Sunday, August 18, 2019

Almost Four Weeks of Fermentation

Since I had a lot of time today, I decided to see if the sauerkraut I set to fermenting last month was ready. Since the flavor didn't really change from a few days ago when I first tested it to today, it seemed ready. This is another thing I want to enter in the fair so I didn't want to wait too long and have it lose its crunch. (The crunch is from the fennel, I think.)

First, I tested its pH. I wasn't convinced it was acidic enough to can in a boiling water bath. Turns out, it is. The pH was just under 4 so that is well within range. Then I packed all that sauerkraut, which had barely fit in my crock in the beginning, into five pint jars. They'll process for 10 minutes and then that is one more project completed!

Four Weeks of Beets

For the last four weeks I've picked up the full share of beets from the farm. I tried specifically to get the smallest ones so I could pickle them whole, which I prefer. Today I had a chunk of time so spent the whole morning preparing and then pickling them. It's a good thing I did - the beets almost overflowed my 8 qt. stockpot!

With that many beets, I tripled the recipe for the liquid (The Ball Complete Book of Canning, page 311) and came away with 5 quarts of pickled beets; one quart was divided into two pint jars for the fair. There was another pint and a half that didn't fit into a jar so I poured the rest of the pickling liquid over them and they're in the fridge for salads this week.

I was supposed to help my neighbors pick apples from their tree; the other day I stopped by on their behalf and there were a whole bunch of apples there. Today I went to help them and there were exactly 3 apples. There was no sign that the apples had fallen, the driveway and yard around the base of the tree were as clean as a whistle. Do people go around and steal fruit from people's trees? Is that a thing? Weird.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Two Weeks Later

And my Sweet Icicle Pickles have finally been canned! After they sit in a brine for a week, then they have a day in which they sit in freshly boiled water. Then a syrup of vinegar, sugar and spices is boiled and ladled over the pickles. Then daily for 4 more days the syrup is drained, boiled, and repoured over the pickles. Finally, today, they got canned.

I did try one the other day and it wasn't as sweet as my nose was telling me it would be. They also had more of a crunch than I was expecting. I guess all this work is worth it, after all. I did set aside two smaller jars for the fair so now I have 6 entries so far. There should be a few more before the end of this month - entries are due by September 3 so I have to get going!

Monday, August 12, 2019

All Day Affair

Both the projects I made for tonight's dinner took most of a day or more.

First, I made baguettes. To be fair, I made them for a little party yesterday, but the recipe made three baguettes so I had one left for dinner tonight. I used a recipe my friend had developed (he has some of Legion and so adapted a couple of recipes to use the starter instead of making a new poolish from scratch each time):
16 oz bread flour
6 oz starter
1 tsp salt
pinch of instant yeast
9+ oz water

Put the flour in the mixer, make a well in the center for the starter. Sprinkle the yeast and salt around the edge of the bowl (not touching the starter). Add the water and mix. Knead in the mixer for about 15 minutes until the dough is wrapped around the bread hook and is elastic and smooth. Turn out and quickly shape into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover. Then you can take as little as 6 hours, doing a fold of the dough hourly (pull up the dough from the sides and form a pouch like a dumpling) or a whole day or more by putting the dough in the fridge and doing the folds less frequently. I think I ended up doing 8 folds over an entire 29 hours (I was working in between all these steps). Then yesterday I got up at 4 am to shape and proof the loaves in a couche. At 6 am the loaves were in the oven (spritz with water and score with a lam first), 420˚F, boiling water tray for the first 10 minutes and then 15-20 minutes without the boiling water. (Then I went to work.) The general feedback was that the bread needed more salt but that the crust was firm and the inside was soft and full of big holes, which is what I was trying to achieve.

Then today I worked on this recipe for "Sunday Sauce." I'm not really sure how it's supposed to taste, but it smelled like one of the Italian restaurants we like, so I guess I did OK. I got it all on the stove and simmering by noon and it simmered all afternoon until about 6 pm. Maybe that was too long, but it seemed fine. We have a LOT of sauce and meatballs left over.

The other thing I made today was a sweet pepper relish, using the recipe in "The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving," page 164. Since I plan to enter this in the fair, I need to remember that I used 9 long sweet peppers, some dark green and some light, 2 very large onions, and 5 Hungarian hot wax peppers. Those were all from the farm share, as last week's distribution was rather pepper-heavy. There aren't really any cucumbers anymore. My last batch of pickles, the sweet icicle ones, are almost done. I have one more day in which I drain the syrup, boil it and put it back over the cucumbers. I'm not really sold on this one, I have to say. It reminds me of watermelon rind pickles which, while fun to make, were too cloyingly sweet for me.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Queenless

This morning, before the thunderstorms come through, I geared up and went to check on my colonies. The one in the Langstroth is definitely queenless but probably too far gone to requeen now. They are busy making honey and otherwise are very docile. There weren't that many bees left.

The other half of that colony does also appear to be queenless, and they are less docile. There are more of them, too, but definitely on the way out.

I did not go into the other top bar colony, as I know from before Beeyoncé ended up in there. I'll inspect them on another day.

All this information leaves me with an opportunity. I will let the colony in the Langstroth go and then move the original frames back in there. Some of that honey I can harvest and some I can move into Beeyoncé's hive when I start getting them ready for winter. The same is true for the other queenless top bar colony. I'll have to watch closely to make sure nothing comes to rob the honey before I can clean it all out. This way I can help Beeyoncé's colony make it through the winter and also start fresh with a new colony in the Langstroth next year. Which will also give me time to get a better base and location for that colony. I might use the stand my husband built for the original top bar hive so I don't have to bend over as much to inspect the hive. And it gives me time to build the flow hive I purchased to put on top of the Langstroth; clearly I won't need it this season.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Parsley Garlic Bread

Using Legion, I made a batch of parsley garlic bread. As I mentioned in the previous post, the recipe calls for bread and rye flours, neither of which I had. Instead, I had all purpose flour, corn flour and white whole wheat flour, so I used a combination of those. The parsley is mixed in at the end of the kneading process and the garlic gets folded in before proofing. I made two loaves - one round and one more like a ciabatta. The proofing took far less time than anticipated so even though the fermentation step took all night, the proofing took about 90 minutes. I ended up baking them in the morning yesterday before I went to work.

For dinner last night I made cheese fondue and we used one of the loaves as the dipping bread. The garlic added a really great flavor to the meal. The rest of the cut up cubes will be frozen and saved to make stuffing when Thanksgiving rolls around. I have the round loaf yet to use but that will need to be used soon before it goes stale. Maybe for dinner tonight or tomorrow?

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Fun with the Farm Share

The farm's cucumbers are still going strong so today I brought home just under 4 pounds and am making "Icicle Pickles." These are fermented for a week and then rinsed daily for a few days and then pickled. I'm not really sure. As I've never made them before, it'll be interesting to see how they come out. So far, I've made the brine and cut the cucumbers into spears and they are in two half-gallon jars to ferment.

I also started a batch of bread with parsley in it; when I go to make the dough into rolls (or loaves, I haven't decided yet) I will add minced garlic. The bread recipe called for bread flour and rye flour, I had neither so I used a combination of white whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, and corn flour. More experimentation, I guess.

Also in the farm share: lots of tiny little beets. I plan to make pickled beets using only these small ones. I like that better than chunks of bigger ones. Tonight for dinner we're having a big salad with blackberries, a cucumber, pepper and carrot from the share. Tomorrow I will cook and chill green beans and tiny little potatoes to dip into a cheese fondue. It's sometimes hard for me to be creative with vegetables in a way that the youngerchild might eat. I do have a large zucchini destined to become chocolate zucchini bread. That one is always a favorite.