Friday, August 30, 2019

Late Summer Fruits

Yesterday's farm share was full of tomatoes. In fact, there was a sign saying they thought the season would be short so we should get whatever we could. I picked a whole lot of "salad tomatoes" and brought them home. What I like about them is that they are all exactly the same size. A little bigger than the Jolly tomato the farm used to plant, and not as pink. They look more like the Campari tomatoes you see in the store. Regardless, they're great to can whole and I had enough to make six pints of canned whole tomatoes.

Then I dealt with the last of the peaches. I'll admit I'm not sure why, but I wanted to make a batch of jam without pectin. I haven't ever really done that so it seemed like I ought to try. Peaches are low pectin fruits but I cooked them for a very long time and it seems to have worked. Basically, I diced the last six pounds of peaches, mixed them with lemon juice and three cups of sugar, and let everything sit for a few hours. Then I cooked them slowly until most of the liquid was gone and the gel test demonstrated the right consistency. This made six and a half cups of jam. And I think the flavor is more intense than when the jam is made with added pectin. It certainly uses less sugar! This batch will get entered in the fair. I had thought about entering the tomatoes, and I still might, but they do shrink during canning and seeing them float with at least an inch of water at the bottom of the jar isn't very attractive. I have 14 entries set aside so far so maybe I don't have to.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Peach Salsa

One of the things I wanted to try with all those peaches I got this season was a peach salsa. I found a recipe that uses honey as the sweetener which is also appealing to me. I used a recipe I found online but increased the jalapeños because I had more that I wanted to use up. Here's my tweaked recipe: 

12 large ripe peaches, peeled and diced
¼ cup lime juice
½ cup honey
1 large red onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely diced
4 T. chopped fresh cilantro

Mix all the ingredients except for the peaches and set aside in a bowl. As the peaches are chopped, add to the bowl, stirring to coat the peaches. Ladle into jars, leaving a half-inch headspace, and process for 25 minutes in boiling water. On taste-testing the salsa before it went into the canner I found it very garlicky but I suspect it will mellow with the processing.

Fermented Hot Sauce

Using this recipe, for the last week I've been fermenting various red and yellow peppers along with carrots, garlic and shallots. Today I ran it all through not just one but two blenders (the first one is the kind in which you can unscrew the bottom with the blades and this happened accidentally, so a lot of my sauce got spilled onto the counter). Ultimately I got one cute bottle full and one squeeze bottle full. It's rather mild, likely because I didn't add too many seeds and because the peppers themselves were milder. Either way, now we have some chili sauce and a way to use up all those hot peppers!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Canned Peaches with Ginger

After gradually working through most of the canned peaches and other things I made when I had that peach tree, it was time to see if my favorite farm might have freestone peaches available. Last week I put my name in for a half-bushel (20 pounds) of B-grade peaches. Today they called me to let me know they had some and, as luck would have it, I was in the vicinity of the farm for a good part of the day. So it was an easy side trip to stop by on my way home. (The farm is about 40 miles from my house.)

This evening I made canned peaches. To make eight pints of peaches I used up about 10 pounds, leaving another 10 pounds for other projects (I plan to make peach salsa tomorrow). The peaches were peeled, sliced, and warmed up in medium syrup. Then they were packed into jars and 3-4 pieces of candied ginger were added to each jar. I plan to enter some in the fair; I don't usually enter fruit in syrup like this but it can't hurt to try!

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Adventures in Beekeeping

The flaw in my reasoning yesterday was that not just a few bees hovered around the honeycombs trying to find their way home. ALL my bees, it seemed, discovered a bunch of honey "just lying around" and decided to bring it home with them. This is called robbing. Usually a stronger hive robs a weaker one. Leaving a bunch of unattended honeycomb is probably the weakest hive they've ever encountered and they took full advantage. The backyard was unusable yesterday due to the Beemageddon.

Finally, after dark, there were only a few confused bees left. I put my bee suit back on and set to work getting all that was left inside. All told, I think they got back half the honey I'd taken. I guess that's OK. It means I don't have to feed the colonies as much this fall, I suppose. Anyway, some of the honeycomb had been in a colander straining during the heat of the day and a LOT of bees were stuck in that honey. There was nothing I could do but heat the honey and strain out all the dead bees. That yielded over a pint. Then I started more of the comb to straining overnight and throughout the day today. Finally, I gradually melted all the comb and strained out the wax. And put my bee suit back on today and hosed down the patio so the bees would finally give up and go away.

In all, I harvested just under 3 pints of honey. I don't know yet how much wax I have as it's cooling; I'll weigh it later.

This is the sort of experience I hope to avoid once I get my flow hive up and running next year. 

Saturday, August 24, 2019


Today the weather is perfect and I went out to inspect the bees. First I may have finally solved the problem of my smoker going out too quickly - I used wood pellets that are meant for wood stoves. (We have them because they make excellent litter for the rabbit's litter box. We do not have a wood stove.) The smoker stayed lit and smoking exuberantly for the entire time I needed smoke. That was a nice change of pace.

In Beeyoncé's hive, there was a reasonable amount of honey and some brood cells. I did not see her highness the queen, but I didn't inspect every comb. Things were looking fine so I let them alone.

In the Langstroth, I moved all the top bars out which were moderately full of honey without any evidence of brood. There weren't a lot of bees left, either. The box got refilled with its original frames and will be ready to start a new colony in the spring.

In the other top bar, I found evidence of a new laying queen (larvae and brood cells, not just drone cells). And then I saw the new queen herself. She shall be called Hebee. (Hebe was the goddess of youth in ancient Greek mythology.) This hive also had a decent amount of honey and so I will continue to let them do their thing. Clearly they already have, as I have no idea how they managed to requeen but I'm glad they did.

I took all the bars from the Langstroth and am slowly extracting honey. I crushed some of the combs and they are in a strainer set over a pot in the sun. Right now, everything is outside basically attracting all the bees who are coming to get what honey they can. By nightfall they should be back in their hives and I'll be able to bring everything into the house at which point I can do a better job of getting the honey out of the rest. 

Friday, August 23, 2019

Even More Unlimited Produce

Also in this week's farm share: unlimited tomatillos! I'd saved up a few from last week and got what I could find this week. It's still pretty early in the season for the tomatillos, but I managed to get enough that I could make a batch of salsa verde along with a fresh bunch of cilantro. When I weighed the tomatillos I had 1.5 pounds, enough for just over three half-pint jars of salsa. Two will go to the fair. I'm sure I'll make more before the end of the season.

The other thing I've started is a fermented hot sauce. I got everything into a jar to ferment yesterday afternoon. I'm using red and yellow peppers, mostly: some Korean chilis, a few cherry bombs, and various sweet red and yellow peppers. This may be an easier way to deal with all the hot peppers I get from the farm considering we just can't keep up with them all!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Slightly Past Their Prime

In today's farm share there were unlimited blackberries. That's a cause for celebration because I can get enough to make jam! However, it's late enough in the season that the really large and beautiful berries were starting to get soft and even ferment a little. You could smell them before you even got to the bushes. Nevertheless, I picked three quarts.

Once home, as I washed them I picked out the mushiest berries, the ones that basically disintegrated under the running water. The rest went into the pot with a packet of sure-jell pectin. I added 2 T. of lemon juice as a way to offset the overly sweet and slightly fermented berries; the boiling process seems to have gotten rid of the rest of the alcohol taste. After adding in 6.5 cups of sugar and finishing the cooking, I had 11 cups of jam. Two will be set aside for the fair and a few will go to my friend as her part of this week's blackberry distribution.

I have a few more plans with the accumulated produce from last week and this one; I will make salsa verde and also try my hand at a fermented hot pepper sauce. More on those later when I have time. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

A Little Too Much

Of what? Of ghost pepper powder. But it's too late now, I guess...

I wanted to make more things for the fair, so I pulled out some of my cranberries and rhubarb and made a double batch of the Cranberry-Rhubarb Compote I like so much. I added a very heaping 1/4 teaspoon, closer to a 1/2 of a teaspoon, of ghost pepper powder. Yikes! I hope the flavor mellows before the judges taste it. Then again, maybe they like spicy?

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


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.