Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hot and Numbing

So a few posts ago, I gave a shout out to the Spice Hunter on I thought that instead of just posting about it, I would actually go out and hunt for spices!

Ever hear of Sichuan Peppercorns?

I had. And I wanted some for myself.

I heard a rumor that a lone tree in Brooklyn's Prospect Park grows a small berry-like fruit that smells intensely like lemon and wood, but with a mysterious element that is almost impossible to put your finger on (is that Lysol?) I had to go and check it out and try to get my hands on some elusive Sichuan Peppercorns. I had read about them, I had seen pictures of them, and I had imagined what their numbing properties were capable of. Imagine no more!
I found the tree, based on a little sleuth work, and my friend Andrew and I set out to grab our own stash of this mysterious Asian delicacy.

Alas! The tree was found, and we spent the better part of an hour collecting our treasure from the tree. No one bothered us or asked us what we were doing. Just pure unadulterated foraging. Our hands dirty and fragrant, our mouths numb and tingly, we we satisfied.

Andrew and I had our haul; about a sandwich size Ziploc baggie each.
 I had some more investigating to do to make sure that the peppercorns I got would be properly processed for consumption.

After the berries dried for a few days on a cookie sheet, this is what they looked like.
Beautiful right?

Now all I had to do was separate all the seeds, stems and usable spice. (All I had to do. This step took quite a while)

Also, I couldn't bring myself to throw out the seeds. Now I've got a jar full of usable Sichuan Peppercorns, and a jar of seeds I need to figure out what to do with.

I'm really excited to make a lot of things with these peppercorns. Spicy, noodley, soups will probably be first, but sweet, hot, numbing chutney sound really good too. You can bet that there will be pictures!

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