Thursday, August 25, 2016

At Least Something Grew This Year

We were walking on our street the other day and discovered that a neighbor had hops, in flower, growing in front of his house. That got me thinking about the hops on the bike path and so today I went down to take a look. Usually I miss the season by a week or two and the hops I find are wilted but not this time! They were perfectly ready. I picked a bagful and brought them home to oast. Which took about an hour at 275-300˚F. We have a beer kit we've been meaning to brew, an Irish red this time, so I can add these at the second rack. When we finally make the beer.

Also today I made three batches of chocolate zucchini bread - two batches to make four loaves of bread and one batch to make two round cakes (for these I left off the topping) and those cakes will be the basis for a birthday cake for Saturday. No reason it can't be remotely healthy, right?

The Saga of the Bees

When we got back from our trip and I inspected the hive, the bees were rather aggressive. This was unusual and worrisome. I reached out to the beekeeping community for help, got some advice, and tried to follow it. Then I made a mistake.

What happened was two weeks ago I went to change the feeder. In my horseback riding clothes. Apparently one should not smell like a large animal when visiting a beehive. Well, as soon as I opened the hive they went straight for me. I was wearing my gloves and veil but not the full suit and they stung me through my clothes. A lot. It was terrible. I managed to get the hive closed and run away. That night my husband asked me to get rid of the hive and I agreed. The next day I spoke with a professional beekeeper who suggested that it was likely that their aggression was due to several mistakes of mine that were compounding. She agreed to come to the house and inspect them with me and help me decide what to do with them. That was today. In the interim, she advised, stay away and let them cool down.

That was something I was more than willing to do. Being stung over twenty times is not something I was looking forward to repeating! In the interim, we decided that if they could be salvaged I would at least host them for a while longer until I decided whether I wanted to keep them long term.

This morning she came out and we were joined by another beekeeper who has a few empty top bar hives and was looking for more bees. He's been part of the conversation ever since I split the colony back in June. The three of us, using a smoker and taking our time, inspected both the hive and the nuc colony. And it was the most pleasant experience I've had with them, ever!

First of all, they both have queens. Who were super easy to spot. If you are an experienced professional, that is! So Beatrix and Beeulah are both alive. Secondly, the hive is badly cross-combed but it is too late in the season to fix that. It might be doable to fix them in the spring. Both colonies have some honey and both need to be fed. Those are the main issues. I'm to do exactly what I did last fall in order to overwinter them: feed a lot, make fondant boards, and hope for the best.

The other beekeeper will be back tomorrow evening and he will take the nuc colony to his yard. He will bring back the nuc box when he figures out how to transfer them to his hive.

Sting count (today): 0
Total sting count: 30.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Kicked into Higher Gear

This week the farm was bountiful and I came back with more tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and hot peppers than previous weeks. In addition, there was even more zucchini! I have way, way too much zucchini. There will be chocolate zucchini bread again in our future. And maybe even a birthday cake made with the same recipe. But not today; today was for pickles, caponata and salsa!

First I made three 8-ounce jars of dill pickles - two of them are for the fair, with the cucumbers cut into spears. The other jar consisted of slices from the pieces that were cut off to make the spears fit in the jars. That one is for us! This batch used the same "Favorite Dill Pickles" recipe from the Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving.

Next I made a double batch of eggplant caponata from Roxanne's recipe printed in Blue Ribbon Canning. (This is the book for which she and her sister and I contributed recipes and even have photos and bios of us.) This made a total of five and a half pints.

This evening I used up the rest of the tomatoes, three cippolini onions, two green peppers, and three jalapeños to make salsa. The vegetables were roasted first and then puréed with a immersion blender and mixed with vinegar, salt and sugar. This made exactly two pints.

Now I do have more room in the fridge. Except for the zucchini. They are still taking up a lot of space. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Revisiting a Recipe

When I first started culinary school we made lovely bread in class that had cheese baked inside it and also sprinkled on top. I tried making it at home and overproofed the rolls; they came out too big and the wrong texture. Since I got Legion, though, I've only been making the same basic bread recipe every week with just minor modifications. In an effort to experiment a little, I decided to try to make that cheese bread again, but using Legion instead of packaged yeast.

What I did was start with 8 ounces of starter and subtracted 4 ounces of flour and 4 ounces of liquid from the recipe. This dough was very soft and sticky and so different from the bread I've been making. I've forgotten what it was like! I probably added a little too much liquid as I did add another ounce of milk while mixing. (Hey, note to self, don't do that!) Regardless, the dough fermented and proofed appropriately and the rolls came out really well. I think that was a reasonable approach to adjusting the formula and, for an experiment, I'm pleased with the results.

Also today I made a half batch of salsa verde. The link to the recipe doesn't work anymore so I had to find it again. Here's the new link. This made two cups of salsa. I'm hoping the farm share has more tomatoes and tomatillos so I can make more salsa in the next few weeks!

Last night for dinner I made up a recipe for ramen: for the broth I combined 1 pint each of duck and chicken stock, 1 pint water, 2 T. red miso paste, one egg, some ginger and garlic scapes, plus 1 T. sesame oil. Separately I cooked some Vietnamese noodles which were similar to ramen noodles (and all I had in the house). When the noodles were done they were served in a bowl with the broth and topped with a hard boiled egg, thinly sliced garlic scape (no scallions handy), blanched carrot slices and zucchini chunks. It was wonderful.

Saturday, August 20, 2016


This weekend has thus far been spent making the things we've run out of. Yesterday morning I made a batch of yogurt, half a gallon this time rather than a full gallon, and it was ready when I got home from work. Last night I started a batch of bread. This morning I proofed it and baked it. This afternoon I made eggplant caponata and canned it (three pints plus one 4-oz jar). Later today I'll make granola.

For the bread, I thought I'd try to make a Pullman type loaf using my regular loaf pans and a baking sheet to serve as a cover. They worked okay, but could have been proofed longer so they would have been more square. I think if I'm going to do this on a regular basis I would need a Pullman pan with a lid and use a less dense bread dough.

Also, two days ago the youngerchild and I made a batch of cookies. For the first half, it was just regular chocolate chip cookies with both milk and white chocolate chips. For the second half of the batch, the youngerchild requested to add mini-marshmallows. They don't exactly work as desired; the marshmallow melts and leaves holes in the cookies. I suspected that might happen which is why I didn't add them to the whole batch. I did, however, solve the too-flat problem; my oven hasn't been hot enough so they would spread too much and get very flat.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Weeds You Can Eat

The weather continues to be bad. There will be no peaches at the farm which usually has the best peaches around. Apparently they have no crop because the winter was so crazy and the buds froze. I will check the one other peach orchard I usually frequent but I don't have a lot of hope about that. There are no blackberries either.

What is doing well? The weeds. Purslane in particular is going crazy this year. I'd come across a recipe for pickled purslane a few years ago but this year I actually had enough purslane in my yard (topped off with a little from the farm where I get my share) to make this recipe for pickled purslane. It's a refrigerator pickle, so no processing. Just clean the purslane, boil the vinegar, water and spices, and combine in a one-quart wide mouth jar. Voilá.

On my agenda this weekend: bread, cheese bread, yogurt, granola, maybe some chocolate zucchini bread. Maybe more pickles. I have a lot of zucchini, cucumbers and carrots from the farm share. I might make a batch of eggplant caponata if I have time. The fridge is quite full!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Carrots and Cukes

Today's farm share pick up included 2 pounds of carrots and 2 pounds of cucumbers. The pickling cukes are basically gone but there were small regular cukes instead. I also got some cherry tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, onions, tomatillos, hot peppers, swiss chard, parsley, cilantro, and dill heads. The volume of the share is a whole lot less than previous years and the drought is surely to blame. By this time (halfway through the season) I usually would have at least two tote bags full but this week it was just one.

Anyway, I got home and made three pints of dilled carrots and 3 pints of Favorite Dill Pickles. For the carrots, I made one of the pints in two half-pint jars and have set them aside for the fair. The cucumbers were cut to the right length and then cut into spears. I will set aside the tomatillos and eggplant for when I have enough ingredients for salsa and caponata.