This paste of salt-cured peppers is a classic Portuguese seasoning for poultry, sausages, and meats, such as Roast Pork with Red Pepper Paste. It’s traditional to use a meat grinder to make this paste (massa de pimentão in Portuguese), but a food processor or blender will do.
Core, seed, and quarter the peppers. Trim away the ribs and any top and bottom ends that are extremely curvy.
Set a large freestanding stainless-steel or plastic sieve or footed colander in a large nonreactive pan or dish with sides. Line the sieve with a double layer of cheesecloth and pour a 1-inch layer of salt into the sieve to form a base (some will seep out). Lay a single layer of pepper quarters, skin side up, on the salt. Press the peppers into the salt, making sure that any curvy parts are coated with salt or mold may form. Cover with a 1/2-inch layer of salt and another layer of peppers. Repeat with as many layers as needed, ending with a layer of salt. Set a heavy dish on top to weight it down. Let stand at room temperature for up to five days to remove the moisture from the peppers. By the fourth or fifth day, the peppers should be about 1/4 inch thick or less, which means they’re done.
Brush the excess salt off the peppers. Pass the peppers through a meat grinder or process them briefly in a food processor or blender; the texture should be somewhat coarse. Pack the paste in a sterilized glass jar, leaving about 1 inch at the top. Cover the paste with about 1/2 inch of olive oil, seal the jar, and refrigerate. Discard the salt.
Make Ahead Tips
The salt in this recipe acts as a preservative, so the paste keeps for several months in the refrigerator when stored as directed. To use the refrigerated paste, push aside the congealed olive oil, remove what you need, and replace the oil, adding more as needed to cover the paste.
Photo: Scott Phillips