Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Some Carolina Reaper photos

I have removed the squash from the greenhouse.

The Tatume squash performed great, producing early and consistently throughout the summer, but they were a breeding ground for stinkbugs.  I got them out of there as soon as I noticed the infestation. Now all that remains hanging on the trellising system is one watermelon. The greenhouse is a lot brighter with the squash gone. Now the sweet potatoes have plenty of room to spread out.

Smoker update

So I gave it a proper test today with a 7 pound pork shoulder.  I started using full-sized cordwood that I purchased locally from a nice guy who separated the hickory out from the other hardwoods.

I started with charcoal to get a nice bed of coals right from the beginning, then started throwing on logs.  The firebox works well, choking the fire just enough for a nice long burn and good smoke.

And boy does it smoke!

This is a birthday present from my darling wife.  Not pictured is a remote receiver that I keep in my pocket. The remote has alarms that can be set when the smoker gets too hot or too cold and for when the meat is done.  This thing is a must-have in my opinion for a "primitive" system like mine.

Here are the two probes.  One clips to the grill and the other goes into the meat.  Its nice because you just leave it in the whole time and you don't have to keep poking holes in the meat.

Another addition is my "mop" solution in the spray bottle. Just some cider vinegar, water, sugar and salt. I also keep a pitcher of water to replenish the water pan.

 Conclusions:  After a full 7 hours at 225 the internal temp had reached 165.  I was going for 190, but dinnertime was fast approaching, so I pulled the water from the pan to raise the BBQ temp to 275 for the final hour and managed to get the meat to 170.  I still need to find a happy medium to keep the smokebox at at around 250.  I don't know if you can see it in the picture, but there is a nice thick smoke ring and some beautiful spicy bark.  Most of the fat cap had melted off, leaving some fairly lean cuts which pulled apart  with little trouble.  

By the way, Koestritzer Schwartzbier is the best I've ever tasted.  They call it the black beer with the blonde soul!
Pulled pork sandwiches tonight, and carnitas tomorrow.  Maybe I'll finish it off with some ancho peppers stuffed with pork and rice!

Monday, August 12, 2013

The goldfish are eating my water lilies! Please help

So I grabbed some lily pads from a friend's pond to see how they would do in my greenhouse pond.  They seem to be OK except that the new shoots and leaves are being annihilated by my goldfish.  Can anybody explain this?

You can see in the center is a young reddish leaf, or rather what is left of one.

 And here is an older leaves (bottom) with bite marks.  They have also killed all but the largest hyacinth by devouring all the roots.

A great summer salad recipe for malabar spinach

My malabar is climbing out of control!  I have been hanging empty baskets from the ceiling to give it something to hold onto. The one in the back is nearly covered.  Maybe next year I will develop a better trellis so that I can see its fullest potential!

Here is a great way to celebrate the beginning of the harvest season!

Grilled peach and malabar spinach salad:
1 peach, sliced and grilled lightly on each side
fresh sweet red pepper, sliced
1 bunch whole malabar spinach leaves, 2-3 inches in size
1/2 cup cottage cheese, feta, or parmesan (or all three!)
balsamic vinaigrette 

Cleaning out the greenhouse for fall planting!

You can see to the right that I have cleaned out two of the raised beds.  They were tomatoes and cantaloupes. After removing the old plants I started shoveling in some fresh new compost.

With the most of the vines cleared out of the beds in the south southwest side, the new seedlings should be shaded with indirect light in the morning but should get some good light in the afternoon.

Looking at the front bed, there is a good 5 inches of compost on top.  The mushroom compost shrank and compacted considerably over the season.  

Hot Sauce! A good recipe for you:

Another use for the smoker:
First I split the peppers then placed them face down on the rack.  I think I left them smoking for 2 hours.
 Sorry for the blur in the the picture.  That's caused by the smoke.

For this batch I used a blend of cayenne, corne de chevre, fish, hinklehatz, and hungarian black.

Here is my base recipe that I use for all my hot sauces:

3 cups peppers, halved, stemmed and seeded
1 cup water
1tsp salt
   Cook for 30 minutes over medium heat, then place in blender and puree.  Return to saucepan, pressing          mixture through a fine strainer and add
1/2 cup white vinegar
1tsp salt
  Cook on medium-low until desired thickness is reached.

Another way of processing tomatoes with FLAVOR

Here they are in the smoker.  I stacked them on top of each other so they would fit.  It doesn't take long for the skins to peel back, but I left them in for hours to see what would happen.  They held together until I touched them then they collapsed.  I had just enough time to drop them into a big pot, so I was able to save all the juice.  In fact, that's all I got.  They were so broken down that I just squeezed them over a strainer and froze the juice.  What you see here produced about a gallon.  What a smokey flavor though!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A ripening reaper

Post a comment if you want me to mail you one.  I want nothing to do with these.  Aside from looking cool, they are straight out of the pits of hell.  I wouldn't even put one into a bottle of hot sauce, that's how scary ho they are!

New and improved smokehouse

Do you remember my failed smoker?  Well I finally got around to building a new one:
The red grill serves as the firebox and the rusty pipe pumps smoke into the upper gray grill.  I'm still learning the best cooking method, but it seems like charcoal will maintain a nice 220 to 240.  If I want to cook pork at 275, I'll need to build a log fire, but for smoking it's great and I can just finish in the oven.
Yesterday I did a rack of spare ribs.

How to blanch and peel a LOT of tomatoes

When your kitchen pot isn't big enough, cut the top off a beer keg and put it on your outdoor propane burner!  Notice the valve on the bottom.  That's good for cooling the tomatoes fast.  Drain out the boiling and refill with cold. 15 gallon capacity baby!  Now that's how to fill a freezer for the winter.

I have about 6 gallons worth of ripe tomatoes so I put an equal amount of water into the pot.  Remember that the tomatoes will displace the water and the more water you use the longer you have to wait for it to boil.  A 1:1 ratio of tomatoes and water is what I go by, making sure that the two don't add up to more than the pot's capacity.
Once the water is up to a light boil the heat can be turned off.  They only need to blanch for a few minutes, and the riper they are the less time they need.  I throw them in by hand rather than dumping, the least ripe ones in first and as soon as I finish throwing the ripest ones in I drain the hot water and immediately fill with cold water to stop them from cooking.  

The next thing I like to do is quarter them and cut out the stem and white part.  Then I throw them into a strainer to let some of the juice drain out.  Under running water, I rinse out the seed and remove the skins and any bad parts and return them to a pot (or two or three) and at this point my five gallons of tomatoes is down to about 3 gallons.   
Now to chop them.  If I only have a few, then I just chop by hand, but for this many I get out the food processor to make quick work of it.  Finally, using a ladle, I scoop the diced tomatoes into quart or gallon bags for the freezer.  

It's a jungle in there!

The squash and melons have taken over and are covering the entire string grid and beyond.  I finally started cutting the squash down.   

Sweet potatoes are a summertime pro in the heat of the greenhouse

Sweet potatoes are spreading out nicely into the adjacent beds.  I look forward to harvesting them.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

So I ate some Carolina Reaper yesterday

And my mouth still isn't back to normal!  I only chopped a chunk off the bottom, about the size of a raisin, without seeds.  The pain was horrible!  After just a few minutes, I ran for milk, which didn't really help, then I had to chew on ice for the next 15 minutes just to keep my ears from aching.  I haven't had anything worse than the Red Savina prior to this experience, and I think I am finished with ultra hots! The small amount didn't cause any stomach discomfort or vomiting (I ate plenty of bready breakfast before the tasting) but I still wouldn't recommend it!