"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority ... the Constitution was made to guard against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." - Noah Webster

"There is no worse tyranny than forcing a man to pay for what he does not want just because you think it would be good for him."
-- Robert A. Heinlein

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Pimento Pleasure

Before I get started on today's post about DIY food goodness, I just have to share this view from the top of the pass on the way to Blairsville.  The sun was just barely kissing the tops of the mountains to our right, and the lower mountains to the southeast were still quite shaded. But we could see that it was going to be a clear and beautiful day.  It never got below 33° F at our house, but at the lower elevation, one of the bank signs told us that the temperature was 28° F and there was frost on some roofs and on some grass. We were on our way to the farmer's market.  The results of that trip are what prompted me to post this morning.

We got two locally grown watermelons, and I think it's safe to say that they are the last of the season. We were surprised to see them there. We got 26 ears of corn for $5. We got Winesap apples that were the size of small cantelope. (I need to take  a pic.) and we got a big bag of red bell peppers for .50¢ each.  I only had two good bell pepper plants this past season, but I vow to plant at least a dozen this spring.  I love my raw red bell pepper in salads and in other dishes.  In case I haven't made this clear, and since some people reading this blog might not know it, all bell pepper is pretty much the same. I don't know how they developed the varieties that only turn yellow or orange, but green bell pepper is really just the same as red, except that it hasn't been allowed to ripen.  While I don't mind the green bells in some things, especially when cooked, I will always prefer the red.  There's something in the green that makes it taste like a strange oil. I don't know what it is or how to describe it.  The red bell doesn't have it, and the sugars are more developed and so it has a distinct sweetness to it.  But red bells are often much more expensive than the green, which makes sense because when you grow them you find that the peppers get up to size pretty quickly, but it can take two or three weeks for them to fully ripen depending on the conditions.

I've seen red bells in the supermarket going as high as $4 a piece.  I think the most I've ever been willing to pay, because I was desperate to make a certain dish, was about $2.  One of my favorite ingredients for certain dishes is the fire roasted red bell packed in oil.  But, man, oh man, talk about expensive.  Next time you are in your local supermarket, go look in the pickle aisle and check out the price.  I think the last time I looked, an 8 ounce jar was almost $4.  So, what did I do yesterday?

While Twyla was shucking and processing the corn for the freezer, I was flame roasting the bells on the stove. I stick a fork in the stem end of the core and then let the flame lick it all over until the skin chars black.  Then I push them off on to a cutting mat to cool down to handling temperature.  By the time you get to the third one, the first one you did is usually just warm enough to handle.  Then I take a knife and scrape the charred skin off.  Yes, I use two hands to do this, but Twyla was busy with corn and couldn't take the pic, so I'm using my left hand to do this.  Now, maybe someone else has a way to skin a bell the same way you do a tomato, by scalding the skin in boiling water and then it peels easily, but that's never worked for me.  Besides, there is just something about the roasting off of the skin that gives the pepper a distinct flavor.  You just can't get that by boiling and then roasting.  This method is not meant to thoroughly cook the pepper anyway.

By the time I was finished doing all the roasting (ten large peppers), Twyla had finished the corn and had moved on to the jalapeños from our garden, preparing them for canning in plain water.   I cored the peppers by cutting around the stem and then pulled the peppers apart by their natural segments.  The segments then get packed pretty snugly into quart jars and regular olive oil is added to within a half inch of the top.  You have to make sure to wipe the edge of the jar carefully with a paper towel to make sure that no oil will interfere with the seal.  Then the jars go into the boiling water bath with the pint jars of jalapeños. After 20 minutes we have these beautiful things.

I estimate that to be about $32 worth of fire-roasted pimento.  I'm going to savor every bite and know that my efforts slaving over a hot stove will have been worth it.  Next fall, I'll probably do this over the outside fire pit, doing half a dozen at a time.

I'll leave you today with a photo of one of the winesap apples.  That's a standard coffee mug with a large Cortland apple in it and an 8 ounce jar of Jalapeño jelly for perspective.  Just imagine that apple cored and baked with some cinnamon and nutmeg.  Yummy.

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