Jul 31, 2012

Pickled Jalapenos

Not everything in my home garden is doing great.  The tomatoes - the first I've grown from seeds rather than starts - are a total failure.  Not only are the plants being ravaged by fungi, but I made the mistake of planting them next to a six foot tall fence.  I hoped the fence would offer some support for the plants, instead it's given squirrels such ready access to the fruit that there's none left for me to harvest.  Cranky Frankie.  Oh well…I guess I'll let my attachment to the season's most important crop go.  Other crops are doing surprisingly well.  Like the eggplants and hot peppers.  There are so many jalapeños on the bush that I decided to make one of my favorite condiments with 'em:  I love eggs over easy, smothered with a layer of melty cheddar that's studded with slices of pickled jalapeños.  

For the brine I used approximately:
3 cups of water
3 cups of apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons of kosher salt
2 tablespoons of sugar

Jul 30, 2012

Raising Ducks: Building a Nest Box

Our Welsh Harlequin ducks are now fifteen weeks old.  I expect them to start laying eggs any time within the next month.  I can't wait!  In preparation for this exciting event, I built a couple nesting boxes for the ladies.   My duck rearing book says you'll need one nest for every four or five layers.  I've only got four hens, so two nesting areas should be more than enough.  I'm not even sure they'll use them.  I think it's more likely they'll lay their eggs somewhere in our yard.  I'm hoping the nest boxes - and dummy eggs I put in them - will encourage the ducks to lay in their house, where I can easily gather the eggs each day.  We shall see!  Here's how I made the boxes:

Jul 10, 2012

Cooking With Duck

I'd never cooked duck before we butchered the drakes in our backyard flock of Welsh Harlequins.  I'd barely even eaten duck before, just a couple of bad-to-okay experiences with it.  When I placed my order for ten ducklings (the minimum) with the idea of keeping a few for egg production, I knew I'd eventually have to butcher a few.  

Cooking with duck has been fantastic.  I've been thrilled with what I've made so far, especially the smoked duck.  It was so succulent, savory, delicate and delicious - it exceeded my expectations, and I  hope to make it again.  Perhaps a small duck farm is in my future?  

Sorry I didn't photo document cooking the ducks the way I usually do when I'm presenting a recipe.  I didn't know exactly what I was doing, so I can't say, "this is how you cook duck".  I just want to show you a few delicious possibilities.

Jul 2, 2012

Jalapeño Cheddar Cornmeal Biscuits

I usually make these these biscuits in winter, and almost always to go with a big pot of black bean stew. We're smack in the middle of the dog days of summer in the Hudson Valley, but I had some extra special smoked duck skin that I wanted to use to make beans with, so here are some hot weather biscuits.

I experimented with the proportions in my recipe for a while, trying to figure the highest ratio of cornmeal-to-flour that would work and still make a decent biscuit.  I'm happy with a half cornmeal, half white flour formula at this point.  (Sorry, but these won't work as well with whole wheat flour - not enough gluten.)  I think the addition of an egg helps a lot with the texture.  These have a soft and airy interior, a golden brown top, and a crispy bottom.  That's about all I ask for in a biscuit.  But wait, there's more!  Cheddar cheese and jalapeños put these over the top.  I'd say you can use just about any strong flavored cheese, and if you don't like jalapeños, try some fresh herbs like rosemary, sage...whatever.  I made 'em with blue cheese and cilantro last month and they were really interesting.  And when I use the term "interesting" to describe a food or flavor, I mean it in a good way.