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Monday, February 22, 2010

Homemade, Homegrown Garlic Powder


Tristan found an abandoned head of our homegrown garlic lurking at the bottom of a basket. The head was completely dried out, but thanks to our NM climate, not moldy. Ever a resourceful man, he pulled out the spice grinder and...voila! Homemade, homegrown garlic powder! This stuff maintains the more-intense-than-average spicitude of our native variety of garlic. One small head yielded a tablespoon or two of powder. Not much, but certainly better than tossing it. And plenty to flavor the homemade chicken noodle soup we're having for dinner (made from the stock I made yesterday).

I'm not sure of the value of garlic powder as a regular addition to the homemade arsenal. I suppose ideally you'd store your garlic properly and have fresh stuff for almost all of the year. But if you were growing a lot of garlic, you could intentionally dry a portion of the crop to get you through the inevitable few months past practical the storage point for cured garlic. Thoughts?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Cat Bed


My cat has a tendency to choose inappropriate perching places that result in losing books and such between shelf and wall. In an attempt to give her a place of her own, I took an old wooden inbox, lined it with fabric, added her favorite stuffed animal Symmetrical Moose, and voila! With this cozy nook placed in her favorite window, Lionshead is one happy feline.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Roast-Off


Is this picture too subtle for the internet? The coffee in my left hand is the Nicaraguan bean we ordered green and roasted ourselves. The coffee in my right hand is the Peruvian bean we ordered, also home-roasted. The Peruvian beans were noticeably larger and plumper than the Nicaraguan, and I liked this coffee much better. It was rich, without a hint of bitterness, and tasted chocolatey or smoky or something along those lines.

I'm hooked on roasting. It takes about 10 minutes in the oven, and little to no effort--you just can't forget about it. The only foresight you need is to remember to roast it at least 4 hours before you plan to drink it. The night before is perfect.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Yolk of a Different Color


Lots of things affect the color of an egg's yolk--freshness, quality of the chickens' feed, and...color of feed? I read an article last summer about a farmer here in NM who feeds his bumper crop of red chile to his chickens, which turns their yolks red. (Another fun fact about chickens--they can't taste spicy, making them the perfect natural distributors for the seeds of plants like chiles.) Well, it just so happens that we have ended up with our own bumper crop of peppers--a trash bag of bell peppers, mostly red, from the local dumpster. We've been feeding them to our girls at the rate of about three per day. Check out the difference in yolk color between the egg laid prior to the pepper addition to their diet, and the egg laid after eating peppers for a few days in a row. Wow!

From Whittled Down

Saturday, February 13, 2010

New Mexico Farmer Protection Act???



Interesting news in the local paper here. A bill introduced in the state legislature here would protect farmers from liability if their fields are unintentionally contaminated with genetically modified seed. As I'm sure most of you are aware, GM seed companies, especially Monsanto, are notorious for suing farmers for patent infringement when GM contamination blown in from neighboring farms affects their crop. In some cases, the farmer has painstakingly saved seed for decades, developing their own variety of a crop that is wiped out forever when this contamination occurs.

Perhaps the best-known example of this type of litigation is the case of Percy Schmeiser, a canola farmer in Canada whose 50 years of seed saving were wiped out when contaminated "roundup ready" GM seed or pollen blew in from a neighboring farm. Monsanto sued Schmeiser for patent infringement, and won.

Passing this legislation in New Mexico, is so, so important. Furthermore, we need to see legislation like this introduced at the federal level. Unfortunately, the bill has been sent to the Senate Conservation Committee--a bad sign. This fight is going on right now, and you can call your state senator today to ask for his/her support of this bill. Protect our Farmers (and our food)!!!

If you're in NM, you can go to http://www.gmofreenm.com/ or join this facebook group to show your support for the bill and get more information on its progress.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Coffee Coffee Coffee!

I'm not a daily coffee drinker, but I do love a good cup. For some reason, there seems to be only one coffee shop in Santa Fe that makes a good cup of coffee--our wonderful friends at Cafe Phenix (the NY Times thinks so too).

We wanted to up our game at home by experimenting with roasting our own fresh coffee from green beans. We ordered our beans from sweetmarias.com, a website that will teach you more than you ever cared to know about the complexities of coffee in its various incarnations. What I love about Sweet Marias (aside from its encyclopaedic descriptions of each variety they offer), is its commitment to fair trade purchases. In fact, they have a program called Farm Gate, which allows their representatives to purchase coffee directly from the grower, with no middle man. FarmGate coffees guarantee that farmers received at least 50% over fair trade minimums for their beans, but often farmers get 100%+ over fair trade minimums. It feels good to know that you are buying coffee whose price has truly been fairly negotiated by a company that has direct relationships with growers.

We bought two different Farm Gate coffees for our first attempt at roasting: a Nicaraguan
"Mama Mina Microlot" and an organic Peruvian "Cusco Canelon - Tomas Ovalle". I always try to support Nicaraguan coffee growers for the selfish reason that I lived there for a summer as a volunteer. We decided to try roasting the Nicaraguan first.

We don't have a fancy roasting device, so we tried the less precise oven-roasting method. We set the oven to 500 degrees, spread the beans out flat on a cookie sheet, and waited for the "first crack", when the beans first begin to pop, sort of like popcorn. We stirred the beans around a few times to promote even roasting, and used a pictorial roasting guide to guess when we thought the coffee was roasted to "City+", the roast recommended for this particular coffee. When it looked right, we took it out of the oven and cooled by putting it in a colander and taking it outside. When you roast coffee at home, there is chaff that comes off the beans, which need to be winnowed. This turned out to be a pretty simple process of blowing on the beans, stirring, and repeating.

After roasting, the coffee needs to sit for a minimum of four hours to oxidize and off-gas. We left the finished beans overnight, and woke up this morning eager to taste the fruits of our labor. We made the coffee in a french press (our only coffee-making device) and sat down to take our first sip. The bag describes the flavor profile of the coffee thusly: "Guatemala-like brightness, very well-structured with sugar cane sweetness, mild floral and fruit tones, strawberry and pear, caramel." When I took my first sip, I immediately noticed a much more complex flavor than any other coffee I've had. It was akin to tasting a wine--several different flavors and stages presented themselves. Unfortunately, after that first impression came a fairly strong bitter quality. I added a tiny bit of sugar so that I could enjoy the other flavors of the coffee. I actually think we might have brewed it too dark (duh!), though it could be the guerrilla roasting process we employed.

The roasting process was easy, and the green beans are less expensive and higher quality than pre-roasted store-bought beans. Not to mention the fresh-roasted factor.

And now, as a reward for reading to the end of the post, I present you with a star-studded scene from Jim Jarmusch's classic ode to coffee culture, Coffee and Cigarettes: