Friday, March 14, 2008

Hot Pepper Relish

15-20 cherry peppers
6-10 medium sized habañeros (depending on how hot you want it)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbs white vinegar
2 tbs brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt
boiling water (enough to cover peppers)

1 non-wood cutting board. (I've found that wood can hold on to and transfer oil from the peppers which can unexpectedly add quite a bit of heat to other foods)
1 very sharp non-serrated kitchen knife.
1 small (1-2 quart) sauce pan
Tupperware or Canning containers to fit least 1.5 pints (3 cups)

Makes around 3 cups

This was an experiment that thankfully turned out great. I wasn't sure how to go about processing the peppers into relish but after reading half a dozen or so pepper relish recipes I got the general idea of what to do.

For this recipe I decided to use cherry peppers and orange habañeros. These days you can usually find a variety of imported hot peppers, including the aforementioned, at your local supermarket. The Shaws in the Back Bay tends to have a good selection and almost always a full bin of habañeros or scotch bonnets; plus they are open 24/7 for all you late night chili-heads.

The cherry pepper is a nice bright to deep red: looking like an over sized cherry, typically around 2 inches in diameter. It shares some of the same sweetness as the sweet red bell pepper but it's got a nice little bit of heat.

The habañero comes in green, yellow, orange and red as well as mixes of those and shades in between. It is usually around 2 inches long but can vary. The habañero comes to a point at the end; unlike it's Caribbean cousin the Scotch Bonnet which has more of a stout/squished look. The habañero is a very hot pepper with a fruity aroma.

Cutting and seeding the peppers.

Taking Caution
When cutting into peppers I recommend you use the sharpest non-serrated knife you own - the reason being that a knife that can't smoothly cut through the skin of the pepper, will tear and squeeze the pepper which can cause squirting, and you don't want that getting on your face. Furthermore - I cannot stress enough that you should WEAR GLOVES when cutting peppers because the last thing you want is to unthinkingly rub your eye with capsaicin (the chemical in the pepper that makes it spicy and burn) from any hot pepper - let alone a habañero.

For the cherry peppers most of the seeds are located on a kind of bud inside the pepper - attached to the top. I usually cut a circle around the top of the pepper and pull the bud out by the stem (like removing the top of a pumpkin). Then under cool running water I scrape out any leftover seeds and white membrane. The water minimizes any capsicum being released into the air. DO NOT use hot water because it seems to activate the capsicum more and you basically get pepper-spray steam.

The habañeros have the seeds more spread out in the pod so I slice off the top of the pepper then split it lengthwise and scrape off the seeds and white membrane once again under cool water.

-Cut the peppers into thin strips then mince them; cutting the cherry peppers into centimeter long pieces and the habañeros into much smaller bits for better distribution.

-Place the cut peppers in a heat proof bowl and pour in the boiling water until it covers the peppers. Cover and let stand 10 minutes then drain. This removes any excess oils in the peppers.

-Pour the vinegar into the saucepan and place on medium/high heat until it comes to a boil.

-Add the sugar - stir till dissolved then add peppers.

-When it comes to a boil reduce the heat to low and add the salt.

-Stirring constantly let simmer for 20-30 minutes or until about a quarter to a third of the liquid is gone and the peppers are softened.

-Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes.

-Pour into your container (using a funnel if necessary). If your container is glass you should first heat it by running it under hot water to prevent heat shock which might crack it.

-Refrigerate. Once again if your container is glass I would let it cool down, on the counter, until it is cool enough to handle - this is so the cold shock doesn't crack the glass.

And there you have it: you're very own hot pepper relish. You can put it on hot dogs , eggs, tacos - my friend Chris even put it on cake.

I'm not sure how long it will last but my experience with peppers tells me that since it's cooked and with vinegar and salt as natural preservatives, it should last quite a while in the fridge.

Stroud out.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

In the beginning there was Knockwurst

So I was hoping my first post would have a little tidbit about bacon and something about "The Beast" which I'll tell you now is my knife. Unfortunately I can't get a good photograph of it right now so that will have to be another post. Also seeing as this is my first post I'm not really sure how i want to structure this blog so I wont feel bad about rambling on and on: as a result you'll just have to bear with me.

I work at The Boston Cheese Cellar, in Roslindale Village in Boston MA, which is the greatest cheese shop in all the land... well, we're at least working towards it. I got the job because my friend Nick's parents opened it at the end of 2006 and said "Hey Ben is awesome (and broke); let's get him to work for us!" Except some of those statements may have been falsified. Anyway. Yesterday Nick and his dad made a trip to Karl's Sausage Kitchen in Saugus: I couldn't go but I was at least brought 4 beautiful knockwurst(s) [I'm not quite sure how to pluralize the word].

I didn't have the knockwurst last night because I had the apartment to myself and my girlfriend was away which meant it was my annual "Garlic chili steak and bottle of pinot grigio Batman Begins night. " I know what you might be thinking "steak with white wine? a whole bottle? Batman is awesome!" And yes to all. If the steak is spicy enough it goes great with the sweetness of the wine, and it's the only wine I can drink a whole bottle of and nothing makes Batman Begins more fun to watch than a whole bottle of wine. Anyway, a full post about all that another time.

Back to the post at hand. I decided if I was going to do these amazing knockwurst any justice, I'd have to cook them in at least a remotely German way. I picked up a large bottle of beer and some brussel sprouts.. now i know i should have used peppers and apples and sauerkraut but I wasn't in the mood for the sour and sweetness and I'm in the midst of a brussel sprouts kick.

For the beer I used Hennepin from the Ommegang brewry in New York. I know this is a Belgian style beer but it was the best choice considering i had to get it from the market, because all the liqour stores in Massachusetts close at 6pm on Sunday because it's a damn puritan state that doesn't want me to have my booze.

To the point.

I pulled out my trusty cast iron skillet (a nice 12 incher) and put it on medium-high heat. Once it was heated up I added about 1 tablespoon of butter, melted it to coat the pan and threw on 2 knockwurst.

While that was going I washed the sprouts, pulling off the outermost leaves, and cut them into quarters.

Once the knockwurst were nicely browned on the sides I melted 2 more tablespoons of butter in the pan and threw in the quartered sprouts and sauteed them, adding a couple pinches of salt, until then were browned a bit.

Then came the fun part: I opened up the beer and poured it into the pan until it was up to about a half an inch, threw on a cover and poured myself a glass.

About 10 minutes later, plus plating, I had this:

The knockwurst was fantastic and the sprouts were amazing. The only thing I might have changed was cooking it for a little longer. Maybe 3 more minutes browning the knockwurst and 5 more cooking in the beer, but that aside it was a perfect meal. And that's all I have to say about that.

Stroud Out.