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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Pepper Roasting

A pepper roaster, ready to work.

A few years ago I drove the entire Santa Fe Trail. I’ve been a speaker for the Santa Fe Trail Symposium, but had never actually driven the entire route from Independence, MO, through southern Colorado and into Santa Fe. It was enjoyable, of course, but it also created an addiction for me. Traveling that route in early fall means passing hundreds of roadside pepper roasters in action.
Pepper roaster in action.

At every roadside stand, people were standing in lines to buy hot roasted peppers to eat or freeze for later. I bought some to bring home, just to see what all the excitement was about. That’s what got me hooked on roasting peppers.

Now, 5 years later, I’m growing 40 varieties of hot and mild peppers. Some are for drying but many are for roasting and eating on top of steaks, or turning into hot sauce. I make lots of hot sauce and wrote a book last year with my favorite hot sauce recipes (Make Your Own Hot Sauce, available on my website, including directions for canning sauces for winter.

I’ve been roasting peppers on my grill and in the toaster oven ever since, but it’s more tedious and slow. I still have to put the hot, roasted peppers into a paper bag to steam them and loosen the skins. It’s certainly worth the effort, but not as efficient as using a pepper roaster.
The propane flame underneath roasts and peels the peppers.

This year I felt I could justify buying myself a real pepper roaster. It’s a metal cage with a hand-crank handle on the end. It holds 5 pounds of peppers and has a propane burner underneath. Turning the handle keeps the peppers moving over the flame and as they toss, the pepper skins char and fall off, leaving me with roasted and peeled peppers.

Sweet peppers are just as tasty as hot peppers, just without the heat. Thick walled peppers roast better than thin walled ones. Hatch pepper, an especially good flavored, little heat pepper are available through the fall season in several local grocery stories.

To see a pepper roaster in operation, one place you can visit is the Springfield (Missouri) Farmers Market on Republic Road any Saturday morning (or a check the farmers market near you). You can roast them on your barbecue grill, as well. Once you've tasted this amazing culinary marvel, you can join me in enjoying one of the authentic flavors of the 1840s and of life along the historic Santa Fe Trail.

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