Fermentation Weekend

Hello friends!

So I got a wild hair last weekend and went crazy in the kitchen;

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I started off with Sauerkraut, but had too much cabbage for my crock, so I made two smaller batches, only with the additions of Jalapenos and garlic…time will tell if this was a good idea or not.

I also made a very hot Kimchi for me and some friends. Man it was good!

After I got those items completed I decide we had too many carrots in the fridge, so time to make some Carrot,Cauliflower, Onion, and Jalapeno Escabeche  (Spicy Pickled Carrots). That came out as absolutely incredible!

So as the day was winding down, I took the time to start a new batch of Honey Mead, only this time I decided to infuse it with some prickly pear and lime…yeah, I did that.

So on the topic of prickly pear, here is a few pictures of this years harvest!

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I have many gallons of wine in the making, and the early tastes suggest this could be the best batch I have made…we will see.

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Brazil Parte Dois

Bom Dia!

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Rio de Janeiro has just wrapped up it’s World Cup Festivities and I found my self their once again. While it was a purely business trip, I marked the time by the fantastic meals and wonderful people who make this country such a pleasure to visit. I think Rio gets a lot of bad press due to the high crime rates there, however these risks are easily manageable if you keep you wits about you and do not put yourself in places you should not be. I know there are places locally in the DFW area or Houston I would not go..same applies to Rio.

I would rant about how us Americans tend form our opinions by watching the cable news shows…but if you travel or have been off the continent, you know rarely does the TV paint an accurate or complete picture of a place and its people. Brazil is such a place of staggering beauty and warm passionate people, do not miss a chance to visit this remarkable country!

So…now some of the great food!

We first ate at Bráz pizza…I KNOW, I KNOW…but seriously, this was no ordinary pizza place. Some of the most authentic pizza I have had, and a fantastic wine selection to boot!  Check it out here:  http://www.brazpizzaria.com.br

Later that week we had a fantastic home style lunch at Restaurante à Mineira, WOW! so much to eat and so little time…everything was sooo good!

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Another remarkable place with one of the best locations on the beach was Nativo, I enjoyed an insanely good crusted tuna with shitake risoto. Wholly cow this was good! They also had a cold octopus salad that was out of this world. I highly recommend this cozy place on the beach!

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Finally, I learned something that was a bit of a surprise. Brazil has the largest population of Japanese out side of Japan! I would have never have guessed!

Well that leads me to this insanity, one of our hosts took us to a great little sushi house and we dined all evening on fantastic sushi and sashimi and drinking splendid Belgium Trappist ales!

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Man, I love Brazil!

Honey Mead Part 2

Happy 4th of July folks!

I spent the 4th with my kids at the annual Willie Nelson Picnic here in Fort Worth. What a great time had by all.

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Anywho, While relaxing and recovering I happened to check up on my Honey Mead which had been resting undisturbed for about 6 months…and lo and behold…it looks great! Tastes even better!

I guess the directions I used worked pretty darn well, especially the part about leaving it alone for a few months!

Enjoy!

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Tex-Mex Fajitas (The Real Deal)

So, it’s been a while since my last post. In that time I have had the opportunity to make a few rounds of fajitas for my friends. I keep getting asked for the recipe…so here is the basic fajitas recipe I use. Nothing to fancy or revolutionary here, just the basics of most good Tex-Mex food.

Let me take just a moment to state my opinion on a few things;

-As a Texan, I pay my due respects to the Mexican culture which has played a vital role in my beloved state and so enriched Texas history and my life.

-Fajitas are just like chili, everyone has their own take on what is “authentic” , this is a result of the friends and experiences I have had living in Texas.

-I love Tejano Music, and I don’t know if it is possible to make good fajitas without some great music! More on the Tejano influence in Texas  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tejano, also..I love the blend of Spanish guitar with the German Polka accordion!

-I love good food, period, my tastes may not be yours, so beware!

 

That being said, here is my basic recipe for some great Tex-Mex Fajitas. (Oh..I like to cook for a lot of people…so this recipe will feed a good bunch of folks!)

 

Ingredients List: (adjust ratios with the number of folks you are trying to feed….this amount will feed 5-8 hungry people easily)

Meat:

5 lbs of skirt steak

 

Marinade Spices:

1/3 cup of Paprika

1/4 cup of  chili powder

1 tablespoon (well rounded) of garlic powder

2 tablespoon of onion powder

2 teaspoons of cumin

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoon real salt (sea or ancient) …less if you use crappy industrial waste like Morton’s Salt….I’ll rant on that later….

 

So …let’s start with the meat, most of the skirt steak you will buy will have quite a bit of fat and silver skin that you will want to trim off.

 

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You can insert a knife under the silver skin (membrane) and loosen it. This is not always done or is even necessary, I do it when I feel the fat or silver skin will cause the meat to be too chewy. You will have to navigate this with experience…sorry. When in doubt, cut it out.

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Next get the dry rub marinade blended…

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mix the paprika, chili power, garlic, onion, salt, black pepper and cumin …ProTip: I add a good dash of Chipolte to add a smoky flavor to the blend.

Mix well:

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Now you need to rub the spices into the skirt steak….(if you make fun of my sausage fingers, I will find you!)

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liberally coat both sides with the spice and fold the meat into itself!

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I would recommend you now put this into the fridge for a minimum of 12 hours for maximum flavor…however, I often just rub this in and hit the grill..

 

While the meat is marinating, it would be now time to make the next most important part of a great fajita…the Pico de Gallo! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pico_de_gallo

Pico is also like Chili…a million variations! Pico De Gallo means “Rooster’s Beak”  and celebrates the colors of the Mexican flag with the colors Red (Tomato), White (onion) and Green (Cilantro).

I recommend that the Pico be made the same day…if not at the same time as the fajitas. The reason is lime juice is a strong acid and will cook the pico. If any of you have read my post about ceviche then you will know that acid will chemically cook your food. Pico is best served fresh , and me being a food snob ..I would say best within 12 hours at best! Pico after 48 hours is not great stuff…

Here is my basic standby!

Basic ingredients:

3-4 tomatos

1 small onion

1 bunch of cillatro

1 garlic clove

chilies of choice (I have a tablespoon of pequin peppers and some roasted serrano I grew in my garden)…most folks will just add a jalapeno, you will need this to adjust to your heat level!

salt and pepper

Lime juice

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Dice Toms, Onion, Cilantro, Garlic, Lime and Chilies ….add salt and pepper to taste and mix…

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Having help makes all the difference!

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Fire up the grill, now I will not attempt to debate or side with the Gas vs Charcoal debate…I find both have a place and a great specific use….for this I will use a gas grill. I want the temperature to be at least 500°F. Fajitas want to be cooked hot and fast….that is the key folks…Hot and fast!

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A good char is critical, render those fats and make them scream!

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Please do not over cook the meat, skirt steak is thin by nature and should not require more that a few minutes a side to achieve the char and be cooked to a good medium rare to medium.

 

Once it meat is done bring it in to rest for a few minutes….then lets talk about cutting…

 

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This is important stuff folks….you will want to cut the meat against the grain…otherwise it will be as tough as shoe leather! Cut the piece into 3 sections….

Then turn those sections 90°! Cut the smaller section into thin (1/4″ inch) slices.

 

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Now it’s all cut up…slap that puppy on a tortilla with Pico and all the fixings!

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Don’t blame me if you pass out!

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ENJOY!

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the more observant readers may have noticed these on the grill…..oh man!

POPPERS!

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🙂

 

 

Honey Mead!

Whelp, we are having an early ice storm here in North Texas, and I have nothing better to do than think up other natural beverages I can make from the pantry…

HONEY MEAD!  Why Not?

Honey Mead is technically the oldest alcoholic beverage known to man, so I figure if Grog can make it..surely I can!

Here is the best, a.k.a. “easiest”  recipe I found which practically guarantees success!

Reprinted from  www.gotmead.com

Joe’s Ancient Orange and Spice Mead

A little caveat before we continue.  This recipe flies in the face of just about all standard brewing methods used to make consistent and good Meads.  It was created by Joe Mattioli to make a fast and tasty drink out of ingredients found in most kitchens.  It is therefore perfect for the beginner, which has resulted in it being perhaps the most popular Mead recipe available on the internet.  As Joe himself says “It is so simple to make and you can make it without much equipment and with a multitude of variations. This could be a first Mead for the novice as it is almost foolproof. It is a bit unorthodox but it has never failed me or the friends I have shared it with. (snip)…it will be sweet, complex and tasty.”  Follow the instructions exactly as provided and you cannot go wrong.  If you want to make larger batches, just scale up the recipe keeping all ingredients in the same proportion.

1 gallon batch

3 1/2 lbs Clover or your choice honey or blend (will finish sweet)
1 Large orange (later cut in eights or smaller, rind and all)
1 small handful of raisins (25 if you count but more or less ok)
1 stick of cinnamon
1 whole clove ( or 2 if you like – these are potent critters)
optional – a pinch of nutmeg and allspice (very small )
1 teaspoon of Fleishmann’s bread yeast ( now don’t get holy on me— after all this is an ancient mead and that’s all we had back then)
Balance water to one gallon

Process:

Use a clean 1 gallon carboy

Dissolve honey in some warm water and put in carboy

Wash orange well to remove any pesticides and slice in eights –add orange (you can push em through opening big boy — rinds included — its ok for this mead — take my word for it — ignore the experts)

Put in raisins, clove, cinnamon stick, any optional ingredients and fill to 3 inches from the top with cold water. ( need room for some foam — you can top off with more water after the first few days frenzy)

Shake the heck out of the jug with top on, of course. This is your sophisticated aeration process.

When at room temperature in your kitchen, put in 1 teaspoon of bread yeast. ( No you don’t have to rehydrate it first– the ancients didn’t even have that word in their vocabulary– just put it in and give it a gentle swirl or not)(The yeast can fight for their own territory)

Install water airlock. Put in dark place. It will start working immediately or in an hour. (Don’t use grandma’s bread yeast she bought years before she passed away in the 90’s – wait 3 hours before you panic or call me) After major foaming stops in a few days add some water and then keep your hands off of it. (Don’t shake it! Don’t mess with them yeastees! Let them alone except its okay to open your cabinet to smell every once in a while.

Racking — Don’t you dare
additional feeding — NO NO
More stirring or shaking — Your not listening, don’t touch

After 2 months and maybe a few days it will slow down to a stop and clear all by itself. (How about that, you are not so important after all) Then you can put a hose in with a small cloth filter on the end into the clear part and siphon off the golden nectar. If you wait long enough even the oranges will sink to the bottom but I never waited that long. If it is clear it is ready. You don’t need a cold basement. It does better in a kitchen in the dark. (Like in a cabinet), likes a little heat (70-80). If it didn’t work out… you screwed up and didn’t read my instructions (or used grandma’s bread yeast she bought years before she passed away) . If it didn’t work out then take up another hobby. Mead is not for you. It is too complicated.
If you were successful, which I am 99% certain you will be, then enjoy your mead. When you get ready to make different mead you will probably have to unlearn some of these practices I have taught you, but hey— This recipe and procedure works with these ingredients so don’t knock it. It was your first mead. It was my tenth. Sometimes, even the experts can forget all they know and make good ancient mead.

And there you have it.  You have made your first Mead.  Now come the steps that must be followed to make a good, and eventually a great Mead.

So here are my pics of the process!

Adding the Orange slices and warm honey…

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now the spices… (cinnamon, raisins,  and cloves)

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Top of with water ( I have a R.O. system, yo can use bottled spring water otherwise) and add yeast.

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I went with a good wine yeast instead of the brewer’s yeast as the recipe call for…I had it so why not!?

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Last, I finally purchased some proper airlocks (goodbye balloons!) I am trying two different styles of airlock, I doubt there is a difference, but we shall see. Both airlocks were under $2 online. I usually get the stuff from midwest supplies

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(those are #6 stoppers if anyone is interested)

I will let ya know how this turns out in a about 2 months!

🙂

A Texas twist on Pesto

So another plant that won’t survive the freeze this week is my basil. So time to bring it in!

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I will likely dry a lot of it for general spice use, but one of my favorite things to make with basil is Pesto!

As I was making this, I ran short on the traditional pine nuts that I would normally use.  So rather than hop up and run to the store, my lovely wife suggested I add some pecans…WOW!

So he I give ya my Texas take on Pesto, enjoy this on chicken, pasta, zucchini, or a dip for a veggie plate.

 

Ingredients:

A bunch of Basil (I really have no idea how much..maybe 4 cups?)

1/3 cup of pine nuts

1/3 cup of pecans

2-3 garlic cloves

1 1/2 cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 teaspoon Salt

1 1/2 cups of grated Parmesan cheese

 

Let’s get started!

Pick off the tender leaves from the stems and wash well, I have a lot of nice little spiders in my garden, I rather not have them in my Pesto!

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Get your remaining ingredients together, once you start to blend the parts together, you will want them easy to reach and measured.

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Start by adding about a third of the leaves to the blender, add a third of the cheese, nuts and garlic and set blender to a fairly high speed. The next step I think is fairly important, start to add a thin constant stream of oil to the blender. This will hep emulsify the oil and make it extra creamy and rich. Continue adding a third more of the ingredients until they are all incorporated and the pesto is fairly smooth and creamy.

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Check to see if daughter is happy with the results…..

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Leaving about 1 inch of head space in the jar, add a thin layer of olive oil to each jar to keep the basil from oxidizing (i.e. turning grey,ewe). You can refrigerate or freeze for later use!

Some folks even add the mixture to ice cube trays, and just pop out a few cubes as they need them, I kinda like that idea.

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When it rains green tomatoes, make Green Tomato Relish!

Looks like the first freeze of Fall is on it’s way in a day or so, so I figured it is time to bring in the harvest. I had tons of green tomatoes that I don’t think will survive the freeze, also it gives me the excuse I need to make green tomato relish!

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Slop some of this on top of some black-eyed peas or a bowl of chili and you will know what living really is!

So here we go:

Here are the ingredients, BTW there is no exact measurements, just use your judgement…I just work with what I get from the garden.

3-4 Lbs Green Tomatoes (or whatever you have), a few slight pink ones are fine as long as they are not mealy.

3 Large green peppers

1 Large Red Pepper

2 Onions

4-8 Allspice seeds

1 1/2 Tablespoons Salt

1 1/2 Tablespoons of Yellow Mustard Seed

1 Tablespoon of Celery Seed

2 cups of white vinegar

2 cup of sugar

Hot Peppers as you like, I added Piquin, Jalapeno, Hot Wax, and Serrano cause I like mine a little spicy!

Start by finely dicing all the tomatoes, and add to kettle. (Don’t get all lazy here…resist the urge to use a food processor or blender, you want chunky relish, not a puree of slop! You will be rewarded at the end, trust me!)

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Staying with a fine dice, chop onions, and peppers

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Add Spices, sugar and vinegar to pot and mix well. Take a moment to enjoy the delicious smell!

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Bring the whole pot to a boil, then reduce and simmer for 5 minutes.

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Done!

You can cool the relish and keep in the refrigerator, should keep for a few months,  or you can water bath can the relish so you can enjoy it all year!

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Don’t miss the opportunity to slap some of this on black-eyed peas for New Years, or enjoy it with traditional stuff like hot dogs…Its a keeper!