Thanks to Sherri Daley of CTbites for this great story!
If you are the type who scoffs at the red pepper flakes provided at the local pizza parlor, screwing off the top to be able to pour the maximum number of flakes on your slice while saying loudly enough for tables nearby to hear, “Ha! You call this hot?”, then you really need Tom Salemme.
Along with his extended Italian family residing in and around Cheshire CT — and to be fair, Brooklyn — Tom keeps the Salemme tradition going. It started a couple of generations ago, great-great-grandparents growing peppers for their own use, but friends and neighbors had to have some, too.
The tradition lived on long after the first and second generations passed away and the family farm was sold. Salemme peppers stayed, sowed and harvested on local farmland owned by T&D Growers, dried in nearby greenhouses, and, finally, the tiny peppers are plucked by hand from the dry plants at long tables in Tom Salemme’s backyard on an autumn afternoon. Friends and family (and this year, this insane foodie!) show up with muffins and coffee, pizza and beer and wine; they snap on latex gloves and surgical face masks and pluck the tiny peppers from the branches, dropping them into plastic pots to be washed later, dried and crushed and bottled…