Beekeeper’s woes

If you were wondering, it’s more the writing than the bees that have been neglected. This is a rather delayed hive report because of business travel and work–in other words, vocation interfering with avocation. Imagine that!

From 22 April 2019: I just finished putting empty supers on both hives. Unfortunately, I have to be out of town for about 5 days and I think that one hive will have swarmed by the time I get back.

The one that I anticipate swarming is being a problem. To put it bluntly, these girls in one of my hives are bitchy at the best of times, and by the end of my inspection today there’s so other way to describe them than royally PO’d.

I’ve tried two times before today and been resoundingly defeated. The first time I barely got the inner cover off before they started being quite angry. The second attempt had the same results. Immediate buzzing around the hive and particularly at my head. On both these occasions the weather was less than optimal and there had been mowing and other machinery noises fairly close to the hive so I was inclined to give the girls the benefit of doubt about meanness.

Today I started with the smaller hive and had no problems. I guess I might have said that they were a little nervous by the time I got down to the deep (brood box).

From there I approached the “big” (three supers and the deep). At least today I got the inner cover off before these girls got angry. I got stung more today than I’ve been stung before in my entire beekeeping career. Not only stung while working right at the hive but stung when some of them followed me to my front door–about 50 feet away from the hive. Not only did they follow me, but a few continued to hang around the door for about 15 or 20 minutes. So, after this experience I’m going to make a judgement that I’ve got a mean hive.

Despite the experience, I’m not giving up on the bees! I certainly won’t share the pictures of me after this foray into that one hive. Of course, when you have to go to a national conference, do a presentation, and appear in public, the bee stings were not in any place unobtrusive–how about scalp and hands–fortunately none directly on my face. Needless to say, there were lots of questions about why looked like I did.

(And yes, before you ask, I was using smoker, and a jacket and veil, and even gloves.)

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Pork with peaches

After read the post on Gammon with Roast Peaches on Mrs Portly’s Kitchen and practically drooling on my keyboard; since I didn’t have any serious ham at the time, I tried it with pork confit; it was really good! Peach season is here now, and I do want to try some with country ham before good peaches disappear for another year.

I suspect that my variation of this may end up on my cast iron griddle, rather than the grill because I’m such a wuss about the heat and humidity here, but I’m sure it will be good!

Country ham

More rillettes

You already know I’m not a fan of hot humid weather, and that I’m a picky eater as well. I use a lot of salads (egg salad, tuna salad, etc) during the summer. This year I’ve added pork rillettes to the summer standby list. I’ve known what rillettes was for a long time–I’d just not thought of making them myself, although I’d do confit.

The pork rillettes* were so tasty that I decided to explore other possibilities; I know duck rillettes are heavenly, but what about chicken or turkey–other cooked meats.

While I was exploring I found salmon and tuna rillettes recipes (and other fish). This might be a possible way enjoy food in the summer, especially since I had my homemade tuna confit as a starting point. These cannot be had around for an anytime snack like the pork rillettes that I made earlier–recipes using butter and oil suggest three days in the refrigerator.

pork rillettes

I thought that tuna rillettes might provide a welcome break from just “tuna salad” no matter how you make it so the search for recipes began. One possibility came from The New York Times food section. These use olive oil as the fat, and should be quick an easy to make. Another variation that I found used butter as the fat. Both these recipes start with canned tuna, so my tuna confit fits well into either of these. I did find one recipe that started with raw tuna (to be baked) that used creme fraiche instead of olive oil or butter.

Searching for tuna rillettes (naturally with other links and Google help) lead to exploring salmon rillettes. Though I’m not a real salmon fan some of these recipes look possible for summer food. One that began with salmon fillet (from Food & Wine) sounded like a possible, especially since I don’t really like canned salmon. Again from the New York Times (Martha Rose Shulman) produced a likely sounding recipe–and a link led me to her article ” Pâté From the Sea” with more links for seafood based rillettes. And…more links to David Lebovitz’s eponymous website and more rillettes recipes for salmon rillettes using butter and for sardine pâté or spread which is right along the same path as rillettes. (So many things to explore!)

More links led to chicken rillettes from Epicurious and Bon Appetit, and buffalo chicken rillettes from Saveur. The recipe from Food52 was much like the pork rillettes recipe from Essential Pepin; I think this is going to be next on my summer food list–a welcome change from my usual chicken salad!

Just as I thought I had reached the end of by browsing I found a link to–turkey rillettes! I don’t know why I was surprised–it’s meat and it can be confitted, so why not rillettes as a way to deal with leftover turkey although I suspect the best result would be from cooking the meat in some way other than roasting! But, there were smoked turkey rillettes (recipe from The New York Times), turkey rillettes made from purpose-cooked legs and thighs (Culinary Anthropologist), and grilled turkey rillettes from Nils Bernstein (Wine Enthusiast). Despite these recipes, I doubt that I’ll be trying turkey rillettes. (See Turkey Rillettes on Plant & Plate. That sums up what I thought about turkey rillettes–not an experience I need. If I’m going to use that much duck fat, I’ll make duck rillettes!

(Note: * Though some of these recipes use the term loosely, rillettes are not pâté! Pâté translates as “paste” so the texture is usually different from rillettes that have more texture. It’s sort of a continuum!

Beets, more beets, and vegetable confit

Yes I love beets, and I think they are underappreciated, so I’m always looking for more things to do with beets. From Cook’s Illustrated the article on “Turn the Beet Around” has some suggestions: Charred beet salad among some others. If you search Kitchn for beets you get lots of recipes. Some look good, others, maybe not so good. I have found beet hummus in the grocery store (a reputable brand that does do good humus) and, explorer and beet lover than I am, I did try it. It’s good, and should I find it again (it’s since disappeared) I would buy it again, but make it? I don’t think so. Just as I’m unlikely to make pickled beets. However, chocolate beet bundt cake, might just be a possibility. I mean we do eat carrot cake, so why not?

I do have a beet liqueur that I love, too.

However, cold beet soup is still a summer favorite, and easier now that it is possible to buy already cooked beets or frozen sliced beets. I’ve griddled beet slices and the caramelization that takes is a whole new level of flavor from them

Stahlbush Island Farms

My latest discovery of beets is poached beets. Yes, no kidding. I was reading my email from Mark Bittman’s eponymous website just a day or two ago and found an article titled “Charred Olive-Oil-Poached Beets. I don’t know why that struck me as so startling. I didn’t fire up the grill, but I did pitch some of these on my cast-iron griddle and they were really good!

While it may be controversial, I’m familiar with making vegetable confit and even vegan rillettes. After some thought this really didn’t seems so strange–maybe just that beets are underappreciated vegetables. So, beet confit! The recipes I’ve reviewed on vegetable confit suggest that if covered with oil they can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three–yes, 3 months.

This seems like a great way to handle extra veggies when you’re doing single-serving cooking. So, controversial or not, I’ll likely be trying some more vegetable confit when the summer bounty is in the farmers’ market.

A son gôut!

†

From Mark Bittman, Charred Olive-Oil-Poached Beets

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A pork rillettes addendum

I got just a little hasty clicking buttons while saving and trying to schedule that post on rillettes, so here is a final report:

final seasoning, after the “sizzle”
  • This didn’t require much “hands in” work at all. The meat was so tender that it shredded as I was mixing with the spatula while adjusting the seasoning.
  • I love my Calphalon “everyday” pan, but it was a not a good choice for doing the evaporate and “sizzle” part of the recipe: just not quite heavy enough so that I had some brown stuff (fond) right over the burner (nothing burned, just browned) and around the sides of the pan where there was a little spatter while the evaporating was going on. (Maybe just a bit lower flarm next time?) The evaporation was good since it’s a broad surface, but I needed a heavier pan or a “flame tamer” or use the induction cooktop since that might spread the heat better.
  • Since I didn’t want to lose all the flavor of the fond on the bottom of the pan and around the sides, I deglazed the pan first with just enough water water to cover the bottom of the pan, reduced that a bit, then added a hefty splash of dry sherry and reduced this to about 3 or 4 tablespoons that was mixed with the meat.
  • If you really want to add to the “porky” flavor, you could add just a bit of bacon fat instead of all lard. (I know this because I tasted it with a bit from the jar that lives by my stove, but this time just lots of fresh-ground black pepper,) I can think of lots of interesting ways to season this. It’s just a son gôut!
cooling, waiting for the fridge

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Pork rillettes

from David Libovitz website

Summer weather is here. Hot, humid weather is here; that means that I’m terribly picky about what I eat. I don’t want hot food but I want more to eat than salads and cottage cheese, or even bean and/or pasta salads. As I’m sure you know from previous posts, I am easily bored with the same foods too many times in a week, and I don’t deal well with leftovers.

I’m a facultative, rather than obligate, carnivore but even in hot weather I do want something meaty (and not necessarily steak or ‘burgers). Ubiquitous chicken doesn’t fill the bill either; I wanted something special.

Finding myself with a surplus of pork spare ribs that were so incredibly tender, and having some excellent broth as well as the fat (yes, the fat) I thought that rillettes might be the answer to my finickey summer appetite for meaty stuff that could be enjoyed cold–and since I’m still trying to do the low carb thing, I thought rillettes might be quite palatable with crunchy green stuff (belgian endive leaves, or the heart leaves from romain (cos) lettuce.

My search for recipes lead me to some interesting web sites: The New York Times, Bon Appetite, Food & Wine, David Lebovitz, and serious eats, to mention some of them. There are lots of variations in the seasonings but the basic ingredients are simple: pork and pork fat. Most recipes called for shoulder or boston butt, but that’s not practical when cooking for one. All very interesting, but I do have a reasonable library of charcuterie books (both hard-copy and on my Kindle) so I thought I should also check closer to home before I made a decision. Plugging “rillettes” into the search function on my Kindle I found lots of other recipes as well. I was amazed at how many references I found.

I finally settled on a recipe was from Essential Pepin): simple and and it’s easy to pick up from where I left my pork spare ribs from the instant pot.

Recipe adapted from Essential Pepin (Kindle location 13172-13197). The instructions are extensive and I’ve merely abstracted the main points. If you’re going to do this, I’d recommend checking the source–even via a trip to the library.

Rillettes

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds boneless pork chuck or neck (you should have about 75% lean and 25% fat, cut into 2- to 3-inch cubes.
  • 1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

Preparation

  1. In a large heavy saucepan, add salt, pepper, and enough water to cover by 1 inch.
  2. Simmer very slowly over low heat for about 5 hours, adding more water as necessary.
  3. After poaching, when the water is almost all evaporated and the liquid has started to sizzle, let it sizzle for about 30 minutes to give a roasted taste to the meat.
  4. Transfer to a bowl and cool. Refrigerate overnight.
  5. Crush the pieces of meat (with your hands, between thumbs and fingers recommended by Pepin) or use a flat beater on a stand mixer.
  6. Put mean and fat in a saucepan and heat over medium-low heat; taste for seasoning. Overseason slightly since seasonings are muted when cold.
  7. After the mixture is set, pack into small crocks and refrigerate.
  8. Well sealed these will keep for a couple weeks in the refrigerator or can be frozen.

I had about 2-1/4 pounds of pork left from my spare ribs. Since my pork was cooked in the Instant Pot using the pot-in-pot method, I started at step 3 by pouring off the broth and fat, then reducing those over medium-high heat until the sizzling started, when the broth was evaporate (as well as the splash of sherry that I decided to add).

I returned the meat to the pan and allowed a bit more evaporation, and did the 30 minutes of sizzling, and then followed the rest of the instructions. The sizzling part is really important for the best flavor. The pork flavor is good before this, but afterwards it’s really great. (Be sure to use a really heavy pan or you’ll have pork stuck to the bottom where the heat from the burner was. (This Calphalon pan wasn’t quite heavy enough so I had to do a little scraping to get all the browned pork to mix in.)

I did some extra fresh-ground black pepper (my favorite extra bold from Penzeys) since I wanted a bit more spice.

evaporating liquid and sizzling the pork

(While the sizzling was going on I use my Instant Pot to sterilize some mason jars to pack the rillettes in, even though it will be refrigerated. I did do a little crushing while this process was going on–easy with a wooden spoon since the meat was so tender.

sterilizing containers

After cooling it again, I used the hands-on method to crush the meat since I had seen comments on the texture you would bet if using the flat-flat beater method–OK, messy but texture is important here. I didn’t have quite the ratio of lean to fat recommended so I did a bit more of my own home-rendered lard. After a final check on the seasoning, the rillettes were packed into the jars, and stashed in the refrigerator.

Now I have something meaty for hot weather meals. Yes, it takes time, but it’s really not a lot of effort and the reward is so good. All you need now is some good bread, or if you’re trying the low carb thing some crispy green stuff like belgian endive or romaine leaves.

Pork spare ribs

Cooking pork spare ribs to that point where they are extremely luscious and tender is usually a long process, usually involving the oven (at least for me). Even in the cooler weather this didn’t seem to be an option even with windows and doors open; however it occurred to me that I had another option: the Instant Pot. So despite the rather humid (even if cool) weather and the prospect of hotter weather imminent, that package of spare ribs went home with me.

I’ve cooked other meat (e.g. beef short ribs) in my Instant Pot with wonderful results so that was my plan. Realizing that i was going to have an abundance of pork I started thinking of ways to deal with it: some for the freezer perhaps since there are lots of things to do with good cooked pork.

My favorite way of cooking many things in the Instant Pot (IP) is the pot-in-pot method*–a container with a lid inside the Instant Pot. My reason for using this method so often is that in cooking for one I’m often using rather small quantities in a six-quart IP. Often I don’t want to add as much liquid as would be necessary cooking directly in the container of the pot itself.

I like this method especially for meats. The broth that you collect is undiluted by water so you have broth that is flavorful and will gel nicely. So that is how the spare ribs were cooked. The only “disadvantage” to this method is that you may need to increase the cooking times but since I use the IP mainly because of hands-off method and flavor I don’t find that to be a problem.

It really isn’t possible to give quantities for things like the peppercorns or precisely for the salt–you’ll have to judge by your taste.

Ingredients

  • about 2 to 2-1/2 pounds boneless pork spare ribs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • whole black peppercorns (a lot–about a generous teaspoon or more if you like pepper
  • 4 or 5 cloves of garlic
  • salt (more than you would think)–about 2 or 3 teaspoons

Preparation

  • The day before or at least three or four hours ahead of cooking, sprinkle the spare ribs generously with kosher salt.
  • When ready to cook, rinse if there is still salt visible and pat the meat dry.
  • Cut the strips into 2- or 3-inch chunks (to fit into your bowl).
  • Add 1 cup of water to the IP container, place the trivet, and set the covered bowl on the trivet.
  • Close the IP and set to “meat”. These took about 90 minutes at high pressure.

I removed a healthy serving of the cooked spare ribs for my supper on that cool, rainy evening (with sides of cabbage and some rice) and then cooled the remaining in the broth (and the fat) for another use.

Cooks notes: *This is a rather long video but it introduces the pot-in-pot method and containers suitable for this. I almost always use a cover on the inner pot so that additional liquid doesn’t collect in it. For more on containers see this link, this link, or here.