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Strawberries, Beets and Other Musings

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Let’s start right out in the field.

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This was the first of three buckets I filled in about 20 minutes of picking. The result was 14 pounds of luscious hand picked berries. Wood Duck Farms just 25 minute north form Kingwood….Organically grown and very sweet. http://www.woodduckfarm.com/

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A little clean-up and sorting….I had intended to freeze all of the berries but as it was the day before Easter my bride suggested that I make a plate of the nicer looking berries for fresh eating at our Easter luncheon……Yes Dear! I still manged to sort, clean and slice up about 10 pounds for the freezer to be made into jam. I have picked enough for two batches from my garden so I will have plenty for gifts and for a sale or two or three or more.

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A few of the berries dedicated to our Easter  Luncheon

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Two batches of low sugar strawberry jam….Sure-Jell light recipe, pink box….just 4 cups of sugar per batch vs 6 cups of the regular recipe…..And three pints of Pickled Beets.

Side note on the beets….. I used about 12 medium sized beets and roasted them in the oven at 400 deg. F for 40 minutes inside of a foil pouch. Included in the pouch were 2 tsp olive oil, 2 peeled shallots and two sprigs of Rosemary. What a great aroma….peeled and thinly sliced the beets and layered them into the pint jars with Frenched Red onions….I also learned how to French to onions……old dogs can learn. The brine was boiled for a while to allow the spices to meld. Processed in boiling water bath for 30 minutes.

  • 1 1/2 cups Tarragon wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 Cinnamon stick
  • 2 tsp whole cloves
  • 1 tbsp of pickling spice.

The bees are coming – can you hear the buzzzzzzzzzzz – 4 packages of bees from Navasota on Saturday April 14 and 6 NUC’s from Jennings, Louisiana on the 12th of April…..looks like I will be a busy boy this spring!

I have decided that my experimenting with banana growing is halting… not enough joy! lots of space consumed and the returns are minor….I need to do this in Belize…..OK – I can dream. I’ll stick with mostly tried and true….with an experiment or two along the way.

Hoisted a swarm trap up onto the big oak in the back yard today. A lot of reports coming in on the “Beek” forums here in Texas with success stories. I need to be careful and not exceed my self imposed limit of ….. No more than 25 hives.

Three more batches of strawberries in the freezer awaiting their fate….Jam is such a sweet fate…And more pickings everyday from my garden. A few asparagus sprouts are being snacked upon, more beets to be picked, snap peas for a bit longer, cucumbers and beans are climbing, potatoes in pots and a few quarts of blueberries in a few weeks. I should also haul in a big load of blueberries from Blakelock’s Berry Farm in a few weeks –  Yum.

 

TTFN

Bishop

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Pomegranate Jelly

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I am very sure it won’t be as good as the Pomegranate Jelly that my Aunt Josie made – my first memories of her jelly are from Christmas time nearly 60 years ago. Just saying that phrase – “60 years ago” begins to make me feel a little old! My Uncle Jim was a Foreman for Western Water Works in Taft, CA. -( I think it is called West Kern Water District now….) Back to the pomegranate…..the main yard in Taft was surrounded by a hedge of pomegranate bushes. They seemed to ripen in the late fall which probably coincided with my Christmas season memories of Aunt Josie’s pomegranate jelly.

60 years ago I didn’t know much more about her jelly other than how wonderful it was on my toast! My forays into making jams and jellies is relatively recent, in the past 10-25 years or so. Key differences from those long ago times, Aunt Josie sealed hers with a cap of melted paraffin. I remember seeing a row of 6 or 7 jars on a table in the dining room adjacent to the kitchen. Almost every jar has a little dollop of jelly that had oozed through the wax somehow and …… if no one was looking I wiped my finger through it and into my mouth……probably considered unsanitary by today’s standards but I don’t believe anyone ever became ill.

Now, comparing my jelly to Aunt Josie’s. Several years ago I did make a batch from scratch – a lot of work to extract the seeds and squeeze and make jelly…..Today I took a shortcut. I bought some organic, unsweetened pomegranate juice. My batch from scratch was very much like my Aunt’s, both in color and flavor. My store bought juice resulted in a much darker jelly. My Aunt’s jelly was translucent, like rose pink tinted lens. My offering is dark crimson and only allows a hint of light to pass through the jars.

I terms of flavor….I would say my offering is a more robust and has a hearty pomegranate flavor – still, very pleasant. I made two batches, both resulted in approximately 6 – 8 oz. jars. Batch one was straight up pomegranate.

  • 3 1/2 cups juice
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 1 packet of Sure Jell brand low/no sugar pectin….pink package
  • 1 smidge of butter to reduce foaming.

I followed the Kraft website’s directions for pomegranate jelly. Jelled up very nicely.

Batch two. – I added two cinnamon sticks and steeped them in the pomegranate juice for about 15 minutes on very low heat. I left the sticks in as I added the Sure Jell pectin and brought the mix up to a full rolling boil. I removed the sticks and added the sugar and followed to recipe as written.

Both batches were processed in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

In the photos shown below;

The single jar is a small 110 ml jar. In bright sunlight there is just a hint of light passing through. Dark and yummy.

The two batches shown side by side; on the right the Pomegranate Jelly and the left Pomegranate with Cinnamon.

Bee News;

Yesterday I drove out to Blakelock’s Berries out in Grangerland, 23 miles out from the house, to add a honey super to the hive out at the farm.

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Added the medium super yesterday on top of the two deep brood boxes. The girls are bringing in lots of pollen and upon close inspection those without pollen appear to have a bit of a swell to the abdomen. Hmmmmm, could it be Blueberry nectar or some other source? Note: Bumble bee hovering around the entrance before the girls chased it away.

 

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

BCT Sandwich

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So, no lettuce in my summer garden so I had to sub for it! English cucumbers made a nice and flavorful replacement. For the tomato portion of the sandwich I sliced up a ripe Brandywine heirloom variety. Yummy so far. I also have a bit of homemade involved with the bacon. 

The bacon is lamb bacon, cured and smoked in my backyard/kitchen. 

I had just finished slicing it up, making it ready for packaging. I have another whole one in the freezer waiting for Fall recipes. Each lamb breast used for the bacon recipe is about 3.5 pounds.  The flavor is just amazing! 


Posing with the cucumber and lamb bacon is another variety of tomato that handles the Houston summers pretty well, Celebrity. 

The bees are also keeping me busy this summer. I am off to Navasota to pick-up five new queens. The queen’s in my two captured swarms are not laying well and will need to be replaced. I have, what should have been a new queen this spring, that is not laying well, so, down the road she goes. The last two will replace two older queens. 

It will be hotter than Hades tomorrow, requiring a beer or two to cope with the heat. I have some of my Honey Blonde Ale on tap to stave off my thirst. Bee season will slow down a bit later on then,  time to brew more beer. No rest for the wicked! 

TTFN

Bishop

Lula’s Hot Applesauce Cookies

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This cookie won first prize two years running at the Kern County Fair….. I baked them both years but my sister Denise won the ribbon the first year…..  she entered too many categories and I helped her out. Not sure if she ever acknowledged the fact nor thanked me.

Two part recipe; 

Dry stuff

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon 
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp allspice 
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts(optional)
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • Add to hot mix below once it reaches boiling

Hot mix

  • 2 cups applesauce
  • 1 stick of margarine or butter
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Heat to boiling and then add 1 tsp baking soda

Add dry stuff from above

Bake at 350 for 15 – 20 minutes. They are best after day 2. 

TTFN

Bishop

“Aunt Toni’s Excellent Banana Bread” – Revisited

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I want to update this post….A little over a year ago I posted the post(redundant but I don’t care), below along with the recipe. I had an abundance of bananas this year so I wound up freezing several dozen. They work great in smoothies but during this time of year I get a hankering for “Aunt Toni’s Excellent Banana Bread”. See story below…the recipe is not my sister Toni’s! LOL

The difference with this loaf is that I used the Manzano bananas rather than the thick and creamy Burro bananas. The flavor may be a bit more sweet/tart due to the influence of the Manzano flavors.

The bread – Note on the recipe…..test by inserting a knife until it comes out clean….this loaf took about 85 minutes.

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Kathy hollered from the kitchen, “Can I cut a piece?” “No”, I replied. “But I like it warm”, she whined. I repeated, “No”. She doesn’t listen very well! She also told me that I need to chop the walnuts into smaller pieces! – “Yes Dear

The previous post……

“What do you do when 8 or 10 of your homegrown bananas ripen all at once? everyone knows that it is Banana Bread time. My wife dug out the recipe for “Aunt Toni’s Excellent Banana Bread” for me to use…..problem is, it is not my sister Toni’s recipe, it is our sister Denise’s recipe….how did it get named for Toni…..That is a bit of a story.

July 19th, 2012 was my sister Denise’s 60th birthday. Toni….the other sister, requested that friends and family send Denise birthday wishes along with a favorite recipe….Denise is an awesome cook so the recipes would  be well received. The flyer and recipe that Toni sent out explains the “misnamed” recipe.

Toni’s recipe sent to Denise read;

” This is a recipe of a food gift that Denise and I have made for years to give to family and friends. A few years ago Denise’s son Sean asked me for my banana bread recipe and he has continued the tradition.  Recently he was telling Denise about my “Excellent Banana Bread Recipe”. She wanted to set the record straight –  the recipe came from her. We had a good laugh, because the recipe named had changed to “Aunt Toni’s Excellent Banana Bread”.

“Aunt Toni’s Excellent Banana Bread”

3-4 ripe bananas

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup melted butter

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup  chopped nuts – optional

Mash bananas and add sugar. Stir in the other ingredients. Pour into a greased loaf pan. Bake one hour in a preheated oven at 325 F. Cool on  a rack then cover with plastic wrap…….if it survives that long! Makes one large loaf or two small loaves.

Ripe  bananas ready to mash. In the center, the seed area of the endocarp, the flesh has a bit of a golden color.

Ripe bananas ready to mash. In the center, the seed area of the endocarp, the flesh has a bit of a golden color.

Mixing with the sugar after mashing. The golden center flesh is still  visible.

Mixing with the sugar after mashing. The golden center flesh is still visible.

Ready to pour into the greased loaf pan.

Ready to pour into the greased loaf pan.

Final product....this variety of banana is very creamy  -it still is evident in the finished bread....Yum

Final product….this variety of banana is very creamy -it still is evident in the finished bread….Yum

After I made the bread I contacted both sisters so we could laugh again…”

TTFN

Bishop

Homemade Bread -Rainy Day

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Texas is getting wet – Today, Tomorrow and most likely a day beyond. Galveston is flooding with over 9 inches of rain and more coming. Eighty miles north in Kingwood we are wet but not flooding. Dark and dreary day and I was feeling a little blue and a little lazy.

I have found a simple French bread recipe that is so easy and so good. Being lazy I let the bread machine do most of the work. I goes so well with soup…..I have a really flavorful turkey noodle soup made with smoked and deep fried turkey from last week.

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Yum…great crust and texture. So good when warn and “real” butter. Banneton basket used on this loaf.

Today’s version was done using a rectangular brotoform or Banneton Proofing basket. I had no clue what they were until a year or so ago when I was trying to perfect a sourdough bread recipe. I gave up on that endeavor! This French bread recipe is just foolproof.

Recipe

  • 1 1/8 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp oil or butter – I have used butter, olive oil and coconut oil…all work well
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar –  I have used my raw local with equally good results
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 pkg of machine bread yeast.
  • Place into the machine tub in the order listed.

Put the machine on the dough cycle. Monitor early in the cycle….I sometimes need to add a teaspoon of water to ensure proper dough consistency. Remove from the machine when complete and shape the loaf. Cover and let rise in a warn place for 60-90 minutes. Add 3-4 diagonal slashes across the loaf to allow steam to escape. I like the looks of the loaf with an egg white wash so it is your choice. Preheated oven to 425 F for 20 minutes and then another 8-10 minutes at 350. Toss a 1/2 cup of water into the oven right off the bat to develop steam for a nice crust.  Listen for the hollow sound when you thump it to see if it is done.

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Same as the loaf shown above but not brushed with the egg white mixture.

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Loaf formed by stretching dough into a rectangle and then rolling it up into a loaf. Pinch the seam together and turn ends under and pinch closed. Bake with the seam down.Oddly shaped but my subsequent loaves have been less misshapen.

Garden notes;

Peas are reaching skyward, beets are still popping up and lo and behold….Swiss Chard has emerged. I have a bunch of soaked seeds needing a home! Oh yes, my dwarf Meyer Lemon tree is pretty well loaded up.

The honey harvest inventory  for 2016 is pretty well consumed. I may have 15-18 pounds of honey in various sizes available. Kingwood locals…..put your orders in!

 

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

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