I love spicy things. I love the heat of too-many-peppers in a good curry, the kind that’s just bearable so long as you keep eating, but overwhelms you the moment your plate is finished. I love the satisfying warmth that fills your mouth and throat at the end of the meal, and the total relaxation that comes after a satisfying meal. My other half is the same, to the point that he’s developed a pavlovian response to me even suggesting cooking a curry for dinner, or picking up a jar of his and my favourite “jam” – the Nitro Naga Chilli Jam.
Oh, that stuff was glorious. Hot, with a subtle sweet, fruity flavour and a deep, glossy red, thick enough and just right to use as a lethal dipping sauce. And oh, how we squandered it. A jar of Nitro would rarely last us a week, obliterated in a couple of meals as we turned to frying battered strips of chicken, pork and lamb and dipping straight into the jar. And now it seems Nitro is no more.
I have no idea why. The company I used to buy it from, Scorchio, stated that they won’t be getting any more for the “foreseeable future” but don’t say why, and the listing page for the jam no longer says “out of stock” – it doesn’t exist at all! Searching for the delicious jam brings up a lot of useless results – a lot of sites mentioning the jam and linking to the now-defunct Scorchio page, a few reviews, a few pretenders to the throne claiming the name “Nitro Naga” for their own producst while offering an obviously inferior product – mostly transparent pink chilli jams with a jelly consistency. It’s tragic.
I have noticed a very similar-looking product has suddenly turned up on the Scorchio website called “Chilli Jam Man Bhut Jolokia”, and I’m currently waiting for a reply from the company to find out if it’s anything like the Nitro in flavour, but in the meantime we’re bereft!
But then, a few days ago, my local Asian Grocery put up a tray of exciting little spicy treats. Next to the usual birds eye chillis, scotch bonnets and banana chillis, were a few packets of “ghost chillis” – the colloquial name for Naga Jolokia.
At first, I tried just cooking with them. Careful experimentation has revealed that even just 1/8th of a ghost pepper in a whole pot of curry is simply too much, but I wasn’t sure what else to do with them. I could try making my own chilli jam, but surely I’d need a lot more for that. A little googling revealed that, actually, most ghost pepper jam recipes use only 3-4 peppers, filling out the bulk of the jam itself with carrots, apples and other vegetables. I might conceivably have enough for two batches!
Out of excitement, I decided to try my hand at making my own.
I decided to make my first experimental batches based loosely on a combination of a few different recipes. Partly because I wanted to make my own version based on what I like, and partly because I didn’t have money to spare to go shopping so just used what I had to hand at home.
Shown here, we have four carrots, cut into chunks, three whole ghost peppers, a generous third of a sweet red pepper, one onion, a chunk of fresh ginger and, hidden under the carrots, five garlic cloves. I’ve stuck them into the blender all at once just for the photo – this blender is close to 30 years old and needs a little help, so I actually blended the peppers, ginger, garlic and onion together first, then added the sweet pepper, then the carrots a chunk at a time until it was pretty well broken down.
The smell of the peppers was pretty strong – I kept the lid on my blender the whole time I was operating it, and still had to open the back door to help with the fumes! I didn’t go so far as some people do – with their face masks and gloves for handling the peppers – but it certainly had a kick to it just the raw ingredients!
Finally, the mixture was cooked down in a pot with distilled vinegar and, after about ten minutes, combined with a good bit of sugar, cooked a few more minutes and then stuck in jars. I made two batches, one using whole peppers and one with the seeds removed so I can try growing my own next year. The jam looks nothing like Nitro Naga, but it’s a first experiment made using what I had to hand at the time. I’ve managed to track down an ingredients list for the real stuff, so I’ll be experimenting a bit more closely come next payday!
Jars are currently cooling in the window. I’ll do an initial taste test later today and a proper taste test in a few weeks, when the jam has had time to mature.
Actual Nitro Naga ingredients, for personal reference and in case anyone else wants to attempt to recreate it:
Ingredients: Dried naga chillies, tomatoes, ginger, thai fish sauce, garlic, red wine vinegar, caster sugar, muscavado sugar, coriander, salt.
- Chilli Jam Man at Millies Leeds (digital-diva.co.uk)
- Chilli Jam (thermodelights.com.au)
- Bhut Jolokia (chiliville.wordpress.com)
- How hot? (avonstro.wordpress.com)
- 10 Chillies of note – a chaps guide (chapjabber.wordpress.com)