Saturday, November 28, 2009

last of the tomatoes, for real this time

I cleaned out the greenhouse today, removing all the dead vines, fallen tomatoes, and other detritus. I'm running fans with the vents open to try to dry it out inside.

I kept all of the tomatoes that weren't split or moldy. Plus, a surprise cucumber. Several pounds in all.

I've been cooking with green tomatoes lately. For Thanksgiving I made a dish of sweet corn sauteed with green tomatoes, fresh jalapeño (still doing fine in the greenhouse), and roasted red peppers. Quite good!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

first attempt at roasting with a Poppery II

I discovered another hot air popcorn popper at the thrift store and felt it worthy of the $3 investment. It's a Poppery II and is compact and quiet compared to the Popcorn Pumper.

I immediately roasted four ounces of Moka Kadir. Interestingly, my results were almost identical to the first time I roasted in the Popcorn Pumper. After 15 minutes I shut it down, having produced almost no smoke, no sustained cracking, and at a much lighter roast than I would normally use.

The result for the first shots I pulled were about as originally described. Under-roasted, solvent aftertaste, very little fruit or sweetness, and low aroma. After a day of rest the only change was that the sweetness may have developed a bit and the aroma was improved.

An interesting effect was that the espresso was produced very quickly and with an absolute torrent of foaming crema. This behavior lessened slightly on the second day. I didn't experiment to see how far I'd have to reduce the grind in order to mitigate it, since four ounces (3.2 after roasting) is not much to play with. There may be some underextraction that would account for a bit of the flavor, but I don't think that's the main factor.

I will try again with six ounces to see whether I can get results more like these. However, that quantity is going to be pretty close to jumping out of the top of the roasting chamber. I may need to tip it back slightly. This is a nicer piece of equipment to use, but at this point I don't know whether it can get the job done.

Update: After a few days, no real change. It is not going to improve with age. This is just a bad roast.

Monday, November 16, 2009

garbanzos con chorizo

I bought some dried chickpeas the other day. I've always used canned garbanzos and was curious to see how dried might differ. Coincidentally, I ran across Spain, in 5 ingredients, which happened to use dried garbanzos (plus chicken stock, chorizo, paprika, and kale).

I pulled out my sole book on Spanish cuisine to find out whether a bit of rosemary might be appropriate (it is) and discovered this entertaining tidbit:
Chickpeas (garbanzos) are the potatoes of Spain, growing well through the hot summers. In ancient times, the Romans mocked the chickpea-eating Spanish, suggesting that their enormous consumption of the legume not only indicated stupidity but also induced it.
It also mentioned that garbanzos con chorizo is a classic dish. The five ingredient recipe is clearly a simple rendition. Many recipes, generally with several more ingredients, can be found online (and, oddly, not in my cookbook).

I served it over chard from the garden, which I had, rather than kale, which I did not. The chard is still doing quite well in the greenhouse.

It really does take two hours, and even after that the garbanzos were bordering on water chestnut crunchiness. I'd guess that they could have easily stood another 45 minutes of simmering. It's a low-effort recipe and the results are satisfying, but another 10 minutes to incorporate onions, peppers, maybe some cumin would be time well spent in developing a heartier complexity.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

boiled new potatoes with parsley and butter

Hardly an innovation in the preparation of the humble spud. But when you have spectacularly fresh and flavorful new potatoes this is the right thing to do. The butter and parsley may even be pushing it; steamed with a sprinkle of sea salt would be a perfect treatment too.

Wolfgang Puck said,
My motto is always, and has always been, "buy the best ingredients, no matter the price, and then don't screw them up."
Impeding the free speech of the finest, freshest ingredients is surely one way to screw them up.


potato harvest

The boys and I emptied the potato boxes today. I was a bit disappointed, as the promise of the boxes being stuffed from top to bottom turned out to be rather fanciful.

The vines were sufficiently dead, I thought. Off to the compost bin with them.

For harvesting it's sufficient to remove most of one side. I obviously didn't use the top six inches of the box, not that it mattered in this case.

We had 29 pounds of beautiful Desiree reds. There were also a few rotten ones, generally small.

The other box contained 18 pounds of Yellow Finns.

5 pounds of those had a bit of rot at one end, but were easily pared for fresh eating.

I also dug 1.5 pounds of both varieties from the plants beneath the forsythia. These were the leftovers after planting the boxes, and between the constant battering of soccer balls and the almost full-time shade once the forsythia leafed out this yield is hardly a surprise.

Almost all of the potatoes were from the bottom of the bins, although there were a few big ones in the upper parts of both bins. I suspect that my technique for covering the vines as they grew was not correct and I ended up almost entirely with stems rather than roots. However, that also means that the yield, where it existed, was not too bad.

The rot surely is from overwatering and poor drainage beneath the bins. That's not a surprise, now that I think about it. I don't think the growing technique had anything to do with it.

There's no doubt that grocery store potatoes can't touch fresh ones for flavor or quality, but as far as production is concerned this was probably not very economical. I'm sure I can get at least a couple more years out of these boxes, but the method demands more effort and cost than is justified without a significant yield improvement.

hard raspberry-pomegranate-apple cider, part 2

I bottled the cider today, drinking what didn't quite fit.

Clarification after adding the pectic enzyme has proceeded reasonably well. It has a nice translucence, if not total clarity. It's a lovely peachy color.

Flavor is dry and pleasantly tart with a nice balance between the apple and the other fruits. It has a faintly yeasty aroma, but I don't detect that as a flavor. I'd probably identify this as a rather fruity white wine if I tasted it blind.

It may be a little early to bottle, but I'd love to have it sparkling by Thanksgiving. I filled six 16 oz bottles, using about a teaspoon of corn sugar per bottle (boiled with cider). I just poured from the jug into the bottling bucket, figuring that it will be consumed before any problematic oxidation occurs.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

last of the cucumbers and tomatoes

Last week I plucked the final Tall Telegraph greenhouse cucumbers. We had the last one tonight in a green salad. These had a sweeter, milder flavor than most of the others, perhaps simply because they weren't as large.

Tonight I picked what will probably be the final tomatoes. There are still plenty of greenies, but I don't think they're going to ripen on the vine. Some of the cherry and grape tomatoes were pretty good, though.

Cucumbers and tomatoes in mid-November! I guess that makes the greenhouse successful in extending my season a bit.

There would be a lot more if I hadn't had humidity and mold problems. I've probably been overwatering, and once the rains came the inside of the greenhouse was extremely humid. The massive amount of tomato foliage didn't help, and I began seeing mold. I did a lot of pruning and did what I could to dry things out, but I lost many pounds of tomatoes. Next year I need to prune aggressively, avoid overwatering, and figure out other ways to limit humidity. Between that and going to a permanent glazing I think I'll have pretty good results.

hard raspberry-pomegranate-apple cider, part 1

Saw a gallon of flash pasteurized cider with no preservatives on sale (only one jug left, unfortunately) which reminded me that I hadn't made a hard cider in six months.

I wanted to try something different, but I hadn't exactly planned this. A bit of kitchen scavenging turned up a few raspberries, part of a pomegranate, and some honey. I still had additives and champagne yeast from last time. Sounded fine!

Some of these quantities are a little approximate:
  • 2/3 teaspoon yeast nutrient
  • 1/3 pomegranate
  • 3 oz red raspberries
  • 2 oz clover honey
  • 1/3 packet Red Star champagne yeast
  • 1 gallon Ryan's orchard blend flash pasteurized cider, unfiltered, no preservatives
Pureed the pomegranate and raspberries. Simmered for 10 minutes with honey and yeast nutrient. Tasted like basic raspberry jam with just a hint of the pomegranate. It darkened while cooking; perhaps if I'd used an acid blend it would have stayed bright. I don't think this quantity is going to make much difference in final color, but once all the apple particles have settled perhaps I'll be proven wrong.

Warmed the refrigerated cider in a hot water bath to just above room temperature, then poured cider and jam into the glass jug with splashing. Pitched dry yeast directly into the cider and jam mix and rocked it for a while. Very murky, as expected.

Is cooking the yeast nutrient a problem? I guessed not based on the fact that you boil wort.

At the November meeting of the North Seattle homebrew club I was told by Eric that it is best to add acid blend after primary fermentation is complete. Adding it prior to fermentation may create conditions that don't appeal to the yeast. He said that it should be added on the basis of sampling and tasting.

Primary fermentation was done within a week. It was explosively vigorous for the first hour; I should have just left it uncorked. I racked to a new jug, where more sediment settled quickly, but unlike the previous ciders it has not really clarified. Perhaps the pectic enzyme I used in those was really effective. I've read that it's best to add it before primary fermentation, but that it may still help if added later. I may or may not.

I sampled when racking. Nice! The raspberry is subtle. The pomegranate I would never identify in a blind tasting, but I think I can detect it. There is certainly a hint of pink, which I think might be more apparent after clarification. I don't think I need additional tartness.

2009-11-12 update: I sprinkled in about a teaspoon of pectic enzyme yesterday afternoon. Within a few hours I thought there was more sediment at the bottom, and after a day it's considerably clearer. I doubt that it will approach the clarity of the pure apple ciders but it's prettier.