

4 Hot Pepper Sauce Reviews -- Hot Sauce? Or Vinegar Sauce? Part 1: Tabasco

TabascoI am going to review 4 of the most popular brands of Hot Pepper Sauce, all of which are available in your local supermarket, to see what they are and what they’re made of, what they taste like, and how they taste with food.

Let’s start with Tabasco
, the granddaddy of the lot, around since 1868, 3years after the Civil War for goodness’ sake.

Heinz distilled vinegarMcIlhenny Co., the maker, says it is made of in order of principal quantity:

Distilled Vinegar
Red Pepper

Tabasco has a somewhat muted orange red color as if the color itself were a little aged.

Open the cap and bring to the nose, the first impression is of Mild Vinegar with a toasty undertone from the Pepper I suppose, and then a bit of brine and just a hint of pepper heat. It’s a very pleasant smell, and one mainly of flavored Vinegar with perhaps a little Pepper Sweetness.

The ½ teaspoon test on the tongue gives a strong Sour Saltiness with a mild Aged Pepper flavor developing a moderate amount of heat on the middle and front of the tongue. The Sourness that develops is almost Lemony for a while and the taste finishes with a diminishing heat mid-tongue. There is also a very mild Pepper Sweetness in the background

In short this is a pleasant, sour lemony vinegar presence with a mild briny saltiness and a mild aged pepper heat, also a tiny bit of sweetness.

This Hot Sauce should be mild enough to go with a lot of stronger foods that can stand a major boost in acidity, and more saltiness, but would not be a good match for already sour or acid foods with more delicate or simple flavor profiles, or those with enough salt already. Not for Moules Mariniere, more delicate fish simply prepared, but great with Stews, Hearty Soups, and a lot of Louisiana Food.

So the flavor balance is skewed to sourness and saltiness, with some aged pepper complexity, some heat, and just a little sweetness.

Crystal Hot Sauce will be next.

Yours in Flavor and Heat,


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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Why a Fresh Hot Sauce Blog?

SR Fresh Hot Sauce
Because it's about Fresh Hot Pepper Sauce, not just Hot Pepper Sauce. There are lots of Hot Sauces out there, and lots of Hot Sauce Blogs, too. I know -- I've tried them and I've been to the blogs.

They're all about Hot Sauces made primarily with vinegar. They are not Fresh. They are pickled or cooked or salted or preserved to stay on supermarket shelves. But not to taste good. Well, that's my opinion anyway.

So I make my own Hot Sauces from Fresh Peppers -- Hot Sauces with a VERY small amount of Vinegar and Sea Salt, so little that these sauces taste like ... Fresh Peppers. Cool, huh?

Most Exotic (non-supermarket) Hot Sauces are about HEAT, and weird flavors, and who can stand the hottest pepper sauce, made from red savinia habaneros, or datils, or Naga Jolokia (Ghost Pepper). Yes, these peppers have their own individual flavors, but, for me, Hot Pepper Sauces should be about balance and the food they go with, not about Scoville units for measuring tongue burning power.

I like a good cayenne pepper sauce with steak and burgers; I like my habanero based sauce with eggs, and fish, and more delicately flavored foods. That is the point, after all, FOOD. Hot Pepper Sauce has to go well with food.

Now I have a wonderful tool that allows me to do something special with a Hot Sauce.

It is ... are you ready? ... my REFRIGERATOR! Hooray!

With this tool I can keep a Hot Sauce, without spoiling, indefinitely.

And I do not have to add a whole lot of vinegar and salt.

And I get to have a Fresh Hot Sauce.

What do I mean by a Fresh Hot Sauce?

I mean, a non-aged, non-fermented sauce, that is made from fresh ingredients, and only minimally stabilized to allow cold storage. About the same as adding a vinaigrette to a salad.

What I do not mean, is a sauce made from peppers stored in a barrel with salt and vinegar for 3 years, or made from dried peppers or spices, or something like that. For me that's old and dead.

I want something that tastes like fresh food, young and, well, alive, or close to it.

We know what Fresh Peppers taste like, and Fresh Garlic, and Fresh Onions, and, sadly, that is not what commercial, vinegar-based, or cooked, hot sauces taste like.

That Fresh Pepper flavor is what I want. I want it in my food, in my short rib stew, in my bloody mary, in my scrambled eggs, on my catfish and ... you get the idea.

I do not want to add hot vinegar to my food, or dried spices, either. I want to wake it up! With Fresh Pepper Flavor.

So I made my own Hot Pepper Sauces from Fresh Hot Peppers, with a VERY small amount of Vinegar and Sea Salt, and they taste like Fresh Peppers.

Cool, huh? Actually -- refrigerated!

So I will be talking in this blog about the two Hot Pepper Sauces I currently make,

SR Fresh Cayenne-Cherry Pepper Classic Red Pepper Sauce


SR Fresh Habanero Gold Pepper Sauce

and about the foods they go with. And I will talk about other Hot Pepper Sauces out there that I like, and that I do not like (no names -- I want to be nice!), as well as the larger world of food and flavor. I expect to Review some of the Hot Pepper Sauces also, and then, of course I will name names, but Nicely!

I fully admit to having a CONFLICT OF INTEREST in that I make and sell some Hot Pepper Sauces, and that I will talk about other people's products. I will be nice, respectful, and ... I will try to be ... honest!

In the next few posts, I want to talk some more about, and review supermarket Hot Sauces, and also talk about balance in Hot Sauce flavors.

Stay tuned!


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