NOT since Wallace and Gromit hailed the wonders of Wensleydale has there been a dairy creation to made a cheese lover's heart soar – but best have a bottle of milk of magnesia to hand and the emergency services on speed dial.
The hottest cheese ever sold in Britain arrived in supermarkets this week, and it's not for the faint-hearted. Combining cheddar with fiery Scotch bonnet chilli peppers, the cheese is said to be 50 times hotter than a jalapeno.
Or to put it in science lingo: the intensity of a chilli is measured in Scoville units with the Scotch bonnet having a rating of 100,000-350,000, while the jalapeno comes in about the 2500-8000 mark.
Tesco cheese buyer Ashleigh MacFarlane claimed Scotch bonnet cheddar is "aimed at the kind of diner who would rather go for a vindaloo curry than a korma". Perfect for those whose idea of a rollicking good time is having their stomach burst into flames (and keep their toilet roll in the fridge).
Mind you, the supermarket chain is nothing if not savvy. In recent years an ability to consume spicy food has increasingly become seen as a badge of honour in some quarters.
In October a world's hottest chilli competition at an Edinburgh curry house ended in chaos after two entrants were carted off to A&E. Competitors who sampled the extra-hot Kismot Killer curry were left writhing in agony, vomiting and fainting. First aiders overseeing the event soon became so overwhelmed by the number of casualties they had to call paramedics for back-up.
Chilli has been creeping into all manner of food, from chocolate and jam to crisps and nuts. Previously the hottest cheese available on these shores was Mexicana, but this is dismissed by chilli experts as "mildly spicy" compared to Scotch bonnet cheddar.
It can only be a matter of time before the latter is cast aside in favour of hotter alternatives. For a truly explosive taste to blow the tastebuds there's always the infinity chilli which, measuring in at 1,067,286 on the Scoville scale, is reportedly used by the Indian military to make hand grenades to immobilise terror suspects.
Among the latest claimants of world's hottest chilli is the naga viper, which charts a mind-blowing 1,359,000 on the Scoville scale. It was created by Cumbria farmer Gerald Fowler last year who combined three potent varieties to create a super chilli that will make your eyes stream, throat burn, nose run – and possibly worse.
Chilli connoisseurs will tell you it's not all bad. The spicy foodstuffs are said to be an excellent source of Vitamin A, B, C and E, containing powerful antioxidants which help boost the immune system.
A few years ago chef Heston Blumenthal intravenously fed his head chef chilli oil and monitored brain activity using a CAT scan. It found the part of the brain which registers heat is close to that which releases pleasurable endorphins and makes us feel happy.
Second World War veteran Louis Stein, who celebrated his 108th birthday in Florida recently, credits his longevity to a love of spicy food. There may be something in it for those who like it hot.
.... Scotch bonnet cheddar
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