The Carolina Reaper, a.k.a. HP22B, is purported to be the new hottest known pepper in the world. As of this writing, it has yet to be “confirmed” in The Guinness Book of World Records, but it appears to be only a matter of time. Fairly recently however, Ed Currie, in conjunction with CaJohns, released a Carolina Reaper Puree. I was anxious to try this one, not only because of the reputation this chile is gaining, but because it looks so incredibly fresh and vibrant in the bottle. (What you see above in the pic is definitely what you get.) And, the label art is some of the best I’ve seen to date; perfect for Halloween-themed chile get-togethers.
Before I tried the Reaper puree, I asked Ed Currie the puree’s creator how many Carolina Reapers he estimates go into one 2 oz. bottle, so I could get an idea how much would equal one pepper. He figures it’s about 15-20 per bottle because about 900-1000 pods are used to make a gallon. After breaking the seal, I poured about a teaspoon into a spoon, and it looked to be around a tenth of the bottle. Aroma wise, it smelled very fruity, yet, rather surprisingly, it didn’t smell “hot.” The consistency is rather thick as one would expect from a puree, but not so thick as to be a chore to get out of the bottle. Well, the moment of truth…I ate the teaspoon full of puree, and the first flavors I noticed were prominent floral notes, along with accents of fruit, and a hint of something reminiscent of cinnamon(?). Very tasty, very delightful, with no bitterness that I could detect. Surprisingly, the heat was not as significant as I was expecting. It was a very pleasant and gradual build that was mainly concentrated in the back of the mouth and throat. Thinking I may have not had enough, I had about another half teaspoon. After giving it a few more minutes, the heat was certainly more noticeable, but still not so intense that I was reaching for milk.
All in all, the puree is a wonderful balance of flavor and heat. If one loves peppers, I would find it hard to believe they would not love this product. Though it also contains vinegar, it’s almost unnoticeable (to me, anyway), and the bulk of the flavor is solely from the Reapers themselves. As far as taste goes, I would give Reaper Puree a 3 ½ out of 5. While pleasant, it’s fairly straightforward. Heat’s a bit more relative, and on a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give it about 7. In all honesty, I’ve been eating a lot of superhots lately, so my heat meter isn’t as sensitive as it used to be .
p.s. The Reaper’s strain designation is HP22B. If anyone asks, you can amaze them with your technical Chilehead knowledge and tell them it stands for “Higher Power, plot 22, plant B…”, and you’d be right! (info in quotes taken from the charlotteobserver.com.) Ed Currie’s company and products can be found here.
UPDATE - (May 16, 2013) It’s been several months since I last tried Reaper Puree, and I have to say that I feel I may have initially underrated Reaper Puree. Around the time I originally wrote this post I was eating a lot of superhot peppers, and I think this may have kept me from fully appreciating what a good product this is. I actually forgot that I had the Reaper in my fridge until a few days ago, and decided to add it to a meatloaf recipe, and have tried it on a few other food items since then, as well. Reaper really is an exceptional product that’s all-natural (organic, even), that’s pure pepper (other than some vinegar) and is a superior, and much better tasting alternative to pepper extract. The heat it imparts is very respectable, and lets one experience the pungent, fruity, vibrant flavor of the Reaper itself. The Carolina Reaper chile is to me one of the best tasting superhots out there, and I would ratchet the rating I gave Reaper Puree up from a 3½ to a 4½ (out of 5). Time, and a substantial break from consuming superhot peppers on a regular basis, has allowed my taste buds to return almost to normal, and has helped give me a more suitable frame of reference to appreciate one of the hottest and best tasting pepper concentrates out there. This is an indispensable product for the chilehead kitchen, and is the next best thing to having fresh Reapers on hand. I will always try to have this product in my hot sauce arsenal; it’s just too versatile as a food topper and recipe additive to not have around.
Here’s my first encounter with the Reaper…