This is our first trip into the Bell River Brand, an alternate line from the minds at Heartbreaking Dawn’s (HBD) hot sauce aimed towards introducing the mainstream to the HBD brand by creating sauces that are perfect for every meal use. As some of you may have heard me joke about HBD on our Live! show, I say that Johnny from HBD likes to create intricate sauces based on ingredients a little out of the norm, combined with things that are a lot out of the norm, and then pairing really hot chiles to the sauce to create intense fire and flavor. He calls himself an artisan sauce maker, and I’ll agree with this. What I’m wondering is if going for affordable and mainstream causes some compromising that can still taste good.
The list looks pretty short and sweet here, with just these ingredients: Water, Jalapeno Peppers, Vinegar, Lemon Juice, Xantham Gum, Sodium Benzoate. I’ve noticed here that it’s Xantham Gum being used, where I see Xanthan Gum being used in other sauces, so I’m thinking I’m going to hit up Google later and see if there is any differences with them, or if it’s a regional type of preference.
The sauce is very thin, with nearly no solid particles clinging to the neck of the bottle after shaking, and is missing an orifice reducer, so be careful when using, as it will likely come out quite fast. You can see a few seeds here and there, so it appears that whole chiles were used, or possibly a mash of some sort. The aroma is definitely vinegar based, but seems to be a little bit less so, likely due to the combination use of lemon juice for acidity. There is a bit of a jalapeno aroma in the background, but mostly it’s vinegar.
The first nice thing to report is that the heavy vinegar aroma does not translate to heavy vinegar flavor. The lemon doesn’t really showcase in front of the vinegar either, so they seem to balance each other out for flavor, creating a pretty blank canvas that allows the flavors of the jalapeno to come through. Also of note is that even though this matches the Louisiana style quite a bit, it is reserved in the use of salt, possibly using none at all. The heat level for this stays at a consistent Mild level, and I’ll give the overall flavor a strong Nominal. Three peppers out of five for flavor doesn’t mean anything bad. I generally would consider three to indicate that I would recommend it to someone if they asked me about it, where four and five are ones that I would tell someone to try without being solicited, so what I’m saying is that this is a solid sauce, and could be used quite well as a general jalapeno table sauce. I would definitely keep it on my table.
If I had any comments, it’s that I think I might like it a little more if it were made with red, ripened jalapeno, which have a little more sweetness to them, but I get that it’s hard to sell a red jalapeno sauce, due to the way people interpret what the color of jalapenos should be, so I’ll let it pass. Take this, a touch of honey and a touch of a light oil, pulse it in a blender for a bit and I bet you’d have a pretty interesting salad dressing for Southwestern inspired salads.