Monday, October 5, 2009

Put Out an APB on "Peter Piper" and Get His Carcass In Here

I think I have all the feeling back in my hands now.

Or, rather, I think I have only the proper amount of feeling back in my hands now. There is quite a difference between these two things in theory, though in practice it amounts to much the same result, namely the general sense that your arms end in a pair of fuzzy dice that somebody stole out of a 1963 Chevy Nova and swapped out for what used to be a useful set of appendages. It does raise some interesting questions about what is now hanging off the rear-view mirror of that Nova, but so it goes.

Yesterday I made my own hot sauce.

Kim’s garden has been producing produce in mind-boggling quantities for some time now, and among the bushels coming in were more than a few hot peppers that she planted as a way to make me interested in the garden. And since it would be a shame to see all those peppers go to waste, I figured I’d try to make some hot sauce. So I found a recipe that looked promising and cleared some time yesterday afternoon.

Now, I’ve had experience in dealing with hot peppers before. Some years ago I decided to pickle the four tons of banana peppers that we grew that year and spent several days chopping them up, salting them down and drowning them in jars full of vinegar, and from that experience I learned some valuable lessons.

First, the importance of rubber gloves when dealing with hot peppers cannot be overstated, especially if you ever want to use those hands again for anything besides repositories of creams, unguents and emollients.

Second, if you can process the peppers outdoors you should, otherwise the whole house will smell like the aftermath of a particularly vicious riot.

And third, there are more hot peppers in your garden than you know what to do with. Really, there are. Just let them go, man. Let them go.

I took the third lesson to heart immediately this time around, harvesting only about 20% of the peppers that were hanging there on the plants. I also tried to move the process outdoors as much as possible. This worked for the chopping part (eight cups of chopped, de-seeded hot peppers) but not for the simmering part, as it was too windy and the flame on the grill kept blowing out and I had to move the process indoors – first to the kitchen and then, when that became untenable, to the stove in the basement. I wore the rubber gloves the whole time, too.

Fat lot of good they did me, though.

In the end, the house ended up saturated in capsaicin and vinegar, my gloves ended up stained and porous, and I ended up with about a quart and a half of hot sauce that I’m kind of afraid to eat now.

There was a time in my life when I used to think “the hotter, the better.” That time ended after a hard-fought and costly victory over Colonel Johnson’s Thermonuclear Ribs on a field outside of Pittsburgh, and since then I have been more interested in spice as a flavor than as a test of manhood. I’m a historian. I already know where I stand on the Manly Men Doing Manly Things scale, and I no longer feel a need to purchase food that requires me to sign a Release From Liability beforehand.

So I’m waiting for the volatile organics (see, there are advantages to living with a chemist) to fall back into the hot sauce so I can open up one of the jars without losing my eyebrows and give it a try on something. If it’s any good, I’ll freeze the rest and go pick more peppers. If not, well, I suppose I could use it as a pesticide.

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