Wednesday, February 26, 2014

I make booze now and I think we'll all agree that makes sense.

As you may recall, I had a recent beekeeping disaster.

As always, because it's my way. Sadly. I'm just the world's worst beekeeper is what this is coming down to, but whatever because I have honey.

Like, 25 pounds of it or something like that.

Got to start somewhere, I suppose.
I'd walk you through the process of how the honey got from the hive into the jars via my usual rambling and swearing, but I daresay you can get the gist with a few photos captioned with limited rambling and swearing.

Let's see...

Firstly, I covered my kitchen with all of the cardboard I could find on our property. It was not enough. Obviously. Then I set up my extractor (big shiny thing), the super of honey (the white box on the counter), my bucket (white bucket, hello) and a box (surely you can recognize a box) for the frames once they were harvested.

If you've never seen a frame of capped honey from a beehive, here you go. Honey is in all of the cells and there's a thin layer of wax over the top of each cell to keep the honey in. I can't believe I'm explaining this.
In order to get the honey out of the cells, you have to cut (uncap) the honey with a big ol' knife and then you're supposed to stick it in the extractor, crank the arm and SPIN the honey out of the frames using centrifugal force.
"Supposed to", being the key phrase there.

Well, guess what doesn't SPIN so easily when it's 50 degrees in your house and the honey's been just a hangin' out in the yard in the box for OH THE WHOLE WINTER or whatever? Yeah, honey. 

So, to loosen up the honey that was clinging to the frames with all of its cold might, we turned two space heaters up to MOLTEN LAVA and pointed them at the extractor. 

And then I cranked and cranked and cranked and basically guaranteed that I'd never do anything productive with that arm again. Feel free to take from that sentence whatever filthy or tragic activity you like.
Nasties, all of you.

And then we gave up on the extractor and decided FUCK IT ALL let's just use the crush method which is exactly what it sounds like.

You scrape the honeycomb off of the foundation (the yellow stuff there) into a filter and you crush it.

Scrape. Crush. Scrape. Crush. Scrape. Crush...for 20 frames.

Some of it came out all nice like this, so we saved it.

Some of it did not. So we crushed it.

Then we ate some as a fancy appetizer with our neighbors. Plus cheese and apples.

And once it was filtering and flowing and I'd apparently sown my tomato seeds, there was a toast. Honey harvested.

Some went into jars to sell.

Some went into the cutest tea cup/saucer set in the whole wide world given to me by a very sweet friend.

Some of it went into refilling my own supply.
And a LOT of it is going into mead.

Are we all clear on what mead is?

Some people call it honey wine, but that involves some shit I'm not into mixing with honey (like fermented grapes), so we are calling it mead.

Dry Mead to be precise. Just water, honey and champagne yeast essentially mixed together, fermented and then racked off to sit and clarify for a few months. 

Here lies Thnead Mead. 

From which we drew the original gravity RIGHT ON TARGET BOOM.

71 degrees for a few weeks is all.
And soon we will rack it into a nice Mead Only keg to sit for a few months where it will become THE MOST DELICIOUS BOOZE OF ALL.

Seriously. I love it lots. I also owe a bunch to some very nice friends whose mead I swiftly demolished while they were off gallivanting around the globe.

Sorry, friends. That'll teach you to leave me unsupervised around your liquor. Be glad I don't like rum.

So yeah - mead is happening and bees are arriving again in April and I've cleaned out the hive for their arrival which involved replacing all of the foundation and torching the inside of the boxes to rid it of ghosts and cooties and I now make booze.

I'll let you guess how long it'll be before I try my hand at distilling gin because even though I've said a million times that I'll never do that, I bet you know that that's becoming a lie pretty fast.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Trish the Dish [RECIPE]

When it comes to cooking dinner, well, I'll just say it - I've been fucking killing it in the kitchen lately.

In the sense that I cooked three different dinners over the weekend that were not recipes I've made one million times before/ever and, thus, have burned out to the point of near inedibility.

Sorry White Bean Pasta With Kale - I've ruined you forever in this household. Actually, no, I still like you, but Bubba is...uh, taking a break.

I wish I could pin my recent cooking triumphs (and anything involving a crispy battered crust, homemade pasta dough or cream sauce counts as a triumph for me) on an extremely impressive Valentine's Day celebration where I, like, said I'd cook Bubba whatever he wanted all weekend long and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt my wifely prowess, but I think we all know that's not the case.

Even though that's kind of the case.

See, we had a boatfuckingload of broccoli (thanks garden, you're killing it, too) and I was all, "Bubba. We need to eat the fucking broccoli." and then he was all, "OK. But can we eat other things, too?" and then I was all, "WHO ARE YOU? THE FUCKING POPE OR SOMETHING?" and then he turned back to the computer and I went to find something to go with the broccoli.

Seriously, the sack of broccoli filling up in the crisper was getting obnoxious. We really should have just been eating the broccoli. BUT NO. Someone needs variety in their diet.


My first stop was Chesty because obviously.

And since I so awesomely (nerdily) keep an inventory of Chesty's depths, I could clearly see that it was high fucking time we ate some of this alleged "Tenderized Round Steak" since we're on our second (or third? I can't remember.) installment of our beef share and haven't had a one. Ever.

Because I don't know what the F to do with "Tenderized Round Steak".

Thankfully, Pioneer Woman does and when she put up this recipe for Chicken Fried Steak, like, way back in the day, it clearly made an impression on me because that image actually popped into my head when I stood there in front of Chesty giving myself frostbite holding a package of round steak wondering what the fuck to do with it.

"Chicken fry me!", It said.

And that freaked me out a lot.

To say that the concept of chicken fried steak went over well with Bubba is, well, it's a damn understatement is what it is.

He didn't even have words.

I asked him if he wanted chicken fried steak and whipped celeriac potatoes with his broccoli and he just made his YUMYESNOW face and nodded at me.  Vigorously. While pressing his clutched hands to his chest in a disturbingly eager manner.

The guy's decisive. I'll give him that.

And then I made chicken fried steak, whipped celeriac potatoes, broccoli and cream gravy LIKE A MUTHER FUCKING MONSTER.

There aren't any potatoes in Whipped Celeriac Potatoes. Just celeriac, butter, milk and salt. And whipping! Don't forget the whipping.
Ever chicken fry something? Oddly satisfying, that.
The ever-present cream gravy. Which is terribly TERRIBLY good. Damn it.
Yeah. There's the broccoli.
 I mean, really. That's just awesome.

Then, the next night, I was all, "Bubba. We gotta eat the rest of this broccoli." and he was all, "OK. But can we have something else, too?" and I was all, "I THOUGHT THAT WE ESTABLISHED THAT YOU ARE NOT THE POPE." and he just sort of looked sideways at the dog and tried to distract me with his sad face.

And because I'm a sucker, I went to see what else I could serve HIS HIGHNESS so that the broccoli wouldn't be lonely on his plate.


Since I'd had so much luck with the cream gravy, I felt ballsy and thought I'd try to construct another cream sauce without breaking it.

Ever made bechamel sauce? Yeah. Me neither. But it's apparently the base for, like, all cream sauces or some shit, so I thought it high time that I made it. And then I thought I'd better fancy it up so that it wasn't just like the previous night's dinner. So I made bechamel Gruyere sauce, tossed it with pasta and the bottomless bag of broccoli and TEE DAH.

Killed it again.
So, basically, make bechamel sauce and then add shredded Gruyere at the end. Good times.
Then toss the cooked pasta and steamed broccoli with the sauce to produce a most ideal result.
Plus a salad big enough to offset the cream sauce. I mean, kind of.

 Then I felt ballsy some more.

Like, hey, I've made two awesome random dinners in a row - let's go for a third! But also, I'm tired. And I don't want to eat any more meat. Or cream sauce. Or broccoli.

So I made the requisite giant salad, homemade pasta and, the object of my recent desire and this post - Quick and Dirty Tomato Sauce.

You remember the Best Tomato Sauce Ever. Yep., right? Well, yeah - this is its slutty cousin. You know the kind. Almost as good as the original, but available at a moment's notice and always ready to get a carload of strange boys together to sneak weird booze from their folks' liquor cabinets to drink in the park.

Yeah. You know what I mean.

Also, sorry if I just brought up bad memories from your dark past/traumatized you with my past.

Also again, that reminds me that this sauce should be called, "Trish", for reasons I won't go into, but I think you get my meaning.

About that sauce, though - I've been working on a quicker, easier version of The Best Tomato Sauce Ever. Yep. that I could make with my canned tomatoes in winter that also didn't involve the roasting and food processing of everything and the using of so many pans and things.

After a lot of trial and not-awful error, this is what I've got.

It's good.

Also a little slutty.

Quick and Dirty Tomato Sauce
Recipe 100% by moi
So suck it

1 qt homecanned whole tomatoes (or 1 qt of storebought. That's fine, too. I guess. Whatever.)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small bunch fresh oregano leaves, minced
2 T olive oil
Kosher salt
Am I the only one that wants to spank that jar? I am, aren't I.
To make
In a medium saucepot, warm olive oil over medium-low heat and, when fragrant (like, you can smell the olive oil), add your minced garlic and let brown slightly in the oil. You want this to be fragrant, too. 

The whole kitchen should smell amazing, is what I'm saying. Don't fucking fight me on this.

When everything's smelling all incredible, add your tomatoes a few at a time, stirring them into the garlicky oil and letting the water cook off. Break down those tomatoes with your spankin' spoon while you're at it. 

What? You don't have a spankin' spoon? Live a little. 

As the water cooks off, add more tomatoes and eventually add all of the jar's contents - water, tomatoes, seeds and all.

Now, I know that some cook-ish type people get all bent over OH NO THERE ARE FUCKING SEEDS IN MY TOMATO SAUCE and shit, but I do not. The seeds don't bother me. I can't taste any alleged bitterness and so I choose to go on with my life not wasting it on removing seeds at any stage of the tomato process. But if you want to waste your life like this, go right ahead. I'm accepting that way.

But you won't have that interesting texture without seeds, now will you? NO. NO YOU WILL NOT.

When your sauce has cooked down to a nice thick consistency and the water has cooked off, give it a taste and then add as much salt as makes you happy and all of your oregano. Stir it up, taste it again, add more salt if you're Salt Mad like yours truly and then toss it with some fresh homemade pasta quickly cooked in seasalty water and you're done.

The stuff in the jar is Semolina flour which I now buy in bulk because I am not gluten-fearful unlike the rest of the world. 
"I don't even know how you did that." Name the reference and I'll love you forever.
Here's the pasta recipe that I've been using since the dawn of the time I got my pasta machine. It's never failed me.

Three awesome dinners in a row. 


Though apparently I can't plate a pasta dish without making a fucking mess. Go me.

Friday, February 07, 2014

So, about that whole "not being a farmer thing"

It's not 100% what it sounds like.

Like, it's probably about 50% what it sounds like.

Lemme 'splain.

I fucking love growing vegetables. You know this already.

So, it'd seem like being a farmer would be an ideal-ish thing for me to do with my life. Or at least that's what I thought when I quit my job and ran off to get a horticulture degree for crop production like some sort of vegetable loving psychopath. 

GIVE ME CARROTS OR GIVE ME DEATH! Or something similarly insane is probably what you're thinking. It's ok. Go with it. It makes the story more dramatic and less dumb sounding.

And for my first semester, I was totally all, HELL YEAH I'M GOING TO BE A FARMER JUST LOOK AT ME ON THIS TRACTOR and shit.

For the record, I still love the tractor. 

I was all up to my ears in farming, organics, getting mud all over my shiny red rain boots, planting strawberries in the rain, cutting down cover crops in a hail storm, harvesting only part of the crop because the rain got to it and now it's all moldy, rewashing bushels of carrots because people at the farmer's market are all EW THERE'S DIRT ON MY CARROT RIGHT THERE CAN'T YOU SEE IT?! I CAN'T BE EXPECTED TO DINE ON THIS VAGUELY SOILED ORGANIC VEGETABLE FOR WHICH I JUST PAID MERE PENNIES! CLEAN IT FOR ME NOW!, wearing myself out planting seedlings up and down many rows of beds and then waiting forevers to harvest them while fertilizing and watering like a lunatic and such. 

And then, in my second semester I took Hydroponic Food Production and was all, Oh. 


This is way better.

Then I got a job at the college greenhouse running a few of those hydroponic crops and was all OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH some more.

Like when I seeded a tray of basil and seven weeks later it I harvested it.



and done.

And then I every week I harvested another 46-92 fully grown basil plants that were only a few weeks old and had grown happily and fast as fuckly to their maturity on just 45 gallons of recirculating water and nutrients blended to suit their specific needs. 

I love specificity in vegetables. And all things, really

And then I tried growing pac choi and FIVE weeks later I harvested it.


 And then every week I harvested about 46 pac choi plants.

And we've talked about the lettuce. OH THE BLOODY LETTUCE. Sow a tray of seed one week and four weeks later you have this.

105 butterhead lettuces at your service.

And then we tried some weird shit that turned out awesome. Like, remember how there were carrots being rewashed because EW THERE'S A DIRT ON IT?

Yeah, so, imagine the nightmare of leeks - the OH MY GOD THERE'S A DIRT ON IT and IN IT and oh the woe and horror of cleaning leeks, etc because of the soil that ends up in between the leek leaves and all over the roots and people buying produce at a farmer's market get all up in arms about the horrible woeful dirt so you must clean them thoroughly...

Well, not when you grow them hydroponically.

What little media that's left on the roots washes off with a quick spray of the hose
And then, have you ever gotten to eat leek roots because OH MY GOD GOODNESS.
Like leek spaghetti.
Yes yum.
No knees or backs were killed in the harvesting of this crop


And all of these crops, which turn over way faster so you're able to grow and harvest way more than what you see here, grow in about a quarter the space of the field crops, use a fraction the amount of water and fertilizers, come away very clean, are easier to harvest and very rarely get ruined by whatever the weather's dishing out outdoors.

So, bottom line for those of you who are all SHUT UP AND TELL ME WHAT THIS HAS TO DO WITH NOT BEING A FARMER ANYMORE, WOMAN...

I'm not planning to be a field farmer anymore and instead am aiming to be a hydroponic farmer.

Of food.

Not, like, that *other* crop that everyone automatically associates with hydroponics. Not that *that crop* is bad or anything, but it's not really food and I fucking love growing food.

Which you know.

So, yeah. That's all that was about. I'm taking my farming indoors so that I can grow way more of it and also so that I can have 400 more pets courtesy of the aquaponic lettuce system. Hooray for that.

Face cuddles time!