An early fall tradition in Portuguese homes the world over is the making of Pimenta Moida (Pee-men-tah Mo-ee-dah). A staple in any good Portuguese cooking, this one ingredient can at times single handedly determine if a dish can be considered “Portuguese”. If you follow my blog, you have seen me use this ingredient time and time again in such dishes as Shrimp Mozambique, Portuguese Beef Stew and Portuguese Baked Beans. And like most Portuguese cooking, each family seems to have a slight variation on just how they make, preserve and store this amazing little ingredient.
In my family, the making of Pimenta Moida is left to my Dad. I’m not sure how this happened, but I suspect it has to do with his non-porous and almost leathery hands that don’t get so affected by the burning hot peppers… Anyone else would most definitely need to wear good gloves and double up on the gloves if you know what’s good for you! I have done it in the past and my hands and arms were red hot for days, I certainly learned my lesson. This year my Dad put 4 bushels of peppers through the manual pepper grinder! (I think even he used gloves for at least some of it!)
There is a process to making and preserving Portuguese Style Ground Red Peppers. I will take you through the process again in the tutorial, but to sum it up you only need three ingredients. We use, hot red peppers (although not the hottest of the hot), salt and preserving powder. We use the preserving powder so that we can store it outside the refrigerator. Some families use olive oil, some add in garlic and some will incorporate lots of seeds. We don’t. We wash and allow peppers to dry. Then cut them, clean them by removing the stem and seeds. Grind them using an old-fashioned grinder and add a whole lot of salt. Then allow to “boil” or ferment. Once the fermentation process is coming to an end, we add in preserving powder. We allow that to cure a little longer and jar them. They will keep for well over a year with this process. Let me show you how we do it…
Here are the peppers… I actually don’t know the name of these peppers… Around here they are just called hot peppers. Although these are a milder fatter variety of the hot peppers. Still hot, but not top hot status. You can call them chili peppers or Portuguese Hot Peppers. You have a 6 week window this time of year in which to get them. Each batch starts with a bushel.
Here is the grinder… In years past, this is how people would grind their meat. Today, I suppose you could still use it for that, although in my family, this has always been it’s only use.
It comes apart for thorough washing before and after each and every use. My dad installs it on a work bench here.
After the peppers are washed and have had some time to dry, they are ready for preparation. My Dad cuts them down the center like so.
He will then remove the stem and seeds. If you like a hotter pepper you can leave in some seeds. In my family, we use the pepper for the flavor not so much the heat. So we clean all of it out.
Once the peppers are clean, it’s time to stuff them in the grinder.
My Dad pushes the peppers in careful not to catch his fingers in the grinder and at the same time he rotates the grinder arm turning the grinder wheel inside the contraption.
The pepper then comes out of the grinder and falls into a waiting bowl.
As all the pepper is ground from one bushel, it’s collected in a large pot or bowl.
To each bushel of peppers we add about one heaping cup of salt and stir it in. Pretty much right away, the peppers start to “boil” or ferment on their own. We cover and allow that process to take place over the next 24-72 hours. How long depends entirely on the peppers. When they stop boiling is when you are ready to move on to the next stage.
You can see some of the “boiling” here with these bubbles, it’s something to see, how it actively boils, bubbles just keep rising to the surface.
This is preservative powder… you can find it at any Portuguese store this time of year, or any place that sells a good variety of canning supplies.
Pour in the preservative powder.
I know this post would be a lot prettier if I went out and bought some beautiful canning jars. But, the reality is most Portuguese people will use what they have on hand to jar their peppers. I’ve used recycled peanut butter jars, tomato sauce jars and a variety of different recycled containers. What I did this year, because I like to have my pepper available to me in smaller containers, is I stopped by the dollar store and picked up three containers. I then washed with scalding hot water and dried.
After 24 hours, this is what the peppers will look like… a lot of the preservative pops up on top. You will need to mix it in again before adding into jars. note: you might also see this when you ope the jars for use, just mix it back in.
Notice how I am leaving some room at the top of the jar, that is to allow for additional gas formed by further fermentation.
Pour more salt on top of each batch.
Just let the salt settle on top. At this point some people form a hermetic seal with olive oil. We don’t do that.
You now place the lid on loosely, wait an additional 3 days before you tighten the lid in case the peppers continue to ferment. You don’t want to have an explosion on your hands… that being said, after the three days, don’t take the lid off, you want to trap that fermentation gas in there, that helps to remove the oxygen further aiding in the preservation process.
When you open a large jar of pepper, you will need to keep it in the fridge as it will no longer last outside of the fridge, some people choose to divide up into smaller jars at that point in order to better fit their refrigerator.
Portuguese Style Ground Red Pepper (Pimenta Moida)
1 Bushel hot red peppers
1 heaping cup kosher salt, plus more for topping
1/2 cup preserving powder
- Wash and allow peppers to dry.
- Cut them down the center, clean them by removing the stem and seeds.
- Grind them using an old-fashioned grinder or an electric grinder attachment to your stand mixer.
- Add salt. Stir. Cover. (Do not refrigerate)
- Allow to “boil” or ferment for 24-72 hours.
- Once the fermentation process is coming to an end (this is determined by the notice of a reduction in “boiling”, add in preserving powder.
- Allow mixture to sit covered for an additional 24 hours.
- Stir again and add into sanitized containers. Place lid on loosely. Allow to sit for an additional 72 hours.
- After 72 hours, do not remove lid, but tighten.