As well as cheese, my big passion when it comes to food is pretty much anything hot and spicy. Sometimes these two worlds collide – I’ve long been a fan of Mexicana cheese, and I actually thought I’d died and gone to heaven some years ago when I discovered the wonders of paneer-based curry dishes.
All in all then, the news the other week that the Morrisons supermarket chain had launched what they were claiming to be the world’s hottest cheese was something that was always going to get my attention!
Now some of you cheese purists out there might frown upon the idea of buying cheese from any of the huge supermarket chains. In fairness though, I’ve always really rated Morrisons. They always seem to have some interesting cheeses, and the branch that I go to has a proper cheese counter where you can get your cheese sliced from a truckle, rather than picking up a mass-produced shrink-wrapped brick of the stuff.
And so it was then that I headed off to my local Morrisons the other day in search of some Reaper Chill Cheddar – named because it’s made using Carolina Reaper chillis, which are apparently 300 times hotter than a jalapeno.
In some of the press coverage about its launch of the cheese, it was claimed that you had to specifically ask for the cheese at the cheese counter – and that you’d only have it handed to you after being given a verbal warning of its fiery potency. As it was though, I found that the Reaper Chilli Cheddar was just out in the fridges along with all the other cheeses, and on sale in 120 gram chunks at £1.50 a pop. Amusingly, the warnings on the packaging made me feel like I was handling some sort of highly toxic nuclear waste when I picked up a piece!
So what what was the cheese actually like? Well I tend to have a fairly high tolerance to hot foods, but even to me it was bloody hot! It was essentially very similar to Mexicana – but I’d say about three times hotter. It was quite deceiving too – at first when I popped a bit in your mouth I was very much like “Hmm, this isn’t actually that hot.” However those Caroline Reaper chillis then suddenly creep up on you and leave your mouth burning!
Like a lot of ‘novelty cheeses’ (for want of a better phrase), I can’t imagine Carolina Reaper Chilli will ever become a mainstay on anyone’s regular shopping list. But I certainly enjoyed the experience of trying it. It’s a great cheese to take along to a social occcasion – I actually took some with me to a barbeque, where it was quite amusing seeing the varying reactions to all the different folk who tried it.
All in all then, a cool product and quite a clever marketing gimmick. On that front it reminded me a bit of when the Lincolnshire Poacher cheese company launched an ludricrously strong Cheddar a few years ago called Knuckleduster – which you could only get by specifically asking for it at one of the stalls they have at markets, and they’d bring it out from underneath the counter.
That said, I do think Morrisons mossed a trick from a marketing point of view in not creating the product out of a white cheddar and having a concentrating the chills as a red circle in the middle of it. Any of you who are familiar with the brilliant Viz book Roger’s Profanisaurus will understand..!