Thursday, July 22, 2010

There's Honey in These Here Hives!

We have honey! We did a check of the hive the other day and I am here to tell you, those little gals have been crankin’ and the hive is crazy with honey! We have learned that from about now until the end of September or October there is a huge amount of nectar collection and hives will produce a great deal of honey, which is what prompted us to check the hive to begin with. It is truly amazing what has occurred. If you will recall, the last time we checked the hive, back at the end of June, there was honey, but we felt we needed to give them a bit more time to really start filling things up. Well, in under a month they have filled up every square inch! So much so that we have added yet another box – don’t want to inhibit honey production, heaven knows! We figured if we took a bit of honey now and then left them be until the end of September we could do one really big harvest before we got them ready for the winter
So the harvesting began…we removed three small frames which are actually quite heavy, proportionately, when filled with comb and honey on both sides…they say that the small frames weigh about three lbs. each when full! Getting the bees off the comb was quite a task, they are rather attached to their product it seems! Once we managed that, we replaced the frames with new ones so that they could start the process all over again. Then we took the frames into the house, there came a bit of ‘okay, now what do we do’! The honey is ‘capped’ meaning it’s all sealed up. When the bees first put the honey in the comb it has a high percentage of water in it, so the bees just let it sit until the water evaporates, at that point the honey is considered ‘ripe’ and the bees cap it with wax. So, to get to the honey you need to ‘uncap’ it…then the honey can drain from the comb.
The object is to leave as much of the comb intact so that when you return the frame to the hive, the bees don’t have to build the comb from scratch, it’s more of a clean and repair type project. Well as newbies at this we pretty well destroyed the comb, so then we needed to strain the wax out of the honey – very sticky…but the good news is then we had nice beeswax for a candle! Our little harvest produced three quart jars of beautiful golden honey! And, oh my gosh is it yummy! At this rate we will be able to share with friends and family after the fall harvest or as one friend suggested…we can make mead…hmmmm!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Teaching a Tomato Canning Class...

Big excitement! I have been asked to substitute teach a tomato canning class at our local food coop’s learning center! After the initial panic – how would I put together a lesson plan? what recipes would I use? what sort of equipment do they have in their kitchen? – I settled into the business of actually putting it together. First, what recipes…well obviously plain, canned tomatoes, then perhaps a nice marinara sauce and last…hmmm…I know tomato jam!

Just to be on top of things, I brewed up a batch of canned tomatoes so that I could time myself and to streamline my operation…it’s one thing to be a bit frenetic in your own kitchen while cooking – digging for the ladle, say, at the moment you need it rather than having all your tools laying out, organized and ready…30 minutes, okay I could move a novice group through that in an hour…next the marinara sauce. A girlfriend shared her wonderful family recipe for what I think is over the top sauce and although I want to show this to the class I decided that due to the fact it needs to cook down for quite a while, and the class is, after all only 3 hours, I would need to simply demonstrate this recipe rather than have the whole class participate. Then the jam…I have tasted some really out of this world tomato jam, but I don’t have a recipe of my own that I
could just go to.
Thus started the tomato jam experiment! Nothing like reinventing the wheel…under pressure…I looked up about a billion recipes and I’ve got to say some were pretty odd. When you think tomato jam do you think vanilla for example? Or some just had too many spices that didn’t seem to fit. I wanted a ‘better than catsup’ sort of jam. Sweet, but not too; vinegar tangy, but not pucker-y; a bit complex, but not complicated. I put some ideas together and brewed up a batch…nope, too much like chutney and too dry. Back to the drawing board. Based on my first experiment, I made adjustments and tried it again…now we’re talkin’…below is the recipe I came up with for tomato jam…I will say that the next time I make this recipe it think I will increase the vinegar by about ¼ cup to give it just a little more zip, but give this one a try, it has nice balance with just a light tang of vinegar…

Tomato Jam

Recipe for 4 – ½ pintjars


4 lbs - Tomatoes, coarsely chopped

2 Cups - Granulated Sugar

¾ Cup – Brown Sugar

¾ Cup – Cider Vinegar

1 Whole Medium Onion, chopped medium/fine

1 ½ tsp. – Salt

½ tsp – Ground Allspice

1. Prepare jars & lids

2. Drop tomatoes into boiling water for 30 seconds, then into ice water

3. Peel and core tomatoes, cut as noted above

4. Put all ingredients in a 3 quart sauce pan.

5. Bring to a gentle boil

6. Cook at gentle boil until thickened, aprox. 40 minutes

7. Fill jars with hot jam, leaving ½” head space

8. Remove air bubbles

9. Wipe edge of can with clean damp towel

10. Put lid on jar and finger tighten ring on jar

11. Process ½ pint jars for 15 minutes

Let me say you may need to crack open a jar and have some on a nice piece of crusty toast with a glass of wine as soon as things are cool…a reward for a job well done!

A Little Technological Update...

Phew! I don’t know about you but sometimes technology can just wear a body out! You can head down a path, get everything setup and organized, then oops! you realize, ‘that’s not the way I really wanted to do that’ so then you have to UN-do all the stuff you set up (hopefully remembering all the passwords and log-in names you used back when you set stuff up) and then Re-set up all your stuff in a new way…

Well, that wordy, and slightly exhausted, whine-out was to happily announce… Da Ta Da Da! Kitchenkapades now has it’s own website! My thinking was that perhaps a website would be easier for folks to find. Also Kitchenkapades now has it’s own Facebook page! It is called Kitchenkapades Kitchen. I will be posting notices of new blog posts there, so you can keep up to date if you wish…if you are currently a member of the group Kitchenkapades you will need to become a friend of Kitchenkapades Kitchen (seems in the world of Facebook you need two names). I will continue to post notices of new Kitchenkapades posts to both locations for a while, but eventually I will let the group go. I hope you will all come over to Kitchenkapades Kitchen! Lastly, if you would like to communicate with me directly you can email me at I really have fun with this blog and appreciate your continued support!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Picante Jarabe de Mora...what's not to love!

It all started with the wonderful sort of news letter I receive from…the author does absolutely mouth watering food photos and her recipes and information are totally inspiring. Well, last week she wrote about a recipe for Chile Blackberry Syrup. Boy was I all over that one! Blackberries with spice?! My taste buds did a little happy dance just thinking about it. I not so patiently waited until our Sunday farmer’s market and went on the hunt for the biggest sweetest berries…apparently my ‘ask and ye shall receive’ juju was on overdrive because I found some of the biggest, juiciest blackberries I have seen in a long time and at $3 for two generously filled pint baskets I was a happy camper! I then went to our food coop to purchase the dried chilies. Unfortunately they did not have either pasilla or the guajillo chilies but I learned that the New Mexico Red Chile is a third alternative, and those were available. Home I went ready to make syrup…
CHILE BLACKBERRY SYRUP – copied from, with minor alterations…

4 dried guajillo peppers ( I substituted 4 dried New Mexico Red Chiles)

1 cup/6 oz/170g dark Muscovado sugar or dark brown sugar (I used the dark brown

sugar and it created a lovely flavor)

1 cup / 7 oz / 200 g organic sugar

1 1/2 cups / 355 ml water

1/4 cups fresh lemon juice

3/4 cups / 3.5 oz blackberries

Trim the stems from the dried chiles. Tear chiles into pieces and drop (along with seeds) into a medium saucepan. Stir in the sugars, water, and lemon juice, and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Boil, stirring regularly, until the mixture has reduced to 2 cups / 475 ml, roughly 20 - 30 minutes. – it took me just 20 minutes to get a lovely syrup consistency…

In the meantime, puree the blackberries. I used a hand blender in a small bowl, but a standard blender is also an option. Force the berries through a fine-mesh strainer, and discard any seeds. Set the berry puree aside.

Once the chile mixture has reduced, remove from heat, and (carefully) puree it with a hand blender until smooth. (I found that the hand blender caused a lot of very hot splattering, as well as some trouble pureeing the chile pieces – maybe I didn’t tear them up enough, so I dumped the whole thing into my standing blender and had good success) Strain through a sieve into a heat-proof bowl. Press on the remaining solids in the strainer to squeeze out the remaining syrup, and discard the remaining solids. (but before you do be sure to taste ‘the solids’ – I actually put some on tortilla chips – the texture wasn’t perfect but it was really yummy…)

Whisk the berries into the chile syrup and set aside to cool. Place in a jar, or smaller jars, and refrigerate.

Makes about 2 ½ cups.

We drizzled it over a little goat cheese and served it with some very ‘seedy’ crackers and it was delish! 101 cookbooks suggested running a thin vein of the syrup through a cheese cake…and you know how I am about cheese cake…I think we’re going to have to give that a try!