Tag Archives: organic cooking

The Glorious Red Pepper

Have you ever taken a bite into a red pepper and felt like you’ve gone to heaven? Unlike it’s earlier plucked green cousin, the red pepper packs a delicous punch of sweet and savory. Our Brooklyn rooftop garden has about 5 pepper plans that are all doing well in the after the hot summer. The peppers are all on the small side and I’ve eaten a few delicious green ones. I’m leaving the rest on the plants to mature into reds. I just picked a glorious red pepper off of my Brooklyn rooftop garden. Here she is:

A Brooklyn Rooftop Red Pepper

So – what does it take to grow a red pepper? Although many people eroneously believe that red peppers are a different species or type of pepper than the green pepper, they are actually the exact same plant – the capsicum (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capsicum). Red peppers just stay on the plant longer and turn red as they mature or age. That’s why they are more expensive at the supermarket. They take more work and water to grow.

The pepper or capsicum is indigenous to the Americas and was cultivated first in South and Central America. Columbus noticed peppers being eaten by Native Americans and named it a “pepper” on account of the sharp taste which reminded him of black pepper. Columbus and other explorers brought peppers back to the “Old World.” Colonists then spread peppers throughout  North America. An interesting history of the pepper can be found at the Texas A &M Agricultures Site.

One of the Brooklyn Red Peppers

Interestingly, a red pepper has 10 times the amount of Vitamin A and double the amount of vitamin c as a green pepper. And, both green and red peppers have more vitamin c than a whole orange.

If you want to grow your own peppers, wait until next Spring and then go for it – it’s easy. Here’s an easy guide for pepper growing: http://www.gardenersnet.com/vegetable/pepper.htm

Last but not least, a quick video guide for roasting red peppers. So many good recipes have roasted red peppers. This video shows you 3 easy ways to roast ’em:


Sourdough Success

So, my live sourdough culture turns out to have worked after all (see below). After 10 days of feeding my flour and water concoction and watching all the bubbles form and the “hooch” form on the top (the slightly alcoholic liquid that forms during fermentation), I decided to try to use the sourdough starter.
I used a cup of my starter in a recipe to make 100% whole-wheat rolls. Here’s the recipe. 

My Sourdough Rolls From Fresh Starter

My Sourdough Rolls From Fresh Starter

I kept checking my dough to see if my sourdough starter was working and if it would rise. At first, I was disapointed when I didn’t see any movement. Only after a total of 2.5 hours did the dough really rise. It must have something to do with the strength of my starter. Alas, it did rise and I made delicious rolls.


It’s amazing that the natural yeast in the air makes this happen. It’s great to realize that all of the ingredients we need are around us if we just learn how to recognize them. While I wouldn’t get rid of supermarkets, we have lost something by not knowing how the world around us works in simple, amazing ways.

I highly recommend that if you have the time and patience, you start a sourdough culture. It’s just so cool…
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How Gooda is My Gouda?

Well, I have tried some goat cheeses, a bunch of different soft cow cheeses, and my Cheddar (see below) is nicely aging in its red wax in a little camping cooler that I am trying to keep at optimal temperature with a rotating ice pack. (It’s like a make-shift/jerry-rigged aging cave)

So, For my next cheese, I decided to go for gold with a gouda. I’ve always loved the smooth taste of gouda and especially love smoked gouda. I don’t think I can do the “smoked thing” in my Brooklyn apartment without getting some attention but someday I’ll try it.

Half Goat/ Half Cow-Ready for the Gouda

Half Goat/ Half Cow-Ready for the Gouda

I am making my Gouda from half cow and half goat’s milk that I got at Whole Foods. First, I heated up my milk to a nice 90 degrees. When it got to the desired temperature, I added my mesophilic (heat loving) bacteria and let it set for a few minutes to settle in and begin to work. Next, I added calcium chloride (to combat the homogenization) and vegetable rennet, stirred the whole thing up and let it set for an hour so that the curd could form.

An hour later, voi la, a nice curd had formed in my pot and I could “cut the cheese” (no pun intended).

Leftover Whey (Don't chuck it - it's makes ricotta!)

Leftover Whey (Don't chuck it - it's makes ricotta!)

Once the curd was sliced into cubes, I let it sit again and then began to pour off whey from the pot into a separate pot (you can use leftover whey to make ricotta!).Slowly, I began adding hot water to the pot to increase the overall temperature and expel more whey from the curds. After the pot reached more than 100 degrees (about 30 miuntes of adding water slowly and stirring), I poured off all of the whey so that just the curd was remaining in the pot. The hot water helps to rinse the curds and helps give gouda its smooth flavor but ridding the cheese of acidity.

Once the curds are all that remains in the pot, you can pur or scoop them into a mold for your cheese press. If you don’t have a cheese press, you can make one or buy one easily. This is the Cheese Press I have. I would like to make a wooden one at some point. Here’s a good guide for building one if you have the time and gumption.

Pressing My Gouda Overnight

Pressing My Gouda Overnight

I began to “turn the screw” and press my cheese unwrapping it and re-wrapping it a few times over the next hour. Then, I put it at a higher pressure in the press and left it pressing for about 12 hours (overnight).

After an overnight press - here she is!

After an overnight press - here she is!

In the morning, I unwrapped it and it felt pretty solid. Next, Gouda has to be soaked in a salt-water brine for another 12 hours. That’s where it is now. When that’s done, I’ll let it air dry for a few weeks and then wax it. Yay!

All in all, it’s not too hard to make this. It just takes a little time, patience, and some “gouda” luck never hurts either….

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Is My Sour-Dough Starter Starting?

I’ve been following the directions for several days and have a nice liquidy mess with lots of bubbles, but I don’t think my sour-dough starter is growing. It’s supposed to start rising in its container and mine seems to be bubbly and beery but is definitely not rising.

Like everything else with good bread and cheese, it takes time and patience — I’m learning to control my need for instant results.

I’m going to feed the sucker for another 3 or 4 days and see where it goes. I’ll keep you updated and hopefully will have my own sour-dough “pet” soon and will then move on to making bread with it. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about , check out this cool link on sour-dough starters.)

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If God Hands You Yeast, Make Sour-Dough

Sourdough Starter, Day 2

Sourdough Starter, Day 2

Along with my adventures in dairy, I have a real passion for fresh baked bread. I’ve been baking myself for a few years and have never used a bread machine. I like to do it all with my hands.

I’ve never made sourdough myself and I started reading about it recently. It’s so cool – you can make your own sourdough starter that could last forever (if you keep feeding it) with just flour and water — the natural yeast in the air does the rest.

You start by adding equal parts flour and water to a jar or container. Every 12 hours or so, you dump out half of it and replace it with equal parts flour and water again. Keep it lightly covered and make sure it is in a warm place. You will start seeing frothy bubbles on day 2 and it wll begin to take on a life of its own on day three or four.

I have a nice batch of starter going after just 4 days and am soon going to be able to use it for baking. It actually is a live “thing” and you have to feed it every few hours in the first couple of days.

For a good explanation of the process, check out this website.

I am excited to try to bake real sourdough bread!

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