Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ho ho hi ho Its not making jam but smelling the flowers......

I could drop right now but an evening at the Ghetto Vineyard with my SLOW FOOD brethren was what I needed last Thurs...And a pickle show down ofcourse . Ohhhh and 6 bottles of wine around the fire being big time inappropriate. My forte.
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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A little bit of Persia in an Italian restaurant......

One of the best parts of starting a small Jam Biz is the amazing support from my friends. One of which has so generously opened her restaurant kitchen to me and my crazy vision of simple seasonal and local fare ......Kitchen space can be one of the biggest expenses for a young small food product company and this gift of kitchen time paid in jars of jam,my fresh chevre and lots of hugs is a gift I'm not sure I could fully repay....
Well in this kitchen I have the foods of the world at my finger tips. A Turkish Bar tender(Zafir) who gave me the recipe for Turkish meat balls and yogurt. Or the adorable server Flower from Egypt but grew up in Brazil who makes the meanest Hummus around. The Italian bus boy who eats but is useless otherwise. Jalisco, Micheuacan, Sonora, Mexico City is all represented in the kitchen and staff lunch represents from Caldos to blk Chili Pollo stew. ohhh and Ruchi  the book keeper from India with all her colorful vegetarian recipes from her Mothers book of kitchen tricks....Sigh I'm in heaven.
Ohh back to why I'm writing this diddy. The owners are an amazing Mediterranean mix of Italian and Iranian. Hmmmm love it. I posted this picture of my baby grape cluster up here on the Ghetto Vineyard and Carolyn let me know there is a phenomenal Persian Stew that uses un ripened grapes. REALLY.......off I went to pour over the web, books and picked the Persians brain and after a few trials n errors here is a classic KORESHT-E BADENJAN egg plant stew with un ripe grapes. I tweaked the various recipes and came up with this gem...hope you enjoy.
Egg Plant Stew
5T cold press Kalamata olive oil
3lbs any egg plant ,I'm digging the Asian white little bombs. Slice in strips and salt both sides to leach
1 large yellow onion diced not too small you want the texture.
12 oz of loin, leg or Butt(shoulder) of Lamb. Cube.
1t. Ground turmeric, fenegreek,mustard seed and fresh coriander

2T tomato paste
2 ripe in season tomatoes seeded and diced
3 C of veggie stock(of course home made)
1/2 C un ripe grapes( no one will say if a particular varietal is in order say Shiraz?origin would be correct)
Zest and juice of one lemon.
Sea salt n white pepper to taste
Ok let's go...
Sweat the onions with half the olive oil and herbs . Put aside.
Brown the lamb.
Pat the salted egg plant to remove the excess moisture and brown in the pan the onions were sweated to pick up the rich pan flavours left behind from the onion spice blend.
Now pull out your big soup pot reserved for this very chore and toss everyone in the pool. Remove the baby grapes from the stems and no need to worry about pips the young grape should not have the pip at this stage.
Simmer till all the flavours have meshed and the lamb is cooked through.
Savory, sour and filling. A dollop of cultured cream(sour cream,creme fraiche , yogurt etc...) A zest of lemon, Batsmati rice with a pinch of Saffron and a pile of warm Naan bread. Voila a little Persia in the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountain wine region.

Thank you Carolyn and Jalil for having faith and love for me and my little Jam co.  I couldn't do this with out your support and kitchen time.

Thank you Beto, Ricky,Jose, Manny, Isreal, and the rest of you boys in the kitchen who have made me feel like family and sharing your recipes, stories and camaraderie. I so love my Tuesdays with all of you.
Big respect for my kitchen family you work so hard for beauty with so little recognition.

Next time you have a rocking meal out ....try to give a tip to the kitchen . It will mean the world to them that you realize the hard thankless work happening behind the scenes.

party on......

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The reality of fruit math

This seasons bounty of stone fruit here in the Bay is one of the largest bumper crops I have ever witnessed in my cooking career. From little French plums with the bright yellow interiors, to Santa Rosa plums big sweet and crimson. I have been traveling to backyards, road sides and orchards with bucket in hand and dreams of sugar plum fairies helping me process all this fruit. Before this year BFIC(before friend in cheeses)I had no idea how much fruit it takes to create a jar of jelly,so lets do the math .
Yesterday ten a.m. drove to Willow Glen to a private home to pick about 65 to 70 lb of amazing plums. done by noon with a tub full of near perfect aubergine orbs. Then off to the kitchen. In a stock pot(big enough to fit a ten year old boy) rinsed the fruit de leaved and added zest of three lemons ,split a vanilla bean and added two gallons of water and a good toss of sea salt. 12:30pm. Cooked the plum slurry for about an hour to soften and let the color of the skins bring its bit to the plum party. Take off heat and strain three times with smaller mesh each time for fining. One p.m. Now 65-70 lbs of fruit yielded me as you see in photo only 21 gallons of juice that still needs one more strain after completely chilled so solids fall to bottom. Four hours later not one jar of finished product......

Ball canning recipe with my twist.(use Ball recipes for the formula then color outside of the lines from there)

Have 8 80z jars sterilized and lids ready to go. Keep jars warm in low heat 150 in oven so when adding molten jelly your jars won't explode.FYI.

5cups of strained fined Plum juice
1cup unfiltered cold press apple juice(I do Mac apples from my tree)
pinch of salt
split of 1/4 vanilla bean scrape seeds good visual in the finished product
6T of prepared crystal pectin (dextrose,fruit pectin. citric acid)
Big non reactive pot please
add above ingredients and whisk the pectin til completely dissolved. 
Bring to a full roiling boil . boiling like it is about to crawl up side of pot and spill over.

Now for every cup of sugar have a t. of Lavender let sugar/lavender infuse at least six hours..
7.5C of Lavender infused sugar.
Add to the boiling plum party whisking constantly till all sugar is fully dissolved. Important for no lumpy bumpy jelly.
Bring back to the full roiling boil and set timer for one minute. No more no less ONE MINUTE. so don't got pour a drink or feed the Squirrel stay put and watch this pot.
Pull pot after the minute is up.
Remove jars from oven and do not place directly on counter temp can explode the jars. Keep on sheet pan or sil pat. Get your canning funnel (of course its sterilized) and pour the jelly into a tempered glass measuring cup with a pouring lip.
fill your jars leave an air gap  then  with a spoon skim the top of jelly to remove scum and the lavender heads. I lets a few float on top for a very pretty visual when the jelly is opened. Lid . Then off to the steam bath they go. 10 min please.

Pull from steam pot. Let cool and set 24 hour and don't move them til they completely set.

Viola 10 hours later 65-70 lbs of fruit is now in jars with a crystalline shimmer and unlimited possibilities in the world of pairing. So when you raise your eye at my $8.00price tag for 8 oz do remember all the love, care, time and labour it took to bring you this jar of summer from your own "backyard"it really is an investment in your community, culinary happiness and the preservation of American food traditions. Not ofter such importance passes your lips.

 Literally a jar of self harvested local small batch jelly takes over 24 hours before one jar is ready. From picking, processing, fining, producing, setting it takes time alot of time to make sure you have access to a product only time can give. If I cut corners and shaved time you could tell and tell me an earful of why it is just not the same....I refuse to short cut. For me this is the time very well spent for you for me and for food in general. Respect. 

with cheese, french toast, salumi , foie gras or on your fingers this sexy little minx will be a favorite for sure.

Thank you and this is my story and I'm stickin to it.

Mama has purple fingers,sore feet and smile....wink

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A tired ham hock after a day on the Ghetto Vineyard.....

Big Kitty is obsessed with La Quita the pregnant almost tame squirrel. BK spends her day under the walnut tree being terrorised by la Quita jumping from tree to tree chattering BS and gossip.
Sometimes I get so wrapped up in farming, cooking,gardening,jammin to "simplify" my life and lose the world around me. I've seen the DIY movement grow to another out of balance obsession. Don't try to pickle the grass just lay on it. Don't stock pile a hoarders amount of home canned goods just for the sake of the obsession. And...sometimes strawberry jam wants to be just that...Getting my Jam Biz official up and running takes copious amounts of time and energy so that is why I make a point to smell the flowers, lay in the grass and NOT pick every green walnut just because I have a recipe to pickle them.
Food is pleasure, food is love,that is to be the supporting actress in the movie of life. Not an obsessive preoccupation with every freaking detail and spending all day trolling blogs n sites for the most unique way to pickle a fig. My friends its all about balance and the ability to let food be a great pleasure not a great ever consuming mania.
And don't even get me started on the snobish clicque of food bloggers.......really? High school lunch hour all over. Suck it . They take the spontaneity and beauty out of the whole process. Stop photographing your braised short ribs at the restaurant you moron. Eat for god sake, be in the moment, not all moments need to be captured. The point gets lost.. One of the reasons why I love food so much is it isn't exploitable. Well Bloggys you proved me wrong. To celebrate food is grand; to fiend over it like a crack head is stupid. Its tomorows turd.
Ok I gotta go the dog just farted it smells like chicken n waffles with shit on it.
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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Mother Nature trained in La Honda with a belly full of LSD

Two jars of my Lavender Plum jelly(recipe to come) so amazing to stand back and look into Mother Natures eyes. Just like children, every plum brings something a little different to the outdoor table. Two different trees same yard same varietal. Two vastly different colours. I get dark in the summer my sister is fair. Same parents different circumstances. Same but different. Shit I love this......Summer is here......
Now off to the Bacon Takedown at the Thirsty Bear in SF. Gotta get my judge tounge some rest......why yes a Bourbon will do the job...ADIEU
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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Who said I can't have chicks in the house?

Salt N Peppa hanging on the Horse head thinking about the corn cobb jungle gym snack fest I'm gonna give them tonight(left over cobbs from the fourth, we won't tell S n P about the spring chicken we ate ssshhhh). Yes I have chickens in the house. They can hang til pin feathers then BOOT to the COOP.
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Hail to the Tannins......

My baby English Black walnuts growing away. Between me laying in my hammock below while La Quita my near tame PREGNANT Squirrel(she's a floosey I can't control) loads up on these tender green morsels.
My grand plan this season is one with two countries in mind.....To Make batches of Nocino and jars of Pickled walnuts. A little bit country a little bit Roman. So here I patiently wait for another week or two while the tannin filled green cocoons are still intact.
I'll get back when the time is right, I just wanted to whet your appetite for what's to come. A little Liqueur to go with a Charcuterie Terrine studded with this English delight. Behold the tannins and rope them into submission I say!
Ok enough procrastination my Dragons Lace seedlings are glaring at me, time to plant .....good day from the GHETTO VINEYARD in the SKY

OK I'm back and have alot to report...so hang tight and learn a little bout this hard nut to crack the WALNUT. Now as you know there is history lesson we need to cover before we get in the nut and pickle her.

In the early 1800's Spanish Franciscan monks established missions along the California coast. Part of their taming of the natives included the cultivation of food, plants, trees and fermentation(wine baby wine)  in the areas surrounding the missions. One area that eventually became the city of Walnut, California, was home to the San Gabriel Mission named for the Gabrielino Indians, originally of Shoshone origin. Many acres of walnut trees, originally brought from Spain, were planted here and became known as "mission walnuts." These first walnut trees produced small nuts with very hard shells. Good to have a mighty farm truck to run them over to get at the meat...just sayin.Walnut
During the first half of the 1800's, land grants of several acres were issued, and ranchos were established. Walnut groves became well established on these land grants by the1870's in Southern California near Santa Barbara.
In 1867 Joseph Sexton, a horticulturist, initiated California's first commercial walnut enterprise when he planted a grove of English walnuts in Goleta, a small town in Santa Barbara County. Within a few years, 65% of all fertile land in this region was planted with Sexton's English walnuts.
In spite of this early success, by the late 1930's the commercial walnut business was destined to move northward to Stockton, California, where improved irrigation, better pest control, ideal climate, and rich soil were more conducive to larger yields.
Today, the California walnut has found its ideal home in the center of the state, an area that produces 99% of the commercial United States walnut supply which is odd to me, I grew up in Fresno a nary a walnut tree did I spy.. On the global market, California produces two-thirds of the world's supply of walnuts. Other countries that grow commercial walnuts include Turkey, China, Russia, Greece, Italy and France.
Though the first walnuts to arrive in the United States came from Spain in the early 1800's, the French contributed many of their varieties during the latter part of the nineteenth century. Ofcourse the French wanted a piece of the action.

La Quita spying on us while we picked the green nuts....she was chattering away about my cat Oscar Wilde having a mad crush on my surley Old English Speckled Hen Aunt Sponge..humph who'd a thunk. K back to history of das Nut.
So anyhoo let's back up a touch and get a bit of sense of how this baby has all sorts of cultures claiming the walnut as thier own. The walnut has a very hard shell and lasts for several months without much thought or care making it a perfect travel snack for the Neolithic traveler(not the Irish type in a caravan)thus showing up in the Himalayas, Persia(claims origin) Turkey, Shanidar caves of Iran and was also found in an ancient shit pile in Switzerland. Alrighty then. The Greeks clain first to cultivate but failed . Small nuts with small oil yeild.Persians did much better. Same period in Perigord France petrified Roasted shells have been unearthed. Traveling nut she was.....
Point being this mighty one was all over in a very short peiod of time and was highly regarded...Persian Walnut were only consumed by the royal family and in 2,000BCE tablets were discovered with great details of the Mesopotamian (Iran)Gardens of Babalons large walnut groves....
ok enough I'm bored too.

From Baklava to Nocino there is a plethora of varied cuisines that feature the walnut. I'm going to my roots for this easy recipe to pickle the young nuts. But before we gotta fight the mighty tannins
File:Tannic acid.pngSo there it is through the eyes of a chemist.
Tannins are a large astringent (meaning it tightens pores and draws out liquid)with proteins.

When you apply ( cant get this sentance to jive sorry)
tannins  to your skin you can instantly see the skin contract. Put them in your mouth and your cheeks pucker. Medicinally, tannins are used to draw irritants out of your skin such as the venom from bee stings or poison oak. Next time you get stung, pull some fresh bark off the twig of a nearby tree, chew it up and apply it to the sting. The irritation will go away within seconds. Tannins are also applied to burns to help the healing and to cuts to reduce bleeding.
Another every day interaction with tannin is in tea (from the tea plant....not herb teas). The tradition of adding milk to tea has the added benefit of causing the tannins to bind to the proteins in the milk rather than to the proteins in your liver and kidneys. When you drink tea without milk, you are literally tanning your insides.
Tannins occur in nearly every plant from all over the world, in all climates. It is found in almost any part of the plant, from root to leaves, bark to unripe fruit (ever bitten into an unripe persimmon?). Algae, fungi and mosses do not contain much tannin. Many plants don't contain a useful amount of tannin.Most trees contain plenty of tannin. It is concentrated in the bark layer where it forms a barrier against microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria (when hides are stuck into tannin baths the bacteria are also killed).


Pick the walnuts whilst they are still green and the outer shell is still soft. Most recipes say that June is about the best time to pick them yet this slow to start season has my trees a little behind the nut. We picked the first day of July and there was alot less nuts than I had expected Mother Nature will do as she very well pleases.... The soft shelled walnuts are then soaked in a BRINE (salt water)  salty enough to float an egg and change brine with fresh every five days for up to 12 days. The walnuts are then drained and left to dry in the air(top of my hot tub is a great place but the squirrels just think Ive left scooby snacks so I keep the nuts in a chicken wire basket with a mesh lid to keep the snackers out. . The fluid(tannic acid) in the walnuts causes a chemical reaction to take place and the walnuts turn dark brown to black in colour. The now black walnuts are then placed into jars and a PICKLING solution poured over them. This can vary from a straight forward pickling VINEGAR to a solution containing spices and sugar. The walnuts are sealed and then left in the jars for anywhere between 5 days and 8 weeks depending on which recipe is followed.

Vague I know......6% white vinegar is best and traditionally clove,  ginger,cinnamon, are the classic. I use pink peppercorn, one star anise,one stick of cinnamon, a few pods of cardomon and a bay leaf . The ammounts is up to your taste and  understanding of each spice. Clove or Anise tread lightly yet cinnamon likes to party. Fresh ginger vs dried will bring different atributes as well. For a batch with 10- 8oz jars filled with nuts .......vinegar to fill, 1 star anise, 1 stick of cinnamon, pinch of cardomon, pinch of pink peppercorn and a bay leaf last  3T. sugar. Heat this party up to get the flavours rollin and bring to a boil then fill jars. Seal and put them up.....

Wait ohh wait you will. By Thanksgiving the pickles should be begging off the shelf for a soire'e of cured meats, cheeses and all things fall...nmeat pies, terrines and Bourbon.

Thats my story and I'm stickin to it....

Now the 40 yes 40 gallons of five types of plumb juice needs to surrendered into my plumb lavendar jelly, Persian compote,butter and ice cream(reward for boy racer and all his help). The beauty of living in the most wasteful of societies is there is tons of fruit who have lived out thier life looking pretty on a tree in a suburban hood just waiting for me to glean.