Austin Urban Gardens

Raised Bed Gardening and Eating Well in Austin, Texas

Bringing the Heat – Homemade Sriracha (Fermented Red Chile) July 23, 2014

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This is the time of  year that the chiles start turning red, even the ones that are green earlier in the season, like jalapeños and serranos.

Red Serrano Peppers

Red Serrano Peppers

I played around a couple weeks ago with some fermented red chile paste, without really bothering to research it, or use a recipe.  I didn’t love the result.  So, with loads of red chiles, mostly serranos, ready for use, I did some research and settled on this recipe for Homemade Sriracha, from Serious Eats.

Homemade Sriracha

It was pretty straightforward; pulse 1.5 pounds of red chiles in the food processor with the garlic, salt and brown sugar.

Processed chiles, salt, sugar

Processed chiles, salt, sugar

The mixture went into a quart mason jar, with the lid very loose and I set it in a corner of the kitchen out of the sun.

Chile Mixture

Chile Mixture

I took off the lid every day and gave it a stir.  After 3 days, the mixture had expanded to the point that I considered putting half into another jar.  I decided to leave it.

Expanding!

Expanding!

It went back down after stirring the following day, and I left it alone until the 7th day.  

The recipe called for pureeing the mixture with vinegar, then straining it.

I put it in the Vitamix and blended it for about 4 minutes on a fairly high setting.   I was happy with the consistency and decided that I didn’t want to strain it.  I didn’t want to lose any and it was very smooth.  I put it on the stove, and let it simmer on medium for about 5 minutes, then let it cool. Once cooled, using a funnel, I poured in into a bottle. 

Blending

Blending

I am very happy with this batch, and looking forward to using it.  It is very hot, but the flavor is well balanced and consistency is great.

I have another batch, this one with smoked Paper Lantern (habanero) chiles fermenting now.  I will treat it the exact same way and expect a totally different sauce with the presence of smoke.

Finished Sriracha

Finished Sriracha

This is not a shelf stable product, so it will keep in the fridge for about a month, if it doesn’t get eaten by then.

 

 

Anjore Supper Club July 16, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — austinurbangardens @ 10:49 am
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Anjore Supper Club was founded about 6 months ago, by Deepa Shridhar, to showcase the cuisine of her family heritage.  Anjore is both Deepa’s surname and a region in India, where much of the cuisine she cooks and teaches is based.  She offers dinners, and hands on instructional classes which include meals, at various locales around Austin.  Deepa will soon be showcasing her ghee, yogurt and other Indian pantry staples at one of Austin’s farmer’s markets.  Having worked locally at both Lenoir and Dai Due, Deepa is committed to utilizing local, sustainable sources and practices in her cooking and products.

I have attended two of her dinners, the first a Biryani dinner and the second, a duck dinner.

I didn’t take any pictures at the first, so this post is mostly about the duck dinner.

The first course, was a Yellow Tomato Granita, with Basil and house made Paneer.

Yellow Tomato Granita

Yellow Tomato Granita

The second course, being plated below, was wood oven grilled Naan, Liver, Duck Blood Sambal, and Greens.  The Sambal was very spicy and delicious in combination with the Naan, liver and greens.

Deepha Plating

Deepa Plating

 

Naan, Liver, Greens

Naan, Liver, Greens

The ducks were roasted with Duck Fat Ghee in a wood fired oven.  Deepa renders all of the fats she uses in her cooking.  The duck was accompanied by potatoes, also cooked in duck fat in the wood oven.  (Initially, I was bummed that the amazing aromatic rice I had at the Biryani Dinner wasn’t on the menu, but quickly forgot all about it when the duck fat potatoes arrived.)

IMG_0076Also on the menu, were Yogurt and Cucumbers and Roasted Eggplant.

 

Plated

Plated

For dessert, we had Cardamom Duck Egg Rice Pudding, with Jaggery Brulee, a perfect, not-too-sweet end to and otherwise rich and delicious meal.  (Sorry for the odd photo)

Rice Pudding

Rice Pudding

Next up for Anjore is a Yogurt, Ghee and Spices Class, this Sunday, 7/20/14, which includes a light brunch.  As of today, there are still a couple of spots available.   For more on this exciting new foodie business, check the website www.anjoreaustin.com, and also her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/anjoreaustin.  

 

 

Pickled Capperino Peppers July 14, 2014

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Springdale Farm had these beautiful little Capperino Peppers at the farmstand this past weekend, and I procured some with pickling them in mind.

Peppers

Peppers

They have fairly thick walls and are very seedy, so I thought it would be nice to hollow them out, and pickle them that way.  I imagine using them like Peppadews – simply open the jar, stuff with goat cheese or something, and use them for appetizers.

 

Seedy

Seedy

It was a little time consuming, but I hollowed them out and rinsed the seeds out.

 

Hollowed

Hollowed

 

Keeping the Peppadews in mind, I decided to add some sweetness, but not too much, to the brine.  I used my standard pickling blend, 2 cups Cider Vinegar, 2 Cups White Vinegar, 4 cups water, 4 teas. Salt and I added 4 Tbls. sugar.  The first three Tbls. of sugar neutralized the acid, and the final Tbls. added a hint of sweetness. I didn’t add any thing else to the brine, because I just want to preserve the pepper flavor, not add to it.  I processed them for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

 

Pickled

Pickled

I got some fruit float, which I expected, because these are hollow and I didn’t want to crush them, by packing them really tight.  I’m ok with it.

I can’t wait to crack a jar open and stuff them, like these Peppadews.  I think they will be hotter, but hopefully the hint of sweetness will neutralize the heat a bit.

 

Peppadews

Peppadews

 

America’s Birthday, 2014 in an Austin Urban Garden July 8, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — austinurbangardens @ 8:52 am
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It is interesting to me to look back and see the status of the garden the same time in previous years. This Spring has been so different from years past. We had some really late freezes that postponed Spring planting, and (until this week) have continued to have somewhat mild temperatures, and some good rains at regular intervals.

The side beds as I tackled them this long weekend, were a jungle of overgrown tomato plants, weeds (also happy with the rain), and cucumber and melon plants creeping in all of the paths between beds, wrapping their tendrils around the weeds. I pulled up the non producing tomatoes, Brandywines, Beefsteak, Cherokee Purple, Black Cherokee, none of which were very successful this year. I had one or two Cherokee Purple and one Brandywine. The French heirloom Jaunne Flamme, is still producing beautiful little orange fruits, and I’ve been very happy with it. The Black Krim also did well, as did the Celebrity plants which are still producing.

It is going to be an interesting melon  year this year, as I’ve planted some new-to-me varieties.  I’m somewhat obsessed with this French Heirloom, Prescott Fond Blanc, which will ripen into a warty, cantaloupe type melon.  I can’t stop looking at its craziness.

Prescott Fond Blanc Melon

Prescott Fond Blanc Melon

  There are several of these Diplomat F1 melons, which will ripen to look like a canteloupe on the outside, but with green flesh.

Diplomat F1 Melon

Diplomat F1 Melon

There are about 10 of these watermelons, all at different stages of growth.  I’ve yet to find the marker for these and have no idea what kind of watermelon I planted.  There are so many, I’m tempted to pull of the melons further down the vine, to allow more nutrients to get to the bigger ones.

Watermelon

Watermelon

The peppers have had a highly productive season, and still are producing like crazy.  I’ve really enjoyed the Poblanos, which have been great this year.  I sliced them up to use in a big batch of queso fundido for a party, and have a big bag of them smoked and frozen for later use.

Peppers

Peppers

I made Escabeche earlier in the season when the carrots were still sweet and available.  Yesterday, I pickled loads of Jalapenos and Serranos.  Now that they have started to ripen red, I’ll start smoking them for an epic annual Chipotles in Adobo canning session.  Chipotles are my favorite thing to can and my favorite canned item to eat.

Pickled peppers

Pickled peppers

Every year, I experiment with something new and different, just to keep things interesting.  This year, I’m attempting to grow peanuts.  They’ve been in the ground since early March, and have flowered quite a lot, but the plants are not  yet showing signs of decline – which is when they are supposed to be harvested.  I couldn’t help myself, and pulled up a plant this weekend to see what was going on.  They will dry for 2 weeks, then I’ll open one and taste it.

Peanuts

Peanuts

  My little potted fig tree didn’t seem to like all the rain, and doesn’t look great, but it is covered with figs.  Hopefully bird netting will keep the critters out.

Figs!

Figs!

  I planted too many cucumber plants, and planted late.  The vines have gone wild and taken over two gardens.  The leaves are so large, it is like a scavenger hunt to find the cucumbers in the mess. 

Cucumbers

Cucumbers

It’s time to plant pumpkins, but I haven’t decided whether I want to water them during the heat of July and August.  I always like to take some time off during the hottest part of the summer, and let the garden rest.  Fall planting will be here before we know it.

 

Foraging at Home – Wild Mustang Grape Jelly July 1, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — austinurbangardens @ 8:49 am
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Growing food in my home garden has been very rewarding and gratifying over the years, and really makes me happy.   A couple of weeks ago, I was wacking back what I had always considered some kind of ornamental grape vine, growing along my back yard fence, intermingled with a number of other vines.  Because of the good rains we had this Spring, it was growing like crazy, and wrapping tendrils around everything in its path.  I noticed some grape looking fruits hanging off of the underside of the vines – something I’d never noticed before, in 24 years of living in my house.  I posted a picture asking if these were edible, and started doing some research.  It was curious to me that the birds or other wildlife hadn’t eaten them – since my tomato crop has dwindled, surely they must be in need of  food.  The leaves and berries look a lot like a poisonous plant, Moonseed.  Much to my delight, the consensus was Wild Mustang Grapes!

Wild Mustang Grapes in the Yard!

Wild Mustang Grapes in the Yard!

I picked a bowl full of them and started looking for recipes for jelly.  They are not good for eating whole, as they are extremely bitter and acidic.  But by all accounts, they make great jelly.  The few recipes I found online were pretty much identical.  I settled on this one.

IMG_0003

After removing the stems, I rinsed them well.  I don’t use any chemicals in my yard, but wanted to make sure they were cleaned of any leaves, twigs or other debris.

De-stemmed and rinsed

De-stemmed and rinsed

I dumped the cleaned grapes into a pot with 2 cups of water, and let them get soft, then mashed them as much as I could.

 

Cooking down

Cooking down

 

I ran the mash through a jelly bag, squeezing out all of the juice.  The recipe called for 5 cups and magically, that’s right about what I came up with.

5 cups of juice

5 cups of juice

Following the recipe, I reheated the juice, then added a box of pectin, brought to a boil then added the sugar.  Once the sugar dissolved and the mixture boiled for a minute, I quickly added it to the jars and processed in a water bath.

I’m not used to working with pectin, so it felt strange ladling the liquid into the jars.  However, by the end of the evening, about 12 hours later, the jelly was set.    The color is a fantastic dark, dark purple and the flavor is great, just like you would want grape jelly to taste like!

Homemade Jelly from the Yard!

Homemade Jelly from the Yard!

Growing my own food is very rewarding, but finding food I didn’t even plant, is super cool!

 

Canning Juliet Tomatoes and Trying to Avoid Fruit Float June 23, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — austinurbangardens @ 9:27 am
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Tomato season is here and in full swing!  That means lots of tomato canning for later use.

Fruit float is common in canning, especially when canning tomatoes.  Fruit float, is when the bulk of the tomato floats to the top of the jar, leaving sometimes considerable liquid at the bottom half (or quarter, or third) of the jar.  It can typically be resolved by shaking the jars around a bit after 24 hours, but there is still an element that you’ve done something wrong, because it just doesn’t look right.  I like my canned goods to be aesthetically pleasing, so I’m always looking at ways to make my jars more attractive.

We’ve had such good weather this year, with cooler highs, and plenty of rain, the tomatoes are abundant, to say the least.  I had a tomato canning day scheduled with Paula of Springdale Farm today, and she wanted to try cold packing Juliet tomatoes, because they are meaty and she thought we could pack them down in the jars, to get less float.

We started with 35 pounds of Springdale Farm Juliets.

35 pounds

35 pounds

35 pounds seemed daunting at first, especially because they needed to be peeled.  To loosen their skins, we took a workable portion out of the bin and poured boiling water over them in a bowl.

Loosening the skins

Loosening the skins

Once they were cool enough to work with, using paring knives, we took off the skins, from the stem end, which also removed the tiny stem.

IMG_2674

Having read that we could dehydrate the skins, then later make tomato powder, we reserved the skins.   Working in batches, once we had enough to fill the water bath pot with quart jars, Paula started packing the jars, as I continued to peel tomatoes.

 

Packing the jars

Packing the jars

She packed the jars very tightly, trying not to crush all of the juice out of the tomatoes, but with enough pressure to remove the air pockets, and really get them packed in.  We used citric acid rather than lemon juice, to increase the acidity for canning.

We loaded up the dehydrator trays with tomato skins, and put those in to dry out.

IMG_2679

Once the jars were packed, we put them in their water bath for 85 minutes, the amount necessary for cold packed tomatoes. After processing, we pulled out the jars, and found that we had achieved nearly zero fruit float!  Very exciting, indeed.

IMG_2680

The skins are dried out as well, although I’ve not seen the final product.  We will grind them into tomato powder, which will be a great way to preserve tomato flavor for soups, eggs, or just about anything.

These will come in so handy once tomato season is long gone.

 

Preserving The Hill Country – Peach Butter June 12, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — austinurbangardens @ 6:52 pm
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This time of year, I’m canning like crazy, perhaps obsessively, I’ll admit.  My current obsession is peaches, and Fredericksburg peaches are beautiful and delicious this year.  And unlike last year, where they were few and far between, the peach stands are full of more varieties than I knew existed.

Each year, I try to do something different than the years prior.  I’ve made several peach jams, with ginger or cardamom, canned them in halves, and made a peach salsa that was honestly disappointing.

This year I decided on Peach Butter, and settled on this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, with some necessary alterations.  I agreed with her desire not to add additional flavorings – so many recipes called for cinnamon, allspice and clove which I consider Winter spices.  I did not want Winter spices cluttering up these glorious peaches!

Fredericksburg Peaches

Fredericksburg Peaches

Home with nearly a bushel of peaches, I decided to quadruple the recipe, with full understanding that this would take at lease four times as long to properly cook down.  I had several varieties of peaches, some still clinging to their pits, some falling away more easily, some lighter in color and more intensely flavored than others.  All delicious and amazingly juicy.  So juicy, in fact that as I peeled and sliced them in to the pot, it was clear that I could eliminate the water in the recipe.  They are also quite sweet, so I backed off of the sugar as well, adding only 2/3s of what was called for.

Foamy

Foamy

 

I brought the peaches in their juice to a simmer, and started skimming off the foam.  (I keep the foam and make champagne drinks with it.)  They foamed for the first half hour of simmering, and I kept on skimming.   Once they were soft,  pureed the whole pot with an immersion blender, and turned the heat down to let it start reducing.

Simmering and Reducing

Simmering and Reducing

 

This is where it gets downright dangerous.  By this point the mixture has thickened, and bubbles are more like volcanic eruptions of hot fruit-sugar lava.  This can be prevented by constant stirring, and you don’t want it to scorch anyway.

At several phases of the process, I dropped a spoonful onto a plate, let it cool, then tilted to plate to see if it budged.

Testing

Testing

 

You can see the final test, on the bottom, is much darker in color.  And the color is beautiful!  The end result is highly concentrated peach flavor that really reminds me of Texas Summer.  It looks really pretty in the jars, too.  (I water bath canned for 10 minutes.)

Peach Butter

Peach Butter

 

While verifying the link on the Smitten Kitchen site, so that I could properly credit her for the recipe, I came across a recipe for Peach Shortbread.  I have relatives coming into town in a couple weeks and I think it might be the perfect accompaniment to our annual BBQ meal.

Several vendors at the SFC Farmer’s Markets will have peaches for a while, usually Lightsey Farms and Engel Farms.  This time around, I just needed a road trip with a purpose!

 

 

 
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