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Yellow Banana Peppers Galore

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I only put in a single yellow banana pepper plant – and the title fits nicely.

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At a party with more cupcakes than anyone could imagine, you’ll hear guests say, “There are cupcakes galore!”  Galore means there’s so much that it’s unbelievable.

The Irish phrase go lear literally translates as “to sufficiency.” If there are sufficient enough bananas to build a house with them, you’d say that there are bananas galore. The word is an example of a postpositive adjective, which means it comes after the word it describes. So when you go to a circus and 700 clowns surround you, don’t say “There are galore clowns,” because the correct way to express your terror is this: “There are clowns galore. Help”.

I increased my knowledge of the English language today. Without knowing why, I had always used the word “galore” as shown in the title. Unbeknownst to me – the word “galore” is a postpositive adjective. Reminds me of a common gringo mistake of placing the adjective before the nouns when attempting to speak Spanish. In English it is “blue sky” , in Spanish it is “sky blue – cielo azul”!

Ok, language lessons over for today. Now let’s deal with my yellow banana peppers galore!

I brought in another handful before I started slicing them up into 1/4 inch thick rings. I did weigh the pile, a little more than two pounds, more than 900 grams. My garden seems to be well suited for growing peppers and such. These are about 6″ or 15 cm long!

I stuffed the pepper rings into 4 pint jars and a single 1/2 pint jar, all jars preheated of course. The pickling mix was 5 cups cider vinegar, 1 1/4 cup water and 5 tsp pickling salt brought to a boil. Prior to stuffing the peppers into the jars I added 1 tbsp mustard seeds and 1/2 teaspoon of sesame seeds into the pint jars and about half that amount into the half pint jar.

The heated pickling mix was poured over the peppers leaving a little less than 1/2 inch of head space. They were processed 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Recommend letting them sit undisturbed for a day or more and then tuck them away for a week or two to allow the flavors to blend.

Ready to process.

The final product with some of my 5 gallon honey buckets in the background.

I also have Poblano peppers galore! I will fire the smoker up this weekend and roast/smoke them with pecan wood. These scrumptious smoked peppers provide the heat and smoky flavor for my smoked Poblano pepper jelly. Amazing as a glaze on pork chops or pork loin and also very nice mixed with soft cream cheese as a chip dip. Yum!

TTFN

Bishop

Wild Mustang Grape Jelly Revisited

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I am sad to report that my “secret spot”for picking the Mustang Grapes was cut back by the City of Houston this spring so I was forced to find another source. I was able to forage a little over 3 gallons of grapes. It is a hot sweaty endeavor to gather up the grapes as they ripen at the beginning of July. It was 95 degrees F and 80+% humidity when I was picking. I was thoroughly soaked when finished.

Many times I can find nice clusters like this but most of the time I’m not so lucky. Photo from the attached article- I can’t take credit for it.

Preparation of the grapes takes some time. I spend the time to de-stem all of the grapes but have discovered that the time consuming effort may be a bit of overkill. I am attaching a link to a recipe that simplifies the process and leaves the stems on. Just a note, I do not wear gloves when I pick and then de-stem the grapes. My hands have experienced a mild but persistent itching sensation for a day plus after handling the grapes. I will use glove next time both while picking and then skip the de-stemming step.

My recipe calls for 5 cups of strained juice….. I don’t force it through the cheesecloth as I like clear jelly. The jelly is a very sweet yet tart jelly with 7 cups of sugar. I use Sure Jell pectin and a tablespoon of butter. I find that I need to boil it at a full rolling boil for almost 6 minutes before it reaches the jelling point I like. The boiling process foams up very high so a deep pot is a necessity. I find that once removed from the heat the foam falls quickly and leaves little if any foam to skim off before ladling into the jars. I process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

The photos don’t quite do it justice. The color of this jelly is amazing! I made 6 sample/gift size jars with this batch. I will make a couple more batches for a total of 30+/- half pint jars. And yes, I will part with a half pint jar for $6.00 or an appropriate barter!

The attached article has a recipe that differs very little from mine but does include a 1/4 cup of lemon juice to aid in the setting of the jelly and a 1/4 cup less grape juice. A word of advice, unless you have large sized equipment, do single batches and always measure everything meticulously. Test your jelly to ensure it has boiled long enough. The attached article as a great explanation and photos illustrating how to check your jelly.

https://jennifercooks.com/how-to-make-wild-mustang-grape-jelly/

TTFN

Bishop

How to get the Kitchen Floor Mopped?

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It is a given that my wife married a man that is just a little sloppy with his activities, and yes, his(my) activities include use of the kitchen for;

Honey bottling

Jam and jelly making

Making beeswax lip balms

Beer making & bottling

And obviously cut up, shredding and prepping meats for the grill and smoker.

And I am sure there are some unnamed transgressions.

Today was a little busier than usual! I finished cutting up and bagging around 15 pounds of strawberries…….. note – yesterday I ran off to Wood Duck Farms in the morning and picked 6 buckets of strawberries, returned home, cleaned and packaged half the haul and made it into the shower for an on time departure to see George Strait at the Houston Rodeo.( English majors and other grammar police….I kinda like run on sentences)

As I said – finished the berries but then decided to make strawberry jam! It is a pretty simple process. I have determined that a gallon freezer bag stuffed full is perfect for a batch. I follow the SureJell package instructions very closely. Critical are the boiling sequence and times. Add pectin and a 1/4 cup of sugar, on high heat, mash and stir at the same time. Once at a full rolling boil, add the remaining 3 – 3/4 cups of sugar and return to a full rolling boil….count slowly to 72 while it boils and remove from the heat. Oh yeah, toss in a tbsp of butter to reduce foaming…….I am not sure it helps but the directions suggest it.

Skim the foam, yes there will be foam. Waste not, want not. My wife loves the foam on top of here egg white and oatmeal frittata. Three tablespoons of quick oats in a small non stick pan, add enough egg white to cover and cook to done. Smear a little strawberry foam on it and enjoy. Remove a jar from the hot water bath and fill to 1/4 inch of the top. Snug up sanitized lids. The process took a little longer as I made 19, 55ml jars, cute little things, and 5 – 7 ounce hex jars. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath and then set aside.

This is not a full rolling boil. There is foam and a few boiling bubbles but not what you are looking for.

Getting close! If it is still bubbling and spattering, even while stirring, you are there.

Processing for 10 minutes.

The finished product ready for labeling. To the right is the yummy foam my wife uses for her frittata.

Next up was prepping two chickens to be cooked “Beer Butt” style on the grill. It takes 75 minutes or so while trying to keep the closed grill temperature at about 350 F.

The final result. In the beer cans was a nice oatmeal stout and a few crushed garlic cloves. I used A rub and garlic salt seasoning.

A quick dinner with a nice quinoa cold salad before heading off to the gym. When I returned I still had the beer to rack over with the reminders of the spots on the kitchen floor still fresh in my ears. Got the beer, a nice Wit beer, racked and the floor mopped – Hun!

It says priming tank but has been put into service as a fermenter due to leaks in my original fermenting bucket.

I think it is bed time now.

TTFN

Bishop

Jelly Making

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The fourth batch of Mustang grape jelly is complete and it appears to be set and clear, although it is a dark maroonish color. I thought I would post a more detailed description with some excellent guidelines for novice jelly makers…..FYI I am not to far beyond novice when it comes to jellies…..I am much more experienced with jams!

 

Mustang Grape Jelly

5 cups strained juice

7 cups sugar

1 package Sure Jell Premium pectin

1 tsp butter

 

Prepare juice

In a large pot add 1 to two gallons of washed and de-stemmed Mustang grapes. Add enough water to cover the grape. Heat to a boil and use a potato masher to burst skins and mash the pulp. Boil for 20-25 minutes. Strain through a double layer of cheesecloth. Do not squeeze the pulp, let Mother Nature and gravity do the work. Your patience will result in a much more clear jelly. Store in the refridgerator until ready to use….probably no longer than one week.

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 Gift sized jar. Love the beautiful clear color.

Jelly making

Add 5 cups of juice to a “tall” pot. Add pectin and butter and heat on high, continually stirring, until it is at a rolling boil, one that cannot be stirred down.When it boils it foams up pretty high.  Add the 7 cups of sugar all at once. Heat until to a full boil again while continually stirring. Boil 3-5 minutes. This is a bit of a subjective –  to test if the jelly has cooked long enough – I found this great description with photos….unfortunately I couldn’t seem to get them to embed themselves so I grabbed a few off the web.  My experience is that it takes a good 5 minutes to get to the sheet test stage for this jelly….The sheet test is when I take it off the heat and ladle into the jar. I sometimes use the wrinkle test but i look to see how slowly it sheets off the spoon as my gauge. Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

https://www.thespruceeats.com/testing-homemade-jellies-for-gel-point-1327874

“In theory, you can use a candy thermometer to check when the jelly’s temperature reaches 220 degrees Fahrenheit (at sea level), but that’s not always the most reliable way to ensure your jelly is ready to cool.

Fortunately, there are other methods for testing jelly. Descriptions of how to do a jelly “sheet test,” “spoon test,” or “wrinkle test” can seem mysterious if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. Let’s demystify those methods so that you can make jelly with confidence.

During the early stage of cooking jelly, the liquid is visible while it boils. It’s nowhere near ready yet. You’ll need to let the liquid boil until it becomes one gelatinous liquid with no separate liquid visible boiling to the surface.

Once you’ve established that the liquid is condensed into one form, then and only then should you apply the sheet or spoon test, but the temperature of the liquid is likely to be below 220 degrees at this point in the process.

Still, when you’re satisfied with the consistency of your jelly, dip a large spoon into the boiling pot and lift it about one and a half feet above the pot to pour the liquid jelly out all at once. What you’re looking for is the very last bit of jelly to come off the spoon. During the early stage of cooking, the last bit will pour off in a single drop.

As it gets near the gel point, bubbles will cover the entire surface of the boiling jelly and start to climb up the sides of the pot. This is when you know your ingredients have condensed into one liquid form and are just about ready to set. Temperatures inside the liquid should be in the 220 degree-range no matter where you stick the candy thermometer.

Do another spoon test – When the jelly is almost done, the last bit of liquid jelly will come off the spoon in two drops rather than one. This means that the jelly has already begun to form into a new jelly-like compound and should theoretically be ready to take off the heat and let cool in your jelly molds. Still, you should apply the sheet test to make sure it’s fully ready.

The sheet test – When the jelly is ready, the last drops pouring off the spoon will run together and “sheet” off the spoon. What you want to look for at this stage is the absence of large droplets replaced by these amorphous globs instead. Once the liquid no longer pours off in drops but slide off in sheets, you’re ready to apply the final test: the wrinkle test.

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The Wrinkle Test – In order to apply the wrinkle test, have a small plate in the freezer while you are cooking the jelly. When you think it is done (based on the spoon test or temperature), place a small amount of jelly on the plate and return the plate to the freezer for 1 minute. If the jelly wrinkles when you push it with your finger, it is done.”

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Results have been good through 3 batches. I will attempt to do a batch with the Sure Jell light pectin in the very near future. Fingers crossed. The Sure Jell Low/No sugar pectin recipe guide lines for the grape jelly uses 5 ½ cups of juice and 3 ½ cups of sugar. That is HALF the sugar of the other recipe.

TTFN

Bishop

Muscadines…or is it Mustang Grapes…..Both are a Southern Thing

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A note about the delay posting this addition. I am confident that the Mustang grape vs. the Muscadine confusion has been resolved. I have been picking Mustang grapes. The Foraging Texas website has definitive descriptions. So, read on…….

It seems that the longer that I am living in Texas, the more I learn about the “life in the background”. Even though I am living at the edge of a huge city. Houston proper is home to about 2.3 million people, while the Metropolitan Statistical Area is nearly 6.5 million people. Crazy, I was just commenting to to my “Goo” friend John the other day that I never pictured myself living in a big city! Strange as it may seem, in the midst of this 6.5 million people, there is a good sized chunk of southern rural life.

Out for a bike ride the other day in my rural/urban setting of Kingwood, I spot purple spots on the bike path. I stop and look up……Hmmmmm, looks like Muscadine wild grapes. (not!!!!! see lead in note)

Vitis mustangensis, commonly known as the mustang grape, is a species of grape that is native to the southern United States

This woody species produces small clusters of hard green fruit that ripen into soft 34-inch (2 cm) dark purple berries in August–September.

They have a thick outer layer of flesh and on average contain four seeds. This variety of grape is recognized by the white velvet-like underside of the leaves, and often covers small trees, shrubs, fences and other objects that it grows near.[3]

At the beginning of the article I thought I was picking muscadines…so I wrote….

“Muscadine (Vitis rotundifolia) is a member of the grape family. It is native to much of North America and grows wild in roadsides and forests.

It has been extensively cultivated since the 16th century. Its natural range is recognized in the following states of the US: Alabama, Arkansas, the Carolinas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. They are well adapted to their native warm and humid climate; they need fewer chilling hours than better known varieties and they thrive on summer heat.”

I rode home and grabbed my bucket, put it into the saddle bagss on my bicycle and headed out. FYI, be prepared to drip sweat when picking Muscadines (and Mustang grapes)…..even early in the morning…80 degrees F and north of 70% humidity…..perfect for these grapes.

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I am I little taller than the average guy. I saw purple spots on the bike path on the West Lake Houston bridge and looked up. Within my grasp was a vine….a good firm pull and it was down at picking height.

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Lots of big and very ripe Muscadine (Mustang) grapes. I returned home with almost 8 pounds and – completely sweat drenched….90+ degrees and very humid.

It was obvious that the bridge had been picked pretty hard. I had spotted some vines nearby, the spot is my secret, and rode the over to investigate more closely.

 

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I have competition. In the shadow of the big city and adjacent to a busy 4 lane highway is a patch of grapes tempting the local deer. Look closely at the tracks in the sand. I probably picked 4 pounds from this location where the deer were browsing.

Several days prior to this adventure in picking/foraging, I picked about 3 gallons of ripe Muscadines (Mustang grapes) and processed them into juice for the first of several batches of jelly. I first washed then froze the grapes to burst the skins. I put them into a deep pot and covered them with water, just barely covering them. Cranked up the stove and mashed the heck out of them as they boiled. I boiled them for about 25 minutes while mashing and stirring.

You get the idea….a bit of work but well worth it. next, gotta strain off the juice through a double layer of cheesecloth.

The result of my efforts…..I filled a 1/2 gallon jar and about 1/2 quart of a dark rich Juice.

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A good start on the jelly making. Just a note; if you want clear jelly, do not squeeze the pulp, let mother nature and gravity do the work.

Muscadine Jelly – FYI….it was Mustang grapes so the final product more like “tart sweet”.

4 cups of juice

3 cups of sugar

1 package of Sure Jell premium (yellow box) pectin

1 tsp butter to reduce foam

Add pectin to juice and stir well. Bring the mixture up to a full rolling boil then add sugar all at once. Stir vigorously to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a full rolling boil again and count of 60 seconds at full boil. Skim foam and fill your hot sterilized jars. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove and let he jars sit undisturbed for a couple of days so the jelly sets up properly. Should make 5 half pints plus a little more.

Mustang Grape Jelly 

Same process to obtain juice.

5 cup of juice

1 pkg Sure Jell Premium (yellow box) mixed with juice.

Bring to a full boil and add 7 cups of sugar…that’s right, 7 cups.

Bring to a full boil for 3-5 minutes, the two batches I made took the full 5 minutes to get to the proper jelling point. Test drops on a cold plate until satisfied if it is ready….a bit subjective but it works. Skim the foam, fill sterilized jars and process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Let sit undisturbed for a couple of days…..I think I read that somewhere else…..Hmmmm.

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One of several gift jars I made with the batch. I will make another two batches later this week. Love the beautiful color.

For the total “Southern” experience, I am in the process of making Muscadine (Mustang grape) wine with the 8 pounds I picked yesterday. I had a great visit with the owner of the The Grain Cellar down in Humble, TX. besides being a home brewer, he is a knowledgeable wine maker and a knowledgeable resource on yeasts. He loves to share his knowledge with customers….as well as sample of his wine making as well as his beer brewing….I will attempt to make about 4 gallons of wine!!!!!

Now….from this evening….Preston at he Grain Cellar insisted that I did not pick Muscadines so he started me on the research journey….. Preston, you were correct. The definitive plant description is found by examining the leaves. Mustang grapes have a “white” lighter color on the underside of the leaves. Muscadines are green, top and bottom. Now I know.

The Mustang Grape “must” in the wine making bucket has a great aroma. I am looking forward to finishing the process. I will post the wine making adventure later.

Three batches of jelly are in the jars, the last two made properly…heh, heh. Not sure if I will go out and sweat again to pick any more….and the season for the Mustang grapes is beginning to close….to hot! and too little rain!

 

TTFN

Bishop

 

Blueberry Bonanza

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I keep a handful of my beehives at Blakelock’s Berries, they have young, early season blueberries and three varieties of luscious blackberries. My wife and I both love blueberries and was able to satisfy some of our cravings from the early picking at Blakelock’s.

The go to place for blueberries on the north side of Houston has been out at Moorehead’s off FM 1314. The berries are abundant but the parking, traffic and lines at the checkout station are much more than my crowd anxiety can put up with.

Today I made a discovery, a Blueberry Bonanza! Pioneer Berries at 2512 Pioneer Lane north of Highway 105 and just west of Cleveland, TX. It seems like a looooong mile north of 105 but trust me, you won’t miss it on the right side of the road.

The blueberry plants are younger than Moorehead’s but much more mature than Blakelock’s. If you like to pick when the weather is cooler, hit up Blakelock’s – their berries are ready to pick in mid April and are done by the end of May. If you want to stock the freezer you have early and late choices.

How did I stumble across this place? Well, even a blind hog finds an acorn every now and then! I went the the bee supply store near Conroe and was headed to Splendora to check on my beehives. I chose Highway 105 as it was the most direct route. Cruise control was set at 60 mph, yes it really was, and I went right past the sign pointing north off of 105. Safe U-turn and I was on my way to Pioneer Berries.

Plenty of parking for the weekend crowd. They don’t get overrun like Moorehead’s.

Look close many ripe berries and many, many more to come.

Oops, the berries are not in focus but they are still very tasty, blurry image and all!

This typical. I picked for less than 15 minutes as I had the bees calling me.


3 Point 9 pounds of berries laid out to dry, sort through, remove stems and soft berries. Oh yes, a little to snack on before bagging and freezing.

The left bucket is some nice light honey from 77339, about 18 pounds has already been bottled. The right bucket is from 9 frames I extracted after berry picking today. It will be about 25 pounds after I clean up and drain the extractor and uncapping tank. The jars on the right are a nice dark red-amber honey – a little over 15 pounds. Part of this dark honey will be converted to Cinnamon Creamed honey by the end of next week.

The bees are really packing in the honey right now. I am looking forward to a very good spring/early summer harvest.

I will be off to Blakelock’s in the morning to round up some berry farm honey for what he expects to be a big day on June 2nd. I will be sell honey from zip codes 77345 & 77339 – Kingwood/Porter, 77328 – Splendora and 77302/77306 – Grangerland. I will also be selling my homemade jams, strawberry, blueberry and blackberry. Come on out for a good time picking Blackberries at Blakelock’s and if you want safe and sane blueberry picking, head on over to Pioneer Berries.

TTFN

Bishop

Two More Batches of Jam

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Yesterday was a busy day in the kitchen. I had planned on making a batch of both strawberry and blueberry jams. My wife had decided to do some full week meal prep the same day. Communication on each of our endeavors was, how should I say it, absent. We did manage to get our respective tasks done but I was crowding my timeline to get off to my evening workout at the gym! We were both successful!

Not an advertisement but a graphic visual of the low sugar pectin I have had so much luck and success with.

A short clip at an awkward angle of what a “full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down” looks like! It is a common question of novice Jam/Jelly makers.

The delicious foam scraped off of the jam after removing from the heat. I wonder if there is market for such a thing!

Finished product cooling and waiting for labels. I know, the pink towel really doesn’t lend itself to a quality “Good Housekeeping” type of food photo. I need to brush up on the technique.

I have at least two more batches of Strawberry Jam to make and blackberry season starts this week at Blakelock’s Berries out in Grangerland at my apiary location!

FYI, I inspected the bees out there yesterday and saw the most beautiful and large blackberries! Yes, just to ensure they were ripe, I sampled a couple before the birds had a chance!

TTFN

Bishop

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