Austin Urban Gardens

Raised Bed Gardening and Eating Well in Austin, Texas

Mustard Three Ways July 31, 2015

I recently discovered the best hot dog I’ve ever had, the Texas Dogs from Salt and Time Butcher Shop.  Unfortunately, on the day I made this magic dog discovery, I also discovered that I was out of mustard.  So, I decided to embark upon a mustard making weekend.

I found a compilation of different recipes on a blog I refer to for lots of my canning inspirations, Punk Domestics.

I settled on three recipes, Dijon Mustard, Honey Bourbon Mustard and Imperial IPA Mustard.    The recipes all call for mustard seeds, brown and/or yellow or a mixture, apple cider vinegar, wine and or beer, and all required soaking for 24 hours or more for the seeds to absorb the liquid.  So I started on a Friday, doubling each recipe and measuring out all of the ingredients into three large jars with lids.  (Go big or go home, right?)

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After the 24 hour soak, all of the liquids were absorbed, so I decided to go ahead and finish them.

Each one got the same treatment, adding additional ingredients for 2 of them, then blending in the Vitamix, then cooking down to the desired consistency.  I like my mustards smooth, so there really aren’t any detectable seeds left.

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The only one of the recipes that I tweeked, was the Honey Bourbon Mustard, to which I added a little Bourbon Maple Syrup in place of some of the honey.  The flavor profiles sounded good, I’m happy with the result.

Each of these recipes is safe for water bath canning, and each processes for just 5 minutes.

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I’m very pleased with each of these recipes and would make them all again.  It looks like I won’t have to for a while.  It’s fun to have extra to share along with my recommendation of the Salt and Time Texas Dog.

 

Lessons from my Summer of Pickles July 10, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — austinurbangardens @ 8:32 am
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I’ve always planted a few cucumber seeds, which have always produced a few cucumbers.  The last few years have been quite hot and dry.  This year, I planted a few cucumber seeds, but something was different than previous years.  We’ve had days of epic, drought busting rainfall.  I think it rained for 30 days straight, at least a little every day.

The cucumbers have flourished and produced more than I’ve ever seen.  The vines have jumped out of their beds and spread out in the yard, and I’m literally tripping over cucumbers.  So, with the first crop, I decided to make pickles.  Having had bad luck pickling cucumbers in the past, and lots of mushy cucumbers I searched for a recipe with little canning time, in hopes for the crunchiest pickles possible.

Cucumbers!

Cucumbers!

I settled on this recipe with only 5 minutes of processing time.

Garlic Dills

Garlic Dills

For the cucumbers that were too long for the jars, I cut them down to size, then sliced the ends into disks for sandwiches.  I think the spears make a neater looking jar and easier to pack.

PIckles

PIckles

In about half of the jars, I included a dried red chili to impart some heat.  I also varied the spices in each batch, some adding pickling spice, some coriander, some simply black peppercorns.

Garlic Dill Disks

Garlic Dill Disks

And the cucumbers kept coming.

They just kept coming

They just kept coming

So I kept pickling them.  I could have tried different pickling applications, but I really just like garlcky dill pickles, so I stuck to those.

I also acquired some Cornichons from a local farm and pickled those too, using a 4 day recipe given to me by my friend Stephanie.  I trust her with all food things.  Actually most of the interesting things I’ve ever done were inspired by her.

Cornichons

Cornichons

And then Boggy Creek Farm has these cute little Mexican Sour Gherkins, so I pickled them too using this recipe.

Mexican Sour Gherkins

Mexican Sour Gherkins

These were a little time consuming, having to scrape off the blossom end then puncture each little one.

Blossom End

Blossom End

I learned some lessons from my nearly non-stop pickling.  The short 5 minute processing time makes a big difference in keeping pickles crunchy.  However, the  most important thing I’ve found, is pickling them immediately after harvesting.  The pickles I made with cucumbers harvested that day are crunchier than those made after a couple days in the fridge.  After about 2 days in the fridge, the cucumbers turn to mush when pickled.  And finally, a big lesson.  When planting cucumbers, also plant dill.

 

It’s Sweet Corn Season, Make Esquites! May 28, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — austinurbangardens @ 4:28 pm
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I only eat fruits and vegetables from my garden or local farms, so everything I eat is in season.  One of the beautiful things about eating seasonally, is the anticipation for things I haven’t had since their last season.  I can think of few things as delicious as freshly harvested Sweet Corn.  When I saw that Boggy Creek Farm was to have sweet corn at their market, I went early to the farmstand to snag some.  They hadn’t harvested any when I got there early, so Carol Ann took me to the fields to harvest some with her.  The ultimate test of when the corn is ready, is to taste it, raw, right in the field. It was tender and delicious and I came home with several ears.

I already had something in mind for it, Mexican Street Corn Salad.  When I searched for a recipe I settled on one from Serious Eats.  I had never heard of Esquites before, but it looked like exactly what I wanted, and I had jalapeños and cilantro from the garden to use.

http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/07/esquites-mexican-street-corn-salad-recipe.html

I cut off the worm end of the corn,  removed the husks and picked off the silks.

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I would have loved to grill the corn to get it a bit charred, but alas it was raining.  I scraped it off the cob, and cooked it in a hot pan until slightly charred.

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The recipe called for more charring, but the starches had begun to stick to the pan, so I pulled it out,  and added salt and pepper.

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I doubled the jalapeños, because I had fresh garden peppers to use and wanted more heat.

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I mixed in some scallions, lime juice, mayonnaise, cilantro and then pulled out the cheese.  The recipe called for Cotija or Feta.  Alas, I had gotten Queso Fresco instead of Cotija.  The sharpness of Cotija was exactly what this needed, but I made do with the milder Queso Fresco, because that was what I had.  I finished it off with some Springdale Farm Smoked Pepper Mix, which is good on everything.

The result was still delicious, but the proper cheese would have made it outstanding.  This salad even better the second day, because the heat from the pepper had settled in.  Sweet corn will be around for another few weeks at the farmstands and farmer’s markets.  I highly recommend this recipe, and can’t wait to try it again with the correct cheese.

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My Garden, May 2015 – Everything is Different May 12, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — austinurbangardens @ 9:15 am

I decided to try to keep better track of my garden this season, especially the tomatoes.  I have planted lots of “new to me” varieties, and I’d like to remember what does well.  I’m really horrible at that; keeping track of the little plant markers and making notes.  With that in mind, I’ve been watching everything closely and taking lots of photos.

Everything is different this season.  We’ve had abundant rain and cooler temperatures than I can recall, in all my years of gardening.  My plants are all loaded and some things are producing much earlier than they usually do, like peppers and tomatillos.  I was excited to can my first two jars of Salsa Verde yesterday – with my own (and some Springdale Farm) tomatillos, onions, peppers, garlic and cilantro.  That’s a first for me, this magical alignment of ingredients from the garden.

I don’t remember ever enjoying my gardens quite this much before.  The first thing I do every morning is walk up the street to take my dad’s paper in, then rush back home to spend time in my gardens.  There is so much beauty in the gardens, and I feel like I’m seeing it all with new eyes now. You see, my sweet mom passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in January.  She was beautiful, and I adored her, and then she was gone.

So, with thunderstorms, possible hail, and damaging wind being threatened, I spent extra time in my gardens this morning.  Because, I know, in five minutes they could be gone, and there is nothing I could do to save them.  And they are beautiful now, and fragile and totally out of my control.  So, here are some of the photos I’ve taken of my garden, with some identifiers, because I’m trying to be better about that.  I’m going to be different.

Tomatillos, planted late March, 2014

Tomatillos, planted late March, 2014

Purple Calabash Tomato

Purple Calabash Tomato

Black and Brown Boar  Tomato

Black and Brown Boar
Tomato

Michael Pollan Tomato

Michael Pollan Tomato

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Arkansas Traveler

Arkansas Traveler

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Large Red Cherry

Sweet 100

Sweet 100

Mountain Princess

Mountain Princess

 

Update-My Favorite Spring Events, 2015 March 5, 2015

It most certainly feels like Spring may never get here, but surely things will start to warm up soon.  I’m cheering myself up by looking forward to some of my favorite Springtime Events.  This list certainly in not all inclusive, and doesn’t include some of the obvious large annual events – these are just a few more affordable events I enjoy.  The update is to add Live Fire, the details of which were just released.

March 7, 2015  Sunshine Community Garden Spring Plant Sale This event is held the first Saturday of each March, and is my favorite plant sale for vegetable transplants.  The greenhouses will be filled with everything you need for your Spring Garden, including more tomato and pepper varieties that you can even fathom.  Peruse their online inventory and make your own list to take with you, or you might be overwhelmed.  Go early, wait in line, and be prepared for the crush of humanity that will ensue when they open the gates.  It’s part of the fun, I promise.

March 28, 2015  Fais Do Do, Gumbo Cookoff at Rain Lily Farm  This annual event sponsored by Farmhouse Delivery, is held at Rain Lily Farm on Shady Lane.  Your $35.00 ticket will get you unlimited gumbo tastings, complimentary beer, cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages.  Proceeds benefit Creek People.  This is a really fun time, on one of our lovely East Austin Urban Farms.

March 29, 2015  Edible Austin’s Children’s Picnic and Real Food Fair  This is a fun event for the whole family, held at the historic French Legation Museum and grounds.  There will be lots of food vendors, and lots of educational opportunities as well.  Kiddos typically pet baby goats, learn about backyard chickens, learn gardening from volunteers, and leave the event with their own little box garden.

April 4, 2015 Funky Chicken Coop Tour  This-self guided tour of some of Austin’s most interesting and innovative chicken coops.  Homeowner’s show off their coops and share their experiences keeping backyard chickens.  Drawings and giveaways will be available at the launch site, Buck Moore Feed Store.

April 9, 2015 Austin Food and Wine Alliance’s Live Fire This event is a meat lovers paradise each year.  The lineup of chefs has just been released and it looks amazing!  Many of your favorites local chefs and some from restaurants in other cities, will cook over live fire, and for $70 a ticket (early bird price), you will get to sample them all.  The event is held at the Salt Lick Pavillion, and will also feature live music, mines, cocktails, and craft beer.  Proceeds go toward the Alliance’s culinary grant program.

April 12, 2015 East Austin Urban Farm Tour  Also self guided, this is a tour of 4 of Austin’s Urban Farms, Boggy Creek Farm, Springdale Farm, Hausbar Farm, and Rain Lily Farm.  These four farms are all within walking distance of one another, and just a short 3 miles from Austin’s Capitol.  Each unique farm will host hourly tours by the farmers, and you will enjoy bites from some of Austin’s best restaurants, and sips from local beverage artisans and brewers.  While the final restaurant/artisan list has yet to be announced, the early word is very impressive, including Lenoir, Wink, Olamaie, Texas French Bread, Dolce Neve, Live Oak Brewery, Weather up, Austin Wine Merchant, Qui, Kome, Fixe, Fukumoto, Uchiko, Hops n Grain, Mescal, Paula’s, Banner Vodka, The Driskill, Swifts Attic, The Hightower, Anjore, Eden, Gardner, East Ciders, Liber & Co., Zhi Tea, Dai Due, Fresas, Odd Duck, Bola Pizza, Treaty Oak Distillery, Real Ale.  I’ll update this list once it is finalized. The tickets are $50.00 for adults, kids under 10 are free and proceeds benefit Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance.

Ongoing:  Keep an eye out for volunteer opportunities with Green Corn Project.  We will be installing gardens for our recipients through March.

Ongoing:  Antonelli’s Cheese Shop has events every week, including cheese and jam pairings, cheese and beverage pairings, and classes.

Ongoing:  Confituras has jam making classes throughout the year and they are really fun and informative.  It is about to be fruit season!

 

Kung Pao Chicken, at Home January 7, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — austinurbangardens @ 12:17 pm
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I’m working on becoming a better cook, with a goal of conquering some Asian cuisines.  My first effort, was Indian Butter Chicken, which turned out great, so now I’ve turned my sights on Kung Pao Chicken.  This happens to be one of my dad’s favorite Chinese dishes, so he will act as my test taster.

I chose one of the easier recipes I found, from Food & Wine Magazine, online. (link above)  I was looking for a recipe that didn’t venture too far astray from my eating philosophy, which is eating seasonally and using produce and proteins I can get from my local farmer’s market.  Although I grew peanuts last year, I had to purchase the ones I used here.

The main ingredient is chicken, and I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts from Smith and Smith Farms, which I got at the Mueller Farmer’s Market.  This chicken was beautifully trimmed and incredibly fresh.  (Learning to properly debone a whole chicken is also on my lists to conquer, but I’m dreading that one).

Smith and Smith Farms Chicken

Smith and Smith Farms Chicken

The first part of the process is to cut the chicken into bite sized pieces, and marinate the chicken in Soy Sauce, sherry and Cornstarch. (I bought Tamari for the soy sauce and Bob’s Red Mill Cornstarch.)

Once the chicken was cut marinating in the fridge, I chopped the onions and Bell Pepper.  The recipe didn’t call for Bell Pepper, but B5 Farms at the farmer’s market, had some beautiful bell peppers, grown in the greenhouse.  I couldn’t resist.

B5 Farms Tomatoes and Peppers

B5 Farms Tomatoes and Peppers

I cut one bell pepper into the same sized pieces as the chicken, and separated the green onion whites and greens and set those aside.

Next, I made the sauce, which consisted of Tamari, Rice Vinegar, Sherry, Sesame Oil, Water, Cornstarch and a little sugar.

Ingredients

Ingredients

The Sauce

The Sauce

I wisked the sauce to get the cornstarch incorporated and set it aside. At this point I made the rice, and set it aside as well.  I could tell that the next steps would happen quickly.

Time to start cooking.  First, I poured a Tablespoon of Avocado Oil, (recipe called for Peanut or Vegetable Oil), into my wok, and let it get hot.  Once hot, I quickly cooked the raw peanuts until they were golden brown, then set them aside.

Cook the Peanuts

Cook the Peanuts

A little more oil into then pan, and I quickly cooked the scallions, bell pepper and chili flakes.

Cook the vegetables

Cook the vegetables

To the vegetables, I added part of the chicken.  It was clear the amount of chicken I had cut up (doubled the recipe), would be more than should go into the wok.  It was still crowded, which made it take longer to cook, and caused some sticking to the wok.

Cook the Chicken

Cook the Chicken

Once the two batched of chicken were mostly done, I put them back into the wok with the sauce and stirred as it thickened.

Add the Sauce

Add the Sauce

At this point, I tasted the sauce, and wanted more heat, so I chopped up a garden Serrano Pepper and added it to the mix.  I then turned off the heat and threw in the peanuts.

Once the sauce had reached what seemed like the appropriate thickness, and the chicken was done, I plated some up for myself, then bundled the rest to take to my parents up the street.

Serve over Rice

Serve over Rice

I enjoyed this dish, but felt as it it lacked some complexity.  While I would make it again, I would like more heat, more onions and peppers, some ginger and perhaps some garlic.  I’ll also revisit some of the more complicated recipes I looked at, to see how it could be made more interesting.  It was very easy and fairly quick to make.  My taste tester called after finishing his dinner to give the recipe an A+.  My mom liked it as well, and she is the pickiest eater I know.

 

Alton Brown’s Scratch Onion Dip December 31, 2014

The holidays provide an excuse to eat things we don’t indulge in during the regular year, and you know I try to keep things local, seasonable and non-processed.  However, I was looking for an excuse to indulge a little and had some folks coming over, so I decided to try Alton Brown’s Scratch Onion Dip recipe.

This couldn’t be simpler to make, or any more delicious.  First, you slice onions.   I used a mix of onions from my dwindling garden onion stash – 1015s and White Bermudas.  (I’m starting to dread the time between the end of last year’s onions and next year’s harvest.)

Onions

Onions

I doubled the recipe so this was about 3 cups of onions.  The most important step in this process is to caramelize the onions, which takes a little time.  They cook over medium heat in a little of olive oil, and need to be stirred around for more even cooking. Easy!

Carmelizing

Caramelizing

You want them past the translucent stage, which will cause them to reduce quite a bit.  This brings out their sweetness.

Getting closer

Once they get to the desired stage, allow them to cool completely.  I also chopped them up so that people didn’t have strips of onion to contend with.

When cooled, I added them to the mix of mayonnaise, (I used Duke’s,) and sour cream, then added the white pepper and garlic powder and gave a good stir.

Mixing together

Mixing together

I made this a day ahead, to allow the flavors to meld.  I served it with Kettle Chips, which are non-GMO verified, and have no trans fats or preservatives, which made me feel better about eating potato chips!

Chips and Onion Dip

Chips and Onion Dip

Based on the reaction I got from people eating this onion dip, it’s going into permanent party recipe rotation.  It would be perfect for a Superbowl Party.

Alton Brown’s Onion Dip

 

 
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