February 2013

When I first received this product for review I assumed that we’d been sent a sample jar, but I was mistaken! A quick glance at the label and I soon realised that this is a complete offering from the one and only Mini Jar Company.

The Mini Jar Company is a small, family run business which was founded in early 2012 by Lin Whitehead to complement her existing homemade chutney & preserve business, Holly and the Ivy. Lin has been manufacturing a range of specialised chutneys, curds, mustards and preserves from her kitchen in Birmingham since 2004, but launched The Mini Jar Company in response to increasing demand for smaller versions of her products. They say good things come in small packages and that was certainly true when we reviewed Mango & Chilli Jam and Scotch Bonnet & Garlic Chutney from The Mini Jar Company a few months back.

With small products it can be quite a challenge to fit everything on the product label. Fortunately The Mini Jar Company has managed to find room for all of the essential information whilst still maintaining readability. Whilst I would love to have seen a high quality gloss label, I understand that wouldn’t be practical since all of their products are made in small batches. My only real criticism regarding the labelling is the inclusion of the company name 3 times.

Ingredients: 

Lime, Naga Chilli, Onion, Cider Vinegar, Mustard Seed, Golden Sultanas, Mixed Spice and Sugar

Jar kindly provided by The Mini Jar Company.

This chutney has a wonderful citrus aroma which is bolstered by the fruitiness of the golden sultanas. A hint of mixed spice lingers is the background too, but isn’t immediately obvious.

A teaspoon easily fits through the opening of the 45ml jar, but I resist the temptation to take a whole spoonful. Initially I am greeted by the sweetness of the sultanas and the zing of the lime, but the onion and spices provide a nice balance and ensure that the overall flavour is not too sweet or tangy. I wasn’t able to taste the Naga chilli but there’s certainly plenty of it. My tongue was ablaze for several minutes making this one of the hotter chutneys that I’ve tried.

The texture of this product is quite diverse as there are soft pieces of onion and lime which are accompanied by juicy sultanas and crunchy mustard seeds. It spreads well, but is thick enough that you won’t have to worry about it escaping from your sandwiches.

In addition to sandwiches, this chutney would be a great accompaniment to cold meats and cheeses. It could also be used to liven up grilled chicken or fish dishes too.

Small jars are never going to represent the same value as their larger counterparts, but at £1.25 for a 45ml jar I think that this product is great value. You can purchase Lime and Naga Chilli Chutney direct from The Mini Jar Company along with another 15+ chilli products including jam, peanut butter, marmalade and other chutneys. If you love variety then these products could be for you, but if small jars aren’t your thing then the same products are available in larger sizes from Holly and the Ivy too.

Note: All Mini Jar Company products are suitable for coeliacs, vegetarians and vegans.

Flavour
(8/10)
Heat
(8/10)
Packaging
(6/10)
Value (8/10)
Overall
(8/10)

 

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At this time of year, when you cannot find fresh Chillies easily, the only solution is to buy dried either in powder, flakes or whole pods but here we have something in between flakes and whole pods. From The Love of Chilies comes their freeze dried Pequin Chilli “Chunks” for want of a better word.

These Chillies are packaged in a rather attractive black metal tin which contain approximately 9 grams of Chilli chunks. The tin comes with a black elastic band holding on the main label which is tightly wrapped around the tin and contains all the information about the company.

The Love of Chilies state that their quest is “To get the best Chillies on your (and our) table so we shall see whats inside.

The website states the following;

“We started The Love of Chilies because we love fresh chilies and wanted to find a way to preserve not just their spice, but also their flavor. We were frustrated by the dried chilies available out there.

It took two years to find the right chilies and the best process.

Island-grown chilies

Our chilies are grown on the Finca la Sarantontona, a farm on the Spanish Canary Island of Lanzarote. The Finca is run by a family dedicated to fair trade and organic farming. Conditions on the windy and dry volcanic island are harsh, creating intense flavors in whatever manages to grow there.

Freeze dried for perfection

Our chilies are a Pequin variety, known to be very hot. It is impossible to pick them with machines.

Thanks to the food scientists at the Technical University in Berlin, we tested many different preservation techniques. The best results, by far, were achieved through freeze-drying, which maintains the unique flavor of our chilies.

As soon as fruits are cut they react with oxygen. For that reason, all of our chilies are hand cut in the processing area and immediately freeze dried.”

Once the jar is open, the Chillies inside are a nice orange colour and have been sliced into 3-4mm pieces, and they taste very nice. They would be good to add a decent kick to stews and asian cooking. It’s difficult to say much more really. I have to say that as these come from Lanzarote there is an issue of extra cost and for those concerned about the environment, the carbon footprint of shipping around the world in 9 gram containers.

There is no doubt that Lanzarote sounds like a good place to grow Chillies due to the harsh conditions with relentless sun and little water, but certainly here in the UK although we may not have the best of growing conditions, there is no shortage of quality UK grown dried Chilli pods, either whole, flakes or as powders for those wanting them to cook with. The company is based in Germany so it may be more difficult to obtain quality chillies there?

The Love of Chilies are making the most of an environment in which other crops may not survive, they clearly have a passion for what they are doing which is great, but I do have doubts about whether there is a market in the UK for such a product.

You can buy the Chillies in a tin direct from The Love of Chillies website 

The 9 gram tin will cost 14 Euros (currently just over £12) including shipping to Europe or 2 x 10 gram refill packs for 14 euros too. I have to say I was a little shocked by the prices.

Flavour
(8/10)
Heat
(6/10)
Packaging
(9/10)
Value (2/10)
Overall
(6/10)

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Phil and Kay Palmer run the Dartmoor Chilli Farm located in the beautiful Dartmoor National Park, Devon. Unlike many other chilli farms in the UK they grow their chillies in a very environmentally friendly way – running their farm “off grid” using wind / solar power and rainwater harvesting for electricity & water, whilst growing their produce naturally & holistically using no pesticides or herbicides.  In 2010 they won the South Devon Excellence Awards “Best Green Business”

What I have here to review is their most popular product – Dartmoor Dynamite. Although it’s been available for quite a few years, it’s a product which has had a recent re-labelling and tweaking to the recipe.

The heart of the new label is an emblem of a group of chillies connected like dynamite sticks to a detonator, where the question “Dare you take the plunge?” is posed.  The combination of a black background and use of strong green & red colours in this emblem makes for a bold looking product, and naturally I respond to the dare.

Ingredients:     

Tomatoes, Sugar, Red Peppers, Naga Chillies (22%) Cider Vinegar, Tomato Juice, Lemon Juice, Oregano

Bottle kindly supplied by Dartmoor Chilli Farm

Opening the bottle and inhaling, I first get the sweetness from the combination of the red peppers and tomatoes which is then closely followed by the perfume of the Naga & vinegar. I can also detect some herbal notes in the sauce from the oregano. It’s a well balanced aroma with the sweet and sour tones working well in harmony. Although it’s quite a thin sauce, when pouring it onto a spoon I can see that there is some texture to the sauce with some chilli seeds and fleshy pulp therein – the latter I presume coming from the tomatoes used in its preparation.  In a similar manner to its aroma, when tasting the sauce there’s a distinctive dual layer of flavours. At first there’s the hit of fruity sweetness from the tomatoes and peppers before the tangy flavours of the Nagas & lemon juice begins to come through. The array of flavours works really well together and make for a very moreish sauce.

Phil and Kay’s original recipe used just Bhut Jolokia in the sauce but the recipe tweak is that they now use of 3 different types of Naga: the Bhut Jolokia, Naga Jolokia PC1 and the Dorset Naga. The kick from this Naga trinity comes shortly thereafter and hits the back of my mouth. I must admit it seemed quite innocuous to me at first but another spoonful or two later and the Naga effect is in full swing with a blast of pain from the chillies consuming the back of my mouth and throat.

With the great natural flavours from the tomatoes, oregano & red peppers, I find Dynamite to be rather like an Italian passata sauce, so it’s no surprise that Phil and Kay recommend using this as a cooking sauce. To this end I think it would go really well as an addition to a ragu or pizza sauce, in a chilli con carne, or even on its own as a dipping sauce. It could even act as a replacement to the ubiquitous Tabasco® sauce normally added to a Bloody Mary. In trying it myself with some pasta, I found that the cooking process accentuated the natural flavours of the pepper and tomatoes with the flavour of the Nagas receding, though of course their presence was still very much obvious from the heat.

Overall it’s a great tasting product with a generous chilli kick – a winning combination that for me makes this a very addictive sauce. Dartmoor Dynamite is available directly from the Dartmoor Chilli Farm website and, at the time of this review, is available for only £3.00 for a 100ml. This is a recent reduction from its previous price of £3.50 making it fantastically good value for a sauce with a high Naga content and from stock that has been cultivated in the UK too!

My only niggle with this sauce is that due to its addictive qualities 100ml isn’t going to last long (or at least it didn’t in my case) but at £3.00 a bottle you can afford to stock up on it. Alternatively you could always purchase the newly released 150ml version for £4.50 (currently limited stocks).

Flavour
(8/10)
Heat
(7/10)
Packaging
(7.5/10)
Value (8.5/10)
Overall
(8.5/10)

 

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From Mad-Ass comes a sauce monikered Eve’s Downfall, one that made me smile when I first saw it as I like the cleverness. This product is one of the hotter in their range, but I kind of like the idea that this sauce is made up of Apples and Jolokias, both of which contribute to the downfall of Eve.

The labelling on this jar is a little clearer than that adjourning the Lip Tickler I previously sampled – I can see now that the chilli character logo Mad-Ass are using is laughing evilly, in fact if I look closely enough I’m sure that I can see fangs! Chillies themselves aren’t evil, but the heat certainly can certainly be devilish at times. It comes in the same sizes as Mad-Ass’s other products, the small at £2 and the larger at £5

Ingredients:

Braeburn Apples, Jolokia Chillies, Tomatoes, “The Garlic Farm” Garlic, Root Ginger, Balsamic Vinegar, Demerara Sugar, Rock Salt.

The sauce is a darkish brown colour with only the odd bit or two in an otherwise smooth and fairly middling consistency, which will please those whom don’t like the rougher textured bits. Once the lid is off you’re greeted by the smell of chutney – this isn’t that surprising given the ingredients are dominated by apples; it’s quite an inviting and pleasant aroma that bolsters what might be to come from the eating.

Initially on the tongue, there is a touch of sweetness and then almost immediately a lovely and distinct sourness that takes hold – this is shortly followed by a good level of heat that smarts the gums and the back of the throat when swallowed, something that invites another helping.

Mad-Ass has produced an interesting sauce with Eve’s Downfall; with the ingredients you’d expect a more apple flavour to punch through, but what you get is a taste experience that travels from sweet through to hot and it’s lovely. I’d happily have this with my ploughman’s lunch with a smile on my face.

Flavour
(8/10)
Heat
(7/10)
Packaging
(6/10)
Value (7/10)
Overall
(8/10)

 

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