Hot — and I mean HOT — Pepper Flakes

Homemade hot pepper flakes.  Try them once and you'll never go back to the bulk spice shelf again.
Homemade hot pepper flakes. Try them once and you’ll never go back to the bulk spice shelf again.

Wondering what to do with those leftover cayenne peppers at the end of each gardening season?  Looking for a good reason to plant cayennes in the first place?  I’ve got 3 words for you: Hot. Pepper. Flakes.

Yes, my friends, you know them well.  You usually find them on the countertop of quality pizza parlours and the tables of Italian family restaurants.  You often give ’em a shake over your favourite slice of pepperoni or combine them with grated parmesan on your spaghetti and meat-a-balls.

But, trust me, they have a lot more uses than merely a topper for American-style Italian food.  As a chili-head, I keep them on the kitchen table, at the ready for soups, stews, chilies, eggs, potatoes…  In short, anything that can use a bit of livening up.  They make a lovely alternative to hot sauce.

And, gosh, are they simple to make.

While some folks oven-dry theirs, and still others use a dehydrator, I go with a much more cost-saving method.  I just let them dry on their own.*

As the harvest progresses, I leave some on a dehydrater tray (or clean window screen) in the sun — bringing them inside at night when dew threatens to add moisture to them.  As the weather starts getting cooler, I hang them inside — usually by making a chili-line, where I string peppers together using needle and thread and then drape them in a drafty area of the kitchen (leaving a half inch or so between cayennes).  Still later, I will put them in paper bags (dang, those LCBO bags come in handy) and leave them atop the woodstove.

Once they’re good and crispy and dry, they’re ready.

A blenderful of cayenne. Don’t accidentally inhale this stuff. No, really. I mean it.
A blenderful of cayenne. Don’t accidentally inhale this stuff. No, really. I mean it.
And then, it is merely a matter of tossing them in the food processor.  Whiz until they are flake-ified.

Now, a quick note on peppers:  The pepper flakes that you buy at the grocery or bulk food store are likely made up of a combination of peppers — bell, cayenne, ancho, etc.  They probably aren’t as hot as a straight cayenne batch.  So, be warned.

Now, truth be told, I don’t usually use a straight cayenne mix myself.  Sure, the base of the mixture is cayenne, but I also add whatever else I might have leftover — which usually means some banana and jalapano peppers, but also the much hotter habanero as well.  I’m not scared to kick it up a notch.  I also know that a blend of peppers will give your flakes a richer, deeper complexity of flavours.

Whatever peppers you decide to use, be sure that they are completely dried before you dehydrate.  You may also want to make sure than none of them have started to go mouldy during the drying process — which is definitely an issue with peppers that have more flesh (such as jalapenos and bananas).

Finally, in order to best keep their heat and flavour, store the flakes in an airtight container.

Enjoy!  Knock your socks off!

*I do dehydrate some peppers in the food dehydrator during periods where we already have it running on a regular basis, but the bulk of my pepper are dried on their own.

Mmmmmm… Beerpig! Primal Cuts and Publican House Team Up for Succulent Mash-Fed Heritage Pork

The boys from Primal Cuts serve up pulled pork sandwiches at the Publican House.
The boys from Primal Cuts serve up pulled pork sandwiches at the Publican House.

Two of my favourite Peterborough businesses have teamed up with two of my all time favourite things to produce…  Well…  An epicurean marvel.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce to you…  Square Nail Large Black Pork.

(Or as I like to call it, the Beerpig).

George Madill, owner and head butcher of Primal Cuts has been working with the Publican House Brewery and Hawthorne Ridge Heritage Farm in Douro/Dummer to raise his very first batch of Large Black heritage variety pigs.  While a butcher taking the time, energy, and care to take animals from litter to store is noteworthy enough, the partnership he has forged with the Publican makes it even more special.

The pigs are being fed spent grains from the brewery as part of their diet as a means of creating a tender and flavourful pork.  With a buttery fat layer and moist, juicy flesh, this product is absolutely unique in both flavour and texture.  It is something that you will need to try in order to believe.

My Braised Pork Shoulder Chile Verde bubbling away on the stove. Recipe coming soon!

And speaking of trying it, I had the pleasure of attending a recent pig roast, where I tried out the Beerpig alongside a pint of Square Nail Ale.  It was absolutely sublime.  As for your opportunity to get your hands on some, I would suggest getting into Primal Cuts by tomorrow (Saturday, November23).  I know that George has one of these pigs coming in today.  I also know that the last two that he brought in to butcher sold out within 24 hours.  So get cracking.

While you’re at it, swing by the Publican House for a growler of Square Nail.  It is the perfect beverage to go along with your pork.

For more information, please see the write-up, from Hawthorne Ridge Farm, below.  But first…  Just look at the cute little piggies!

Square Nail Large Black Pigs

Our philosophy at Hawthorne Ridge Heritage Farm can be summed up in three short statements:

Heritage bred…Naturally fed…Humanely raised

 These statements are key to our approach in raising and finishing the Square Nail Large Black Pigs

Heritage bred…

The Large Black is an Old World breed of the 16th and 17th century. It was developed from the black pigs of European descent and Chinese breeds. Early selection was toward the bacon type and now the breed is characterized by great length and depth of body.

In the early part of this century the Large Black was used for the production of pork in outdoor operations. Its black color makes it tolerant of many sun burn illnesses and its hardiness and grazing ability make it an efficient meat producer.  The Large Black thrives on foraging outdoors, is not adverse to cold weather and is known for their mothering ability, milk capacity and having large litters of piglets. The Large Black is ideally suited to small farms and sustainable agriculture operations. Thanks to micro-marbling of intra-muscular fat, the Large Black is extremely moist, juicy and flavourful.

There were a few Canadian imports of Large Blacks starting in the 1920’s and more recently in 2001 in association with Rare Breeds Canada. The Large Black Pig is recognized as a critically endangered species, not only in Canada but worldwide. When pork production became industrialized in the 1950s, this slow-growing foraging breed was not suitable for the close confinement of intensive farms. In spite of its docile temperament and exquisite taste, its numbers have dropped.

At Hawthorne Ridge Heritage Farm the Large Black is a key component of our integrated and sustainable farming philosophy. We are dedicated to ensuring this fine animal is available for another generation of farmers and customers to discover and enjoy.

Naturally fed…

At Hawthorne Ridge we believe in feeding our pigs a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables as well as forage (grass in summer and hay in winter) grown on the farm. Since it is fall, this group of pigs will benefit from a bumper crop of apples we are fortunate to have this year on the farm. We believe that this combination of feed sources adds to the superior flavour of our pork.

The opportunity to use the mash from the Publican House Square Nail Ale in the diet of this group of pigs is consistent with our feeding philosophy. We are confident that using the mash as part of their diet will be reflected in the flavour to the meat, a flavour unique to this group of pigs.

Humanely raised…

At Hawthorne Ridge we believe in providing all our animals a safe, secure and fulfilling environment to live in. What does that look like in the production of the Square Nail Large Black pigs?

When they were piglets it meant no teeth clipping, no tail docking and no castration. They remained with their mother for 8 to 10 weeks before they are moved together into the larger pen. The grow out pen is a large pen that provides approximately 7 sq. meters/pig for the current group of 10 pigs .While they are penned inside the barn they have access to the outside.