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Plethora of peppers

One pound of red jalapeno peppers.

One pound of red jalapeno peppers.

Are you perplexed and puzzled by the plethora of peppers that presented themselves in your prodigious CSA box a couple weeks ago? Ponder no more! Pickle them! I made two different pickles, or ferments, with the peppers. One ferment is with honey, and the other with salt and vinegar.

Three large chopped jalapenos in about a cup of raw wildflower honey. The ferment is about two weeks old.

Three large chopped jalapenos in about a cup of raw wildflower honey. The ferment is about two weeks old.

Hot peppers fermented in honey is simple and fairly quick. Honey is anti-biotic and anti-fungal, and and it makes sense to use it to preserve food. I chopped up three jalapeños, one with seeds and two without, put them in a small jar, and covered them with raw wildflower honey from Bee Heaven Farm. I filled the jar to the shoulder, screwed on the lid. Within a day, the honey grew liquid and syrupy, and by the second day, small bubbles appeared among the chunks of peppers. They were fermenting! I burped the lid every day for a week until the ferment settled.

I started tasting teaspoons of honey on the third day. It was sweet fire! I made a sweet-hot-sour vinaigrette with apple cider vinegar and it was delicious on a green salad. The dressing would be good on a fruit salad too. The hot honey could be used to make a sweet and sour sauce, or simply drizzled on BBQ ribs — or chocolate ice cream. Holy mole! And still-crunchy chunks of sweet pepper could be added to salsa or stir fry for a mellow kick.

Sriracha, day one of fermentation. On the right are seeds saved from five peppers.

Sriracha, day one of fermentation. On the right are seeds saved from five peppers.

That done, I still had three-quarters of a pound of peppers left. It’s too much to eat before they go bad. Time to make hot sauce! And not just any sauce, but sriracha. I found two versions online, one fermented, and one a quick pickle in vinegar. The fermented one caught my imagination.

Out of the 10 peppers left, I seeded half (saved the seeds to grow my own) and cut all of them into chunks. They went into the food processor along with two garlic cloves, some brown sugar and salt. The finely chopped mixture was spooned into a jar and pushed down so its juices would cover as much as possible. It will sit on the kitchen counter for 3 days to ferment. Then the recipe calls for heating the ferment with vinegar, and straining to make the finished sauce. (You could also add a dash of fish sauce for a bit of umami, and maybe a tablespoon of honey to mellow the fire.) Click on the link to get detailed instructions for both versions of sriracha, fermented and vinegar based.

Happy pickling, hot heads!

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Got mangoes? Photo by Serge Penton.

Got mangoes? Photo by Serge Penton.

This time of year mangoes are everywhere. There’s plenty to be had from Art’s tree, and the fruit is on sale right now at his Upper Eastside and Southwest Farmers Markets. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to chance upon a roadside stand with people selling off their backyard excess. And sometimes friends bring me mangoes. Last week, my co-worker Serge had his car stuffed with sacks and buckets of mangoes, picked from his tree. “Take as many as you like,” he told me. I scurried off with a bag full of Zills — then came to my senses — I can’t eat all these!

So every summer, the challenge remains, what to do with all those mangoes?

This summer (mostly because it’s been so hot) I decided to make mango ice cream. Non-dairy, vegan ice cream. Don’t worry, I’m still am omnivore, more or less, but lately dairy has dwindled from my diet. Coconut everything is all the rage, so how about… mango-coconut sherbet?

A quick search online came up with a very simple recipe: mango, coconut milk, sugar, lime juice. Serge suggested adding cinnamon, and I also added some ginger. The online recipe called for toasted flaked coconut, used as a topping, but I didn’t have any.

Mango-Coconut Sherbet

Ingredients:

3 cups peeled, seeded, cut up mangoes
1 12 oz. can coconut milk
sugar, lime juice, ginger, cinnamon

Instructions:

In a blender, puree mangoes together with coconut milk. Add lime juice, cinnamon, ginger and sugar to taste. When you like the flavors, pour the mix into the ice cream maker, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Makes one quart.

Donvier ice cream maker, from the 1980s. Still works!

Donvier ice cream maker, from the 1980s. Still works!

My trusty, 20 year old Donvier ice cream maker was pulled out of the pantry and put into back into service. It is super simple to use. Freeze the large cylinder overnight, and chill all the ingredients. Then pour the mix into the cylinder, insert the paddle, put the lid on, and attach the turn handle. This is an all-manual operation.

Almost done.

Almost done.

The liquid will freeze in contact with the cold cylinder. Every three minutes, turn the handle, which turns the paddle, which scrapes the frozen mix off the inside wall of the cylinder. Make one turn, then wait three more minutes, then do it again. If you wander off and come back 10 minutes later, you’ll discover it’s impossible to turn the handle. That’s where a butter knife comes in handy, to break up the frozen mix. Don’t break the paddle! Keep turning every three minutes until everything is frozen. The ice cream (or sherbet) will be of soft serve consistency. Pack it into containers and freeze it for at least an hour to firm up.

If you can’t find a Donvier, take a look at the Cuisinart ice cream maker which goes for about $70-80 on sale. Like my all manual Donvier, it has a cylinder that needs to be frozen overnight. For the added price, you get a motor that turns the paddle for you. How easy can it get! Now, to mix up another batch of mango sherbet…

Mango-Coconut sherbet

Mango-Coconut sherbet

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Red velvet brownies

Yes, they are that red! Bet you can't eat just one.

Yes, they are that red! Bet you can’t eat just one.

Bee Heaven Farm CSA members have gotten beets a few times in their shares this season. There’s a pretty good chance those homely root vegetables are still hanging around somewhere in the back of your refrigerator. Now, don’t get me wrong! I love beets, and grew up eating them — boiled, roasted, pickled. But never in baked goods. Until now…

Beets were the original coloring agent used in some red velvet cake recipes back in the day. They are great for baking because they become sweet when roasted, and hold moisture. Plus, the earthy beet flavor combines beautifully with dark chocolate.

I found this recipe for beet brownies on a lovely food/farm blog, and tweaked it a bit (my changes are in italics). The original recipe calls for a topping of fresh blueberries, which sounds fabulous; but even plain and warm out of the oven, they are scrumptious. I’ve made this recipe several times, and each time the brownies get gobbled up in no time flat, and people beg me for more. Enjoy!

Red Velvet Brownies

•    1 cup of beet puree*
•    3.5 ounces (one bar) of good-quality chocolate (at least 70% dark)
•    3/4 cup all-purpose flour
•    2 teaspoons baking powder
•    pinch salt (about 1/8 tsp)
•    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
•    7 tablespoons butter, softened
•    1/3 cup brown sugar
•    2 eggs, room temperature
•    1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

* Note: Roast about 5 or 6 beets, then let them cool. Using gloves, remove skins, then puree in food processor. If you roast more than you need for the recipe, pureed beets are a delicious side dish dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.

1.    Pre-heat oven to 350 F.
2.    Melt chocolate over double-boiler. Set aside.
3.    Whisk together flour with baking powder and salt and set aside.
4.    Cream butter and sugar together. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, until the mixture is creamy. Add melted chocolate, beet puree, flour mixture, and walnuts. Mix well.
5.    Pour batter into 9 x 13 baking pan lined with baking parchment and bake for 25-30 minutes.
6.    Let cool and cut into triangles. Serve with fresh-picked blueberries and share with family.

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Mud pie

Black sapote pie getting gobbled up by the farm crew. Only crumbs were left.

Black sapote pie getting gobbled up by the farm crew. Only crumbs were left.

Black sapote is called chocolate pudding fruit because as the fruit ripens, its flesh changes from green to dark brown, like rich chocolate, and develops the consistency of pudding.

I suggest calling it mud pie fruit, because your hands get wonderfully messy as you prepare the fruit for eating. The soft pudding-like flesh smears on your fingers as you dig out brown shiny seeds and their membranes, and peel off papery skin before eating. Hands get messy fast! Fun for those who enjoyed making mud pies back in the day — only this “mud” is much tastier. Mmmmm lick those fingers, it’s too good to waste!

If you haven’t already gobbled up the fruit from last week’s CSA share, here’s a recipe for a pretty good mud pie made with black sapote. Or you can skip the crust and bake the filling in custard cups, then serve it chilled, with or without whipped cream.

The recipe is by Noris Ledesma, but I’ve made a few tweaks (in italics). Feel free to make your own changes to make this your own.

Black Sapote Pie

• ½ cup brown sugar
• 1 tsp. each ground cloves, cinnamon
• ½ tsp. salt
• 2 eggs
• 1½ cups mashed black sapote (about 5 fruit)
• 1½ cups coconut milk
• 1 tsp. vanilla
• 1 unbaked 9″ deep-dish pie shell

Mix sugar, salt and cloves in small dish. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in black sapote and sugar/clove mixture. Gradually stir in milk and vanilla. Pour into pie shell. Bake 15 minutes in a preheated 425°F oven; turn temperature down to 350°F and bake about 30 minutes more or until firm. Serve with whipped cream.

 

Farmer Margie Pikarsky recommends Wholly Wholesome organic whole wheat pie shells. I found them at Whole Foods and Publix.

Recently I brought a Mud Pie to treat the hard working crew at Bee Heaven Farm. I managed to grab a picture of the pie before it disappeared. We didn’t have whipped cream, but that didn’t take anything away from the experience. One person suggested adding a pinch of allspice, which I’ll try the next time.

If you have more black sapote fruit than you need for pie, you can clean and freeze the fruit. It will keep for about 6 months.

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Sweet and Spicy B. S. Bliss

Ripe black sapote

Ripe black sapote

Funny how a recipe morphs and gets tweaked as it passes from one cook to the next.

Recently, Laura Lafata, the chef who blogs on La Diva Cucina, unearthed a recipe for black sapote bars on another local food blog, Tinkering With Dinner. Bill Jacobs had been a Bee Heaven Farm CSA member and would document his culinary adventures every week. In fact, over the years, he came up with two versions of black sapote bars.

Just in time for black sapote season, La Diva tinkered with version two, and posted the tweaks on her blog. I suggested to Margie that I make the bars to sell at farmer’s market. Margie said her tree was loaded with fruit, and sent me off with enough to make a batch.

La Diva had commented that the bars were tasty but very, very crumbly. I used her version for the fruit filling. But to improve the crust, I followed the recipe for strawberry oatmeal bars which I found on the Pioneer Woman’s blog.

I left out coconut and walnut, and the crust is still crumbly, but not intolerably so. The fruit filling tastes like prune or plum filling, so feel free to jazz it up. I added a bit of cayenne to give it a small kick.

Wait until the bars cool before you cut and eat them. Bet you can’t eat just one! If there’s any left, they freeze well.

Look for Black Sapote Bars at the Bee Heaven Farm tent, at Pinecrest Farmer’s Market this Sunday from 9 am to 2 pm. Or make your own with this fourth generation recipe. Enjoy!

Black sapote bars wrapped, boxed and ready for market.

Black sapote bars wrapped, boxed and ready for market.

Black Sapote Bars

Crust:
1 ¾ stick cold butter, cut into pieces
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups oats
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

Filling:
1 ½ cups (5 fruit) black sapote, cleaned
1/3 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon fine ground coffee
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9×13 baking pan.

2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut the butter in with a pastry cutter until it looks like coarse crumbs.  Sprinkle half the mixture into the pan, and pat it lightly to pack it down.

3. In another bowl, mix together the cleaned black sapote (no skin, no seeds) with the other filling ingredients. Spoon the mixture on top of the bottom layer of crust, and spread evenly with a butter knife.

4. Sprinkle the other half of the oat mixture over the top, and gently pat down.

5. Bake until light golden brown on top, about 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in pan. When cool, cut into squares and serve.

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Kattia documents the arrival of Redland mangoes.

A person can move away from Miami but their craving for flavors of the place will stay for a long time. Case in point, friends Kattia and Chris moved away about 10 years ago, and live in tropical fruit exile all the way up in Sanford. If they want a fresh mango, they have to go to the store and settle for fruit imported from Mexico. They complained those out-of-season offshore mangoes just don’t have the flavor, juiciness and aroma of a home grown mango from Miami. And why should they? Imported fruit is picked half-ripe, then dunked in hot water to kill pathogens, which also kills taste.

I told my friends about the bumper crop we had this summer, and they asked when I was coming up. Right away, I replied, and loaded up my car with sacks of plump red and golden Kent mangoes from Paradise Farm, and headed north on I-95. About four hours later, I pulled into their driveway, and Kattia and I lugged eight pounds of mangoes and a box full of empty canning jars to her kitchen. 

“When life hands you mangos, make jam!” said Kattia with delight. (If this sounds like a familiar adventure, she and I made lychee freezer jam two summers ago.) The canning process she followed wasn’t all that difficult, even for a novice like me. “The trick to making cooked jam is to have everything ready and waiting to go,” she said. 

First, we made sure that everything we needed to use was clean and ready. Jars, rings and other utensils were run through the dishwasher beforehand. (If you don’t have a dishwasher, sterilize everything in a big pot of boiling water to kill any dangerous bacteria that can spoil food and make you sick.) 

As the dishwasher hummed, we peeled, seeded and chopped mangoes. Six cups of fruit were destined for jam, and went into a big pot to cook. (The rest of the fruit was stuffed into the freezer.) Lemon juice was added “to wake up the taste of mangoes,” and pectin was stirred in. “Pectin is what makes the jam set,” Kattia explained. “Pectin and lemon help mangoes give off juice.” She also added a bit of butter to reduce foaming as the mixture cooked.

Mashing chopped mango as it cooks. Note 5 and a half cups of sugar, and rings in the background, ready to go.

Out came the potato masher, and the fruit was smashed into smaller pieces, to the texture of rough applesauce. Heat was raised to a rolling boil — when you stir, bubbles keep forming — and the fruit mixture was stirred constantly. Sugar was quickly added, and stirred until everything came back to a rolling boil for one more minute. (If you think five and a half cups is a horrifying amount of sugar, keep in mind that this is called a low-sugar recipe. A regular amount would be 10 cups.)

When the mango mixture got soupy and looked translucent, it was time to fill up jars. “It helps to lay out everything you need because assembly goes quickly,” Kattia said. She set a wide mouth funnel into a jar, and ladled mango mixture up to the very neck. Next, using a magnetic grabber, she fished a lid out from a small pot of simmering water, centered it on top of the jar, and screwed on a ring. The filled, sealed jar was then turned upside down on a towel on the counter.

“With the inversion method of canning, the fruit goes to the top of the jar, and the air goes to the bottom of the jar,” Kattia explained. “When you flip it over, the air goes to the top, and creates a vacuum, and it seals the jar.”

Jam cooling upside down. When a jar is flipped over, the air inside will rise to the top and create a vacuum.

The jars stayed upside down until they were cool to the touch. This took about an hour or so. Then we turned them right side up and tested the seal. A properly sealed jar lid was hard, without any give. Two jars had lids that popped or flexed a little, and they went back upside down for about 15 minutes longer. (If that still didn’t do the trick, the jam would have to be eaten right away — what a tragedy! — or processed in a pot of boiling water for long term keeping.) The whole process took about two hours, including prep and filling jars.

Voila! We had jam! It wasn’t that difficult to make. The hardest part, and it’s not really that hard, is to track down canning supplies. Kattia bought jars, lids and canning paraphernalia at a nearby Super Wal-Mart. If your local store doesn’t carry what you need, you can find canning kits and jars online. Labels would be helpful if you’re making a batch to give away. 

When we were done, pretty golden jars of mango jam were lined up on Kattia’s counter. The sweet tropical taste of Miami’s summer had been captured to savor for later. (It’s not the same as having fresh mangoes, but the stash in the freezer comes close.) I drove back home with several jars, some to keep and some to share. My jar is meant for for medicinal purposes, as it were, for later in the year. A bit of sunshiney mango jam spread on buttered toast will chase away any gray winter blahs!

Kattia’s Mango Jam

6 cups mangoes, peeled, seeded, chopped
juice of 1 lemon
3 Tbps. low or no-sugar pectin
5 1/2 cups sugar
1 pat of butter

Peel, seed and chop mangoes. Put them into a large pot with lemon juice and mash with a potato masher. Stir in butter and pectin and keep stirring. Raise heat to a boil. Skim off any foam. Then quickly stir in the sugar a bit at a time until it dissolves. Keep stirring at a rolling boil for 1 minute longer. When the mixture looks transparent, it is ready to put into jars.

Ladle mango mixture into a jar up to its neck. Do not overfill, as you need an air space. Wipe off any spills and put on the lid and ring. Place jar upside down on towel to cool. Repeat with other jars until all your mixture is used up. Let jars cool to touch, then turn over and test seal. If the lid pops, flip it over to sit for a few more minutes, or refrigerate.

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Tim’s pineapple patch. Lettuce and cabbage planting area is in the background, now overgrown with weeds.

Tim Rowan is a hard working farmer. In the winter he grows certified organic lettuces and cabbages. And in the summer, when it’s so hot that some farmers take a break, Tim is still growing things. His latest hobby, as he calls it, is raising pineapples. He has a test patch with over 70 pineapple plants in various stages of maturity. (Most started from tops salvaged from his kitchen where he is a chef at Deering Bay Yacht and County Club. He also grew several pineapples at his vegetable garden there.) Some plants on his farm are already bearing fruit. I asked Tim to save me a pineapple, and recently he let me know mine was ready, come and get it.

Tim Rowan photographs the pineapple before it gets picked.

And there it was, in all its glory — a very large pineapple perched on a short stalk sprouting from the center of of a spray of long, narrow, sharp toothed leaves. (If you’ve never seen a pineapple plant, it looks like a bromeliad.) The fruit was fully mature and golden yellow in color. It had a distinctive top — not one leafy crown, but at least six or eight all in a row. It looked like the pineapple was sporting a mohawk. Both Tim and I took pictures from various angles while it was still on the plant. If a pineapple could have charisma, this one did. Check out Tim’s blog post about his adventures growing pineapples.

Pineapple sporting a mohawk top.

Tim had left the fruit growing on the plant so I could pick it myself. “Hold it with both hands, give it a little twist and snap it off,” he said. I did, and it came off easily in my hands. I was impressed by how heavy and substantial it was. Turns out it weighed five pounds.

Several large suckers or shoots were growing from the base of the plant. They looked like overgrown pineapple tops. Tim broke one off carefully, and at its base were strands of white roots, ready to plant. This sucker would grow into a new plant which would bear fruit in one year. Tim removed other suckers and planted them too. “From one plant you can get as many as eight new plants,” he said as he set them into the ground. You can also plant pineapple tops, but it takes two years to flower and another six months for the fruit to mature.

Picking pineapples, location not specified. Florida Photographic Collection.

Pineapples are not unusual for South Florida. Settlers started growing pines, as they were called, in 1860 at Plantation Key. From the late 1880s to the early 1900s, pineapple was a popular crop, and almost everybody had a patch. Plantations stretched from Plantation Key to the south, to Elliott’s Key (as it was spelled then), north to Lemon City settlement, up the coast to Yamato (west of Boca Raton) which was farmed by Japanese, and as far north as Indian River. The fruit was shipped by schooner and then rail to northern cities. Competition from Cuba and Hawaii, diseases, bugs, and freezes eventually wiped out the industry by the time of WWI.

Boxing pineapples for shipping. Florida Photographic Collection.

In more recent times, “A guy tried producing specialty pineapple in the mid-late 1990’s on the S.W. corner of Naranja Road and Quail Roost,” county agriculture manager Charles LaPradd told me in an email. “They were the small super sweet golden ones that sell for a fairly high price, so he thought he could compete against the imported ones. He couldn’t and went out of business.” These days, almost all the pineapple in stores is grown offshore. Costa Rica is the top supplier for pineapples for the United States.

Shipping pineapples by boat. Florida Photographic Collection.

Pineapple may not be grown on a large scale in Redland anymore, but many people grow a few plants in their own gardens. They are easy to grow, like full sun, and because the plant has a shallow root system, doesn’t mind growing in a container.

Besides planting the top, save the peel of a homegrown or organic pineapple and use it to make a pineapple flavored vinegar. Here’s the recipe from Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. Use it to make salad dressing, put it on avocado, stir into salsa, or wherever you need a sweet-sour tang.

Mexican Pineapple Vinegar

1/4 cup sugar
peel of 1 pineapple (organic or home grown)
1 quart (4 cups) water
cheesecloth (or coffee filter)
glass jar

1. In a jar or bowl, dissolve the sugar in 1 quart of water. Coarsely chop and add the pineapple peel. Cover with cheesecloth (or coffee filter) to keep flies out, and leave to ferment at room temperature.

2. When you notice the liquid darkening, after about 1 week, strain out the pineapple peels and discard.

3. Ferment the liquid 2 to 3 weeks more, stirring or agitating periodically, and your pineapple vinegar is ready. Keep in refrigerator.

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