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Sourdough with Spent Brewing Grains.

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I have been diligently making sourdough during our social distancing exercise and I am getting pretty good at it. Yes, I am patting myself on the back. I searched the web for a simple and straightforward sourdough recipe utilizing the spent grains………. I’m a simple guy and I got lucky – finding a simple recipe within my skill set! See below.

Sourdough & Spent Grain Bread – based on a recipe from this site….pretty much followed it but just a few tweaks. https://noteatingoutinny.com/2010/04/13/sourdough-spent-grain-rye-bread/

1 cup sourdough starter
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour – I used 3 and it was just enough.
1 cup spent grain, still a bit wet
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 – 2 cups water – varies depending on how wet the spent grains are.

Combine the starter, 3 cups of the flour and enough water to allow the dough to just come together, in shaggy strands(I didn’t know what that meant so I googled for images). Knead about 5-6 minutes( I used dough hook) and let rest in a bowl, covered with a towel. Keep in a warm place and let sit for 1 hour. Fold in the mash with your hands and dust on the remaining flour as you combine it to help keep dough from being too sticky( I used my stand mixer and a dough hook). Form dough into a long, oblong loaf (or put it in a prepared loaf pan, I had a 5X9 loaf pan, sprayed a little Pam on the sides and coated the top of the dough with flour. I did a couple rounds of stretch and fold like do with my regular sourdough prior to the final rise. Let sit in a warm place covered with a towel for an 1 hour or so. Score deeply before placing the oven.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. I used a big pizza stone that was also preheated. Bake for about 20 minutes, monitor, I used a thermometer to chick internal temperature. It took an additional 10 minutes to reach 200 F. Remove and let cool on a rack for 10 minutes before eating. My wife didn’t want to wait…… I held my ground and gave her the first warm slice with butter. She forgave me!

Drink Local and Drink Responsibly

Bishop

 

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Homegrown carrots

If I Am Lucky – Muscadine Jelly From My Garden

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My vines are 4 years old now and put out a few bunches of grapes in 2020. It wasn’t enough to get too excited about so I combined them with the local Wild Mustang Grapes. I may not have quite enough this year for a discrete batch solely from my garden/backyard but it may be close. Timing may be an issue. ……. They may ripen when I am in Denver seeing my newest grandson.

Winter of 2021 I decided to learn how to prune the vines….my prior attempts were really just butchery. it was real actively simple if you follow instructions, not my long suite as my Goo friend John will attest too. If interested look into the archives for Goo Friend….. a typo that became a standard reference for my buddy, assistant beekeeper, beer drinking buddy, a long time ago mountain biking buddy and the list goes on.

Today June 11 marble sized
A few weeks earlier
Covering the new arbor, thanks Ashleigh for the construction assistance, and being trained along the back fence.

An FYI, I must be doing something right because I have captured 4 swarms in my backyard this Spring/Summer. I am hanging in there at 16 colonies now but……the rains have had a negative impact. In some cases lots of nectar but they can’t get it dried out enough for honey to be capped. I shoot for 18% water content or lower. Other wise the wild yeasts may begin to ferment the honey before it is consumed.

Bee swarm consolidating itself into one of my swarm boxes.

TTFN

Bishop

Snow? It Snowed In Houston

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Crazy as it sounds, a big blast of Canadian icy air made it as far south as Houston. For Houstonians it was brutally cold this morning, 16 degrees according to my backyard thermometer. It looks like it won’t warm much for a few days. Obviously my vegetable garden will nor fare well. I covered a new bed of carrots with fingers crossed that they will make it. I covered my strawberries with a couple of inches of leaves and I suspect they will survive. The Romaine lettuce had already started to bolt, so no loss there. My biggest concern was for my Meyer Lemon tree. I have it tented and a small light bulb included under the tent to keep it, hopefully, warm enough.

Lettuce is biting the dust. Upper left is a section of carrots that are covered and fingers crossed they survive. Top right is my topbar bee hive and I believe the colony is strong enough to survive.
I have put a bar in front of the opening to the hive and completely closed off the similar opening on the back side of the box.
There were a couple of bees slowly moving around near the entrance so I do have faith that most are clustered up tightly and keeping the central portion warm.
Swiss Chard standing defiantly against the freezing weather…..at least for today.

Roads are icy and I don’t have any place to go so, sit tight and hope the power stays on! A couple of my pineapple plants are in the garage and hopefully warm enough. If we do lose power at least my home brewed beer will stay cold…..always a silver lining. I was proactive enough to pull a good portion of my beets yesterday and ready to be roasted today!

TTFN

Bishop

Blueberry Syrup…. Yummy

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My wife was needing to make some room in the freezer and a bag of blueberries I picked last summer was blocking her efforts. Rather than toss them out I decided to make some blueberry syrup. I love it on pancakes and Blue Bell vanilla ice cream. After defrosting I found that, magically, I had the perfect amount for my recipe.

It took a little longer than I anticipated and I did deviate from the recipe as described below. The results are fine!!!

Step 2. Preparing the base syrup sugar water with the lemon zest. I used Meyer Lemons from my garden….maybe not perfect but I think it worked out well.
Hard to see but I had no luck after 25 minutes with getting the syrup up to 225 degrees F.
Added the prepared blueberry juice and went to plan B. Pulled out my Cajun burner and cranked it up…..hit 225 F very quickly.
Final result is a little over two cups of very sweet and very tasty Blueberry syrup. Sunday is ice cream day at the Decker house…..guess what I am having?

Blueberry Syrup

  • 1 1/2 pounds blueberries (5 cups)
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • Six 1-inch strips of lemon zest removed with a vegetable peeler
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions

  • Step 1 In a pot, combine the blueberries with 1 cup of the water. Crush the berries with a potato masher and bring to a simmer. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Strain the juice into a heatproof measuring cup, pressing hard on the solids. Discard the solids.
  • Step 2 Rinse out the pot. Add the sugar, lemon zest and the remaining 3 cups of water and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil the syrup over moderate heat until it registers 225° on a candy thermometer, about 20 minutes. Add the blueberry juice and lemon juice and boil over high heat for 1 minute. Let the syrup cool, then discard the lemon zest. Pour the syrup into just-cleaned bottles. Seal and refrigerate for up to 6 months.

https://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/perfect-blueberry-syrup

By Grace Parisi

August 2010

I modified step 2 and chose to add the extracted juice and brought both, the sugar water and juice, up to the final temperature. It seemed to work fine.

TTFN

Bishop

Catching Up…..Spring is on the Way

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The quiet time of winter is over here in my backyard just north of Houston. I have been eating beets from the garden as well as some carrots. In fact, last night I grilled a spatchcock chicken along with a handful of freshly pulled carrots…….FYI, I should have pulled up a few more carrots!

I love this water color app called Waterlogue…..orange and a couple of yellow carrots freshly pulled.
Obviously not enough carrots. Olive oil, a little sea salt and rosemary. 8-10 minutes over direct heat and about 15 minutes over indirect heat with the foil sealed shut. FYI, this is a good size of carrot to cook through and not be crunchy in the center.

I have both red and gold variety beets growing along with Romaine lettuce, about 50 new Chandler strawberries. The radishes are done and I could probably plant more but I’m the only one that eats them! Sugar snap peas have been planted, along with some turnips and another round of beets.

Bees are doing well and the early spring bodes well if the weather stays wet enough for the early spring nectar flowers. For you folks in Texas here is a very good list, link attached. Late winter does include my Meyer Lemon tree as a good nectar source….. looks like it will bloom very soon. https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/travis/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/EAGF-2017-Central-Texas-Bee-Friendly-plants.pdf

My backyard topbar hive. Bees are storing honey…..this comb is a little wonky so I will pull it and maybe two other misshapen bars to crush and squeeze in a few weeks once I see more nectar flowers blooming.
Suited up but not for the backyard bees….my backyard bees are pretty sweet, no gloves or suit needed but I do always wear my veil. I was suited up here because I was cutting weeds and brush around some of my friskier bees!
Bonus image from our recent trip up to North Dakota. These two whitetail boys were sparring a bit, not real energetically but grunting a little.

More spring stuff in the works.

TTFN

Bishop

Honey Fermented Garlic Cloves

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I do enjoy fermenting, primarily beer, a bit of wine and mead. I had never heard about fermenting garlic cloves. In fact, it wasn’t even my idea! My wife suggested it and didn’t even ask for my expertise! FYI, I have no expertise in the category of fermenting anything that doesn’t include an ABV % attached to it.

So why? I asked my wife why she decided to embark on this adventure and her immediate response was to receive the benefits of the “Immune-Boosting Effects”. Upon digging a little deeper there are other benefits that should “Reduce Blood Pressure” & Improves Cholesterol Levels, both LDL and total cholesterol.

“Studies have shown that the fermentation process increases the amount of nutrients in garlic and makes them easier to absorb by the body. The highest protein content was available after 60 days of fermentation while the highest fat and carbohydrate content was found after 90 days of fermentation.” From “ WebMD, September 29, 2020”

How to go about it? First prepare the garlic cloves by peeling the skin off by lightly crushing them or buy a big jar of already peeled garlic cloves. She opted for the latter. Next, she took a 1/2 gallon jar of raw honey and filled 3 one pound bottles leaving about 3 pounds, or around 8 cups of honey behind. She then loaded up the jar with a whole lot of garlic…..not a very quantitative measure but accurate. As the garlic settled she added more until the jar was chock full, again, not quantitative but the photo below will illustrate the quantity.

Chock full!

The honey that was used is raw honey…….so what exactly does that mean? Raw honey is best described as honey as it exists in the hive. Raw honey has not been filtered nor heated, has all of the pollen, natural wild yeasts and beneficial enzymes intact. The wild yeasts are the star of the process. As the garlic cloves release water into the honey it becomes wet enough to allow fermentation. Ideally honey is harvested with less than 18% water in order to prevent the yeast activity. In this case we want the % water to rise and allow fermentation.

After the fourth or fifth day of adding cloves up to the chock full point and also flipping the jar over several times daily keeping the cloves covered…..the bubbles were appearing…..fermentation was under way. Now the flipping process includes burping the gasses off……smells very garlicky ….. go figure. Kathy has selected a date about 3 months out for the first taste test, March 12, 2021 when some old guy she knows turns 70……wow! The jar will be stored in a dark cool place once the fermentation slows down. The honey fermented garlic can be safely stored out beyond a year or more according to the researched recipes.

How to use? Just pop a clove to boost immunity response during cold or flu season, this is Kathy’s primary reason for the effort. Cooking, use as a marinade or as a glaze for meats and vegetables. I will attach a link to foraging and fermenting website. Check it out, suggestions include honey fermented cranberries as well as elderberries. I think I will do the cranberries next year prior to Thanksgiving! https://www.growforagecookferment.com/fermented-honey-garlic/

TTFN

Bishop

Armenian Cucumber

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“The Armenian cucumber has a bit of an identity crisis.

Botanically, it’s considered a melon, with seeds and a mushy center that resembles a cantaloupe and a raw aftertaste akin to watermelon rind. Gardening enthusiasts like to compare it to zucchini. But if it’s picked at the proper time, it has the crispiness and flavor profile of a garden fresh conventional cucumber, so that won out in the naming convention.” https://www.mysanantonio.com/food/recipes-cooking/article/Armenian-cucumbers-stand-out-for-size-and-11949986.php

This one is a midsized fruit, 14 inches long by 3 1/2 inches wide.
Ready to be seasoned after coating in olive oil.

I thought that I had allowed the fruit to zoom past right size for picking but apparently that is not true. Up to about 18 inches long they mimic an English cuke in flavor. The really big ones apparently become sweeter and more melon like in flavor. I suspect the larger and sweeter ones may caramelize while grilling adding even more flavors. I will have to report back with results in the near future.

Unfortunately I composted this one before educating myself!

Grilled Armenian cucumber…….I am happy to report that it turned out well. Next time I will season it a little spicier but one thing I really liked is that it retained it’s crunch after grilling. I like grilled zucchini but it zooms past retaining it’s crunch far too fast while grilling…..mush! “While the grill is heating up, slice the cucumber into 1½ to 2-inch chunks and lightly coat both sides with olive oil and sprinkle each side with Spice Rub to taste. Place the chunks on the side of the grill opposite of the coals, and cook for 15 minutes with the lid on the grill closed, flipping once midway through. Move the chunks over to the area directly above the coals. Sear for 2 minutes per side and transfer to a plate and enjoy.”

Turned out very well. It is a keeper and I will do some experimenting to find a spicier rub mix. All in all, we enjoyed the Armenian Cucumber. My “Goo Friend”, chef last night also grilled the zucchini nicely.

TTFN

Bishop

Goo Friend….. there is story there somewhere in my archives. https://bishopsbackyardfarm.com/2016/04/

Tomatoes, Sourdough and a Mexican Pilsner

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I may have mentioned it in an earlier post, but my new favorite tomato, just a notch above #2 Brandywine, is Cherokee Purple.. I quizzed my wife today and she agrees with my assessment. It is not truly purple but has been described as “beautiful, deep, dusky purple-pink color, superb sweet flavor, and very-large-sized fruit. … From Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Both the color and flavor descriptions are dead on!

From Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds website.
From my garden next to a very large Brandywine…..the photo can’t quite capture the colors.

This tomato has become my favorite BLT tomato, especially when paired with my sourdough bread. Ok, just to pat myself on the back, no yeast used and allowed to ferment about 20 hours before baking. Of course, I also like to pair the sandwich with a beer, today it was a Pacifico, Mexican Pilsner!

I may try my hand at brewing one…….a bit more time consuming as it needs to be fermented at 50 degrees F and after a rest at room temperature, lagered at 34 degrees F for 6 weeks or so….
Yum!
Last night’s sourdough loaf. Damn I am pretty talented with a few things…..LOL!

Garden news, surprising success with summer squash this year, cucumbers are kicking in, pumpkin vines are going wild and the late summer tomato plants are in the ground. Cleaning out and spreading completed compost out of one bin in the next week or so. Honey harvest is dying down….maybe 300 pounds or so.

TTFN

Bishop

Tomato, Tomato, Bruschetta

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This has been a pretty good year for tomatoes in my garden even though facing the nemesis of the Houston heat and humidity. Most varieties tend to fade as the heat sets in.

Successes – Juliet, a smallish bunching type off indeterminate tomato. Like a small Roma shaped tomato, thick skinned, meaty and pretty sweet. Patio tomato– in a pot on the patio – duh, a determinate type. Very productive but slowing down with the heat. Brandywine, an indeterminate and tough to grow in the Houston heat as the blossoms don’t set well. I used buzz pollination, electric toothbrush vibrating the blossoms, and had my best harvest ever. Cherokee Purple, also an indeterminate type, what a great surprise! They have made the best BLT’s ever!

Failures – Celebrity, indeterminate type, usually great in Houston……fungus of some sort. Pulled it out after 10-15 maters but not before the fungus hit the adjacent Sweet Million cherry tomato. The failures may have more to do with my lazy practices…..the tomatoes were all in last year’s tomato bed….poor practice!

Bruschetta- my tomatoes, my basil and my homemade sourdough. I didn’t make baguettes but pleased with the results just the same. I used a mix of tomatoes to make about 3 cups of peeled, chopped and drained tomatoes. Added several thinly sliced garlic cloves along with ribbon sliced basil. Sea salt and some black pepper, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar to taste. Let it chill for a few hours.

The sourdough loaf was quartered and the pieces were manageable.

Next, my sourdough, thinly sliced and toasted on one side in the broiler. Then the toasted side was rubbed thoroughly with a large garlic clove cut in half. The roasted bread seems to grate off the yummy garlic. I used every bit of the garlic halves. The olive oil drizzle was left off until served and then added by the slice as it was consumed.

Love my sourdough bread. I am using a slow proofing schedule that really enhances the flavor.

TTFN

Bishop

Sweet Variations

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It is honey season right now! Let me back up just a little, based on my March hive inspections I was anticipating a stellar season. I had nectar coming in and over the next couple of weeks I added honey supers. Some hives went up to two and several went to three. Mother Nature had different plans. April turned out to a a dry month…..bees were bringing in lots of pollen but upon a late April inspection it was like the taps shut off.

The inspections showed a lot of nectar, boxes were heavy but little, if any frames were being capped. In some cases the additional top supers were untouched. I adjusted to make sure I didn’t give too much room for the bees to defend against the small hive beetles. I put out a posting to my customers who were patiently waiting for their doses of local honey…..I hung my head and asked them to wait a little longer.

The rain began to pickup in early May. By the day of the third week of May I decided to see how much it had helped. Great progress on getting nectar dry and capped in many cases. The top supers were heavy with nectar but mostly uncapped. The local area Tallow tree flow was on and I felt better! I wound up with a pretty good haul from three locations.

Three locations, the darker honey is 12-14 miles from the location of the middle honey. The lightest honey is almost 20 miles from the darker honey and 6 miles due East of the middle location.

I bottle by the postal zip code in which the apiaries are located. I has it’s pluses and also drawbacks. The health benefits are pretty much identical but some folks have been hooked by the “hyper-local” concept. I aim to please and we, my sales manager wife and I, try to do our best to meet expectations. I still have two locations a little further north and east to be harvested in the next day or two……dodging thunderstorms now…..and the bees get a little pissy sometimes when inclement weather coincides with a planned visit.

Rainy days are good for me to make my creamed honeys, plain and with cinnamon……so good. It takes a little time but those that have tried it love it. During the off and on rains I place the extracted frames out in my garden and miles away from my hives for the local population to clean up!

The girls do a great job cleaning up the comb. I freeze it for a couple of days and may cycle some of the frames back into strong hives for a refill. Comb already drawn out accelerates the process.

TTFN

Bishop

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