Howdy folks, today we’re going a little further afield for a less mainstream american sauce, imported and sold in the UK by Hotheadz.
Marie Sharp’s, the company who actually make the sauce, are a well respected company from humble family origins, who specialise exclusively habanero. They have an entire range of heats, mild to nearly ghost level, all using their one signature chilli.
And maybe a little bit of extract in the hottest ones.
But what I’m trying this week isn’t about the heat itself but about the kind of unique flavour few producers are willing to touch. Hot green chillies.
Why don’t more companies do this, you ask? Surely there has to be a market for a green sauce with heat?
There is but it’s a niche one and, further more, while jalapeños ripen from green to darker green, to red, most chillies skip that middle stage, meaning that a green habanero is actually unripe.
Now, as with many fruit and veg, there isn’t anything wrong with eating peppers under-ripe but it does put a lot of producers off. Plus, since the chillies haven’t produced much of their natural sugars yet, they’re rather sharp flavoured and need a little more know how to get something good from.
Know how that, if possessed by anyone, surely will be by the company who specialises in doing everything they can with one specific hot chilli.
But, before we let our expectations run wild, let’s take a look at what the packaging tells us they should really be.
What we have here is actually a fairly unassuming white label against the light green of the sauce and the darker shade it uses for its shrink wrap. It stands out but it does so by being an unusually plain bottle amidst the dramatic reds and oranges of the hot sauce world.
And, interestingly enough, it works pretty well.
Yet, despite its plain design, there is one other thing that makes this sauce’s packaging stand out. The use of metallic label material, allowed to shine only in places where it would highlight the company name, enhance said label’s outline or draw attention to the central orange heart that encompasses pictures of the ingredients.
From the last of these, we can see that green habanero isn’t the only out there ingredient to be found in this product. No, we also see the green pods of the nopal cactus, often referred to as prickly pears, despite this name also being used for the actual fruit of the plant.
Besides these, we also see lime, onions and garlic, the more usual ingredients that give some extra body to this sauce.
The whole thing seems like very simple, down to earth, “this is what you’re getting” packaging, designed to fit the brand’s humble origins and image.
But how does it taste?
It’s just as sharp and acidic as its lack of sugars and use of under-ripe chillies had led me to expect but not in a way that makes it unpleasant. Instead, its tartness is refreshing and will likely make it an excellent companion to greasier dishes, though I’d personally be inclined to pair it with cheese salads or use it to liven up green pesto due to the rest of its unusual flavour.
That is, the combined flavour of a green chilli that’s vaguely reminiscent of jalapeño but ironically more akin to something that’s had a little time to age and develop, and the strange, grassy, planty, rather unique taste of cactus. Both supported by the undertones of garlic.
I’ll be honest with you, I don’t like it.
From an objective standpoint, the balance of flavours is simple but well managed and it’s definitely a good quality sauce. It’s just not for everyone.
The flavour of cactus is, it turns out, not something I can personally appreciate, but, unlike with last week’s sauce, I can definitely tell that this product is a good one. Any objections I have to its flavour are all a matter of my own personal taste.
With its bottling, however, I have a far less personal issue:
This dropper cap. The cause of both the pitiful spoonful seen above and the clogging that remains in the neck of my bottle even after I’ve removed it.
With a product of this thickness, I can see how the drop size might be quite large without it but, while it is strong flavoured, I don’t see this sauce overpowering food in flavour or in heat unless really slathered on. And it doesn’t pour rapidly or uncontrollably either.
I do not see why such a restriction on the product’s use is needed, or how it could be seen as a positive unless, like me, you don’t like the taste. In which case, why use it at all?
On this particular sauce, I do not approve of the dropper cap.
But I can certainly appreciate the sauce’s texture without it. Thick and chunky, yet with a juicy element from the lime and vinegar, much like a good homemade salsa.
And, while the small quantity let out by the cap makes it appear mild, this sauce actually reaches the lower end of what I’d call a
without it. A heat that comes in a little late but builds to its peak very rapidly after the initial tartness has gone, letting you enjoy both the flavour and a slightly milder version of the ferocious habanero heat.
It may not be for me but, if the sound of a tart, green cactus sauce appeals to you, this is still a product well worth picking up. And there isn’t much else like it.