Thursday, June 9, 2011

Food Mill

   The food mill arrived yesterday. Today I went to the produce stand and spent most of the afternoon in the  kitchen. My taste for hot pepper sauce has been ramping up over the past year or so. I figured it was time to learn to make it myself and it would be a great project for the new food mill.

   A quick aside here... why make a condiment that I could find in a multitude of varieties in any grocery store? There are a number of reasons, but for me the primary reason is to be more connected to my own food supply. I appreciate knowing exactly what goes into what I am eating beyond a list of ingredients that include chemicals that I have to look up what they are and how to pronounce their names and can't find in any store. I like knowing (and being able to control) just how much sugar, salt, fat, etc. is going into my food (and my body, and my family's bodies). It's rewarding to learn how to make things like condiments and maybe even tweak the recipe to make it better. I am able to use fresh ingredients, know their origin, and deal with waste responsibly (i.e. chicken food and compost). On top of all of that, by doing it myself I take a lot of excess out of the equation such as the processing plant, warehousing, distribution, and advertising. Ultimately, I am able to produce a superior product that is healthier for me, my family, and the planet, and save money. The downside is that I have to take some time out every now and then and do it. It's worth it to me.

   Back to today's project: hot pepper sauce! The produce stand had approximately seven pounds of various peppers on the discount table, so I bought them all, along with a couple heads of garlic (they were 2 for $1 and I know we'll use it). At home I cleaned the peppers, cut them up, and started trying to process them through the food mill. I thought I could process them through the coarse plate and then process the mash a second time through a more refined plate. It quickly became evident that I had not properly prepared the peppers for the food mill.

   I decided to run the chopped peppers through the food processor first, then through the food mill. That worked out well, though it added a step I had hoped to eliminate. Once all the peppers (and a couple cloves of garlic) had been reduced to liquid, I added an (approximately) equal amount of vinegar and seven teaspoons of salt. After stirring the solution well, I gave the spoon a conservative taste test and was very happy with the result! I brought the sauce to a gradual boil while I sterilized some pint jars and lids.

   I ultimately ended up with five pints of hot pepper sauce. Every recipe I read said that it needs to ferment for at least two weeks, up to three months (or more). At this point the jars have cooled and the vinegar and pepper juice seems to have separated, but a quick shake appears to solve the separation.

   I'll follow up on the pepper sauce experiment as it progresses. I think I might try steaming them first next time. I am really looking forward to making spaghetti sauce when the local tomatoes start coming in!

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