Saturday, February 6, 2010

Recipe: Pimenta Salgada (Portuguese Salted Peppers)

Pimenta salgada are the lynch pin in Portuguese-style steak sandwiches and other dishes. For me and many others, if they are not in there, you're just having a mildly spicy steak sandwich that you can get anywhere. They have a salty and unique flavor that makes the dish what it is. Because of that unique flavor I also use them in several other Portuguese recipes and I am sure they will infiltrate more.

Here in the good old South Coast of Massachusetts city of Fall River, we have a large Azorean-Portuguese community. It is so large in fact that many Azoreans consider Fall River to be the tenth island in the Azores chain! Because of that large Portuguese population we have immediate access to a great deal of good Portuguese food and ingredients. From staples like the spicy chourico and linguica sausages and bolos levedos sweet buns to more exotic things like fresh Azorean seafoods and hard-to-find spices.

One of the harder to find items is pimenta salgada. You won't find it in most local grocers. Only the most "Portuguese" of the Portuguese stores carry it. I don't think that is because it is rare or unpopular but instead, I think it is because most people who use it in their cooking prefer to make it themselves. One of those people is my friend Karen (family name: Lima) who learned how to make it from her mother. When I asked her for instructions on how to prepare it she didn't hesitate to offer them up.

So, for my friends from far away who may or may not have have had Portuguese food, or better yet: Portuguese-style steak sandwiches, and who want to create them at home using my recipes and others, you are now just a short process and fourteen days away from being able to do it in your own kitchens! I have other great recipes that use these unique peppers coming in the near future. Thank you Karen for your generosity!

Pimenta Salgada
(Portuguese Salted Peppers)

Red Finger Peppers (hot or sweet peppers 6" to 8" long)
Coarse Sea Salt
A suitably large and deep, lidded glass or ceramic container (red ceramic is traditional).

Carefully wash all the peppers and blot them dry.

Cut off the top of pepper, be careful not to remove the seeds.*

Fill each pepper with sea salt and carefully layer them in the glass/ceramic container.

As you complete each layer of peppers, place a layer of salt over it before starting a new layer.

Continue until you fill the container or run out of peppers.

Cover and place in a cool dark place.

The pimenta salgada are typically ready in about 2 weeks.

You can expect the peppers to give up a great deal of their moisture and it may eventually cover the peppers, this is normal. It is also normal for pimenta salgada to darken and soften over time. It requires no refrigeration.

*There is an alternative method in which you halve and deseed each pepper. Then you layer them in the container and cover each layer with salt. I've used them both ways.

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