Crispy Fried Tofu

Crispy Fried Tofu

 

Tofu is such a versatile ingredient. It’s available in so many different textures and consistencies and can absorb flavor like a sponge. We like our tofu fried with a crisp crunch… accompanied by a side of soy sauce mixed with rice wine vinegar, sugar, garlic, and chives. The biggest barrier to making crispy tofu is the moisture content, which is the enemy of good browning. Technically known as the maillard reaction, browning is a process whereby new umami flavor compounds are created under high heat. When you try to fry tofu without drying and removing much of the moisture it can take a frustratingly long time to achieve a good crust as the heat from the pan has to drive out the moisture before the browning can even begin. To avoid the delay and increase your chances of getting a good crust, you’ll want to make sure the outsides of your tofu are at least very dry. We used medium firm tofu for this recipe which I drained and cut into thin slices, then sat the pieces on a rack covered in two layers of paper towel with some additional paper towel on top and let sit for a hour or so. Then i removed the wet paper towel and allowed the pieces to sit in free air for an additional fifteen minutes. The crispy coating is a simple mixture of corn starch and water which we dredged the pieces in before frying… Like so many other great recipes made with few ingredients it takes proper technique and bit of advance prep, but your patience will be well rewarded.   Enjoy the photos!

 

 

 

 

Authentic Louisiana Hot Sauce

Authentic Louisiana Hot Sauce

We’ve forayed into pepper sauce making in the past and it turned out alright, but certainly not how we expected. Having done little research into hot sauce recipes at that time or even having gone far enough to check out the real names of different pepper varieties let alone the one we were using (those weren’t bird’s eye chiles, but Thai) we were pretty much flying blind. Since then though, my tolerance and preference for spicy foods has gone from raw jalapeno all the way to ghost pepper, which I now enjoy as much for it’s flavor as I do the burn. A few years ago we were having a hard time even tasting and seasoning the Thai chile sauce properly… not so much anymore that I can easily enjoy a good habanero paste with breakfast!

Having been very successful growing last years’ jalapeno plants and the subsequent sales of our awesome hickory smoked Chipotle powder we decided to grow them on a larger scale. We also expanded our pepper collection a bit this year (18 different varieties and 44 so far for next year) and built a hoop house to extend our growing season. You can check out the building and start of our hoop house garden earlier this year on our sister site here, here, and here. Here is what the hoop house garden looked like a few weeks ago. Since then we had a major windstorm that collapsed the support structure for our tomatoes but we propped them up again pretty quickly and found that fortunately most of our paprika and jalapeno plants on the collapsed side are okay.  In the last few days we’ve been particularly busy harvesting the now ripening peppers from the fruit (or more technically, berry) laden plants.

I’ve always enjoyed the tang and mildly complex flavor of authentic Louisiana hot sauce so we decided to try to make some of our own. The experiment was so successful, in fact, that we’re now using the same procedure to create some other fermented pepper sauces with a range of heat levels. Enjoy the photos and recipe below!

 

Cayenne Peppers on the Tree

 

 

Fresh Fresno and Serrano Chiles

 

Fresh Picked Cayenne Peppers

 

Picking Yellow Habaneros

 

Blending up the Jalapenos

 

Jalapeno Pepper Mash

 

Jalapeno Pepper Mash

 

Calibrating the Scale

 

Jalapeno pepper Mash

 

Weighing out 2 percent salt

 

Add 2 Percent Sea Salt by Weight

 

Paprika Peppers are Smoking Nicely!

 

Straining the Mash

 

Strained Mash - Still Active

 

Bottling the Strained Sauce

 

Bottling the Sauce

 

Bottling the Sauce

 

Finished Louisiana Hot Sauce

 

Fresh Yellow Habaneros

 

Fresh Yellow Habaneros

 

Into the Food Processor they go!

 

Processing Yellow Habaneros

 

Watch Out you Might get Maced!

 

Calibrating scale before adding Sea Salt

 

Finished and Active Cayenne, Habanero, and Jalapeno/Serrano Sauce

Louisiana Hot Sauce

Red Ripe Jalapeno Peppers

Enough water to cover the mash

2 percent salt by weight of mash

white vinegar according to finished sauce volume

salt to taste

honey to taste

You need to ensure your peppers are fully ripe for this recipe. Clean peppers and carefully trim most of the green tip at the end, leaving the small ‘starry’ bit which will add additional flavor. Process in a blender or food processor to your desired consistency. Calibrate your scale with an empty sterilized glass jar and add your pepper mash to it. Add water if required just to cover the pepper mash. Weight the mash and add 2 percent sea salt. Cover with cheesecloth. Check and stir the pepper mash completely a few times a day. Within a few days you will notice the mixture separate with solids on top and liquid on bottom and when you stir there will be many bubbles… this is a sign that the fermentation is working as it should. Continue to tend to the mash every day until the bubbling subsides or desired sourness is achieved it could take up to a two weeks. Important note: If a white mold starts to form on the insides of the jar or on top of the mash that is okay. Scoop it off and throw it away. If you find it is growing faster than you can tend the mash you may want to either try to stir it more frequently, attach an airlock after the ferment is started, or transfer to a new clean jar every few days.

When the mash has finished fermenting it’s time to strain through a cheesecloth, measure the volume of the now separated pulp and sauce, and add vinegar. You can use any vinegar you wish the only thing to keep in mind is that some vinegars are less acidic than others and the finished pH level is very important. You want something that is ideally 4.3 or below. For this sauce, we added 50 percent of the finished sauce/pulp volume in white vinegar (so about 1/3 vinegar.) At this low pH level the sauce is inherently shelf-stable and will continue to mellow and age for as long as you wish but our first batch was better than store-bought after just two weeks in the pantry!

Enjoy!

Mama’s Homemade Bread

Mama’s Homemade Bread

Your heart will be warmed when the aroma of this magnificently simple, traditional bread permeates your kitchen and home and when your friends and neighbors taste it they will beg you for more! This isn’t that ‘baker’s fluff’ that you buy from the supermarket that can barely support it’s own weight. When you eat this, you are satisfied and it’s a satisfaction that lasts… it’s the veritable ‘no hunger’ bread. Perfectly paired with a slice of vine-ripened heirloom beefsteak tomato and smothered in peppered mayonnaise this recipe is a real summer hit! Enjoy the recipe below!

 

 

Mama’s Homemade Bread

1 pkg yeast

~4 cups white flour

2 cups whole wheat flour

3 cups warm water

1/4 cup neutral tasting oil (or use butter for added flavor)

1 tblsp sugar

1 tsp salt

 

Proof yeast if necessary with a bit of sugar in warm water. Add all ingredients except white flour to a stand mixer and knead for about two minutes. Add two cups of white flour and knead again for another minute. Keeping adding white flour slowly until dough just pulls away from the bowl. Knead for another two minutes before removing. Remove dough temporarily and gently oil the insides sides of the bowl before placing the dough back in. Cover with a cloth or plastic wrap and place in a 110 degree F oven to rise until doubled in size. Remove dough to a floured surface and cut into six equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball and place into two greased bread pans, 3 in each. Cover and allow these to nearly double in size while your oven preheats to 350 degrees F. Bake for approximately 35 minutes… we need to turn ours half way but mileage may vary based on your oven. Bread is done when tops and bottoms are golden brown and each loaf gives a hollow thud when rapped with a spoon. Remove breads from pans and put on racks to cool. When bread has cooled but is still a bit warm you must cut off one of the ends, smother with butter, and enjoy immediately. Hide a portion or two so there will be some later if necessary. Enjoy!

Tomato Cucumber Sandwich

 

Bacon Tuna Melt

 

Sturdy enough for a burger!

 

 

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Am I even going to be able to fit this into my mouth??

Am I even going to be able to fit this into my mouth??

Pulled_Pork_and_Smoked Meat_on_Homemade_Bread

Garlic and Dill Pickles

Garlic and Dill Pickles

We had our first attempt at making pickles this year! Although we used baby English cucumbers and not the actual pickling type they still turned out very well, although lacking crunch. Next time if we use the same cucumbers we will try out Bick’s pickle crisp to see if the texture improves. Enjoy the photos!