Sunday, February 21, 2016

Pimenta Moida

Continuing with my interest in Portuguese cuisine, I noticed my Azorean cookbooks talk about a pepper paste called Pimenta Moida that is used as a condiment. You can find it at the small Portuguese shops around here but I have not seen it in the Portuguese food sections at the local supermarkets so I have never tried it. It is a fermented product and looks like a good way to preserve and use some of the peppers from the garden.

The local Azorean community used to make their year’s supply every fall, buying cases of Shepherds peppers from the produce markets and enlisting all family members to process them. I have never heard of this pepper but it is supposed to be a long, slender sweet red pepper, probably of Italian origin. Apparently it is very popular in Ontario, who knew? I have not seen this type of pepper in the stores around here, at least under that name. Checking seed catalogs, there is a “Super Shepherd” pepper which seems to be the right type: long, red, slender and of Italian origin. Another one is called “Shepherds Ramshorn”, described as originating in Spain but now commonly grown in Italy. This pepper is supposed to be very sweet, having one of the highest brix ratings. I may try growing one of these two next year, or maybe I will just grow some extra Carmen peppers.

Since it is far past pepper season here in New England and I do not have peppers from my garden, I checked out the supermarkets. What I found was mostly hothouse peppers, except for these. The peppers below are LeRouge Royale peppers. LeRouge is an elongated red pepper that was developed in Israel. It is commonly field grown in California, Florida, and Mexico. Mine came from Mexico. In addition, I picked up a few red Fresno peppers to add a little spice. Little spice? These Fresno peppers are hot! Since I can not believe that Pimenta Moida is not just a little spicy, I will make my paste spicy to taste by adding the Fresno peppers one at a time until I get a paste spicy enough for my timid tastes.



The preparation for making Pimenta Moida involves cutting the peppers into strips, removing seeds and membranes, and salting with sea salt.



The salted peppers are placed in a glass bowl. I covered them with a piece of plastic wrap and placed a plate on the wrap. The bowl was covered with a towel and set aside to ferment for a couple of weeks at room temperature.



After fermenting for two weeks, the peppers were limp and a lot of moisture was extracted from them, forming a brine in the bowl. There were a few small moldy spots I trimmed off first, then I drained the peppers and put them into a food processor. The result was a bright red paste. To spice it up, I started adding  the Fresno peppers, one half at a time. It turns out just one half pepper made it spicy enough for me. I can enjoy the intense pepper flavor of the Moida with a little added snap from the Fresno but without a lot of pain.



The three peppers only made a half pint of paste. It has a nice pepper flavor but is very salty, so it probably needs to be treated as a condiment and any additional salt in a recipe needs to be adjusted. I poured a thin layer of olive oil over the top to help preserve it and put it in the refrigerator. My first use of it was to coat some split chicken breasts. I let the breasts sit for an hour before baking them. The result was excellent. The Moida formed a nice peppery, salty crust on the breasts and added a lot of flavor to otherwise bland chicken.

I did eventually find a commercial Pimena Moida in the supermarket. Gonsalves is a New England based distributor specializing in Portuguese foods. Their Pimenta Moida was labeled “Crushed Red Peppers” and looked like any other jar of hot peppers. I was about to buy a jar until I read the ingredients. While actually sourced from the Azores, their product contained vinegar and a long list of preservatives and additives. The vinegar means it is not a fermented product and it is certainly not a “living” food, so that was disappointing and made any comparison pointless.

Pimenta Moida is a fermented living food and is another way to preserve the garden harvest in a way that is both tasty and healthy. I am reading two of David Perlmutter’s books, Grain Brain and Brain Maker. Grain Brain shows the research that gluten and carbohydrates negatively affect cognitive health. Brain Maker details how our gut biome (the trillions of organisms that live in our gut) also affect brain health. At the end of the book he has recipes for foods that will help restore the health of our gut biome, all of them fermented foods. So fermented pickles, salsas, sauerkraut, kimchi (yes, you kimchi skeptics, he considers kimchi one of the healthiest of foods!),  yogurt, kefir, pickled fish, pickled meats (e.g., corned beef), pickled eggs are all brain-healthy foods. I am really looking forward to the coming garden season and planning to try fermentation as a way to preserve more of my harvest.

10 comments:

  1. Well, that's pretty awesome! I'm growing quite a few varieties of peppers now and am really looking forward to expanding my horizons when it comes to making our own condiments through both fermentation and drying. Like you I prefer only a moderate amount of heat & find that most supermarket chili pastes/seasonings are more spice than flavour. It will be wonderful to create blends that are perfectly suited to our tastes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The pimenta moida is not like any hot pepper mix I have bought (the kind used on subs). It's fermented so it does not have a vinegar taste. The flavor is intensely of fresh, sweet peppers with a little bite so it adds a lot of flavor to whatever it is used in or on.

      Delete
  2. Well, I know very little about Portuguese cuisine, so it's hardly surprising that I had never heard of that Pimenta Moida! I just hope that when you removed the mouldy bits from the peppers you did a thorough job - though what's a few billion more bacteria between friends?? The commercial product you found sounds like a big disappointment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A little mold sometimes happens in a ferment, mostly on the edges of the peppers that were sticking out of the brine that formed. I just trimmed it off, so no moldy taste to the moida. The commercial product had enough preservatives in it to kill a horse, so mold is no problem for them.

      Delete
  3. Fermented salsa, what an interesting idea! We are planning on making tons of salsa this year (fingers crossed) so this would be a chance to try fermenting some. Hmmm.

    Your fermented peppers sauce sounds delicious. I'm trying some new pepper varieties this year, hoping for some sweet peppers that actually taste sweet.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think Dave of Our Happy Acres may have made a fermented salsa. He does make a fermented hot sauce.

      Delete
  4. You have a "Portuguese food section" at the local grocery store?! I've grown Shepherd peppers before (Super Shepherd from Stokes) but have generally had so little success with peppers that I can't say if they were any good or not. What I wouldn't do for a glut of peppers some year!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep, and they have imported octopus, squid and mackerel in a specialty freezer case. And there are Portuguese bakeries. Big population, mostly from the Azores. I bought some Super Shepherd seeds from Southern Exposure and will try those, but they are sweet peppers. Yet I know the real pimenta moida is probably flaming hot, so it's confusing. How?

      Delete
    2. I bet they have Portuguese egg tarts (custard tarts) - my favourite! When I lived in Toronto, we had a nearby Portuguese bakery ... you are lucky!

      Delete
  5. This sounds like it would be right up my alley. I made a similar salted and fermented 'mash' using all hot peppers last year, but this treatment sounds more usable if you use mostly sweet peppers. I'll pin this one to try when I have some fresh peppers.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for visiting. I appreciate your taking the time to comment and value what you have to contribute to the discussion.

Template developed by Confluent Forms LLC