Saturday, December 12, 2009

Dry Sausage and Cappocola Making

My father and his friend Vito have been making dried sausage and cappocola for years; now as they are aging and slowing down it is time to pass the torch. Phil has been helping them for the past few days taking it all in.
They purchased 4 30 pound cases of “collar cut” pork; it is a special cut of pork from the neck. The dried sausage starts with 60 pounds of pork. It is ground in a meat grinder with coarse cut blade and plate. The meat is then blended 1 cup of salt, ¼ cup of pepper and ¼ of fennel. It is allowed to sit for one day in a cool room kept at 60f. They then stuffed the meat into natural hog casings that had been soaked lemon water for 24 hours, turned inside out and rinsed. The sausage is then hung and allowed to dry for one week and then cryo-vac sealed.
The cappocola starts off by salting one side of the meat and placing on a plastic covered table placed on a slight incline for 24 hours. A plastic tub is placed on the floor to catch the blood that drips from the meat. The meat is then turned over and salted on that side and again left alone for 24 hours. The meat is rinsed with water to remove the salt, soaked in white wine for flavor. We then coat the meat with a coarse ground black pepper and tie the meat. It is hung in a room that is kept at 60F for one month. After the meat is cured it is cut in half and cryo-vac sealed.
Both the sausage and the cappocola are best served sliced very thin and at room temperature.

Dry Sausage and Cappocola Making

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Our First Mushroom

We harvested our first mushroom today…the first of many I hope!! We inoculated the logs back in June of this year so the timing is right about 6 months from inoculation to harvest. As each day goes by we are noting more changes on the logs from fuzzy white ‘stuff” to mushroom like growths to one big pearl oyster mushroom!!

During the late spring and summer months the logs spent their time in the back yard in the shade of the brick oven. As the weather has turned to fall here in the northeast we moved the logs into the garage to keep them warm and to encourage growth. If we had left them outside during the winter they would have gone dormant and produced in the spring but we were anxious to see the fruits of our labor and brought them into a protected area. During the winter months we will need to water the logs and tap them to encourage “flushing” the technical term for growth.

Don’t know what we are going to do with this one large pearl oyster mushroom but I sure hope Chef Phil has something delicious planned


Mushroom 1st Harvest

Sunday, October 18, 2009

125 Pounds of Pulled Pork!!

Yesterday Saturday, October 17th was the annual Harvest Festival to benefit St. Pius V School in Providence, RI. This was our second year participating with our booth “Hog Heaven”. A friend of ours who is in the meat business generously donated 125 pounds of boneless pork shoulder the buns were donated by a local bakery and we bought all the ingredients for the BBQ sauce so 100% of the proceeds went to the school! We raised $700+!!

In preparation, one week before we made the BBQ sauce this will allow the flavors to marry. We used one gallon of ketchup, the zest of 4 limes and the juice of 6, ½ cup of Triple Sec, ¾ Cider Vinegar, 2 tablespoons of Cinnamon, 1 tablespoon of Allspice, 2 teaspoons of Cumin, Coriander and Chili Powder and one cup of brown sugar. We let this sit in a bowl for one day and bottled it.

On Friday; the day before the event we prepped the meat by trimming some of the fat but not all – Fat = Flavor!! The meat was rubbed with a dry rub mix of:

4 Cups of Brown Sugar
1 Cup Kosher Salt
¾ Cup of Cinnamon
2 Tablespoons of Allspice, Onion Salt and Chili Powder
1 Tablespoon of Cumin

The fire was started in the wood fired brick oven and allowed to burn for 2 hours. We removed most of the coals and put the meat in the oven, the oven was about 500F. The meat was in disposable aluminum roasting trays then placed in metal roasting pans, this was done for ease of cleanup. We then added to the pile of hot coals one bag of mesquite wood chips that had been soaked in one bottle of Crown Royal whiskey. Closed the oven up at 9pm leaving the door slightly ajar to allow for smoking of the chips.

The next morning at 9 am, we unloaded the oven and drained the juices that colleted in the roasting pans into a pot. We transported the meat to the festival and fired up the smoker. All but two pork shoulders were put on the smoker. We placed those two shoulders in an electric roasting pan and pulled the pork, as the day went on we would refill the electric roasting pan with additional shoulders from the smoker and pull them. Using the electric roasters the meat can tend to dry out the meat so we would add the juice and fat we had drained off from the roasting pans.

Everyone enjoyed the pulled pork and homemade root beer…we enjoyed making it and the school made money. A perfect day!


2009 St Pius Harvest Fest

Sunday, September 27, 2009

2009 WIne Making UPDATED Day 1 - 9

Day One:

We got THE phone call at 8:30 in the morning. “Get down to A.T. Siravo the grapes are in and they are going fast!!” That was not an understatement; we called and asked them to hold some Zinfandel grapes. We were told that two tractor-trailer loads were sold out but they had another suggestion for us. We were at the grape wholesaler by 9am the place was a zoo, Eddie the person who seemed to be running the operation took a shine to us, brought us for a mini tour, and let us taste all the grapes to allow us to make an informed decision as to what we wanted. We decided to up our original plan of just three cases of white wine grape to five cases. The Marvasi grape was so sweet and full of flavor – the sweetness will subside as the alcohol in the wine increases!! We also took 20 cases of Nebello grapes and 3 cases of Allegante grapes for a red wine blend.

We loaded up the pickup with the grape and additional 60-gallon primary fermenting tub. We thought we had everything secured until we rounded a corner and one of the cases of grape ends up in the middle of the street. Phil pulled over and salvaged what he could and put it back on the truck.

Now for the prep work to get ready for the next day. We swept the garage floor and put a tarp over it. Unloaded the grape from the truck washed and installed the spigots on the primary formation tubs. Bleached the wine press and left it out in the sun to dry. Tomorrow we will sterilize all the equipment prior to use.

Day Two

The carboys, fermenting tubs, wine press and anything that touches the grape was sterilized with C-Brite. It comes in a powered form that you mix with water; it has a slight bleach smell but will not alter the color of your clothes.

The crew started to arrive around 9am. We started with the white grape first. We destemmed the white grape and ran it through the crusher. The crushed grape is then placed in the wine press and squeezed several times to ensure all the juice has been expressed. We take the stems and skins and put them in our compost pile. The juice is run through a fine mesh metal strainer and through a funnel with a very fine mesh strainer. Therefore, the juice has been strained twice yet will still have sediment in it. The strained juice ends up in a glass carboy with an airlock. This will sit for a week or two so the sediment goes to the bottom and can the clear wine can be siphoned off the top.

The red wine is a bit of a different process. We crushed the grapes and put them directly in to large fermenting tubs. We will stir the crushed grape twice per day for 7 – 10 days. During this process the fermentation begins and the wine “boils”, you will hear a bubbling sound as the natural wild yeast on the grapes eats the sugar to produce alcohol and releases the carbon dioxide.

Both wines at this point are all natural and have no additives and no yeast. We may need to add some chemicals to the white wine to stop fermentation and to clarify but that remains to be seen in the coming weeks.

Now we sit back relax and enjoy a glass of last years vintage until next week when the work begins again!!

Day 7

We have been caring for the wine every day by turning the grape in the tub twice per day. As the grape is fermenting in the tub, it rises to the top and we push it down, this process keeps out bacteria and mold that could grow on the top but also helps in the fermentation process. On day 7, it was time to press the skins, stems and seeds. We once again sterilized everything that will come in contact with the grapes with the C-Brite solution. Once everything is sterilized we begin to drain the first tub, we use a fine mesh strainer to catch seed, small pieces of skins and other small particulates. The juice goes into a plastic bucket and is set aside. Once all the juice is drained, we remove all the skins, seeds and stems from the tub and place them into a plastic bin to be pressed. We now will clean the 90-gallon fermentation tub that the juice has been in for the past 7 days, once rinsed out the tub is moved to our basement and filled with the juice we just drained from the tub. Now the pressing begins. We press in small batches so it does not gum up the press and we get the most yield from the grape. The juice that comes from this pressing is then added to the tub in the basement. We repeat the process with the smaller tub, and add the contents to the 90-gallon tub in the basement. This will blend the two batches and ensure a consistent product.

Day 9

The wine has now been sitting in the basement for 2 days this allows some of the fine particulates to settle to the bottom and ensures all the flavors from the 2 tubs have married. We once again sterilize everything that will come in contact with the wine. We attach a hose to the spigot and begin to fill one of the two demis we have. A demi holds 16 gallons of wine. Once the 2 demis are filled we move onto the carboys; we have several different sizes of carboys ranging from 3 – 7 gallons. We then add oak chips to add that wonderful oak flavor you get from a fine wine that has been aged in oak barrels. The wine will now sit until sometime in December when we will bottle.


2009 Wine Making

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Cabbage Kale and Bread Soup!

Once again, the garden provides inspiration! We grew several Savoy cabbages in the garden this year. This cabbage is just spectacular! I have made this soup several times, however, never with homegrown Savoy cabbage. I picked it from the garden moments before it went into the chicken stock…can’t get much fresher than that.
This recipe is so with the trouble and time. You will need to multi task to keep the prep time to a minimum. Please do not let the anchovies scare you they melt in the bacon fat or you can just skip them and add salt!
So here is what you will need

• 3 quarts good-quality chicken (I like College Inn BOLD in the brown box)
• 1 Savoy cabbage, stalks removed, outer leaves separated, washed and roughly chopped
• 2 big handfuls of kale, stalks removed, leaves washed roughly chopped
• About 16 slices stale Italian bread
• 1 clove garlic, peeled
• Olive oil
• 1 pound of bacon cut into lardons
• 1 (4-ounce) can anchovy fillets, in oil
• 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves picked
• 7 ounces fontina cheese, grated
• 5 ounces freshly grated Parmesan, plus a little for serving
• Sea salt (if you are not using anchovies)
• Couple large knobs butter
• Small bunch fresh sage, leaves picked

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
Bring the stock to the boil in a large saucepan and add the cabbage and kale. Cook for a few minutes until softened (I did this in 2 batches). Remove the cabbage and kale to a large bowl, leaving the stock in the pan.

Toast all but 5 of the bread slices or in a toaster or on a cookie sheet in your oven, then rub them on 1 side with the garlic as they come out of the oven or toaster, and set aside.

Next, heat a large deep fry pan on the stovetop, start to fry your lardons of bacon (lardon is bacon cut into rectangular pieces) now add your anchovies. When the bacon is golden brown and sizzling add the anchovies. Once the anchovies are melted, add the rosemary and cooked cabbage and toss to coat the greens in all the lovely flavors. Put the mixture and all the juices back into the large bowl.

Place 4 of the toasted slices in the casserole-type dish, in 1 layer. Spread over 1/3 of the cabbage leaves, sprinkle over a 1/4 of the grated fontina and Parmesan and add a drizzle of olive oil. Repeat this twice, but don't stress if your pan's only big enough to take layers - that's fine. Just pour in all the juices remaining in the bowl and end with a layer of untoasted bread on top. Push down on the layers with your hands.

Pour the stock gently over the top until it just comes up to the top layer. Push down again and sprinkle over the remaining fontina and Parmesan. Add a good pinch of salt if you did not add the anchovies and drizzle over some good-quality olive oil. Bake in the preheated oven for around 30 minutes, or until crispy and golden on top.

When the soup is ready, divide it between your bowls. Melt the butter in a frying pan and quickly fry the sage leaves until they're just crisp and the butter is lightly golden (not burned!). Spoon a bit of the flavored butter and sage leaves over the soup and add another grating of Parmesan. Such a great combo!
This is a great hearty dish for those crisp cool nights!


Cabbage Soup

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Blueberry Wine

We have been making wine directly from crushing grapes or with a kit. Phil decided to try something different and make a blueberry grape wine. We started with 4 pounds of green grape and 6 ½ pounds of blueberries. We first crushed the green grape then the blueberries in the hand-cranked crusher. We put them in a stockpot added water to cover the fruit and added 7 pounds of sugar. We let this boil for about 10 minutes.

We then placed a mesh bag over the primary plastic fermenting bucket. This was to catch the skins of the grape and blueberries. We poured the mixture into the bucket and tied off the mesh bag. At this point, we added cool water to bring the volume up to the 3-gallon point and allow mixture to become room temperature. At this point we than could add 2 teaspoons of yeast nutrients, ¾ teaspoon of pectin enzyme and 1 package of champagne yeast. We chose champagne yeast to dry the wine out so it would not be too sweet. We stirred the mixture twice a day for 3 days. On the third day, we pressed the juice from the skins that were in the mesh bag. We let the juice stay in the bucket for another 3 days.

The juice was then transferred to a glass carboy where it was allowed to ferment for 1 week. We racked the wine to get rid of the sediment. Racking just means transferring from one container to another. The wine was again allowed to sit and ferment for 2 more weeks.

When the wine in the carboy stops producing gas its time to bottle. We transferred the wine from the glass carboy to a plastic bottling bucket. The bottles and corks were sterilized and we began to transfer the wine into the bottles and corked the wine. It will now sit and age for about 3 -4 months before we will be able to drink it

Blueberry Wine

Smoked Salsa

We have an abundance of tomatoes and peppers from our garden. It has been a banner year for tomatoes since we had so much rain early in the season! Therefore, we decided to make salsa with our harvest.

7 pounds of chopped tomatoes
1 pound of finely diced peppers
1 large red and yellow onion chopped
1 head of garlic chopped
1 bunch of cilantro (just the leaves)
1 bunch of thyme (just the leaves)
6 red hot peppers chopped
3 tablespoons of kosher salt
2 ounces of lime juice
6 shakes of Tabasco Smoked Chipotle sauce
1 capful of liquid smoke

First, we boiled the jars, rings and lids to sterilize. Chopped all the ingredients. In a pan with hot oil we added the onions let them cook for about one minute then add the garlic. We then added the peppers and tomatoes salt, hot peppers, lime juice, Tabasco and the liquid smoke. This cooked for about 8-9 minutes we then added the cilantro and thyme.

The mixture was removed from the stove and we began to fill the jars with the salsa. We wiped the edge of each jar with a clean paper towel then lifted the lid with a magnet and placed the lid on the top of the jar. You need to be careful not to touch the sterilized lids and jars so your salsa does not become contaminated, Once the lid is in place we twisted the rings in place to hold the lids. Back into the boiling water bath. The jars boiled for 15 minutes and were removed from the water and allowed to cool. As the jars are cooling, you will hear the lids popping and sealing themselves. If they do not pop, you can push them down and as long as they do not pop back up it is a good seal! Once completed cooled we removed the rings and labeled the salsa. Good eats!!!


Smoked Salsa

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Spent Grain Bread

We helped a neighbor make his first batch of beer some grain was used in the brewing process so we thought we would attempt to make a Spent Grain bread. The recipe is adapted from Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads book (if you like whole grain bread, this book is great!). It takes two days, but it is worth the wait. It uses 'spent grain’, which is the grains that are left over from brewing beer. In the home brewing process, these grains were steeped for about a half hour in boiling water. The taste, texture, and color of the bread will vary considerably with the type of grain used for the beer there will be a big difference between a stout and pale ale grains, our bread was made with pale ale grain. If you're not a home brewer try asking your friends or you could also ask a local microbrewery.

This recipe makes two medium or 4 small loaves, or about two dozen rolls.

Day 1:
About 20 minutes of work.
The soaker works to hydrate the grains in the whole wheat by mixing it with water and salt and let it sit overnight. This makes the grain softer but also enhances flavor and makes the bread a little sweeter (check Reinhart's book for the whole explanation).
• 454 g / 1 lb whole wheat flour
• 1 tsp (8 g) salt
• 1½ cups water
Mix all soaker ingredients until flour is fully hydrated, then cover and let sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours. Can be refrigerated up to 3 days.

Reinhart uses the term 'Biga' for an overnight starter that uses a small amount of yeast and also soaks the whole wheat flour to increase flavor and acidity.
• 454 g / 1 lb whole wheat flour
• 5/8 tsp active dry yeast (1/2 tsp instant dry yeast)
• 1½ cups warm water
Make a well in the flour. Pour the water into the well and then sprinkle the yeast in the water. Mix the water, gradually drawing in all the flour until hydrated. Once you have a ball of dough, knead in the bowl using wet hands for about two minutes. You may need to wet your hands again, but be careful not to add too much water to the dough.
Let the dough rest for five minutes, and then knead again with wet hands for about one minute. This time, the dough will be easier to work with, although it will still be tacky. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

Day 2:
About 2 hours de-chill, then 20 minutes mixing followed by 2-3 hours fermentation. Baking takes 45-60 minutes.
Now we make the bread. Remove the Biga from the refrigerator about two hours before starting to mix the final dough.

• Soaker
• Biga
• 225 g spent grain
• 113 g whole wheat flour
• 2¼ tsp (10 g) salt
• 2 Tbsp + 1 tsp active dry yeast (1½ Tbsp instant dry yeast)
• 85 g (4½ Tbsp) honey
• 2 Tbsp vegetable oil (optional)
• Extra whole wheat flour for adjustments
Chop the soaker and biga into 10-12 smaller pieces each - sprinkle some extra flour to keep them from sticking to each other. Hydrate the yeast in a little warm water (just enough to form a thick paste). Add to biga and soaker pieces along with the remaining ingredients except extra flour. Mix with a spoon or knead with wet hands for a few minutes to evenly distribute all ingredients. Take the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 3-4 minutes until dough is soft and tacky but not sticky. Form the dough into a ball and let it rest on the counter for five minutes.

Knead the dough again for about a minute. The dough should feel soft, supple, and very tacky. Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, covering it in oil on all sides. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise at room temperature for 45 to 60 minutes.

Form the dough into two loaves or smaller rolls. Cover loosely and let rise an additional 45 to 60 minutes.

IN A COVENTIONAL OVEN: Preheat oven to 425F. Add a steam pan to the oven and a hearth stone. When you put the bread into the oven, pour a cup of water into the steam pan and spray several times with a water mister inside the oven (not on the bread). The purpose is to create steam that will produce a crusty crumb on the bread. Lower the temperature to 350F and bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the bread 180°and bake another 20-30 minutes until the bread is done (thump the bottom to hear if it sounds hollow).

IN A BRICK OVEN: Heat oven to about 500F have a cast iron fry pan heating in the oven. Take out coals and cast iron pan and brush off hearth surface. Put pan back in oven and pour heated water in pan to create steam. Place the loves of bread in oven. Spray inside of oven with a misting spray bottle Close oven check after one half hour you may need to let the loaves stay in for another 15 minuets or so (thump the bottom to hear if it sounds hollow).

Cool on a wire rack and enjoy! Leave a comment if you try it out and let us know how it went.


Spent Grain Bread

Homemade Soda

Today we made three batches of homemade diet soda. We started with Cream, then Raspberry and lastly Root Beer. It is a very simple process the one caveat is you must sterilize everything that comes in contact with the liquid and keep an eye in the temp of the liquid or you could lose the whole batch to mold or non-carbonation.

First, we sterilize the bottles with a solution of C-Brite, a powder mixed with water; you can find it at any homebrew store. We own two bottle washers one we put the C-Brite mix in and one we fill with plain water. First we rinse with the C-Brite and rinse with the water. We now need to sterilize the bottling bucket once again first the C-brite and a rinse with plain water to remove the residue from the C-Brite.

Now to make the soda mix. We mix one package of champagne yeast (purchased from the homebrew store) in one cup of 100F water, mix and let sit or bloom. Next in a sterilized bowl, we place 6 cups of Splenda and 2 cups of white sugar. The soda ends up sugar free because the yeast eats the real sugar and produces carbon dioxide gas, which is the natural carbonation in our soda. If we did not put the real sugar in the yeast would not have anything to feed off of and the soda would be flat. We then add 100F water and the soda base and stir until all the sugar is dissolved.

The sugar, Splenda, soda base and water mix are now transferred to the bottling bucket and more water is added to reach the 4 gallon mark. The temp is tested again and should be in the 98 – 104F range. The bloomed yeast is now added and stirred vigorously.

The sterilized bottles are now filled with the soda mix and capped with sterilized caps. The soda should be kept at room temperature and will be fully carbonated in one to two weeks. If soda did not carbonate one or more of these things could have gone wrong – something was not sterilized and killed off the yeast, the bottles were not sealed correctly and the gas escaped, the mix was too hot or too cold and the yeast was killed off.

All supplies including the soda base can be found at your local homebrew store or on the internet!

Give it a try!


Homemade Soda

Thursday, August 20, 2009

From Vine to Dine!

There is nothing better than a tomato fresh from the garden! This year we planted nine tomato plants; eight we hung upside down in baskets and one we planted in the ground. What we did not plan on was the nine that grew from tomatoes that fell on the ground last year and germinated in to plants!

Tonight was to hot and sticky to cook and I have been waiting for the perfect moment to pick the first tomato and consume immediately. Tonight was the night. (Some tomatoes had been picked and snacked on but none had made it in to the house!)

I ventured outside in the hot and humid air to pick some yellow Lemon Drops, some Sweet Baby Girls and one huge Brandy Boy along with green beans, purple pod beans a cucumber and some basil. The Brandy Boy weighed in at 1 pound 9 ounces! As I was assembling dinner the Lemon Drops and Sweet Baby Girls disappeared – Phil and Mia ate them; I guess they were hungry!

I had picked up a French Baguette at the farmers market sliced it open gave it a sprinkle of Olive Oil, Balsamic vinegar, a nice slice of homemade mozzarella cheese and a better slice of that vine ripe Brandy Boy tomato, I added some coarse ground sea salt and a few leaves of garden fresh basil. The perfect dinner – from vine to dine with in minutes cannot get much fresher than that!


Garden Update 8.20.09

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Newport Storm Brewery Tour

Ah another brewery tour; after that last debacle at the Sam Adams Brewery where the do not actually brew beer we were hoping for a decent tour of our local and only micro brewery in the state Costal Extreme Brewing Company; brewers of Newport Storm beer. We were impressed!!

We happened to be lucky enough to be on the very last tour of their brewing facility in Middletown RI – they are moving the operation a bit up the road to Newport to a facility 2 ½ times the size of the current location.

The tour was scheduled to start at 6pm; when I had called earlier in the day Brent the President and founder of the brewery said you better be early because we only take 30 people! He was not kidding when we arrived at 5pm we were the 23rd and 24th people in line!

Upon entering the very tight quarters, it was clear why they could only take 30 people on the tour – it actually may have been too many!! The photos are not the best due to the fact some many people were in such a confined area. Brent was an incredible tour guide! He started the tour but giving us a 16 oz “taste” of Newport Storm Blueberry Ale – nice way to start the tour!!! He lead us through the process of brewing beer step by step, informed us not only as to the how by the why of the process. Wow a real education – not a hurry up we need to get to the tasting room tour…like Sam Adams!!

We ended to tour with another 16 oz “taste” of Newport Storm Amber Ale and an appreciation fro the art of brewing!

Can’t wait to tour the new facility!!!


Newport Storm Brewery

Sakonnet Vineyard Tour

This year we decided to take a staycation. We took daytrips to tourist sites in our own back yard. One of the sites we visited was the Sakonnet Vineyards according to their web site…

Sakonnet Vineyards, in Little Compton, Rhode Island was founded in 1975 on the well-researched premise that the microclimate and soil conditions found along the Southeastern New England coast closely resemble some of the great wine regions of the world, particularly, the maritime climates of northern France. At present, fifty acres are planted with many Vinifera varietals including Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc as well as Vidal Blanc one of the French-American hybrids. Wine production has climbed to over 30,000 cases annually with many wines receiving awards in domestic and international competitions.

Our tour began with a 20-minute video about the seasonal cycle at the vineyard we were then allowed in the crushing, pressing and fermenting room. It did not seem like a big operation – more on that later! Our guide told us all about the process that the vineyard goes through to go from grape to wine. The vineyard used two types of oak barrels French and American different types for different wines. The barrels are only used a maximum of five times and are sold to other vineyards or home brewers like us! I guess I know what to get Phil for Christmas!!

We then went into the bottling room. They only bottle 65 days a year and we were lucky enough to be there on one of those days. Most of the bottling operation takes place in a sealed room so the photos are I took are not the greatest!!

We then went into the ageing room, I could not get over how small the operation was then the guide gave us some insight as to why. The major varieties of Sakonnet Wines such as Eye of the Storm, Rhode Island White and Red are grown and pressed in California – so it is not a RI wine!!

Oh, those Marketing People are playing with our minds again!! Why is it a RI wine if it is grown in California??


Sakonnet Vineyard

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Mystery of Compost

The mystery of compost. We have two compost bins one for all the fruit and veggie scraps where red wiggler worms eat the scraps and turn them into compost. The other where we throw yard and garden waste and just let nature take its course and break it down without any help.

In June when we planted three fruit trees, to enrich the soil we went to the yard and garden waste compost pile and added the compost to the hole where the tree was to be planted. Well I guess some seeds from a butternut squash must have been in the mix because we now have a butternut squash plant at the base of our Bartlett pear tree!!

Here is to a fall harvest of butternut squash!


Monday, August 10, 2009

The Ants Go Marching Out Of My Yard!!

On June 1st of this year, we planted three fruit trees all was going well until a few weeks ago when we noticed the cherry tree was infested with big black ants. The ants were feasting on the cherry tree leaves!

We wanted to find a green way to rid ourselves of the ants so we turned to the internet and found several solutions. The one I thought held the most promise was garlic. It was simple, I had it in the house and I felt it just might work.

We just sliced up a few cloves of garlic and off I went to the back yard. I shook off all the ants from the tree sprinkled the garlic on the grass then for a bit of insurance I took one piece of garlic and rubbed it on the trunk to act as a barrier. Now the back yard smells like an Italian kitchen and the ants have vacated the tree!!

As you can see on this photo the new leaves have not been eaten, they emerged after the garlic was used.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

When Life Hands You Cucumbers

I must have planted too many cucumber plants! We can’t keep up eating them so what do you do when life hands you cucumbers…make pickles! I love crunchy refrigerator pickles the “clausen” type so this recipe fit’s the bill

Fermented Dill Pickles – Refrigerated “Clausen” Type

Pickling Cucumbers
12 Fresh Dill Flower heads, or
2 Tbsp Dried dill weed and
2 Tbsp. Dried dill seed
10 to 12 Cloves Garlic
6 to 8 Peppercorns
1/4 Cup Vinegar
1/2 Cup Salt
1 1/2 Quarts Water

Rinse but do not wash the cucumbers. In your container add garlic, peppercorns, and vinegar. Dissolve salt in water and add to container. Stir. Add your cucumbers and dill. Fill container the remaining way with water. Cover.

Fermentation sequence
1. Clear brine – no cloudiness for 1 to 3 days
2. Cloudy brine with gas formation, 2-3 days
3. Cloudy brine – no gas formation, 5 to 6 days

Pickles ready to eat after 10-11 days.
Refrigerate pickles if you do not want to process them.

To process the pickles
Fill clean, sterilized quart jars with pickles to within 1/2inch of the top. Wipe, seal, and process in a hot water bath at 170 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove and place on towel in a draft free area. Let jars stand for 12 hours. Label and date. Store in a dark, cool area.

Clausen style dill pickles

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

New England Brown Bread

We were invited to a birthday party and when I asked the hostess what could we bring she suggested brick oven baked beans and New England Brown bread. We have made beans in the oven many times but the brown bread, now that was different.

For those of you who are not from New England; brown bread is steamed bread cooked in a tin can!! It is sweet, moist and goes great with baked beans.

1 cup of whole-wheat flour
1 cup of rye flour
1 cup of corn meal
1 ½ teaspoons of baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons of salt
2 cups of buttermilk
¾ cup of dark molasses
1 cup of raisins

We sprayed two tomato tin cans with vegetable oil

Combined all dry ingredients, added the wet ingredients stirred then added the raisins and mixed again.

We poured the batter into the oiled cans. Covered with tin foil

In a large cast iron pot we placed to upside down ramekins and placed the tin cans on top. We then added the water to the half waypoint of the can. Covered the pot and put it in the brick oven for 2 ½ hours the oven temperature was about 300 F. You can cook this on top of your stove simmering for 2 hours.

New England Brown Bread

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Garden Update 7.26.09

More rain and some sun this week. Our squash plants look very water logged and I’m not sure we are going to get very much of anything out of them this year. The tomatoes, carrots, peppers and cukes are looking great. The second planting of beans, peas, radishes and beets are looking just fine. What I can not get over is one of the grape vines we planted last fall is growing very fast the other three vines are doing ok but the Niagara Grape has officially reached the top of the pergola; 11 feet high. The other vines do not get as much sun as that one so maybe that is a factor. It is just amazing to watch.

Took some photos of the fruit trees as well. The cherry seems to be growing the most and the pear tree has some sort of squash growing with it. It must have been from a seed that was in our compost pile, we amended the soil with our compost when we planted the trees. So we will have to wait and see what type of squash we are growing.

One of the many mystery tomato plants is most likely a roma tomato by the looks of the shape, can’t tell the variety of the other mystery tomato plants we will just have to wait and see.

This week I have started to keep a log of how many pounds of produce we are growing in the garden; this weeks take a 7 pounds - we harvested Cucumbers (2 ¼ pounds), raspberries, purple pod beans, green beans, purple potatoes (1 lb 1 oz), red bliss potatoes, lettuce, radish, yellow and white carrots and banarama peppers. Next year I will keep track from the first harvest…don’t know why I did not think of this

Garden Update 7.26.09

Monday, July 20, 2009

Samuel Adams Brewery Tour

I expected to be blogging about our exciting trip to the Boston Samuel Adams Brewery – we were not impressed. The brewery is actually a Research and Development facility the actual brewing is done in Pennsylvania and Ohio. The tour lasted one hour – most of which was spent in the tasting room drinking three 7 ounce samples of Sam Adams beer; it made for an interesting breakfast since it was 11 o’clock and I had not had breakfast and Phil only had a bowl of cereal!!

Our first stop was a small room where we learned about the roasted malt our tour guide gave us samples to nibble on we tasted a pale barley and chocolate roasted barley. They were sweet and nutty the chocolate one had a faint coco taste. We learned about the Hops that Sam Adams uses it is grown in Germany and they use the whole hop as well as pellets. They passed the hops around and we were able to smell that wonderful hop aroma.

Our next stop was a room where we were lectured on the brewing process and saw the copper pots where they boil the malt mixture, the mixture now called wort is then sent to the wort chillers then to the finishing tanks. That was it. We then went to the tasting room!

We never got to smell the wonderful smells of boiling malt, simmering hops, fermented beer being racked to go to the next stage, no clanging of bottles being filled with the malty goodness of beer. How sad that we had expected to see a brewery – after all it is called the Boston Brewing Company – so why is it brewed in Pennsylvania and Ohio? Silly us!!

We did get to sample three beers, Boston Larger, Summer Wheat and one that will be on the market in the next few weeks Summer Lemon Wheat. Lesson learned next time we want to tour a brewery ask if they actually brew and bottle beer!!!

To see the photo album click on the photo below
Sam Adams 7.20.09

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Garden Update 7.19.09

What a difference some sun makes!! The tomatoes are looking so much better; things seem to be growing and are no longer at a standstill. I cannot get over how large and prolific the red raspberries are this year. I have been picking at least one bowl full per day and the birds and squirrels have not seemed to have discovered them YET!!

The tomatoes seemed to have set quite a bit of fruit this week. The lemon drop tomatoes are loaded with fruits and flowers; health kick has a nice cluster of tomatoes on it; the 4th of July tomato is getting bigger and the Brandy Boy is going wild! The tomatoes planted in the ground and the mystery tomatoes that are just popping up from seeds left in the ground from last year are doing better than the hanging tomatoes. I will hang the tomatoes again though since they do not take up space in the garden and allow us to grow more in such a small space.

On one of our visits to the local farmers market, we found a curry plant. I had never seen one before so of course we bought it!! When you rub the leaves, it smells just like curry. The woman who sold it to us told us to dry then grind the spice not to use it fresh. I just love the framers market you never know what you are going to find!

This week for garden maintance, I mulched with grass clippings, pulled the peas and weeded. The grass clippings seem to be working well with keeping the weeds down but I just cant mulch the whole garden especially where I just sowed the radishes, beets, peas and beans!!
We had a good harvest this week about ¼ pound of the blue and yellow peas the last of those till fall; ½ pound of purple pod beans; ¼ pound of green beans; 2 pints of red raspberries and one perfect zucchini!

To see the photo album click on the photo below
Garden Update 7.19.09

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Garden Update 7.12.09

More rain this week, however, we have had 3 days of sunshine, it just rained at night. This week I harvested most of the beets, radishes and waterlogged onions. I sowed lots of beets and some radish in that area.

The peas are starting to die back so I planted more for a fall crop. The beans are looking great and we have had a good harvest, however, planted some more beans as well. Looking forward to a bountiful fall harvest of peas and beans.

Earlier this week I harvested some compost from the worm bin and fed the tomatoes, cauliflower, and zucchini. Today I went to the grass clipping compost heap and remulched the beans, potatoes, cucumbers, peas, tomatoes, zucchini and peppers. The grass clippings are doing a great job of keeping the weeds down and do not seem to be adding too much nitrogen to the soil. In the grass clipping compost pile was also add ash from the wood oven so I think we have a good balance.

Hoping the sun keeps shining!

To see the photo album click on the photo below

Garden update 7.12.09

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Garden Update 7.5.09

This week we picked quite a bit of the yellow and blue peas, purple pod beans, lettuce and a few radishes and red raspberries. The weather seems to be trying to turn, still seems to rain every day but at least we are having a few hours of sunshine to make the garden grow.

The tomatoes are always the stars of the garden, I am starting to see some fruit, but still seem to have tons of flowers, the progress seems so slow. We have fruit on the 4th of July, brandy boy and health kick tomato varieties.

The summer squash grows but the minute, as does one grape vine “Niagara”. I swear if I sat outside all day, I could watch it grow!

Today I added worm compost to the hanging tomato baskets and the cabbage; hopefully we will see the benefits of adding the worm’s hard work in the next couple of weeks.

To see the album click on the photo below

Garden update 7.4.09

Sunday, July 5, 2009

4th of July Feast - PIG ROAST!!

We started the smoker up at 6am! I am sure the neighbors were wondering what the heck are they doing now! It’s 4th of July and we are having a feast. Phil made cuts into the top layer of fat then coated the beef brisket and fresh pork shoulder with a spice rub consisting of the following

Spice Rub
Brown Sugar
Garlic Powder
Onion Salt
Dry Mustard
Ground Allspice
Ground Coriander

The meat made it onto the smoker by 6:30 am; we added wood to the smoker about every half hour or so.

Our side dishes – baked beans and Asian style cole slaw. We soaked the great northern white beans overnight then boiled for one hour. Placed them in a crock-pot on low and added dark brown sugar, molasses, dry mustard bacon and onions fried in the bacon grease. The cole slaw is simple and delicious and no need to worry about mayo going bad in the heat. We shredded two heads of cabbage and four carrots, added rice wine vinegar, salad oil, sesame oil, salt, black and white sesame seeds.

Now for the star of the show the pig!! Phil arranged her on a bed of sweet potato, celery, onion and carrots. We filled her cavity with some red bliss potato, placed one in her mouth to hold it open during the cooking process and surrounded her with a few more potatoes. He then rubbed her down with a blend of cayenne pepper, onion and garlic salt and SMOKED paprika.

Phil makes a to die for BBQ sauce that was used for the pulled pork and beef. It keeps well so you can make one batch and use it several times. We store ours in old ketchup bottles.

BBQ Sauce
2 32ox bottles of ketchup
2 limes juiced with zest
½ cup cider vinegar
½ cup of Tequila or triple sec
4 tablespoons of cinnamon
1 tablespoon of each – Allspice, cumin and coriander
½ teaspoon of chili powder
1 pound of brown sugar

The Wood Fired Oven was fired up at noon, and the pig went in at 1:30. The oven temperature was about 500F. The Pig went in uncovered to sear and crisp the skin we covered her with heavy-duty tin foil about ½ hour later. We slowed the fire by removing some wood and allow the pig to cook slowly. She stayed in the oven for two hours we pulled her out and let her rest covered for about one hour, the internal temperature was 150F and will continue to rise as she rests. After pulling her out of the oven we brought the temperature of the oven back up so we could make some pizza it never got up to the high temperatures, we normally cook pizza at but due to time constraints, we went ahead with making 13 pizzas for appetizers. The pig went back in the oven after all the pizzas were cooked just to warm up Phil carved her and everyone devoured her!! She was cooked perfectly and was very tasty.

To view album click on photo below
2009 4th of July

Friday, July 3, 2009

Homemade Mozzarella Cheese

There is simply nothing better than homemade mozzarella cheese! One you have tried this you will never go back to store bought again. The most difficult part of the process is locating the supplies; we purchase our supplies from They ship quickly and the prices are great.

We start by dissolving ½ teaspoon of Lipase powder in ½ cup of cool water; it needs to sit for about 20 minutes before adding to the milk. Therefore, I do this as I am preparing my ingredients and tools. The Lipase is optional but it gives the cheese a better flavor.

I pour two gallons of milk in to a CLEAN stock pot and bring it up to 55F over a medium heat stirring constantly; this step goes quickly so be sure to have your thermometer in the milk most of the time. When the milk reaches 55F, add 3 teaspoons of Citric Acid and your Lipase.

Heat the mixture to 90F over medium to low heat you will see the milk start to curdle. Off to the side I have waiting in a glass ½ teaspoon plus 2 drops of rennet mixed with ½ cup of water. When the milk hits 90F I add the rennet mixture. Gently stir in an up and down motion, while heating the milk to 105F. Turn off the heat. The curds should be pulling away from the pot and they are ready to be scooped out.

Scoop out the curds with a slotted spoon or a Chinese spider (that is what we use) put into a microwave safe bowl. Press the curds with your hands, pouring off as much whey as possible.

We then microwave the curds on high for 1 minute. Drain off the whey again. Gently fold the cheese over and over as if you are kneading bread. Again, microwave for 30 seconds on high drain off whey and add 2 teaspoons of salt. We use cheese salt but kosher salt is ok.

When the cheese is smooth and shiny we roll, it into medium size balls and place them in a bowl of water and ice to cool. Once cool we pat dry and wrap in plastic. This makes about 2 pounds of cheese. We also make ricotta cheese for the remaining whey…but that is another post!!

To see the album click on the photo below

Mozzarella Cheese

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Worm Condo

After blogging last week about the worms we came to the conclusion that they needed a new home, the bin was just not going to work as it made it difficult to harvest the compost that we needed for the garden so off to; we purchased a 4 level worm condo! The condo arrived Saturday morning and we set it up today.

We filled the first two floors with the "in process" compost that was in the original bin. Floor 3 we added coconut coir bedding and fresh fruit and veggie scraps. Floor four we reserved and will use when floor three is filled.

The object with this system is the worms will migrate UP as the compost is finished on each floor. Once the worms reach level three we can then harvest the compost from level one and not have to worry about separating the worms from the compost? We just rotate the floors taking the bottom one as the worms leave and putting another floor on the top with fresh scraps for the worms to eat. SIMPLE!

The worm tea is collected on t he bottom most level (the basement)! We have already seen a vast difference in the plants that have been fed with the tea, they are much bigger and robust, I;m sure we will see the same results using the worm compost as well.
To see the album click on the photo below
Worm Condo

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Garden Update June 27, 2009

Here comes the sun! After weeks of rain, drizzle and overcast days we finally have a sunny day and it looks like we have a few in a row with just threats of thunderstorms. Over the past 2 weeks, we have harvested peas, strawberries, lettuce and radishes. I am anxiously awaiting our first tomato!

The tomato plants have tons of flowers and the ones that had been fed worm tea from our vermicomposting bin have taken off as well as the petunias that are planted in the top of our upside down tomatoes. We also rotated the hanging baskets to ensure they all get a good dose of sun!

As I photographed the garden today, I noticed that the cucumbers that I sowed directly in the garden are doing much better than the ones I had started indoors. I guess I will not be starting cucumbers inside again. They mystery tomatoes are doing well and have found several more in the lettuce patch I am going to let them do their own thing and hope we have a very bountiful tomato harvest.

The fruit trees we planted in June all have leaves on them and seem to be adjusting well to their new surroundings. I put a treatment of calcium fertilizer on them this week so we will see if this boosts the growth rate.

Hoping that Mother Nature has shut off the steady supply of water and she sees fits to only rain occasionally for the rest of the summer!

To see the album click on the photo below

Garen update 6.27.09