Friday, February 29, 2008

How Does My (Aero)Garden Grow?

Well, the tomato plants are beginning to bloom, and within a couple of days I expect the pepper plant will, too. I've served at least a dozen salads out of the greens garden, and am now having a hard time keeping up with it (doesn't help that SO is traveling for a few weeks, lots less greens get consumed when he isn't home). Both kinds of basil are a foot tall, so I picked up some fresh mozzarella and some Montrachet so I can have the cheeses with the basil, yum! The dill is threatening to take over the corner, but so is the mint. The chives are a little less robust, their roots have some white fungus or something that might be stunting their growth. The thyme isn't really what they should have put in the herbs package, as it is a low-grower and is getting shaded by all the other plants. However, it seems happy and I'm planning to use some of it in my curing/preserving activities this week, in the bacon. I'd post a photo but my SD cards and my computer aren't speaking just now, not sure why they are mad at each other. Oops, though, this blog is about food, not computers ;-)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Homemade Sauerkraut and Other Brined Things

I have discovered that I like sauerkraut if it is good. By good I mean fresh, certainly not canned. As it turns out, patience (along with some salt and cabbage) is all you really need to make your own. So tonight I am putting it all together, should be ready in less than a week. Tomorrow I'm going on a quest for pork bellies. Gotta make some bacon. I guess that's cured, not brined. Though a dry brine is part of the cure. I'm also going to get a nice chunk of beef brisket and make corned beef (yes, just in time for St. Pat's day). Somehow I suspect that by the end of next week this place is going to be more than a little aromatic!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Zen of Tapioca

Beat the eggs well, and strain them so there aren't any cooked chalaza in the custard. Bring it to a boil over *medium low* heat -- this cannot be rushed! Unless, of course, you like little brown bits of dairy. Stir constantly, with a silicone spat or plastic whisk. But don't add a bunch of air, this will ruin the texture. Be patient and gentle. Don't turn up the heat and stir madly. Patience. (Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not a particularly patient person...I consider the making of tapioca to be a lesson for me.) Reduce the heat the moment it starts to bubble -- or risk wearing big splops of custard on you and your cook top. This is where a gas range is helpful. Simmer over the lowest heat you can get, and even if your recipe says stir occasionally, take the time and patience to keep it moving. Otherwise the tapioca may clump (is that the reason you took a disliking to tapioca when you were a kid?). This is going to take about ten minutes. Now, wait. The first cooling is so you can add the vanilla and not have it all vaporize. Now, after you stir in the vanilla, you can steal a spoonful. But it's still really hot, so don't burn your tongue. After that, the waiting. Put it into small containers so it will cool faster. The faster it cools, the sooner you can savor that custardy-chewy texture. Put a little in the freezer; it makes great frozen custard. But be careful, you may eat it all before it gets to that frozen nirvana! I know, lots of people call it "fish eyes and glue." But not me!