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“Maters” and Bees

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The garden is pretty quiet right now. I have a potted Juliet tomato that just keeps on producing, a few pole beans from a volunteer Kentucky Blue wonder variety and now the carrots and beets are popping up. Oh yes, and a large bunch of Burro bananas – hopefully it will be another mild winter and they will fully mature.

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About every other day I pick a handful just like this….picked these on November 22nd! The plant is still loaded.

Now for the bees. I visited my remaining topbar hive yesterday. Nice sunny day and warm enough to open it up. This hive is the remnant of the colony I rescued over a year ago from a downed tree near downtown Houston. They split themselves several times, I split out a queen cell and a few frames into another topbar, robbed a queen cell for a queenless Langstroth  hive and harvested about 4 bars of honey from the original. They have been gentle and prolific.

I last opened this hive in early October and they had pulled comb back to about the 18th bar. I had intended to move the divider up and shrink the hive for winter but was then distracted and didn’t return. Now, on November 22nd I open it up and they have pulled comb back to about bar 24. Nothing put away at the back end but nice looking comb. I brought six empty bars and intended to remove any empty comb as I slid the divider forward. In hindsight I could have pulled 10 bars of drawn comb…..next time.

I worked my way up into the front third before finding brood. Some pretty good honey stores but lighter than I want so I am still giving them a little heavy syrup until it becomes too cold.

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Nice looking bar….

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A little closer look. About what I would expect for this time of the year.

 

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Son Joe getting a lesson on lighting the smoker.

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Joe, keeping his distance as I start the inspection.

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Ashleigh doing the selfie thing with Joe and myself geared up and ready to go.

 

TTFN

Bishop

 

Pepper Jellies

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I am doing some Fall clean up in the garden, pulling up the pepper plants, cucumber vines and pulling more of the ever present weeds.

I grew three types of pepper plants this summer. The most prolific of the trio was the Poblano pepper. The Serrano came in second and the Red Bell pepper was a very distant third. An outcome of the clean-up was a large number of peppers to be used/consumed. In the past I have used the poblanos as trading material at the local farmer’s market as well as trading for a dinner at one of the local Mexican restaurants. I need to qualify the comment about the Serrano pepper plant – three weeks ago it was loaded and I failed to harvest. The result today was barely enough to make a batch of Serrano Pepper Jelly. Poblanos to the rescue!

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Poblano on the right and Serrano the left.

First up this morning was the Serrano Pepper Jelly. It so tasty when completed. We mix it with soft cream cheese as a spicy dip. The use of store bought Red Bell Peppers creates a nice red hue and the bits of finely chopped pepper pieces creates a “confetti” look in the finished product. I don’t usually use liquid pectin when making jams and jellies but past pepper jelly efforts have made a less than firm set. No troubles with this recipe.

Serrano Pepper Jelly

Yields 7 8-oz jars or 14 4-oz jars

Ingredients 

§  1 cup chopped red bell pepper

§  1/2 cup chopped green Serrano peppers/Poblano peppers

§  5 cups white sugar

§  1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar

§  1 (6 fluid ounce) container liquid pectin ( like to use Certo brand)

 

Directions 

Step 1: Sterilze jars, lids and rings according to manufacturer’s instructions.  Heat water in a Large pot or water canner.

Step 2: Remove stems, veins and most of the seeds of the bell and serrano peppers. Mince peppers in a food processor.

Step 3:  In a 5-quart pot over high heat, combine bell peppers, jalapenos, sugar and vinegar. Bring to a rolling boil; boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes.  Skim off any foam.

Step 4:  Stirring constantly, add the pectin and let mixture continue to cool for 3 minutes more.

Step 5: Pour into hot, sterilized jars and top with sterilized lids. Secure lids with bands and put back in pot hot water and boil for 5 mins.  Remove from water and allow jars to cool slowly, creating a vacuum seal.  Jars may make a popping noise as they cool.

 Tip: let cool, gently remove the rim and dry the lid and rings (do this very carefully) so that you do not get rusty lids.  Place rings back on but be sure not to screw too tightly then set overnight. Sometimes it has taken 2 weeks for this jelly to set so be patient.

This recipe makes 14 4-oz jars.  I like to put them in small jars because at this size they are a perfect addition to a cheese and cracker plate.  Isn’t the coloring gorgeous?  The flecks of peppers look like confetti.

http://www.marinhomestead.com/recipes/dessert/serrano-pepper-jelly/

I guarantee that it won’t take two weeks for this jelly to set. I had to use a spatula to get the jelly out of the pot when filling the last two jars from each batch. My yield was a little lower than the recipe – 11, 4 oz. jars. In the future I will smoke some of the Poblano peppers and make a “smoked” Poblano pepper jelly. I plan on using pecan wood…..a nice mellow wood. I have read that some that make Chipolte, smoked Jalapeno peppers, use mesquite for a stronger flavor. Maybe next time I’ll use the mesquite.

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Yummy Stuff.

 

TTFN

Bishop

Fall Tomatoes and Other Notes

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The Juliet tomato is a prolific tomato in the Houston growing environment. Here it is, November 6, 2016, and I still have ripening tomatoes on the plant as well as blossoms! The tomato is sweet but does have a bit of a tough skin. Doesn’t bother me but some may notice. They look like a miniature Roma and make great sauce. The plants are indeterminate and again, to repeat myself, prolific. Two plants can overwhelm a family.

Stovetop Juliet Tomato Sauce

By Analiese Paik

Ingredients: (double or triple as necessary)

  • 1 pound of Juliet tomatoes, preferably organic.
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2-3 T olive oil
  • fresh basil, oregano or parsley (optional)

Method:

  1. Rinse tomatoes and set aside. Chop garlic while heating a pot large enough to fit the tomatoes on the stove. Add olive oil to the pot and when it shimmers, add the garlic and stir until fragrant over medium heat, a minute or 2.
  2. Add tomatoes to the pot along with 1/4 cup of water so the garlic doesn’t burn. The tomatoes will take at least 5-10 minutes to soften up and begin releasing their juices. I like to put a lid on the pot to speed this up.
  3. Once the tomatoes begin to release their juices and the skins start to burst, remove the lid and simmer for another 10 minutes or so until the tomatoes have all lost their skins or are quite soft
  4. Use an immersion blender to puree the sauce right in the pot. Add salt to taste and a chopped herb if you’d like. The flavor of the sauce, with the garlic alone, is rich and complex.
  5. Strain the sauce through a large strainer or food mill heavy enough to hold the seeds and skins. Be sure to push down on the solids to release all the sauce. Cool the sauce and store in the refrigerator in glass containers. When making large quantities, be sure to chill in the refrigerator before freezing.

http://fairfieldgreenfoodguide.com/2013/09/11/juliet-tomato-sauce/

 

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Bright Red Juliet tomato and more ripening

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More and more and hint at how they grow in clusters.

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A good number of the 100 Chandler strawberries in the ground planted through a weed barrier. Hope to keep the berries cleaner.

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The banana flowers begin to turn upward as they mature. The flower hangs down and the bunch develops and points skyward now.

Other Notes

The Burro banana plant has put on a nice bunch going into, what Houston calls , winter. As I have noted before, last winter I had a bunch survive and ripen even though the plant lost all of the leaves. I left the bunch on and I was rewarded with 40 plus Burro bananas. Fingers crossed I have the same luck.

The Burro and Manzano plants are trying to get ahead of me by sending up shoots. I dug up and potted one of each for a member of the Facebook page, “Texas Small Farming and Homesteading” group. Kim and Jeff live nearby and I delivered the potted plants to them yesterday. Surprise, surprise….they are also beekeepers! Smaller world than we’ll ever know. I guaranteed more if these two died.

I recently put Chandler Strawberry plants out into the garden. I am looking forward to spring and hopefully an epic strawberry jam making explosion. Today will be another round of adding beet, turnip and lettuce seeds. I soaked some snap peas and hopefully they will take off. The previous planting went into the ground without presoaking and sure enough….nothing germinated. I have some accidental pole beans growing from volunteers. Enough for a couple of handfuls for dinner.

Bee stuff……during the next two weeks I should finish prepping all the hives for winter and then make plans for 2017. Hopefully my strongest hives will be ready to split in the spring. I will also build a few more swarm traps…..no luck with the three I set out this year. I made about 8 pounds of “creamed cinnamon honey” this past week. Inventories are getting low…..can’t wait for spring!

Bonus; I am passing along my recipe for cinnamon creamed honey. Not sure I should do this but…..if you really wanted to make it you could do a search and find it just the same….

http://www.tc.umn.edu/~reute001/htm-files/Creamed%20honey%20recipe.html

 

Ok…..enough for today.

TTFN

Bishop

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