Regular readers will have noticed that there are a number of American recipes on this blog, some of them requiring ingredients that are hard to source in the UK. I usually deal with this by dragging a very heavy suitcase full of cans of creamed corn and hot sauce back home every time I visit America.
Happily, I’ve found an online company operating in the UK (and delivering worldwide) which stocks almost all the American ingredients I use habitually. (See this post for other online suppliers.) There’s Franks Hot Sauce for making Buffalo wings (in the picture above); Duncan Hines and Betty Crocker cake mixes (great for cheats‘ cake recipes); creamed corn (unaccountably hard to find here) and cornmeal to make cornbread; Aunt Jemima pancake mix; and all the Cap’n Crunch you can shake a milky spoon at. The Stateside Candy Co has slightly awkward navigation, but once you’ve found your way round, it’s easy to get your hands on what you’re after. Prices are a little higher than they are in America, but shopping like this does mean that you don’t need to buy an extra suitcase.
Alongside several pints of Frank’s hot sauce and enough creamed corn to bring the digestive tracts of a small village to a shuddering halt, I bought a jar of one of my favourite things on Earth: Smuckers Goober Grape (pictured left). This is a wonderful swirled confection of peanut butter and grape jelly (grape jelly being yet another thing it’s hard to find here) to spread on your toast direct from the jar. This is the problem (at least for me) with shopping for food online – it seems perfectly calibrated to make me buy snacks. I also ended up with a pack of Scorned Woman cheese straws made with chilli sauce (mediocre, full of additives and not recommended) and some perfectly noxious but also perfectly addictive pretzel bits filled with cheese.
Best of all was the bottle of Amazon Peppers. These are preserved in vinegar, and their small size and prettiness might obscure the fact that these are basically the hottest things I have ever put in my mouth. The orange ones at the neck of the bottle are orange habaneros – at between 200,000 and 300,000 Scoville Units, these are among the hottest chillies in the world. Touching the edge of your little fingernail to one of these guys and then touching the nail to your tongue will have you running to the tap for a big glass of water.
Habaneros are deliciously fruity, and, treated with respect, can act like a solid hot sauce. I used one between the two of us to accompany the Coca Cola chicken I cooked on Monday, and we sliced minuscule slivers off it to dab on the chicken pieces on our forks. We sweated a lot and found ourselves screaming occasionally, but we were happy. The yellow and red peppers in the bottle are the much more benign (at 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville units) Capsicum frutescens, the same pepper that’s used to make Tabasco sauce. Happily, the vinegar has carried the heat from the habaneros at the top all the way to the bottom of the bottle. You can use the very spicy vinegar as a cooking ingredient, and top it up when you’re done – heat will continue leaching out of the chillies.