Monday, December 11, 2017

Harvest Monday - December 11, 2017

The weather has been very strange. We had a few seasonally cool days and even had a bit of frost a few nights but other than that it has been unusually warm. Yesterday it got up to 80ºF. It's hard to believe it's December other than the short days. So the tomato and pepper plants linger in the garden and continue to produce a trickle of harvests.

Jaune Flamme, Mavritanskite, Mixed Cherry Tomatoes
I really should be taking the plants out to make room for favas and cover crops, but there's still more tomatoes on the vines. The pepper plants will be easier to take out because most of them don't have any green peppers, although I noticed that some of them are blooming again. Weird.

Aji Amarillo Grande
The sweet peppers are pretty much done but there's still Aji's, Jalapeños, and a few other seasoning peppers. That handful of Aji Amarillo Grandes rounded out the bunch I picked the previous week to fill a quart jar. I'm on a big pepper fermenting kick. I've got one jar of Aji Amarillo Grandes that is ready to be processed into hot sauce and the latest harvest is going to be dehydrated for pepper flakes after about a week of fermenting. There's 2 jars of fermenting Jalapeños, one for a Harissa paste and the other for another batch of Lo Burn Rooster Sauce. And there's also a jar of Mareko Fana peppers fermenting away that I'll dehydrate and turn into pepper flakes. I'm very interested to see how fermented Mareko Fana flakes compare to straight dehydrated Mareko Fana flakes. 

Broccolini and Batavia Broccoli
The Broccolini and Batavia Broccoli plants keep producing enough shoots to provide a few servings every week.

Braised Tromba Squash Vines
And I thought I should show what I did with the Tromba D'Albenga vine shoots that I harvested the week before. I braised them with some garlic and chopped Caribbean Seasoning peppers (very very mild) until they were very tender then piled them on top of toasted homemade levain bread mounded with mashed Petaluma Gold Rush Beans and all of it moistened by good homemade poultry broth and extra virgin  olive oil. It was very tasty. The vine shoots have a mild squash flavor but they do retain a bit of fuzziness. I didn't find the fuzzy texture to be objectionable but it is noticeable.

Harvest Monday is hosted by Dave on his blog Our Happy Acres, head on over there to see what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Harvest Monday - December 4, 2017

It was an interesting week of harvests. It's hard to believe that it's December when I'm out picking peppers and tomatoes. Although the forecast for Sunday night and the next few nights is for temperatures down in the low 30ºF's so after I harvested a bunch of peppers late Sunday I covered the plants with some frost cloth because there's still quite a few Aji peppers left on the plants and I don't want them to get frost damaged.

Joe's Giant Aji and Aji Amarillo Grande
Those are a couple of the very first Joe's Giant Aji peppers alongside a couple of Aji Amarillo Grande peppers. The colors are nearly identical but Joe's Giant is more smooth, fatter, and has a blunt end. I haven't had a chance to do a comparison tasting yet.

Joe's Giant Aji, Habanada, and Aji Angelo
I found one more ripe Aji Angelo and the Habanada plants had a good amount of ripe peppers ready for harvesting.

Caribbean Seasoning and Aji Amarillo Grande
Most of the peppers on the Caribbean Seasoning plants were ripe enough to harvest and there were more Aji Amarillo Grande peppers ready to harvest also.

Aji Golden, Hungarian Magyar, and Craig's Grande Jalapeno
There were a few stragglers on the Hungarian Magyar and Aji Golden plants and quite a few ripe Craig's Grande Jalapeños too.

Mareko Fana
I harvested all of the remaining Markeo Fana peppers, ripe or not, because I needed to take out the plant to make room for some winter veggies. The plant was a holdover from 2016 and had been hanging around for a year and a half.

Gogosar and Violet Sparkle Peppers
Jaune Flamme and Mavritanskite Tomatoes
There were a few sweet peppers and tomatoes to be found also, especially cherry tomatoes.

Assorted Cherry Tomatoes

Short Stuff Carrots
That photo of Short Stuff carrots above is deceiving, they may be short but they aren't small.

Short Stuff Carrot

Broccolini, Batavia Broccoli, and Pea Shoots
Broccolini and Batavia broccoli have been very dependable producers this year. I put in some overwintering peas this fall but I'm not counting on winter harvests of peas. Rather than just allowing them to grow and sprawl around I've been cutting them back and harvesting the tender shoots. Cutting them back forces them to branch out so I'm hoping that in the early spring that they will end up being somewhat bushy and produce more flowers and pods. I'm hoping but I haven't tried this before so I don't know what will happen. At the very least though I get to enjoy the shoots and there's something growing which is far better than having bare soil.

Tromba D'Albenga Squash and Speedy Arugula
The end may be nigh for the Tromba D'Albenga vines if the temperature drops below freezing.  But before they are gone I'm trying something new. I keep trimming the vines back and they keep putting out new shoots and I've read that the tender tips of the shoots are edible so I cut a bunch of them late on Sunday. I haven't had a chance to cook them up yet but I did nibble on some of the raw tiny baby squash and found that they were quite tasty. So more on that experiment next week.

Tromba D'Albenga Vine Shoots

Special Baby Leaf Chard
A few months ago I sowed a patch of chard that is supposed to be harvested as babies. Well, after a couple of harvests I let the remaining plants be and one of them got to be a bit too big for its space so it came out this week. I used it in a dish that featured roasted cubes of Terremoto squash and slow cooked Petaluma Gold Rush beans. That dish also featured one of my latest preserving experiments - fermented sweet pepper paste. The dish turned out to be far tastier than expected due in large part to the flavorful pepper paste. I have more information about the pepper paste on my previous post about Fermented Peppers.

Cilician Parsley
I cut two big bunches of Cilician parsley last week because they needed to be cleared out to make space for some winter vegetables. I think that there's some sort of Tabbouleh on the menu this week. This variety of parsley has been very long lived. I scattered the seeds for these plants last winter and the plants have just kept growing all year long with only a very few of them that bolted.

Pink Plume Celery
That's another deceptive photo, the stalks aren't at all as large as they look.

Radish Thinnings
I had to thin the winter radishes and only one of them had a root that amounted to anything but the greens were beautiful. So those became the subject of another experiment. I cleaned them and salted them for a few hours and then stuffed them into a quart jar and added water to make a brine. After fermenting for a few days I drained them and dehydrated them. A few days of fermentation mellowed them out. My plan is to use the chopped dried greens to add flavor to soups and stir fry dishes.

Fermented Radish Tops Ready for Dehydrating

K'uyu Chuspi Flour Corn
That is my entire harvest of K'uyu Chuspi corn shown above. This variety was a gamble to begin with and the gamble didn't really pay off. The first problem was that the corn tasseled well before most of the ears developed and produced silks. The second problem was that the rodents found the ears that did manage to form - all but that one. It's pretty so I'm keeping the ear as an ornament.

Harvest Monday is hosted by Dave on his blog Our Happy Acres, head on over there to see what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Fermented Peppers

2017 has been a great year for peppers in my garden. The total harvests so far have come to 112.7 pounds which I split into sweet and seasoning categories. Sweet pepper harvests have totaled 87 pounds and seasoning types 26 pounds. That's a vast improvement over the 2016 harvest total of 50 pounds of all types of peppers from a similar number of plants.

So what to do with all of those peppers? Other than eating a fraction of them fresh from the garden I've been preserving them. My dehydrator has been humming along for much of the past couple of months and my latest preserving efforts have been experiments with fermentation.

Fermented Pepper Flakes

My first pepper fermentation project was pretty simple. I used the majority of my Aji Angelo peppers to make fermented pepper flakes. I cut the peppers in half, removed the cores and seeds, and fermented them in a 2% brine for about a week. Then I dehydrated the peppers until they were stiff but not too crisp.

Dried Fermented Aji Angelo Peppers
Aji Angelo peppers are mild, fruity, and fragrant and fermenting them seems to intensify the fragrance and flavor. To produce the finished flakes I ran the dried peppers through the food grinder attachment for my KitchenAid mixer. The food grinder produces nice sized flakes without a lot of powder. For long term storage I keep the flakes in the refrigerator but I don't think these will be around for very long because these are the best tasting pepper flakes I've ever had.

Fermented Aji Angelo Pepper Flakes
Sweet Fermented Pepper Paste

Project number 2 was a thick sweet paste.

Sweet Fermented Pepper Paste
I cored and seeded 2 sweet pepper varieties and fermented them in about a 2.25% brine solution for a week.

The fermented peppers were amazingly fragrant. I had someone in to finish off one last little item for my recent kitchen update and I opened up the jar of fermented peppers when he was there and he remarked on how delicious the peppers smelled. They were really tasty too, I sampled a slice of one of the peppers and was really impressed with the flavor. A week in a mild brine produced a pepper that still had some crunch and sweetness with just a hint of tang, they weren't pickled yet but the flavor was much more complex.

Pureed Fermented Sweet Peppers
I blitzed the fermented peppers to a smooth puree in my VitaMix blender and poured the puree into a parchment paper lined half sized baking tray. I then dried the puree down to a thick paste at 105ºF in my dehydrator .

Dehydrated Fermented Sweet Pepper Paste
One of the best things about making a concentrated pepper paste is that it reduces a large amount of peppers into an easily stored small portion, I went from having enough peppers to fill a 2 quart jar to enough paste to fill a half-pint jar. But truly the best thing is the paste itself, it is so fragrant and delicious. I've made pepper pastes before by simply cooking fresh sweet peppers, then pureeing and reducing the mixture down to a paste but that product is just blah and bland compared to the fermented paste. The other night I made a dish that was a combination of Petaluma Gold Rush beans, cubes of roasted Terremoto squash, and chard. The main seasonings in the dish were some of the pepper paste and some home made tomato paste and some bacon. The pepper paste made a distinct contribution to the dish, not overwhelming at all but really added a dimension to the flavor that elevated the whole dish. I kept thinking, wow this is really good, this is really good....

I was careful to not overheat the paste at any step in the processing so it's still a "live" product so I keep the paste in the freezer. The high proportion of sugar in the paste keeps it from being rock hard so it's easy to scrape out portions with a small heavy duty paring knife. I've got a couple more batches of sweet peppers fermenting now with the intention of making more paste. It will be interesting to see if the next batch comes out a good as the first. I sure hope so.

Fermented Smoked Pepper Paste

When I was researching how to go about making a fermented pepper paste I came across a mention of a smoky harissa paste which got me wondering if smoked peppers would ferment. I couldn't find any particular formula or method but one recommendation that I ran across was to inoculate the brine with whey. I decided to inoculate a batch of smoked peppers not with whey but with some brine from a batch of successfully fermented peppers and it worked.

Fermented Smoked Ometepe and Jalapeno Peppers

I halved, cored, and seeded a combination of sweet Ometepe and Jalapeno peppers, smoked them for a couple of hours with apple and almond wood, then immersed them in a 2.5% brine mixed with about 2.5 ounces of brine reserved from the fermented Aji Angelo peppers.

I let the peppers ferment for a week and then drained, pureed, and dehydrated the mixture as I did for the sweet pepper paste. The paste came out mildly spicy and quite smoky, almost too smoky so if I make a smoked pepper paste again I'll either smoke the peppers more lightly or use a combination of smoked and unsmoked peppers. But I haven't actually cooked with any of it yet, just tasted it as I was preparing it, so perhaps the smokiness will not be so strong when the paste is incorporated into a dish.

Update December 6, 2017. I tried some of the smoked pepper paste in a dish of chickpeas and spinach in a tomatoey sauce last night and it was wonderful! I used about 2 teaspoons of the paste with what started off as 1/2 pound of dried chickpeas and a half pound of frozen spinach (from the garden of course), a few small Marzano Fire paste tomatoes grated to make a coarse puree without the skins, olive oil, garlic, onion, and a tablespoon or so of homemade tomato paste. The dish was simmered with a good portion of the chickpea cooking water. The smoky flavor was very subtle and the spice just a hint so I think it would have been safe to use even more of the paste.

Slightly Pickled Peppers

The sweet Habanero pepper that I'm growing has been quite productive but I've not really been sure what to do with all of them. They've been tasty to snack on but I haven't been inspired to cook with them. After tasting the fermented sweet peppers that I used to make the sweet pepper paste I thought perhaps that the Habanadas might be tasty if they were fermented a bit.

These are totally sweet peppers so I was not at all concerned about removing the cores and seeds so I simply cut the tops off and stuffed them into a jar and used a 2.5% brine solution. After fermenting for a week the peppers still retained some sweetness and crunch and were quite tasty to snack on. Even better though was when I used a pasty bag with a plain tip to pipe some plain soft goat cheese into them and then served them with a dusting of smoked paprika and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. I'll be experimenting with other fillings and I will definitely be fermenting the rest of the crop, although I may be turning some of them into fermented pepper flakes.

Lo-Burn Rooster Sauce

My latest experiment was inspired by Sriracha Sauce, aka Rooster Sauce. I am not much of a hot sauce fan and a bottle Sriracha sauce never gets used up before I toss it because I can't remember how long it's been hanging out in the fridge. So I decided to try making my own mild version. The real thing has garlic in it so I added 4 big cloves of garlic to the jar with the ripe Craig's Grande Jalapeños. Since I'm not a fan of HOT sauce I decided to make a wimpy sauce. Nearly all of the heat in a hot pepper is in the core and the membranes that the seeds are attached to so I defanged (or should I say debeaked?) my peppers by cutting them in half, removed the cores and cut out much of the membranes. I wasn't overly surgical about removing the membranes because I wanted some heat in the sauce.

Once again I used a 2.5% brine solution and allowed the peppers to ferment about 10 days.

The fermented peppers were a vibrant red color, retained a lot of crispness, and like the fermented sweet peppers had become really wonderfully fragrant with a good hit of garlic on the nose too. Real Rooster Sauce has sugar listed as an ingredient and distilled white vinegar also. I pureed the peppers and garlic together in my VitaMix blender and added sugar to taste which ended up being 4 teaspoons. No way was I going to add distilled white vinegar though, I think it's far too harsh and I don't even keep any around. No, the logical thing to use to thin the pepper puree to a sauce was the brine so I blended in a couple of tablespoons of the brine, poured the sauce out of the blender container and then used a couple more tablespoons of the brine to get as much of the pepper goodness out of the blender container as possible.

Well, I have to say that I am really impressed with my version of Sriracha Hot Sauce which I've dubbed Lo-Burn Rooster Sauce. It's got a perfect for my wimpy palate mid-tongue hit of heat, just a bit of sweetness, and that incredible fragrance and depth of flavor that fermentation produces. I can and most likely will use my wimpy version with abandon.

Once again I was careful to not let the sauce overheat in the blender so it's still alive so I divided the sauce into 3 portions, one for immediate consumption and 2 for the freezer. There's a bunch more ripe Jalapeños on the kitchen counter so I know what I'm going to be doing with those...

So I've got one more jar of peppers fermenting at the moment. My success with the Lo-Burn Rooster Sauce inspired me to make a sauce with the Aji Amarillo Grande peppers that I harvested last week.

And I'm going to try one other thing. I've saved the brine from a couple of batches of peppers which I'm going to use to spice up a batch (or two or three) of Bloody Mary Mix. I like to sip on a Virgin Mary every once in a while and after tasting the leftover pepper brines it seemed like the perfect use for them. And I guess that I could add a few dashes of LBR Sauce too.

In the photo above are two air-lock systems that I use for my fermentation projects. The 4 piece stainless steel one at the top is call Kraut Source. The three piece ceramic and plastic one at the bottom is called Ferment'n. Both also require a mason jar ring to secure them to a wide mouth canning jar. I like to use an air-lock system because it really reduces the chances of your vegetables getting moldy, especially if you are using a mild brine solution like I chose to use with my peppers. I don't want to have the experience of taking months to grow and harvest a batch of peppers and them have them go moldy in the fermentation jar. My favorite of the 2 systems is the Kraut Source and that's simply because, and this is kinda silly, I like to hear the clink of the metal cup as the gases from the fermentation push the cup up and then it falls back down. Clink! Clink! It's the surest sign that the yeasty beasties are at work. Both systems are available from Amazon.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Harvest Monday - November 27, 2017

This probably isn't the opening photo you were expecting for a November 27 harvest post - tomatoes! Yes indeed, there's still a trickle of fresh ripe tomatoes coming from the garden, mostly cherries as you can see.

Mixed Cherry Tomatoes and Jaune Flamme
The weather has been very mild this fall, more than mild actually, we just went through another round of 80ºF plus weather. The warmth has kept the tomatoes and peppers ripening on the vine but the plants are slowing down and looking pretty ratty and most of them don't have much left to ripen so it won't be long before the colorful harvests are finished.

Gogosar, Ometempe, and Rosso Dolce da Appendere
That's the last of the Ometepe and Rosso Dolce da Appendere peppers but there's still a few Gogosar peppers ripening but once those are done that will be it for the sweet pepper harvests. I'll be clearing out most of the plants soon.

Aji Amarillo Grande, Aji Golden, Aji Angelo
Habanada, and Craig's Grande Jalapeno
Most of the peppers that are left in the garden now are seasoning peppers. That's the first harvest of Aji Amarillo Grandes and there's still one more Aji variety to ripen. Aji Golden and Aji Angelo are about finished producing. There's a few more Jalapenos left, a bunch more Habanadas, most of the Caribbean Seasoning peppers have yet to finish ripening, more Mareko Fana peppers are ready to harvest, and most of the remaining Ethiopian Brown peppers are still green. Last season I was harvesting some Aji Amarillo Grandes in January and February and perhaps that will happen this season again. I have the Aji's and other seasoning peppers growing together at one end of the bed where I can keep them protected through the winter so there's a chance that the green peppers that remain may ripen and maybe some of the plants will survive the winter and produce again next year.

Tromba D'Albenga
The Tromba D'Albenga vines are still growing and blooming and producing squash. Those plants are really amazing. I keep cutting them back and clearing out old dead growth and the vines just keep putting out new growth. It seems like it's going to take a hard freeze to finish them off. The squash don't seem to be pollinating well so the bulb end isn't filling out but the long necks are full and firm and just fine. That basket of squash came in at over 4 pounds!

Batavia Broccoli, Broccolini, Chianti Rose Tomato
There's a few Batavia broccoli plants that have been growing for over a year now and they are still producing great shoots, the big bunch of broccoli shoots to the right of the tomato is from the 2016 plants, that small bunch on the left are from the younger plants. The new Broccolini plants are putting out good side shoots also.

I didn't do a lot of cooking this past week in spite of it being a big eating holiday weekend. Dave and I spent a couple of nights out backpacking taking full advantage of the amazing warm weather. I promised Susie that I would be posting about some of the ways that I use my homegrown and dehydrated vegetables in backpacking meals so stay tuned for that. I've also been experimenting with fermenting peppers and using them in various ways so I'll also be posting about some of those experiments in the days and weeks to come.

Harvest Monday is hosted by Dave on his blog Our Happy Acres, head on over there to see what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Harvest Monday - November 20, 2017

The weather so far this fall has been mild here, a smattering of rain now and then and nighttime lows dipping into the high 30ºF's but staying away from freezing which means that I'm still harvesting some colorful veggies. Most of the sweet peppers have finished but the seasoning peppers are still ripening in the garden.

The photo above shows the harvest from one day - a few sweet Gogosar peppers, ripe Craig's Grande jalapeños from 2 different plants, orange Habanadas, Ethiopian Brown, Baby Aji Amarillos from the 2016 plant, and one small red Caribbean Seasoning. The photo below shows the harvest of ripe Gogosar peppers from the extra plants that I grew in pots.

The old broccoli plants are still producing side shoots as are the new broccolini plants. In the center of the basket above are a bunch of pea shoots. I sowed a bunch of seeds for shelling and snow peas directly into the garden on October 1 and didn't get great germination. So instead of letting the few plants sprawl around I trimmed them back to force them to branch out and make room for some more seedlings that I've got going in paper pots. The tender parts of the trimmings went into the harvest basket because I've learned that the tops of just about any pea variety are good eating. Those went into a stir fry along with some of the broccolini.

Petite Snap Greens

Another new pea variety that I'm trying is Petite Snap Greens. This pea is grown just for the unique greens. Even the tendrils on this variety are leafy which makes nearly the entire plant edible and very cool looking. You're supposed to be able to get multiple harvests from first the main shoot and then side shoots that grow back. Unfortunately I got poor germination from this bunch also. I think the problem wast that we had a heat wave just after I sowed the seeds. I'm definitely going back to my preferred method of starting peas in paper pots.

Also harvested but not photographed last week were about 3 more pounds of tomatoes, mostly cherry, and a few more stalks of celery, and a few more pods of some dried beans. I've been waiting to show the colorful dried beans that I grew this year. It hasn't been a big harvest but they sure are pretty.

And I'll end with a photo of the rest of the Santo Domingo Rainbow corn that I finished shelling last week.

Santo Domingo Rainbow

The total harvests for the year have passed 900 pounds but it doesn't look like I'll hit the 1000 pound mark this year. You can see more details of the harvests for the year by clicking on the link on my sidebar.

Harvest Monday is hosted by Dave on his blog Our Happy Acres, head on over there to see what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately.