Plenty Of Fig Leaves Means…

deviating from previous recipes (april 2013)

took seven large fig leaves and rinsed them off. added them to pan with 850 mL of water. bring to a boil

Mixed up solution of 400 mL everclear (190 proof) and 450 mL of water – for a total of ~850 mL at 89 proof. (done while it rose to a boil)

once at a boil, removed from heat and let seep for twenty minutes

add 850 mL of sugar to the pan and bring back to solution

mix alcohol and fig leaf tea, store in cool dark place

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Pickled Cherry Tomatoes

There’s a lot of recipes out there for pickled cherry tomatoes, although most are the quick variety adding vinegar, rather than fermented. And I definitely am shooting for fermented! Of all the recipes I saw, I saw various spices or additions. I also saw different salt to water ratios. So I can’t really say I am following any specific recipe, more just following some general principles.

One of the flavoring systems was a Thai spice mixture, and while intrigued, I am passing on that for now. I am looking more for just the savory sensations of peppercorn, basil and rosemary – so that is what I am going with. And, except for the peppercorns, those are herbs in my garden. That is all the better, in my mind.

My Recipe - Pickled Cherry Tomatoes

My Recipe – Pickled Cherry Tomatoes

My Recipe

I actually have both cherry tomatoes and some Yellow Pear Standard tomatoes, both up to now doing quite well in the garden. I had enough for a quart of each (or just shy, I suppose). We get more daily, though I think the vine for the Yellow Pear Standard is not doing as well. In any case, it only took a couple of days to build up enough for these quarts.

I made up a brine of 1 quart of purified water and about 2.5 Tbsp. of pickling salt. That ratio is a little bit more than my most recent pickles, but not as much as I saw in many other recipes for cherry tomato pickling. After mixing thoroughly, I then set it aside.

I added 6 peppercorns in each of two quart jars. I then filled each jar a third full with its respective tomatoes. Then I added two basil leaves to each, then another third of the jar I filled with tomatoes. Then, I added a short sprig of rosemary to each, followed by the remainder of the tomatoes.

Then, it was time to add the brine, which was easy enough. I then used half-pint jars to weigh down the fruit. There was just a little bit of the brine left, and this I placed in the half-pint jars as extra weight. Then, I rubber banded a wash-rag over each jar combo to keep critters off.

General consensus seems to be around 5 days of fermentation, then cool storage, just as with the pickled squash.

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Oops

What I forgot, until just a bit ago, was to use a toothpick to poke a hole in the tomatoes. This was suggested by almost all recipes I saw, to allow the fermentation to penetrate into the tomatoes better. So I washed up as much as possible, and one at a time emptied each jar into a large measuring  bowl, then skewered each tomato, trying to duplicate the placement of the herbs. What I could not do was get the peppercorns back at bottom.

Otherwise, everything ended back in the jars successfully, with a little bit of mess in the transfer of liquids.

As always, now we wait.

Mid-Summer Non-Fermentation

Final Product: Honeyed Summer Cantaloupe

Final Product: Honeyed Summer Cantaloupe

Honeyed Summer Cantaloupe

This evening, right on schedule (7 days melding), I finished making the Honeyed Summer Cantaloupe. All it took was straining the bulk of the fruit, letting the liquid drain off without any additional pressing. I did hem and haw about which container to put it in for storage, but ended up deciding on an old Stoli bottle (1.75 L). Little big for the job, but it seemed annoying to do 1 full screw-cap wine bottle (750 mL) plus a partially filled second. I have a few more of these old bottles, and they want to be filled.

I don’t know that I am fond of the smell, in all honesty. But then, cantaloupe is not my favorite melon, either. It isn’t offensive, just not pleasurable in the way the Rose Raspberry of Lemon Drop were, and nowhere near the pleasant smoothness (in smell or taste) of past years’ spiced apple liqueur. We’ll just have to see about the flavor later, as I’m going to give it a day or two off the fruit before sampling.

Cucumber Mint Liqueur

Cucumber Mint Liqueur

Mint, With a Healthy Does of Cucumber

Finishing with that, I then began on another recipe from the same book. I had originally thought to nearly double the recipe (to end up fitting  a 1.75L bottle), but was short on Vermouth. So, I relented and went with the recipe as is. Still was a little short on Vermouth!

The book called for 1.5 cups of 80-100 proof vodka mixed with 1.5 cups of Vermouth (18% ABV). I used an unremarkable vodka sitting in the pantry (80 proof, or 40% ABV), and an extra dry Vermouth. Turned out I had just under the expected amount of Vermouth, so I’ll be needing a new bottle.

My birthday is almost here [hint, hint…]

On a serious note, I just increased the amount of vodka to make a total of 3 cups of liquid. And I’m fully capable of purchasing Vermouth, if the need arises. Which it could.

To that I added one large (I mean really large) cucumber, grated. The recipe had called for 2 medium cucumbers, grated. I also added a half cup of chopped (apple) mint from the front garden, per the recipe, and the zest of 1 lemon (also per the recipe).

Then I mixed this all together, sealed the top and set in a cool, dark place. Give that a couple days, adding some simple syrup, and we’ll see what we’ve got.

Next Up

Need to get a ginger bug back operational. Been out of the regular ginger ale swing. Technically, that’s fermentation. And I did say this was a non-fermentation post. Ah, well. I have more lemons, so another Lemon Drop attempt could be possible – especially since the previous one was so well received by friends. A limecello is probably in order as well, before the purchased limes give up the ghost.

Oh, and it is high time for making some more fig leaf liqueur. I’m considering Everclear, as I have already tried it with both gin and vodka. Just for comparison, of course. the figs themselves aren’t quite ready for anything. But the tree can pass me a couple of leaves without too much harm.

Mid-Summer Fermentation

And other things, too! But more on that, later.

Pickles

The dill pickles turned out wonderfully. They are crisp outside, but a little softer inside. I could stand for more crunch, but am happy with what I have. Sean is not as thrilled with the flavor, exactly, as there is a quite sharp spice note; I think it is more the garlic than the black pepper or crushed red pepper flakes, but could be wrong.

He still eats them, just making some funny faces as he does it. I think they are excellent, though eating a half of one on an empty stomach did make me wonder if that was the best idea. The unease passed quickly, though.

I think, but haven’t decided, that I may attempt to test out canning this batch, to see how it goes. While I like having fresh dill pickles on hand, that big of a container takes up a large space in our limited refrigerator. I get that that sort of kills all the “good” microbes that can help with digestion and such. But it also means I can store more of them, and for longer, potentially, with minimal effort into the future. Still thinking. May change my mind.

More Pickled Things

We came back from vacation to a garden gone wild. Kim made quick work of one (plus some) of the oversized zucchini, creating multiple loaves of zucchini bread. A perfect application of these hardened, oversized veggies. Equally hard, but with much less precedent, were the many crookneck squash sitting on our table. With the pickles a fair success, and some internet searching for examples, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to test out some pickled squash. Thus, I set about making four quarts of s lightly varying pickles.

For the most part things are similar among the jars. Each received a 1/4 of a small onion, thinly sliced, in the bottom. All received a pinch of black peppercorns, as well. I mentally numbered the jars 1 through 4, which aided in my decisions of how to distribute the rest of the flavoring and such.:

Ingredient Jar 1 Jar 2 Jar 3 Jar 4
Onion (sliced thin) 1/4 of a small onion 1/4 of a small onion 1/4 of a small onion 1/4 of a small onion
Garlic (cloves, crushed) 2 1 1 2
Coriander Seed a pinch a pinch
Cumin Seed a pinch a pinch
Black Peppercorns a pinch a pinch a pinch a pinch
Crookneck Squash (seeded, mostly) 3 large squash were divided between the 4 containers, with just a little bit of the last squash left over.
Mesilla(??) Pepper (seeded, chopped) 1/2 1/2
Rosemary (sprig) 1 sprig 1 sprig
Black Tea Leaves a small pinch in each
Brine a quart of water to 2 tbsp. of salt (more on that briefly) In total, it was 3 quarts of water and 6 tbsp. of pickling salt, with just a little leftover after topping the jars to 1.5 inches from the top

The Mesilla pepper and rosemary (and the squash, of course) were from our garden. Kim recorded that pepper plant being Mesilla, but looking Mesilla pepper up online gives something more like a thin and spicy pepper – almost like a cayenne. So not sure what it really is. We tasted it, and it was more sweet, not spicy.

The brine was a bit of a mess, as I misread, then had to go back and correct proportions. Originally I brined at a 1 Qt. to 2 tsp. ratio. Big mistake. Looks like all is fine now. The ferment is going strong and quite visibly active.

The black tea leaves seems to be a common addition to add tannins to the ferment, which should help keep things crisp. Didn’t sound like it should cause anything bad, no off tastes.

And Even More Pickles

With the squash taken care of, I then started working on some more of the cucumber. I placed 2 sprigs of fresh dill, 1/3 tsp. of fennel seed, 1/3 tsp. of peppercorn seed mélange, 3 crushed garlic cloves and 2 chopped up medusa peppers (ornamentals, pictured above) in the bottom of a quart mason jar. To that I added 2 decent sized, rather dense cucumbers as I thinly chopped them. I then topped with a brine at the proportions I was properly shooting for with the squash, 1 Qt. to 2 tbsp. pickling salt.

The end result looks beautiful, and is also fermenting visibly, though maybe not as powerfully as with the squash.

With all these pickled vegetables, I used sealed mason jars. So I do have to burp them occasionally, unlike the last pickle batch with the plastic water bag for a top. I’d rather not see any salty explosions above the refrigerator where they sit!

Plans For The Future

I’ve already culled the tomatoes we picked, and selected the cherry tomatoes and the small, yellow, pear-shaped tomatoes (forget the name) to make pickled tomatoes with. I don’t quite have enough set aside, to begin, but it won’t be long. Every day I collect more from the garden. Now, that just leaves the larger tomatoes needing a role assigned.

“Pickled tomatoes?” you say. Yeah, we’ll see. I hear they make a nice match to a martini, or in a salad. I’m withholding judgment for now.

Too Soon For Vacation’s End

So, tomorrow it is back to work. I suppose it’s always too soon.

Pain

I dislike yellow-jackets. It’s simple, really. After over 5 hours, by thumb on my right hand is still throbbing. After getting home from a lunch meeting, I proceeded to do some yard-work. I mowed the front yard, and then started trimming some weeds in the thick grassy stuff (I have no idea what it’s called) lining the driveway. Halfway up one side, I felt a brief sting on one of my left fingers, watched something shoot across my field of vision, and then felt a longer lasting (maybe multiple?) sting on my right thumb.

I rushed inside, where my wife suggested an ice pack, followed by the application of some essential oils. After the pain subsided from cut-my-thumb-off-now! to a more manageable level, I decided to go back out, this time with gloves. I returned to the same spot, cut a few more of the misplaced weeds in the grassy, shrubby stuff, then switched to the other side. With an armload of debris, I carried all to the roadside. Then I noticed a yellow-jacket on my left glove. I still don’t know if it was just sitting there, or actively stinging but just not getting through the gloves.

It was a sign that it was time to quit working in the front yard.

The Garden

A Summer Harvest

A Summer Harvest

Thus I entered the back yard to harvest what had gone unwatched in our vacation absence. I found many, many immense squash, and some more reasonably sized ones. I found two immense zucchini and one teeny one. And I found buckets and buckets of cucumbers. There was also a smattering of tomatoes, one pepper and a tiger melon, as you can see.

Ow, ow, ow. My thumb still hurts!

Julianne, my middle daughter, quickly took one of the cucumbers and ate it whole, as if it were an apple. Well, she ate it with ranch dressing, which she wouldn’t do with an apple, but you get the idea, I hope.

I believe the zucchini will end up as zucchini bread, so says Kim.

This complete, I ran to the front bed and got a bunch of mint, and made up a drink of rum, lemoncello (Lemon Drop), lemon juice and the mint muddled. It was good, quite good in fact, but it did nothing for the throbbing thumb.

Pickles

A run on the garden reminded me of the pickles I had moved to the refrigerator the night before. I cut one, and then ate the first half. Wonderful taste, not commercial dill pickle, rather a sharp, dill-backed spice. The meat of the pickle was softer than I was expecting, but it still had a nice bite to it. Overall, I’m happy.

First Taste

First Taste

Not so my daughter, who asked to sample the second half. She was not impressed, mostly I think by the spice. Kim thought it was merely “okay”, and I finished up the last half of the pickle. Still soft for my liking, but the flavor great.

I notice that the seeds are quite big, though they are not hard or problematic in any way.

Also, they are too big on one end to easily move to smaller storage. Bit of a pain, as the current vessel takes up quite a large space in the refrigerator. I’m not sure about cutting them and then re-storing. Sounds like lots of opportunity for spoilage.

Irish Red Ale

Checking up on the beer, I find that the foam has subsided. But I can tell fermentation is still active by the regular bubble pops visible on the surface. It’ll be a little longer before bottling occurs. But a good decision to start it, then leave it to ferment while I wasn’t there! No time wasted fretting over it.

That ends the day, short of some ice cream and White Collar on Netflix, and of course writing this post. Not much more and it is off to bed, to prepare for work once again.

Odds And Ends

Cute Little Potted Peppers

Cute Little Potted Peppers

Peppers!

The ornamental peppers, which we removed from garden-proper and potted to make room for other peppers are coming along nicely. Kim says to me today, looking at the picture, “Did you try one? How was it?”

“No, they’re ornamental. Wasn’t sure I should,” says I.

“You should have.” she says. Argh. Well, I’m not exactly within eating distance at the moment!

Pickles

The pickles are coming along nicely, as far as I can tell. The brine smells awesome, and I can tell there is some amount of fermentation based on the mobility of the spices, though I can’t make out any actual bubbles at the top (the plastic gets in the way and moving it is making a mess and losing larger spices at the top) and there isn’t, as yet, any noticeable foam on top. They were likely to be ready mid-week, but since I am on vacation, I will be giving them just a little extra time to ferment before handling.

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Alton’s recipe said it was likely fermentation would be visibly active on day 3. I think it is active, just not as visible as I’d like. So, hopefully, everything is well. Day 10 is the suggested completion date, if fermentation is proceeding as expected in a cool dry place.

A Wonderful Time Of Year

It’s summer! Wow, I’ve not posted on here in a while. Lots has been going on, but things have been slow on the fermentation front. Not a standstill, but not overly active either. Things progressing, a couple beer attempts, and at least one mead started.

In any case, it was nice to head to The Happy Berry today and take home 33 pounds of fruit (18 pounds of blackberries and the rest blueberries). Some of that will end up as jam, and some as wine/mead. I wonder what a “cider” of blackberry would be like…

Dill Pickles

Dill Pickles

I also started my first vegetable fermentation with some of the cucumbers (munchers) from the garden. Dill pickles are a nice treat, so I set about starting my first batch using the recipe from Alton Brown as a guide. Looks like things should turn out okay, but it’s a little early to be certain. I don’t exactly have a good 1 gallon vessel for that type of fermentation, but I had one big enough for the amount of cucumbers suggested, and hopefully a smaller bag of the salt-water solution can seal the cucumbers under the brine well enough.

We have a ton of things in the garden. We’ve already made quite good use of the zucchini and squash, though if the caterpillars have anything to say about it, that may end. The peppers are slowly getting going. And the corn is growing slowly, as well. We should have a ton of tomatoes, if all goes well, though they are green at the moment.

Also, with some hints from a friend, I have a plan for testing out lemoncello, limecello and orangecello. So I picked up the fruit and the base for it this afternoon. Maybe there will be some time tomorrow to start on that. But tomorrow, there is a bigger goal, and that is getting the Irish Red Ale started.

I picked up the ingredients as a Father’s Day gift, and I suppose it’s high time I get the ingredients into a fermenter! I plan on using a little more malt extract than the recipe actually calls for, and a little more hops, as well; both modifications are really dictated by packaging sizes. But hopefully the color and body will be right, and the flavor good. I do like a Killian’s – not that I expect it will come off exactly like that. Just saying that I do like that style of beer, and wouldn’t mind having some on hand, and the knowledge to reproduce in the future!

Pickles, beer, fruit, jam, garden, cellos…bed.