09 June, 2009

Not All Ideas Are Good Ideas

Whether at the stove or at the table, my family likes freshly-ground seasonings. Peppercorns, allspice, nutmeg, coriander seed - no matter what it is, it tastes better when it's ground at the time of use (not to mention that whole spices have a longer shelf life than pre-ground ones.)

Good high-quality peppermills are available in just about any store for around $25 or so, but they're also easy to find (and a lot less expensive) at rummage sales, thrift stores, and estate or yard sales. I've picked up quite a few very nice peppermills for a dollar or less each that way.

Last year, I bought a mill with a clear lucite body and steel grinding plates. I liked the idea of a clear body, because I could fill it with an unusual mix that would be immediately visible to anyone picking it up. I filled it up with a blend of crushed red pepper flakes and very coarse sea salt. The combination was great - salt with a hot pepper kick - and was pretty popular for awhile before the novelty wore off and the mill found its way into kind of a seasoning rotation and, eventually, into the spice cupboard where it was more or less forgotten.

I remembered it a week ago and brought it out to add a little zip to my scrambled eggs - and added instead a coating of filthy-tasting slag; it was like having a mouthful of crunchy rotting tin. And when I flipped the peppermill over to check it, it was easy to see why. Summers in New England are tropical in their humidity, and salt gathers moisture. Sitting in the spice cupboard over last summer had given the crushed salt trapped in and on the plates plenty of time to collect moisture from the air and rot the metal. I hadn't actually ground any salt or red pepper onto my eggs at all - I had just broken free the rotted, fused plates and scraped the rust into my food.

Lesson learned: Any mills I buy for salt blends will have nylon grinding plates from now on.


1 comment:

lunaburning said...

Sorry to hear about your rusty breakfast, but the sea salt, red pepper flake combo sounds amazing! Just picked up a cool old pepper mill at my local Goodwill today for $0.49. I'll definately be using it for that. Here's to hoping that Ohio summers are kinder and gentler to peppermills...