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A Morning in the Garden

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Nice, nice morning here in Kingwood on this 18th day of April and crazy, approaching 4 weeks of social distancing! It was a beautiful cool, at least for my neck of the woods, 62 degrees F today. I know the warm weather is coming as I wandering out into the garden this morning but enjoying the respite however brief. I gathered a rather large handful of sugar snap peas. They usually don’t last long…..I rinse them off and snack on them all day long. So crunchy and yes, sweet

These won’t last but 8 or 10 I pulled in the garden that didn’t make the trip into the kitchen. LOL

Tomatoes are beginning to form and we should be seeing them ripen within the week. Nothing tastes better than vine ripe tomatoes picked at the perfect time. These are not like the ones that I worked with in the produce warehouse back in Bakersfield years ago. We would unload boxes of “breakers”, tomatoes that are mostly green, shoulders pink and hard like baseballs. We stacked then in a special room that could be sealed and with controlled temperature & humidity settings. We would seal the room and pump in ethylene gas to “ripen” them. 3 days later they were all beautifully red and still baseball hard…….now you know!

Sweet million cherry tomatoes
Juliet, a small Roma shaped tomato that is very heat tolerant
Patio tomatoes for my wife, in a pot and yes, on the patio. They do well until it gets too hot. Four inches or so in size and very tasty. They will be on BLT’s with my tasty toasted sourdough bread soon!

Just wanted to add an update on the “bottom ends” of Romaine lettuce I plunked down into the soil in my garden. They sprouted well, I snacked on some of the leaves early on but now……..they have bolted, shot up, and beginning to display flower heads and the leaves are slightly bitter. Why do they bolt? I always thought it was the warmer weather but it appears that length of day is the primary factor. If I was really energetic and had nothing else to do, I should have limited then to no more than 8 hours or so of sunlight per day……..I may need to give it a try in the future.

Not your typical Romaine lettuce…..leaves are still edible but a bit stunted and turning bitter. I will maybe……..experiment next year or at the end of summer….

During the Spring of 2019 I planted two Muscadine grape plants. One died and the other thrived. I trained the vines to grow out in two direction. One went horizontally along a wire stretched out across my back fence. The other direction heads over to a wooden arch structure, similar to a small grape arbor. Last year there was no evidence of fruit. My unknown is whether the variety I bought needs a pollinator variety. I am crossing my fingers…….Muscadines grow wild in the are and a similar grape, Mustang grapes, which are similar, are also nearby. There is evidence of potential fruit all up and down this year’s vines!

Little teeny tiny beginnings of Muscadine grapes. I am hopeful……I want to make some jelly and maybe some wine.

My son is moving at the end of the month and has made me proud. He established two very good sized compost bins in his backyard. He has a lot of yard to mow and he has been amazed how quickly the clippings decompose and shrink. I spent some time pretty much emptying one bin last night, probably 14 good sized leaf bags full. I shouldn’t say full. Once I skimmed the newer layer- mostly leaves and grass, the bottom layer was dense and heavy……….so, small but heavier loads in those bags. If the weather holds I will return today and pull the contents of bin number 2.

TTFN

Bishop

Sourdough For Janet

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I had posted on Facebook some tidbits about how I was keeping myself busy during our COVID-19 social isolation time. Baking bread is one of my loves and one of my downfall……you know what I mean. A number of my friends commented, including the younger sister of one of my best high school buddies. Her name is Janet and she loves to cook. She asked for details on my sourdough adventures, I promised Janet that I would share with her how I have been making my sourdough bread. I am not a purist by any means, because in addition to my sourdough starter, I do use a little yeast in the process.

The starter, and this is really the critical part, takes time and patience to get it the way you want. The link below will take you to the King Arthur page for the instructions on making the starter. I use King Arthur Bread flour when I make my sourdough, it is a little more expensive but it is worth it. Now, if you don’t have your starter you won’t be making bread this week. Follow the process and again, be patient.

https://www.kingarthurflour.com/blog/2012/04/05/creating-your-own-sourdough-starter-the-path-to-great-bread

Ok, it is a week later and you are ready to make the bread. I weigh my ingredients and find that I have more repeatable results when I do.

Ingredients;

227 grams of ripe well fed starter. That’s about 1 cup

340 grams of warm water, About 1.5 cups

1 or 2 teaspoons of yeast – 1 if starter is real healthy and 2 if not

2.5 Teaspoons of salt….I use Kosher salt – Kosher is additive free

602 grams of bread flour – about 5 cups

I use my bread machine on the dough cycle. I add the ingredients in the order listed above, right or wrong, it works for me. Watch the dough while it is being mixed. The dough should just be a little sticky but not clinging to the sides. Rarely do I have to add water, usually a few pinches of flour…..a little goes a long way. You will learn as you go.

At the end of the dough cycle turn the dough out onto a very minimally floured surface. I fold 4 corners, pulling and stretching them out, then folding into the center. I may do this every 30 minutes or so 3 or 4 times. You can also do it once, place in a greased bowl, seam side down and refrigerate overnight. It adds to the flavor. Then stretch and fold a couple of times before proceeding. Video of my hands doing the folding somewhere below.

If using a mixer with a dough hook, mix it to form a smooth dough, albeit just barely sticky, place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise. Then follow the steps outlined above to pull, fold the dough and shape it.

I almost always make a boule, french for ball. After the third or fourth folding I flip the boule over seam side down and shape it. I work it, pulling and working a little at a time under the boule, working around and around to create tension across the top of the boule. I place it seam side up into a lightly floured proofing basket/brotform. Let it rise for an hour or so. Good shaping illustration in the link below.

https://www.weekendbakery.com/posts/video-shaping-a-boule/

In the mean time place a lidded dutch oven into the oven and preheat to 425 F, 218 C…..make that 220 C. Make sure the oven has come up to a stable temperature. Now it is time to bake your bread. I lay a piece of parchment paper across the risen bread, gently turn it over while working it loose from the basket. Carefully now, open the oven, remove the lid, place the boule into the bottom( leave the parchment paper underneath if you like….I always do) of the dutch oven, add a couple of deep slashes across the top to allow it to expand. Replace the lid and close it all up. After 25 minutes, remove the top to allow the bread to brown up a little more.

Bake for another 20 to 25 minutes then check the bread. If you thump it, it should sound hollow. I will also insert a digital thermometer into the middle of the loaf to ensure it is above 200 F, 93-94 C. Turn out onto a cooling rack and then challenge yourself to be patient.

Now lets back up a little, while making your starter you will be tossing out some yummy stuff. Not every time, but fairly often I will make sourdough pancakes with the excess. See recipe below.

Pancakes – Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh sourdough starter
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2-4 Tbsp. milk, coconut milk, or water – just get the consistency right.
  • Butter or coconut oil for frying

They are really tasty!

Enjoy!!!!!

TTFN

Bishop

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