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Blakelock’s Berries

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http://blakelocksberries.com/

I went to visit Paul at Blakelock’s for a private blueberry picking session. In about 25 minutes , on very young plants, +\- 3 years old, I was able to gather about 9 1/2 pounds of the sweetest blueberries. My dilemma now is – I want to make some jam and Kathy wants them all frozen in small bags for snacking. There should be some middle ground don’t you think? 

Blakelock’s is primarily a blackberry u-pick farm. They should be open by mid May. I picked at his place last year and I got a ton of great blackberries. 


I love how the blueberries cluster up. Makes for easy picking. 


The blackberries are blossoming and forming good looking fruit right now! 

I have committed to placing 3 hives at Blakelock’s early next spring. Should be a win/win. Paul gets the benefit of improved pollination and I get some berry good honey! 


This is one 4.5 plus bucket of berries drying out before packaging for my lovely and loving wife! PS- can I now make some jam Hun? FYI- a handful of green beans in the background along with my sourdough starter jar! 

Check out Paul’s website;

http://blakelocksberries.com/
TTFN

Bishop

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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

Banana Bonanza

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2016 – the banana plants have been going bananas! Literally. Yes Plants not trees. The past two winters here in Houston have been mild resulting in the banana bonanza. I pulled up some info from the Texas A&M Horticulture website;

http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/fruit-nut/fact-sheets/banana/

Here is the intro to growing the bananas;

“Banana

Julian W. Sauls Extension Horticulturist

Broad, long, graceful leaves and rapid growth-commonly reaching full size in just a few weeks-make banana a favorite plant for providing a tropical look to pool and patio areas. The development of bananas following a frost-free winter is a source of both pride and amazement to those unfamiliar with banana culture.

Banana is a tropical herbaceous plant consisting of an underground corm and a trunk (pseudostem) comprised of concentric layers of leaf sheaths. At 10 to 15 months after the emergence of a new plant, its true stem rapidly grows up through the center and emerges as a terminal inflorescence which bears fruit.

The flowers appear in groups (hands) along the stem and are covered by purplish bracts which roll back and shed as the fruit stem develops. The first hands to appear contain female flowers which will develop into bananas (usually seedless in edible types). The number of hands of female flowers varies from a few to more than 10, after which numerous hands of sterile flowers appear and shed in succession, followed by numerous hands of male flowers which also shed. Generally, a bract rolls up and sheds to expose a new hand of flowers almost daily.”

Ok – enough of the technical talk. The bonanza is a bit like your neighbor that is overwhelmed with zucchini – you hide when you see them coming. Yes, I gave away a lot of bananas. Once you cut the stalk off the ripening process speeds up. They are great in smoothies but one smoothie a day doesn’t take much of a bite out of the bounty. Eating fresh is a good idea too, but………you get the idea. The freezer is well stocked with both the Burro and Manzano bananas so now what?

Jam, yeah jam! Never heard of banana jam…..Google it! Yes Virginia, people do make banana jam!

Food.com, Yee Haw!

Banana  Jam by Chef GreanEyes on April 2nd 2009

4 cups of ripe bananas……no problem here!

6 ½ tbsp.  of lemon juice

6 cups of sugar – again no problem, I buy 25 pound bags to feed to the bees during lean times

3 ounces of pectin –

¾ cup of unsalted butter – I cut that back to a little less than ½ cup

Now the tough part…..it takes time and multiple steps to make the jam.

  1. Combine bananas, 3 cups sugar, lemon juice and let stand for an hour
  2. Add remaining sugar and cook over medium-high heat until sugar is dissolved
  3. Bring to a boil for two minutes
  4. Remove from heat and skim foam
  5. Bring back to a boil – boil 1 minute
  6. Remove from heat and skim foam, yes, again
  7. Add butter and bring to boil AGAIN
  8. Add pectin and stir constantly
  9. Boil for  1 minute
  10. Remove from heat and skim once again.
  11. Allow to cool for 7 minutes
  12. Add to sterilized canning jars
  13. Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes
  14. Let sit for 24 hours

Then enjoy!

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On the stalk and very ripe.

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Boil and skim 1, 2 or 3…..

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Some of the skimmed foam, no, it didn’t go to waste.

 

Based on what is on the “plant” in my garden, I have more neighbors to overwhelm, more freezer space to occupy and maybe a few more batches of this jam. The first batch was with the Burro bananas, the next will be with the Manazano…..taste test comparisons sometime soon!

 

TTFN

Bishop

Honey Sweetened Meyer Lemon Jam – A Sensuous Kitchen Experience

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The title….The title is an apt description of the jam making experience but I will keep the blog descriptors “G” rated. What was actually going through my mind – is open for interpretation. I found this recipe in the same place I found the Meyer Lemon Curd recipe in the “Food in Jars” blog I mentioned in the post published on December 27th…..wait, wasn’t that yesterday? Life has given me lemons, more correctly, Meyer Lemons, and lemonade is not high on my list. Three alternatives made to date; 1. Limoncello – still a few weeks from completion, 2. Meyer Lemon Curd – a double batch, and now 3. Honey Sweetened Meyer Lemon Jam. Three decadent treats and the decadence is not restricted to flavors.

I will attempt to recreate the “cooking” experience as safely as I can. It has been a nasty, drizzly and cool day here in the Houston area. I stepped outside into the drizzle and hand selected 5, plump Meyer Lemons for the primary ingredient! Don’t try to read my mind, I will tell you that Led Zeppelin lyrics did not pop into my head until just a moment ago, so lets put that one to rest. I also used local honey…not mine but very similar in flavor.

The first non-cooking thought that hit me while stirring the batch was triggered by the aromas caressing my nose…. it was the mix of honey and, what must have been the volatile oils from the Meyer Lemon peels. The aromas were like the spring blossom time for citrus, most notably, from a midnight ride many years ago on my motorcycle down Sunset Blvd. The trip started on the UCLA campus and ended at Will Rogers Beach in Santa Monica. I have written in the past about the intoxicating scent of those Sunset Boulevard citrus blossoms on that cool and clear night. Just an amazing memory of the scents burned into my memories. My passenger that night I’m sure has similar memories of that scent filled ride, along the sweeping turns, cool and scent filled night leading down to the beach. Mmmmm – great memories triggered by the aromas buried in my gray matter.

As I was day dreaming and replaying that ride down the windy Boulevard the aromas coming off the batch of jam began to change. My first impression was that of a citrusy – Jasmine perfume scent. I had some, uh hum…. interesting thoughts….if a women was wearing a scent like this, the temptation to nibble and nuzzle her neck would have been overpowering. Plucked from somewhere deep in my memory banks was a connecting thought….pair this perfume aroma with the fresh scent of Herbal Essence shampoo and the beast within would have been testing the chains! – Careful Bishop…. I wondered if it was just my maleness fueling the thoughts when my wife popped into the kitchen and noted the perfume like aroma coming off the pot on the stove. She provided confirmation that my olfactory sensors were correct. Her comment pulled me back to the task at hand…..Jam!

The boiling process went on longer than the recipe called for. In hindsight, based on how thickly the jam set up, 15 minutes of boiling is probably correct time. I went well beyond that based on my sense of the thickening. During that time the aroma changed from arousing….(can I use that word?) to something very pleasant. The new aroma made me think more about hot, buttered and toasted sourdough bread lathered with this jam…I am very basic in my desires! I went from carnal to primal over the course of about 25 minutes.

I wound up with almost two pints of jam, probably a little darker in color than expected. If I had cut off the boiling time at 15 minute’s it may have been several shades lighter. I am assuming some “carmelization” took place. The jam is very well set and very tasty. I have many more lemons to pick so my next batch may be a little different….in results, but I hope that some same memories are triggered, memories that still make me smile. My lemons could not have been any fresher, once picked they were washed and in the boiling/simmering pot in less than 8 minutes….that may help explain the abundance of volatile lemon oils in the kitchen. Note to self……lets go ultra fresh again.

Honey Sweetened Meyer Lemon Jam

Yield: 3 to 4 half pints, plus a little for your morning yogurt

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds meyer lemons
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2 cups honey

Instructions

  1. Wash the lemons and place them in a saucepan that can hold them in a single layer. Cover them with the water and bring to a boil.
  2. Once the water is bubbling, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the lemons for 25 minutes, until the skins are tender but still hold together.
  3. Remove the pot from the heat and let the lemons cool completely.
  4. Place the lemons in a blender carafe and add two cups of the cooking water.
  5. Blend at low speed to break up the lemons. Take care not to puree them entirely smooth.
  6. Pour the lemon mix into a low, wide pan and add two cups of honey (choose something mild in flavor so that it doesn’t overpower the lemons).
  7. Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce to medium-high.
  8. Cook, stirring regularly, until the jam thickens and sheets off the back of your spoon or spatula. You can tell it’s nearly completion when it hisses and spits when you stir. My batch took all of 15 minutes of vigorous boiling to achieve set, but times will vary.
  9. When jam is finished cooking, remove pot from heat.
  10. Funnel jam into prepared jars. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath canner for ten minutes.
  11. When time is up, remove jars from canner and let them cool on a folded kitchen towel.

By on February 19, 2014 in jams, jellies, marmalades

 

My little dwarf Meyer Lemon tree on an earlier day.

My little dwarf Meyer Lemon tree on an earlier day.

In a few more weeks I should see my bees working the Lemon blossoms....Mmmmm so good!

In a few more weeks I should see my bees working the Lemon blossoms….Mmmmm so good!

TTFN

Bishop

The Last of the Strawberries

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I used up the last of the 2014 strawberry harvest today. I made a low sugar recipe resulting in 2-12 oz. jars, 4- 8 oz. jars and 1-4 oz. jar of wonderful Strawberry Jam. This was a banner year for my strawberry harvest. I am not sure if my bees will make much difference next year as strawberries are largely self pollinated, but, they can’t hurt!

I do love my morning toast with a healthy dollop of backyard jam, whether it be my strawberry jam or my blackberry jam….wild or domestic! No domestic blackberries this year as they met with a breakdown in communication with my hired help. The sprinkler installation guy, my son Ben, was a little too rough with the existing plants, they all died….next year or the year after may be a good year.

So, what does lite jam mean? Standard recipe calls for 5 cups of strawberry mush and 7 cups of sugar…..so danged good. The lite recipe is also 5 cups of mush but only 4 cups of sugar. I really like the lite recipe as I think more of the fruit flavor comes through. I will admit that the last batch of Dewberry Jam, a wild blackberry, was made as a full sugar recipe….wow…very good!

An 8 ounce jar of my very good Strawberry Jam.

An 8 ounce jar of my very good Strawberry Jam.

Now…clean the kitchen and bottle my Russian Imperial Stout! – Tomorrow, I just sampled a couple of Kona IPA beers and they were awesome. That should be detailed in my beer blog in a day or so.

http://bishopsbeerblog.com/

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

 

 

TTFN

Bishop

 

Jams, Jellies and Jars

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I just pick up an issue of “Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications” titled

Canning

preserving+freezing+drying.

I was in awe of how my limited jam and jelly efforts are/were compared to the world opened up in this issue.

Canning Issue

Canning Issue

Let’s start with the jellies

  • Blood Orange-Vanilla Bean
  • Habanero-Mint
  • Apricot-Rosemary
  • Flower Petal – I made Rose petal jelly – pretty but lacked flavor, search edible flowers for potential petals
  • Ruby-Red Grapefruit
  • Jasmine Tea
  • Grape Juice – not unique
  • Rose Wine Jelly with Pink Peppercorns
  • Balsamic Vinegar-Ruby Port

I am not including recipes – US folks can probably find this issue, if you can’t send me a request and I will accommodate y’all.

Jams were next and I saw some very mouth watering combinations.

  • Cinnamon-Peach
  • Sweet-Basil Peach
  • Chipotle-Peach
  • Bourbon-Peach
  • Caramel Apple
  • Sweet Cherry
  • Peach
  • Cinnamon-Spiced Triple-Berry
  • Gooseberry-Mango
  • Nectarine Mango
  • Honey-and-Thyme Blackberry
  • Tomato-Basil
  • Dried Apricot-Fig Jam with Anise
  • Strawberry Margarita & yes it includes a 1/2 cup of Tequila and a 1/4 cup of Triple Sec
  • Cantaloupe Jam with Vanilla

I have a vision of returning to Houston and creating some amazing Jellies and Jams. I am on a garden break and my son’s good friend and former teammate is keeping the greenery alive and hopefully enjoying some of the bounty…..the long extended heat wave in our area has slowed a lot of my harvest. Old faithful cucumbers should overwhelm him….as long as he keeps them irrigated!

My return at the end of July may include a hunt for some Fredericksburg Peaches!

TTFN

Bishop

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