Thursday, October 23, 2014

Chinese Bitter Melon Stir-Fry with Ground Pork and Black Bean Sauce

Chinese Bitter Melon Stir-Fry with Ground Pork and Black Bean Sauce 1

While experimenting with several ways to reduce the bitterness of bitter melon, reader Gabriel Ocasio suggested on my Wandering Chopsticks Facebook page to salt the bitter melon and then stir-fry it with black bean sauce. So that's what I did.

Perhaps I've been going about this all wrong? Instead of making bitter melon the star of a dish, if I just treated it as any other squash and stir-fried it with meat and sauce, the bitterness wouldn't be so prominent? Because this recipe was my favorite of the four bitter melon recipes I cooked that day. The salting reduced the bitterness so there was just a slight tinge, which was balanced by the sweetness of the smidgen of sugar and the saltiness of the black bean sauce.

Wynotts Wands - Salem - Massachusetts

5 Wynotts Wands - Salem - Massachusetts 1

While on our loop around Salem, second-oldest nephew pointed out Wynotts Wands, makers of fine wands since 1692 (not really). After all, if Salem is capitalizing on its notoriety for witchcraft, stands to reason that someone would cash in on wizardry and Harry Potter.

Butter beer anyone? Actually, it's Flying Cauldron Butterscotch Beer, neither it, nor Wynotts Wands, is affiliated with Harry Potter. Not that anyone really pays attention to that disclaimer.

Because really, when you have a wand shop, it better look like Ollivanders! (And like Ollivanders, there is no apostrophe in Wynotts.) The shop limits the amount of visitors inside at one time, which was actually refreshing to escape the crowds during October in Salem, but meant a brief wait before being allowed to enter.

Not affiliated with Harry Potter, although the Deathly Hallows logos on the wand boxes in the window contradict that.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ye Olde Pepper Companie (America's Oldest Candy Company) - Salem - Massachusetts

4 Ye Olde Pepper Companie (America's Oldest Candy Company) - Salem - Massachusetts 1

After grabbing a quick breakfast at Red Line Cafe - Salem - Massachusetts, second-oldest nephew and his friend and I headed to the waterfront. After a spin around the House of the Seven Gables and the house in which Nathaniel Hawthorne was born, we headed across the street to Ye Olde Pepper Companie, which opened in 1806 and is America's oldest candy company. A chance to get some edible souvenirs with a side of history? Can't pass that up!

According to their website, Ye Olde Pepper Companie began after Mary Spencer sailed from England to Salem and was left destitute by a shipwreck. Her neighbors donated supplies, including a barrel of sugar when they found out she was a confectioner. She made lemon and peppermint Gibralters, which are initially hard but then soften after several weeks and taste like an after-dinner mint. She first sold her candies on the steps of church and then with a horse and carriage. After she passed away in 1835, her son, Thomas, took over the business, but shortly afterward, he inherited a title in England and sold the business to fellow confectioner, John Pepper. Thomas and Pepper had worked together to create Black Jacks, molasses stick candy that would appeal to more masculine tastes to contrast with the feminine Gibralters.

Pepper's son, George, took over until selling his business at the turn of the 20th century to George and Alice Burkinshaw, who were, respectively, assistant candy maker and candy packers for Ye Olde Pepper Companie. The fourth generation of Burkinshaws still operate the candy shop today.

The left side of the building is where the candy is still made by hand today. The right side is the candy shop. October's high season in Salem meant a very packed store. There was basically only room to enter, walk around the center table, choosing wares along the way, exiting after a loop.