Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Stone Fruit Jam

As I mentioned yesterday, the youngerchild and I went a little overboard at the grocery store and bought a lot of different stone fruits. There is no way we can eat them all before they spoil so I decided to make up a recipe for Stone Fruit Jam:

5 cups finely chopped stone fruits
(I mixed 1 cup of cherries, 1 cup of apricots and 1 each of: yellow peach, pluot, and aprium)
1/4 cup lemon juice
6 cups sugar
1 package powdered pectin

This made just under 8 cups of jam which is very dark red because of the cherries but tastes a lot like peaches. I plan to enter this one in the fair.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

National Cheesecake Day!

While the youngerchild and I were at the store today we went a little crazy buying fruit. I intended to make a stone fruit crisp and we bought two different kinds of peaches, apricots, pluots, apriums, and cherries. But then I learned it was National Cheesecake Day and I changed my plans.

Fortunately, I try to keep the fridge stocked with cheesecake ingredients and I didn't have to head back out to the store. I made a New York Style cheesecake but put some cut peaches, apricots and cherries on the crust before pouring the cheesecake batter. Then, when it had cooled, I made a quick glaze with gelatin and put fresh fruit on the top. It was lovely.

Also, tonight's meal finally used up the last of the pulled pork in mole sauce. We'd made tacos the first night, pulled pork sandwiches after that, and then tonight the rest became enchiladas with slices of avocado wrapped with the pork. All that from one pork shoulder!

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Pulled Pork with Mole Sauce

Yesterday I cooked a pork shoulder in the slow cooker all day while I was at work. In the evening I shredded it and mixed a cup of that homemade mole sauce into the drippings. It was amazing. We made tacos with the pulled pork and, in my opinion, they were terrific with some salsa verde. There's a lot of the pork left over so we're definitely going to have to come up with something else for them. Maybe enchiladas?

Also, when I checked on the sauerkraut I needed to add more brine but the vegetables had, in fact, compressed down enough for me to adjust the weights. I added almost a quart of brine and now that will sit and ferment for a few weeks. 

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Pickles and More Pickles

The farm share is still offering up unlimited pickling cucumbers and now, also, unlimited zucchini (there's a surprise). I decided on the spot to make another batch of those dill pickles I made last week and also a batch of bread and butter pickles but with zucchini instead of cucumbers.

Fifteen pickling cukes made five pints of dill pickles so, for future reference, about three cucumbers per wide mouth pint jar.

I brought home about three pounds of zucchini so used one large onion and halved the recipe for "Old Fashioned Bread-and-Butters" in The Joy of Pickling. This made exactly four pints, as expected, but one pint was split into two half-pint jars for the fair. I will enter the dill pickles in to the fair as well. 

Mixed Vegetable Sauerkraut

The farm share has been giving us lots of fennel bulbs and cabbage and I'd been planning on making this Fennel Sauerkraut. However, I also had a couple of bulbs of kohlrabi from a previous week. I had been saving up all the cabbage, hoping to use all three heads. My fermenter can only hold so much, and I was only able to use 1 and a half heads. I guess I need to find another use for the rest of the cabbage. Also, I only used celery seeds as I don't like caraway and I'm allergic to juniper. Here's my recipe:

1.5 large heads of cabbage, about 3.5 pounds, shredded
2 bulbs fennel, about 1 pound, sliced thinly
2 bulbs kohlrabi, about 1 pound, sliced into very thin matchsticks
50 g kosher salt
1 tsp and a little bit of celery seed

Otherwise, the process is the same. I had to really cram the weights in but I suspect that by tomorrow afternoon when the vegetables have compressed a bit I'll be able to get the weights in more easily.

I also have a plan to make more of those dill pickles I made last week, but I need more garlic. And I also grabbed a bunch of small zucchinis and will need to get onions so I can make bread and butter zucchini pickles. This is, of course, in addition to the carrots, beets, eggplant, lettuce, kale, collard greens, and blackberries I also brought home!

Wednesday, July 24, 2019


Original colony on the left, split-off colony on the right
Today I got out of work a little early and it was a nice 80˚F so I thought it would be a good time to get in and set up my new Langstroth hive. First I donned all my gear. Apparently, I can be taught. I went out and set up the base board on a piece of fieldstone and used some wood wedges and other small stones to level it. Then I brought out the rest of the pieces.

What I had found was that the 10 frame deep was a little too long for my top bars so I hammered 3 nails into each end and cut a few spacer bars to fit the shorter dimension, making little ledges on which the top bars could rest. I only did this for the bottom deep box. The upper one has 10 frames with foundation.

I decided to go into the original hive, which may or may not have lost Beeyoncé in my efforts to save the other colony. What I found in there was the most honey I have ever seen my hives produce and evidence they were queenless: some drone brood cells, an emergency queen cell (maybe 2) and a lot of bees who were somewhat annoyed by my mucking about. However, once I broke open a few of the honey cells that were attached to the sides, they got distracted by that and mostly left me alone. I could move 9 top bars into that bottom deep box so I did, making sure I had at least one emergency queen cell. Then I put the queen excluder on top of that and topped it off with the other deep box full of foundation frames.

For the remaining top bars, I consolidated and then closed up the hive. I think the next step here is to get another queen and then figure out when she arrives which colony needs her. I don't really plan on having 3 colonies but we will have to see how they do (this is the slippery slope by which I end up with an entire bee business, which I do not want).

Monday, July 22, 2019

Sweet Potato Soup

This post has been a little delayed, as I made the soup a few days ago but am just getting to writing it down now. While we were touring colleges on the west coast we ate lunch at True Food Kitchen. One of the dishes we really enjoyed was a sweet potato poblano soup so I decided to try to replicate it. It wasn't really the same but it was still good so here's the recipe:

2 Poblano peppers, roasted and peeled, then chopped
4 sweet potatoes, peeled, cubed, and boiled
1 onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
salt and pepper
heavy cream

Sauté the onions in the butter until soft and then add the garlic, peppers and potato cubes. Sauté for a few minutes then add the stock and water, salt and pepper, and cilantro. Bring to a boil and simmer briefly. Remove from heat and cool slightly, then purée with an immersion blender. Stir in enough cream to get the consistency you want. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and more cilantro. 

In terms of making this again, for that amount of sweet potatoes I might add 1-2 more poblano peppers. You could feel the heat in your throat but it was rather subtle. 

Sunday, July 21, 2019

My Plan Worked?


A few weeks ago I discovered that the bee colony split off from the main one was queenless. So I took some brood comb from the other hive and combined them. Today, before it got too crazy hot, I went out to remove the combiner board and check on things. I only went into that hive today and I'm reassured by what I found. They had chewed through the paper, everyone seemed to be getting along, and there was the thing I hoped to find: capped worker brood cells in the original section.

I did not go into the other hive, it's still pretty early in the day and they're full up of bees. When it cools down I will check on them. Meanwhile, I will plan to move one of my colonies into a Langstroth. I'm hoping this will help me deal with the cramped quarters issue more easily. 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Unlimited Supply

Today's farm share was much less limited than usual. Apparently, some things are doing quite well with the rain. One of the unlimited items was pickling cucumbers. I grabbed 12, along with a large amount of shell peas and green beans. The herbs were also unlimited so I got a large bunch each of dill, cilantro and parsley.

After an early dinner I quickly made four pints of "Favorite Dill Pickles" from The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving. Since I had fresh dill I was able to use that instead of dill seeds. This is a nice, middle-of-the-road dill pickle. Not too garlicky, not too vinegary, not too sweet.

There are a lot of patty pan squashes, as well as cabbage and fennel bulbs. I am hoping to make a sauerkraut with the cabbage and fennel together. But I have so many other vegetables to deal with!

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Chicken in Mole Sauce

Recently my husband was in Houston and he came back with two containers of homemade mole sauce, a gift from people he met while he was there. Mole sauce, I have learned, is regional. Every part of Mexico has their own version. This version hails from Oaxaca.

And it is SPICY. I have no idea what is in it except the seeds from the hot peppers are visible. It's dark brown and basically a paste which we were told needed to be mixed with some sort of liquid, ideally whatever the pan drippings are.

For a relatively quick dinner, we picked up a rotisserie chicken and I shredded it. Most of the meat was put into a sauté pan with a pint of turkey stock and about 1 cup of the mole sauce. It simmered and thickened as I let the liquid evaporate off. (The rest of the chicken was mixed with water and taco seasoning as the youngerchild felt the mole sauce was too spicy.) From this chicken mole, we made tacos.

Diluting the mole sauce definitely helped make the kick more manageable, and you can just detect the subtle chocolate flavor. It's terrific. I'll bet using pulled pork would be just as good.

My Bees are Confusing Me

After splitting the colony about a month ago, and making sure there were queen cells in the second half, I left them alone for a while to settle themselves out. Today it's gorgeous outside, 70's and clear, so I went to go check on them. To my chagrin there was no evidence of a queen. There were some workers, and they were making honey like crazy, but there were also a lot of drones and very rare cells with larvae. Since workers can lay eggs but can only make drones, it's a good bet that without a queen the colony will die off.

I don't have the time to get a new queen and put it in right now, as we're going away for a bit, but after a chat with my husband it made sense to see if the other colony, which was full to the gills again inside the hive, might be thinking about swarming again. That way, if I found a queen cell or two, I could move them into the second hive. I got my combiner board prepped with newspaper (the two colonies stay separated until they adapt to each others' pheromones and then they eat through the paper to combine themselves). Then I went into the main hive. My first look in showed that there was comb all the way to the back and there were gaps so the bees were hanging out above the combs and had sealed the cover on. Once I pried to cover off, I was faced with hundreds of bees just sitting on the top of the hive. I still needed to get into it, though.

In order to do so, I had to bring out my nuc box because otherwise I had no room to move comb around to see anything. There was one comb, in the middle of the hive, which I could access easily so I pulled that one out and put it in the nuc box. Then I started inspecting and basically annoying all the bees. They lashed out at me a couple of times, whenever my smoker petered out, so I would be frantically trying to relight my smoker while surrounded by angry bees. I did get stung once, on my knee, through my suit. But otherwise it was fairly okay. Intimidating, but okay.

What I found was plenty of brood cells and LOTS of honey. So much so that I didn't take out the last few combs because I didn't want to disrupt them any further and there was no evidence at all of queen cells. So, despite there being probably way more bees than the space could accommodate, they didn't seem like they were going to leave.

Ultimately I moved 4 combs with a lot of brood cells into the second hive, with the combiner board in between. This is the confusing part - I never did see Beeyoncé but as soon as I put two of the four combs in, the bees started to fan, suggesting she was there. I took the combs back out and looked again but didn't see her.

So. Either Beeyoncé is now in the second hive and they will be requeened by this, which would require the original hive to make an emergency queen, or she's in the original hive and hopefully the second colony can make an emergency queen. With luck, by the time I can get in there again, if I find either hive is queenless I can get a new one before the end of July.

Lastly, I think I will start to transition them over to Langstroths. Top bar hives are supposed to be easier but it's much harder to prevent swarms this way than with the Langstroth. Plus I am considering getting a flow hive box for the top to make the honey extraction easier since I wouldn't be getting involved with a centrifuge to extract honey. 

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Strawberry Tart

That looks like a strawberry, right?
Yesterday after work I made a quick tart with more of those strawberries. I made a half-recipe of pie crust and pre-baked in a tart dish for about 10 minutes. After that, I arranged about 3 cups of strawberry halves in crust, sprinkled with sugar and topped with a strawberry shaped piece of crust. The whole thing baked for about 30 minutes at 375˚F and, as soon as it came out of the oven, I brushed it with saffron syrup.

Between yesterday and today, with all the consumption of tarts and shortcake and plain strawberries, we only have one quart left!

Happy 4th of July!

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Strawberry Season

This morning, before the humidity set in, the children and I went strawberry picking. Before going I carefully looked at my strawberry jam inventory and declared we did not need to pick quite so many berries as usual. We set out, only a few minutes later than usual, and even though we arrived 10 minutes after they opened there were at least 20 people in the field before we got there.

As it turned out, the picking was so good we filled seven quart containers (about 11 pounds) in a very short period of time. We munched on fresh berries and warm cider donuts, admired the bunnies and goats, and headed home.

After a college tour this afternoon (yes, we're in that stage now) we got home and I quickly made shortcake for tonight. Then I puréed two quarts of berries and made a batch of plain, traditional strawberry jam. Nice and simple. 10 jars in total, but two are half-cups.

The last thing for tonight is a strawberry soup, which will be served with take-out chicken satay and pad thai. About a quart of berries with 8 oz. mascarpone cheese, 1 cup orange juice and a generous squirt of honey, blended into a thick soup. Thicker than a smoothie for sure. Served chilled, it's a nice meal on a hot day and a good counterpoint to spicy food.