*UPDATE: The first batch sold out in 29 minutes.
It’s a big massive week for drum & bass food news…
Dispatch don Survival is through to the finals of UK Masterchef and John B has just launched his own range of hot sauce: Jungle Fire.
What began a few years ago as a way of preserving the bumper harvests of chillies he’d grown, Jungle Fire is now a legitimate line of operations for one of drum & bass’s most unique and creative individuals. In the spirit of dubplates and limited vinyl releases, each edition of Jungle Fire will be a bespoke small batch affair of 50 bottles and the recipe will change on each release.
Launched this week on his website, priced at £7.99 per bottle and already sold out, the first edition of Jungle Fire – entitled Lava – is based on the caroline reaper chilli and contains cranberries, apricots and mangos. It’s already caused a buzz among peers, especially when he took a few bottles to last year’s Sun & Bass, and John reckons it goes just as well in a bloody mary as it does on a chicken thigh.
He’s not just been busy in the kitchen, either. Following last year’s return to the mighty Metalheadz with the crucial techstep document Lava and his immense Evolve EP on his own Beta imprint, John has just released Unshakeable on Viper, this killer studio mix and has a whole slew of sounds of coming including a new Summer/Spring Collection on Beta, a new Evolve edition and collaborations with Digital and Rene LaVice.
Stretching his time between the kitchen, his allotment, his DJ schedule and his studio like some type of culinary green fingered bass ninja, John B seems busier than he’s been in years right now. But that didn’t stop us hassling him with a few questions and one or two ridiculous puns…
Jungle Fire will be available on his own merch store when stocks come in. Here’s what you need to know…
Let’s cut to the chase and talk secret ingredients…
The fruit flavour is really important to me & the sauces I make, I find a lot of traditional hot sauces are overwhelming in their vinegary flavour, but one of the things that struck me when I first cut into a Scorpion Moruga (one of the hottest chillis you can get) is how incredibly concentrated the fruit smell & flavour is, as long as you can get past the heat! So yeah, I always try to add in fruits that complement the flavour of the chillies. This first batch I’ve made called LAVA has cranberries in it, alongside the apricots and mango I usually go for.
How many bottles are you brewing up a week?
The idea behind Jungle Fire Hot Sauces is that they are very limited edition short run batches, with a different recipe each time – I make them at home in my kitchen, so obviously I’m limited by that – at the moment its about 50 bottles per batch. I just do a ‘cook’ whenever I feel like it, whenever I have enough chillis to use, and if I fancy a quick break from the studio!
It’s a big leap from making for pleasure to bottling and selling – was there an epiphany / trigger for this leap from hobbiest into the hot sauce game?
The more I think about it there are a lot of parallels with the hot sauces to the way I approach my music, and drum & bass in general; I’m proud of what I’ve managed to create and I want people out there to be able to check it out too. The same way I feel when I’ve made a new track! Trying to make something unique and exciting, with care and intelligent consideration – and also thinking about the branding and concept. It’s fun to think of each sauce like a dubplate, a first generation, strictly limited to those that know and then it ends up in strong demand because of the scarcity and as word gets out.
I think it was the demand more than anything that lead to me taking it more seriously and treating it as a business. Whenever I gave a jar of some of my first efforts to friends, or people in the scene they were always biting my arm off for more. So I did my research about how to do things professionally, register as a food business and get the council to come and inspect the premises and do a good hygiene rating check (I got 5 stars yeahhh!!) I’ve learnt about how to bottle the sauce correctly, sterilizing the bottles, getting the pH right so they are shelf stable and labelling regulations. Now I have that in place I can go ahead and make as much as I like, as long as I have a source of superhot chillies!
Where does Jungle Fire fit into the competitive hot sauce market? And what dishes does it complement the best?
I really think the flavour has to be the number one reason. I’ve tried a lot of sauces in my time, and what I always love the most is when the true fruity flavour of the chillies come through, if you get it right it really is incredible. It’s also going to be great fun making so many different varieties, with it being strictly limited edition short runs I have a lot more freedom, and it won’t be boring like it would just making the same recipe over and over again. Also choosing names with puns on drum & bass terminology is going to be a laugh too!
In terms of what to eat it with, I always go for trying a teaspoon of it by itself first to really check the flavour & think about what’s going on – chilli-style wine tasting vibes hah! Then for me personally I use a load of it along with oil as a marinate on chicken – get boneless thighs as they are more tender (and cheaper) stab them up a bit so the marinate can get in more, squeeze some lemon juice over first to tenderise, then after 5 mins get the marinate on and leave for however long you like but even just 30 mins if you’re in a rush can be ok. Then cook on a kettle BBQ, indirect (ie not right over the coals) slowly to keep it moist and cook gently, then finish off over the coals to get a nice crispy crust. Or stick a spoon of it in bloody mary to wake you up on a Sunday morning after the rave!
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learnt about commercial food manufacturing so far?
You make it sound like I have a huge sauce factory going on here! We’re strictly small run artisan style over here so no giant machines and huge vats of preservatives going on! One thing I suppose, which brought me back to my days at Uni when I was in the lab doing my degree in Cellular Biology, was just getting to grips with the chemistry behind the bottling process, how to ensure everything is sterile, and checking the sauce is at the right pH (acid/alkaline) to make sure it is what they call ‘shelf stable’.
The other thing I’ve learned is to get the extractor fans on max and completely air out the house afterwards – during the cooking process the chilli vapours that come off it are pretty potent, but when you’re washing up and the hot water and steam get involved its like some hardcore weaponised extreme pepper spray all over the place. My wife and I had to run out into the garden last weekend to get some fresh air!
What’s next in the Beta cuisine vision? Perhaps some Up All Night energy bars? Or a range of Bandwagon booze?
Haha! Actually Clayton from Hardware gave me a good idea the other day. He’s been doing his own sauces and pop ups for a while too. We talk occasionally about how things are going and the idea of dry rubs came up – which I hadn’t really considered but I’ve been doing them at home for a while too. I’m a huge fan of American style low & slow BBQing. The first stage is liberally spreading a dry rub over it, basically special secret mixture of seasoning and herbs and spices. I’ve been drying chillies as a way to preserve them, so once you grind that up into a powder to add to the mix then you’re on! I guess I’ve been accidentally researching dry rubs for a while without thinking about it, just BBQing at home and making my own. So I guess it could be another cool little tasty product to add to the mix – a few different types suited to different meats I would expect…. Watch this space.