Product Reviews

Its always nice being sent something from a company I have not come across before. This time it’s a small producer from the New Forest

Pig’n’Pickles is a small company based on the edge of the New Forest, making homemade chutney to an exceptional standard. Passionate about good food their philosophy is that all their products are made in a domestic kitchen in small batches only with fresh ingredients and no artificial additives or preservatives.

Pig 'N' Pickles Chilli Jam

The name comes from Trevor’s wife Cathryn who is very much dedicated to the idea of urban smallholding, keeping chickens & ducks, growing vegetables and rearing Pigs. Hence Pig’n’Pickles!

Ingredients: Red pepper, sugar, tomato (tomato juice, citric acid) red wine vinegar, chilli (1%) ginger, garlic.

For a home made small batch jam, the label design is perfect and beautifully done. The company logo and brand name is beautifully distinctive simple and all in black. Inside the jar you can see a deep tomato chutney kind of red with visible chilli seeds and everything looks very sticky as it should be!

At one percent chilli I have argued in the past whether a product can really be a chilli product but it does contain chilli so I should stop ranting really. When I open the jar I am thinking jam but smelling chutney. This is most likely due to the red pepper and tomatoes. The smell is very pleasing and immediately makes me think of a cheese board.

When you taste the chilli jam you can pick out every ingredient, they are all beautifully balanced. The pepper and tomato is obvious both in taste and aroma, I particularly like the hint of ginger that you can pick up too. To my surprise and slight disbelief you can also taste the chilli too, a lot more than I though. There some real heat in the taste, not to any impressive level as you might expect but a wonderful warming that lets you know the chilli is there before fading into the background and letting the jams other ingredients enhance your chosen dish. This is one jam that I want to have again and again, it feels a little ‘Christmas hamper’ that kind of treat food that you only deserve once a year or so but there’s no reason not to have it all year round

I have used this jam everywhere you would normally use jam, the difference is it’s just tastier than many normal jams. One lovely snack was cheese and chilli jam on toast, I wasn’t bought into the idea I must admit, but a layer of this jam underneath the cheese made for an awesome taste sensation.

A 190g jar will cost £3.95

Flavour
(8/10)
Heat
(1/10)
Packaging
(6/10)
Value (7/10)
Overall
(7/10)

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Wakehurst Place near Ardingly in West Sussex is a National Trust property with grounds run by Kew, with their main Royal Botanic Gardens being based 10 miles from central London. The main difference between the two sites is that Wakehurst Place is home to Kew’s Millenium Seed Bank, a building officially opened in 2000 by HRH Prince Charles, who called the centre and the project ”The Bank of England of the Botanical World”

I recently visited the Seed Bank visitor centre, as they had a special “Seed Swap” event taking place, where people could bring spare seed of any type and swap with others (not from the seed bank !) I was able to see inside the seed vault, something that isnt normally allowed and was able to attend some very interesting talks on the subject of seed saving and how to store seed to ensure it lasts, more of that in a bit.

The Millenium Seed Bank have been working with over 50 countries around the world to try and harvest, store and safeguard over 24,000 plant species, in fact they have already assured the future of nearly all the 1400 native plant species from the UK and by 2009 had reached their target of gathering 10% of the worlds plant species. The next target being to try and secure 25% by 2025.

The seeds are collected, catalogued and then subjected to a very careful drying process bringing the Relative Humidity (RH) of the seeds down to 15%, they are then stored in vials, put in to Kilner type jars and then stored in the underground vault at a steady -20 degrees centigrade.

You may be wondering what this has to do with Chillies? well if you are a Chilli grower you will be no stranger to saving seed from your crops whether from isolated crops or not, the principles are still the same, and according to the experts at the Seed Bank, 15% RH and -20 degrees are the optimum storage conditions for most seed and if you can achieve those conditions at home then you could prolong the life of your seeds for a lot longer than you might think.

In fact one of the experts clearly stated that if you can achieve these conditions at home, then you can quite easily ignore those “sow by year ending” dates.

Some seeds though are inherently short lived like Parsnips, but an example was given of some french bean seeds, usually given a couple of years to sow by the seed companies (and if you store them in a drawer in the shed that date wouldnt be far wrong) but if you can achieve the conditions above, through computer modelling and lots of techy stuff, they have calculated that those seeds could stay viable for in excess of 6000 years!!

Keeping a handle on the Relative Humidity of the seed is the key, it can be measured using a Hygrometer which you can buy from the internet from as little as £2 to many hundreds of £. This can measure the air around a seed usually in a range from 10% – 99%. To give your seed a half decent chance of keeping its viability, it needs a maximum of 50% RH, but 30% – 15% is optimum, the nearer to 15% the better. Longevity doubles for every 10% reduction in RH of the seeds you achieve!

Another interesting factor is the temperature. I have always heard about storing seed in the fridge or the freezer but have always felt a little scared to do it! but again according to the experts at the Seed Bank, for every 5 degree drop in temperature from ambient levels, longevity doubles yet again!

Now if you think this sort of thing is difficult and something only scientists in white coats can do then you are wrong, with the right equipment, you can achieve these results at home.

One way is to use this, a Mini Seed Bank

This has been created by Kew for the home grower. This is a collection of the equipment you might need to achieve the best results.

It contains the following items:

A large plastic box which becomes the main seed bank, a large bag of white silica gel, 6 large screw top clear plastic pots, 8 small screw top clear plastic small amount of yellow silica gel, small sachets of green silica gel, paper seed envelopes, labels, a large material bag, and a pencil. The coloured silica gels are actually the same, but are called “Indicators” as they contain methyl violet which turns the silica beads green when moisture is present and orange when they dry out.

So how does it work? Firstly you need to save your seed from your Chilli (or other plant) and you will find an article on how best to do it from Phil at Dartmoor Chilli Farm here.

Once you are ready, the bag of Silica gel is poured into the main plastic box followed by the orange Silica gel and mixed (it is important to point out that the gel is poisonous and hands should be washed after using it)

 

Next put your seeds in a pot and add a green Silica gel sachet to the pot, leaving the lid off each individual container.

Then the lid can be put back on the main box firmly, this creates an airtight drying environment. The box should be put somewhere unheated and out of direct sunlight. It should be opened every 3-4 days to check the colour of the indicating sachets. The seeds should be moved around in their pots to ensure even drying.

They should be dry when the sachets have turned orange, usually about 10-14 days depending on the type and quantity of seed being dried.

When the sachets turn orange, the screw top lid to each individual container can be put back on with the sachet still in place, or the seeds can be transferred to paper seed envelopes, labelled and then a number of envelopes can be put in one of the large plastic containers and kept in the main box. Once all seed for the season has been saved, the paper seed envelopes and their seed can either be kept in the smaller sealed pots in the main box with the bed of Silica or they can all be put in a Kilner Jar (not supplied) which will will fit in the main box.

This can then be stored in the fridge or freezer until seed is required.

The way this works is that the moisture is drawn from the seeds and the green sachets, and gets absorbed into the bed of white and orange silica gel. This then regulates the RH of the air in the box to a low level. You can buy a cheap Hygrometer and keep that in the box too to find out exactly what level it is at but its not essential.

Mini Seed Bank kindly supplied by Kew Wakehurst Place

I think it is a great product and something I will definitely be using to store my seed instead of the current non sealed container.

The Mini Seed Banks are available from Kew directly or from their online shop priced at £24.99 plus postage.

Obviously this method is not essential, it helps to regulate “ideal” conditions, but if you want unused Chilli seed to have a better chance of germination over a second, third or even fourth season then this product will certainly help.

So there you go, I currently have seeds drying in one and will see how it goes.

**Please note, if you choose to store your seeds in the freezer after reading this article, it is your decision!**

 

 

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Today, for a nice change, I have a sauce to review from Byron Bay Chilli Co, their Smokin’Mango Chilli Sauce. I have been fortunate to spend a year travelling round Australia including an extended stay in Byron Bay so I always welcome some good old Aussie influence in the hot sauce world.

Byron Bay Chilli Co Smokin’Mango Chilli SauceWhat began in the Byron Bay hinterland over twenty years ago is now a world famous range of chilli sauce, corn chips and salsas…brought to you by the Byron Bay Chilli Company.

“It all started with a chilli patch on a hill overlooking Byron Bay. With a little help from a friendly farmer and some good compost from the old Byron Piggery, there were soon more jalapeno chillies than we knew what to do with. So they set up a Mexican food stall at the Byron and Bangalow markets. Then to go with the burritos, tacos and nachos they started making their own chilli sauce, salsas and corn chips to go with them just the way they like them so they can pass them onto the good chilli loving public.”

Since then, Byron Bay Chilli Company has grown into a world famous brand, winning stacks of awards on three continents, including the Grand Prize Scovie Award from New Mexico, for best tasting chilli sauce.

Ingredients: tomato puree, mango, water, red jalapeno chilli, cider vinegar, brown sugar, onion, golden syrup, chipotle chilli powder, caynne chilli, garlic puree, habanero chilli, mustard powder, cinnamon, salt, cumin.

The label proudly displays five separate chilli and good taste awards spanning the UK, USA and Australia. The design is very cheesy in a good way, featuring Australian animals and what I assume is the Byron Bay lighthouse. For some reason though, the style of label compared to the British and American is a little uninspiring and looks like something you would find in the foreign food or ‘specialist’ aisle of the local supermarket. But then I remember this IS foreign food and it’s great that it looks different. It’s not always about the label.

This sauce’s main ingredient is mango, always a favourite of mine combined with a combined hit of four kinds of chillies, jalapeno, cayenne, habanero, and chipotle. Opening the bottle I expect a fruity aroma but am greeted with tomato and spices not of mango. The aroma is almost cheap if that makes sense, I try again but still cannot pick up the mango. The sauce is nice and thick as I would hope it to be for a BBQ sauce, there are even chunks of something I can’t quite make out to chew on if you like texture. My first taste I love, then the heat creeps in gently, catching me a little by surprise and a little hotter than expected. But the after-taste is not so welcoming and a little confusing to describe. Much like the aroma missing mango I can’t pick up the taste of mango either despite 25% of the sauce being mango. Perhaps the other long list of ingredients is masking this beautiful fruit. I pondered this over a few days trying the sauce with several dishes. The Byron Bay Chilli Co website describes this sauce as one that “will treat you to a new level of BBQ sophistication. For those who require zest in their tomato sauce” I would agree, this is a more sophisticated BBQ sauce but it is still a basic average sticky sauce with a bit of heat at the end of the day. Tasting on its own I just can’t decide if I like the combination of ingredients, adding to a burger or basic BBQ food however this sauce is a great accompaniment. Using this sauce to enhance a meal may leave you disappointed.

A hearty 250ml bottle is much larger than the average hot sauce perfect for lasting longer in your fridge. At £2.99/ 5 AUD per bottle that’s much cheaper than a 140ml or 150ml bottles we are used to in the UK too! It worth a taste to experience the sticky goodness but sometimes you get what you pay for.

Check them out here at http://www.byronbaychilli.co.uk/

Flavour
(5/10)
Heat
(5/10)
Packaging
(6/10)
Value (8/10)
Overall
(6/10)

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Purus; Adjective meaning Pure or CleanThis sauce is exactly that, The Chilli Alchemist AKA Jay Webley from The Clifton Chilli Club has used his knowledge of chillies gained from the clubs passion for exploring the offerings of sauce makers across the globe, to extract what is best about the Naga Jolokia, its sweet zesty but powerful punch. The other ingredients are merely a vehicle to support the Nagas flavour and deliver the long slow release of heat, which is expertly tempered to be not too overpowering, believe me its not for a chilli novice but also not so hot as to not be enjoyable and mask the base flavours.

Ingredients: Red chillies(Naga Jolokia & Cayenne), Carrot, Onion, Cider vinegar, Garlic, Sugar and Salt.

There’s a surprising salsa-esque flavour, seeing as there is no tomato (possibly coming from the cayenne), yet has the effect of refreshing the pallet with expertly balanced seasoning letting you taste the sweet, savoury and sour notes individually before combining in a satisfying aftertaste. The texture is loose with a fine chunkiness enabling it to pour freely from the bottle, Ive used it as a burger relish as well as adding to curries and chillies, but to use Purus as intended its best as a dip, allowing for the naga to be celebrated and not a side note to other foods.

The design of the label runs with the alchemists theme of medieval warlocks and mythology with a brooding deep red background contrasting black naga chilli surrounded by runes and symbols with the ingredients list on a stylized parchment. As with all the Alchemists sauces Purus is available in two styles and sizes, the standard bottle holds 148ml and costs £4.99, the larger (200ml) Apothecary bottle with its long wax sealed neck and elegant bowl comes in at £9.50 and is a must for the hot sauce collector or an extra special gift.

Flavour
(9/10)
Heat
(8/10)
Packaging
(8/10) – standard bottle
Packaging
(9/10) – apothecary bottle
Value (8/10)
Overall
(8/10)

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