Beets in a surprising place

bottle and glass of Beatnik
Beatnik liqueur

If you’re any sort of a “regular” here I’m sure that you are aware that I think beets are under-appreciated vegetables. I’ve posted a number of beet recipes that I’ve found on other blogs and that I like. Last week I got an unusual (I mean they don’t bombard you with emails) from the Brothers Vilgalys who produced the Krupnikas about which I posted.  Well the email introduced some new liqueurs. (Note that this is a liqueur; it is not a cocktail called beatnik.)

The first that I’m sampling is the Beatnik. I don’t know what that conjures up for you, but it is a fantastic taste.  (You aren’t surprised, are you? Not given my fondness for beets!)

I suppose that the last place you’d expect beets to show up would be in a liqueur.  I was surprised when I read the description, but I just had to try it.

So, here is a liqueur with beets in it, described in the email as “An unusual liqueur made with Beets & Savory Herbs. Draws a bit of inspiration from an old Estonian liqueur I read about. Goes great with Gin drinks.”

I can tell you it is awesome! The beets are tempered/seasoned with orange zest, rosemary, thyme, sage, and fennel. I doubt that you could pick each one out as they blend so smoothly.  I’m sampling it “straight” this evening, but I’m going to try a splash of seltzer, as I’ve found that the Krupnikas (for warm weather) does nicely with that.

There are three others. I had a telephone call from the Woodcroft ABC store this afternoon to let me know that these had arrived. The Beebop was missing (that one has rhubarb and other goodies), but Jabberwock (coffee, chickory and some spicy things) and Zaphod (which is a fruity, minty one) were available.  I’ll be reporting on those in the fairly near future.

I’m just entranced by the nose of the Beatnik. The beets are certainly not obscured by the herbs and the orange zest–it all just blends together into a lovely earthy, beety, resiny, woodsy flavor.  In a word, awesome.

It gives me some ideas for seasoning beets as a vegetable too.

For the bees (and me)

After my experience with the dome veil and jacket while I was putting the new bees into the hive, my mission for today was to get a veil that would allow a lot more ventilation. My last experience while in the jacket and veil was a bit like looking at the world through raindrops–not the best for clear vision, especially looking at little moving critters and trying to find one specific little moving critter that (thankfully) had a nice, bright blue dot on her thorax. So, off to Bailey Bee Supply this morning.

new equipment on car seat
new stuff

As is likely typical of most of us when we start a new project/hobby, gadgets and new equipment are totally fascinating and there is such a variety to check out. I suspect that beekeeping gadgets are going to be like kitchen gadgets and widgets–a lot of them better  in advertisement than in actual practice, but you never know, though chatting with other beekeepers certainly helps in choosing, or not. You find out all sorts of things that never appear in the “book learning” part of beekeeping.

For example, in discussions of hats and veils that I’ve read online and in books, nowhere did I find any mention of having a chin strap on the helmet. A friend mentioned, while chatting on FB, that she wished her helmet had a chin strap. I was about to settle for the basic plastic helmet, when my brain registered the fact that a helmet sitting right in front of me had a chin strap–quick change, and I have a helmet that is ventilated and has a chin strap to support a veil that will allow some air flow. That doesn’t mean I won’t drip while working outdoors, but it should help.

Obviously I came home from the bee store with more than just a helmet and veil–just like when I go skulk around the kitchen store.  I had a delightful chat with the lady in the bee store about pros and consult of various gadgetry and her experience–much greater than mine, gave me useful information and contributed to my purchases.

After opening the hive once, I discovered that the disadvantages frequently described for a this type of hive-top feeder  8 Frame Miller Top Feederwere very real. Biggest one for me right now is the difficulty in lifting it off the hive without slopping sugar syrup all over the place. Think about lifting a big, fairly shallow pan–like when you use a bain-marie in the oven–how the liquid shifts and threatens to slosh.  Well, slopping sugar syrup all over me, the bees, the hive, and surrounds is not something I want to deal with right now when I’m doing frequent inspections for my learning experience. SO, new feeder. (Given the good points of this style of hive-top feeder, I suspect that I’ll use it again when I’m not in and out of the hive so often because it’s large capacity is attractive–so it’s not a write-off.)

Despite reading some very contradictory reviews on forums–seemly a definite love-it or hate-it reactions–I got a Bee Smart in-hive feeder in-hive feeder. I’ve read the instructions, and  I’ve been checking it out over the kitchen sink with water. It seems a little touchy about getting the cover screwed back on, but as long as I pay attention to that (and I think my OCD-tendencies will kick in there), it seems to work. Since can go on the inner cover, it will certainly make opening the hive easier for me right now.

My only other purchase was some Honey-B-Healthy–an all-natural feeding stimulant for bees that is HONEY-B-HEALTHY® Supplement 16 ozreported to help with some of the problems that one encounters with bees–like  Nosema ceranae and some of the other really nasty things that can get your bees! It’s not advertised for that (I guess like off-label drug use in humans), but for those attempting to do without giving heavy-duty medications unless absolutely necessary, it has good reports from experienced beekeepers.  So, add a bottle of Honey-B-Healthy concentrate for the girls.

Now comes the sort of hard part–they are not due for a hive inspection until Friday–I have to content to watch them carrying pollen into the hive.

bee with full pollen baskets
pollen into the hive

pollen rainbow

safifer:

Watching the bees bring pollen into the hive, I saw mostly yellow but on looking at the frames I saw other colors–and so to Google–a veritable rainbow.

Originally posted on krista and jess:

You really should click for a larger look.

And if you are a nerd (I know you are), click for the Wikipedia with a pollen color chart.

View original

Honey bees. . . .

nuc box
box of bees

This might seem like a digression–but not really, since it eventually relates to honey, which is edible (so deemed appropriate by me, at least) though there won’t be even a single serving until next year.

Yesterday afternoon I went to Hillsborough NC and came home with a large box of bees:  brood in all stages, workers, queen, and even honey; all in a nucleus colony from Bailey Bee Supply.  The bees in that box had to be transferred into their permanent hive. I was a little uncertain about what their disposition might be after being carted around hither and thither–from apiary to supplier to home.  As you can see by comparing it to the cement blocks, it was a rather large box.  A buzzing box.  When I picked it up to take it out of the car I could feel vibrations. An adventure waiting for me when opening that box.

The bees from that box needed to be transferred to the hive body (below) that was to become their permanent home.  The nuc contained 5 frames–a miniature colony. Their permanent home will have 8 frames in each of the boxes.  Right now, only the one, but I hope I’ll be adding another super and frames in a week.

Ventilated Jacket w/ Hood Veil
jacket and veil

Before opening this box of bees, who might just be a bit PO’d after all the travel, I got the smoker going, and then I donned the “typical” beekeepers jacket and the veil despite the heat.of the afternoon. The jacket pictured here is a special ventilated one–you can see through to tell color of clothing underneath.  Mine is NOT ventilated–it’s heavy cotton–and HOT. I didn’t put it on until I had the smoker going, and was right ready to take the lid off the box. Even the ventilated one like that would not have been much help because there really wasn’t any breeze.

empty hive box
empty hive body

I started untaping the box after giving them just a bit of smoke through the vents on the ends of the box, and then a little more before I lifted the lid completely off–and a little more before I removed the inner cover. And there they were –a busy, bustling, buzzing mass of bees. . . .

By the time I picked up the first of the five frames to move it into the hive body, I was absolutely dripping sweat which plopped onto the veil in front of my face when I bent over to pick up a frame. I did even use a headband, too, but that didn’t stop the drips or sweat getting in my eyes. Drops of sweat clung onto the veil–not going right through, so I’m looking at a mass of moving bees with drops of sweat in front of my face. Now, being the truly quick learner here, I made a real effort NOT to bend over so far again. (At least I’d had the sense to put the nuc box on blocks rather than on the ground.)

I inspected each of the five frames–looking for the queen, and saw her on the last one, of course–at the bottom of one side of the frame.  I turned the frame to inspect the other side–probably not really necessary since I already spotted the queen–but I did it anyway and then put that last frame into the hive body, put the three additional empty frames in, picked up the box and tapped all the lingering bees down into one corner as much as possible, dumped them on top of the frames, put the hive-feeder on top and then the outside cover. Done! There were still some bees clinging in the box so I put it on the ground in front of the hive so those could climb up to the entrance. There were some bees buzzing around outside the hive, but all seemed good.

No problems, right? So I thought.

Being a bit like a new parent, first thing this morning before even first coffee, I went to take a look. What I saw, even from a distance and UN-coffee-d, evoked a fervent, emphatic (and unprintable) epithet!  Too many bees flying around and around the hive–not coming in and out, but flying around the hive. Dashing over to the hive, I found a fist-sized cluster of bees in the corner of the nuc box. That was NOT good–that’s when I realized that I must have dropped the queen when I rotated the frame (which fortunately I did over the box) rather than over the grass.  Too bad I didn’t do it over the hive–duh!  I guess that’s what you call a learning experience. I prefer that phrasing to either dumb, or stupid thing to do.

After taking off the cover and removing the feeder I did another dump of bees onto the top of the frames–queen still didn’t go in so I gently nudged her out of the box into the hive with my fingers–and closed the hive again.

Back for another look after about 30 minutes and all appeared much more normal–bees doing straight-line in and out, without all the flying around the hive.  Huge sigh of relief here, though the real relief will come only when I open the hive in a week  for an inspection and find things normal.

. . . .and I think this may to be a pretty friendly colony. I didn’t even think about getting out the smoker or putting on the jacket and veil. Here’s me in shorts and T-shirt opening the hive and popping the queen inside without all the paraphernalia. I had a few bees crawling on my hands and arms while nudged the queen out of the box, but not a single sting. Admittedly, I wasn’t pulling frames out of the body (in other words threatening their honey or brood).  I will wear a veil so that I don’t have bees crawling over my face, but I doubt I’ll put that heavy jacket on again.

So ends the first adventure of beekeeping.

closed hive and nuc box
home, sweet home

Thought for food. . . .

I enjoying a bit of leisure time since I just finished the last indexing project. It’s quite welcome as I had (unintentionally) overlapping indexes.  When the last went off to the editor, the first thing I did was to hang and out-of-order sign on me and elect to have quality time with the cat and Kindle.

As someone with a confirmed interest in food, a lover of good food, I’m not sure I want to be called a “foodie”.  In some ways that has the connotation of interest in the latest food fads. What I’m interested in is good food. I do think food is a multi-sensory File:Fugu sashimi.jpgexperience. Presentation as the visual part of that experience has it’s place–there’s nothing quite so impressive as the  presentation of fugu sashimi, or the aromas of cooking, or the temperature contrasts of a hot fudge sundae. But then there’s nothing wrong with the presentation of a plate of braised greens and sausages, either.  I guess I want to be able to recognize my food (which leaves me somewhat ambiguous toward some of the molecular gastronomy presentations.

Molecular gastronomy eggs benedict
Eggs Benedict

The presentation to the right (from Wikipedia) doesn’t make me want to sit down and eat, even though I love eggs Benedict. Perhaps it’s my age showing, but I’m interested in good food and I like it to look like food. I suppose part of this is that I have food memories stashed away within my brain, and these are visual as well as olfactory, tactile, and gustatory.

I’ll admit that the plate of sashimi does not look like a fugu (it’s not at all a pretty fish), but because of experience and knowledge of sashimi, it looks pleasing, and eminently edible (and tasty). Almost all cookbooks come with photographs these days (I have some oldies that don’t have any) so even as we start to prepare a dish, which have some visual imagery.  We may be frustrated when we finish because ours doesn’t look like the styled one with the recipe, but there still a resemblance. A little at least?

poached egg on spinach/toast with hollandiaise
Eggs Florentine

There is a certain dissonance for me when I read a recipe that sounds wonderful, and then I look at the photograph, and I cannot recognize the food in the presentation–totally plated, stacked, towering, more like architecture than something I’m going to eat. Having worked in a kitchen, I know when my food looks as if it’s had someone’s hands all over it, and that’s fine to a degree.

When I’m not cooking, indexing, writing, or attending to the cat, I like to read about food so that’s what I’ve been doing for my leisure and relaxation. I’ve posted some of my favorite books about food and eating in the bibliography. The Art of Eating by M.F. K. Fisher is one that I pick up and read–well, I guess reread is more appropriate–often. There are also two collections by Roy Andries de Groot (In Search of the Perfect Meal) which are wonderful, also often reread.  Then there’s the collection Elizabeth David’s writing: Is There A Nutmeg in the House. Or Richard Olney’s Reflections.

I’ve added a new one to that shelf food books (figuratively since it’s on Kindle) by Mimi Sheraton, called 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die. It is a virtual travel-log, complete with telephone numbers, and links to places that sell, make, or provide food. Her descriptions are delightfully evocative, though admittedly lacking the first-had olfactory and gustatory stimuli.

If you really like food, and if you live to eat, rather than just eat to live, then I would recommend a trip to the library, or bookstore–even if it’s digital.

Apricot and Ginger Tarte Tatin

safifer:

I’d love to get my hands on some really good apricots! The ginger with this sounds yummy!

Originally posted on Mrs Portly's Kitchen:

Image of Howard's apricot bushes

I experienced serious fruit tree envy recently when visiting Kenton Hall in Suffolk, home of the McVeigh family and their longhorn cattle. It’s also home to Aunt Paddy and Uncle Howard, possessors of a lovingly-tended kitchen garden and crucially, of three or four espaliered apricots. Howard is rightly proud of them and says they produce a good crop of fine-flavoured fruit.

We have apples and pears, plums and gages, quince and cherries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, tayberries, gooseberries, red-, white- and blackcurrants and something Dutch I can never remember the name of. What we don’t have are any apricots, so I was well jell, as my nieces and nephews probably wouldn’t be caught dead saying. I did, however, manage to source a few punnets in our local Co-op.

Image of bowlful of apricots

Usually I make apricots into a conserve, which is without a doubt the most popular jam in the Portly preserve cupboard. This time…

View original 72 more words

Beet pizza

Looking through the WordPress blog reader, I found a lovely picture–it was a beet pizza  post on Dinner for (N)one.  Looks really good, given how much I like beets.  I wanted to re-blog it because it looked so great, but somehow the electronic world of cyberspace is being obstreperous this afternoon.  So, I’m just posting the link without the gorgeous pictures.

Make ratios work for you

It’s unfortunate that we’ve learned to view recipes as something to be followed rather slavishly.  That’s not the way cooking works since there are so many variables in ingredients available.  If we can get out of that habit, then we’ve made a huge stride in cooking for one.

I’ve talked about Pam Andersen’s How to Cook without a Book-which is based on using ratios in recipes.  Even more liberating from the slavish following of recipes are a number of books which really don’t give specific quantities at all or just suggest approximations of ingredients.  These can be easily adjusted if you pay attention to the proportions of the main ingredients or the ratios.

Cover of cookbook, "Twenty"I just purchased Michael Ruhlman‘s Twenty.  I found it a fascinating approach to cooking–it introduces you to the really important ingredients that you work with so often that you almost do not think about them–you take them for granted: like salt, eggs, water (yes, water!) and onions, to mention a few.  He presents recipes that will make you aware of how these ingredients actually work in the process of cooking–to help you understand them so that you can improvise!

Another great thing about this book is that even though the recipes may be for more servings than you want, ratios are given for important ingredients.  For example, in a recipe for “Traditional French Onion Soup”, he give a and “onion-to-liquid” ratio that he prefers for the main ingredients–7 or 8 pounds onions (which really cook down) to 6 cups of water.  That gives you the information you need to downsize the recipe.  Other ingredients are mostly “to taste” although quantities are suggested in the base recipe.  It’s wonderful when the recipes give you this kind of information; however, you can always look at the major ingredients in a recipe and come up with your own ratio.

This book stresses “thinking about food”–and that does not mean looking at the recipe that has 20 ingredients, and dreaming about how nice it would be to make that, but it serves 16, and….  Techniques that are basic to many recipes are presented–some of them are basic ingredients–to help you understand the why and the wherefore of the ingredients.  That is the key to improvising.  The other important thing stressed: think!  Once you understand ingredients, you can adjust the recipe, you can improvise.

This is a book that I’d recommend highly–at least check it out of the library and read it–it just might give some food for though, and open some doors to make single-serving cooking easier for you.  I’d also suggest checking out Michael Ruhlman’s website for other good information for the home cook.

Herb-infused oils and vinegars

I’m always glad to see spring and summer (despite hating hot and humid weather) because of the fresh herbs. Maintaining the herbs on my deck involves keeping them cut back so that they do not bloom–I want peak flavor all summer.  That involves taking the scissors to them and cutting off about one-third of the plant, so that they will stay nice and bushy.

Greek oregano (Origanum vulgare, subsp. hirtum)
Greek oregano (Origanum vulgare, subsp. hirtum)

Even though it’s good maintenance, I just hate to throw away all those fresh herbs, so I often make flavored oils or vinegars with the trimmings. I love having a supply on hand for salad dressings, dipping, or whatever.

When I make infused oils I want strong flavor that I can use in many ways. I use plain vegetable oil and extract my herbs in heated oil at about 180° to 200° Fahrenheit, checked with an instant-read thermometer.  I either use my tiny “baby” slow cooker and let the oil infuse in that for several hours or use the microwave oven on low or defrost, then strain. This gives me very strongly flavored oils that I dilute with other oil depending on how I plant to use them. Once strained, I store in the refrigerator or freezer.

I’ve made infused oil from a lot of different herbs–oregano, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, sage, even epazote–or mixed herbs. I haven’t tried cilantro, but after reading the post on Chef Mimi Blog I want to give that a try as well.

This hot weather reminds me that it’s time to make lemon oil again. I  do this in the summer, removing the zest for the oil, then using the lemons to make a big pitcher of lemonade and sip that on the deck while the oil infuses in the slow cooker.

With oils made from fresh herbs, we need to be aware of the potential for botulism since Clostridium botulinum can thrive in oils like this. Any fresh herb or vegetable has the potential of carrying C. botulinum, and it requires high temperatures to kill the spores or to destroy the toxin so we need to be particularly careful about keeping them refrigerated.  Tips for prevention are given here and here.

Beet salad with feta

I’m in a work rush with a close deadline on a book that I’m indexing and that means that any heavy duty cooking (anything that requires turning on the stove, or pushing a button on the microwave) is out for the next few days. In need of lunch, I perused the fridge contents.

There was a package of Melissa’s Produce steamed, peeled, baby beets that I  brought home from the  supermarket produce section; toted home and put in the vegetable bin (sometime ago, and not yet used) so I made the easy beet salad from Chef Mimi’s blog this afternoon. This was a great light, quick,  warm-day lunch.

The beets are vacuum sealed in heavy plastic.  The texture is perfect–just like I’d steamed and peeled them myself–and they have a long shelf-life so I can always have them around without feeling that I absolutely HAVE to have beets today, or even tomorrow.

It’s not that cooking beets is difficult, but when there’s a really pressing deadline and I need lots of work time, I go for convenience and speed  but I don’t want to sacrifice taste. That usually rules out canned vegetables (except for beans and tomatoes) though I admit to not have checked out canned beets in ages because I really never liked the taste;  I can see that I need to revisit the canned ones again, too.

These vacuum packed ones just moved beets right up with canned beans as a convenience item in my pantry.

(Let me be clear about my comments on any products mentioned in my posts:  I have no connection (except as a consumer) with Melissa’s Produce, nor with Stahlbush Island Farms (mentioned below.  I get no remuneration for comments or use of these products.)

Now, I tasted the beets straight from the package and then made my salad.  I didn’t spiralize them, so my salad wasn’t as pretty as that pictured on Cher Mimi’s blog, but it was tasty.  I doubt that I could tell those vacuum-sealed, pre-cooked beets from ones that I had steamed and peeled myself (unless I looked at the color of my hands).  You could put those in a bowl and serve as a vegetable without anything except warming them and adding seasoning of your choice.

I have one more “convenience” product that I want to check out:  Stahlbush Island Farms sliced frozen beets that I found in the frozen food section at my local Harris Teeter.  I didn’t go to the frozen foods section expecting beets (probably the farthermost thing from my mind just then–I was looking for chopped kale) but right next to the Stahlbush Island Farms chopped curly kale, were sliced beets. As slicedbeetswebyou’ve probably gathered, I’m incapable of leaving something like that in the store.  So, I have those in the freezer to try next.

One of my other summer favorites is beet soup. I can certainly speed up making that if I use one of these products!  I can replace the beet greens with Swiss chard–maybe even find it frozen as well.

One of the appealing things about the frozen beets is that I can use some and put the remaining ones back in the freezer without having leftover veggies.  Since they are sliced, but uncooked, I have more flexibility. With the vacuum packed ones or a can, you have to do something with  the rest of the beets so that they don’t linger too long in the fridge and grow interesting colors of mold, and eventually find the way to the garbage.

My only “regret” with the Melissa’s beets was that I really like  beets roasted instead of steamed.  The first way I’ll try the frozen ones is roasted as suggested on the website.

ÒΔÓ

Until I found these products in the frozen food section, I’d never heard of Stahlbush Island Farms, but after looking at the website and the products, I’ll certainly follow up to check out some of the grains and legumes that are frozen, as well as fruits. (Again, no connection, except as a consumer, and picky at that.)

I noticed black raspberries on the product list. I’m a fanatic about black raspberries–there’s a big difference in flavor from the red ones that we see in the stores, not that those aren’t good, but black raspberries are what I grew up with, and thus my idea of what raspberries should be.

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