Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Smoking fish, regrowing celery and the usual rambling.

I made up the brine for the tilapia and it should soak for about 1 hour.

Then it comes out and gets a light rinse and on the racks to dry

 Allowing the surface to dry before smoking causes a 'pellicle' to form,,, its a slightly tacky skin that helps the smoke flavor stick to the meat and helps preserve the texture of the fish.

Then on to the smoker racks (sprayed with canola oil) to go in.

Preheat the smoker and get the chips going.
I'm out of Alder so i'm using Mesquite. I have Hickory but i like that better on beef or pork. If i use it on fish it hints too much of bacon and i like seafood with bacon but its not quite right this way to me.

In goes the fish

Another few hours and a couple pans of chips.  It smells glorious.

(photo to come later if i remember, they are still smoking)

And here  they are:
Wrap in foil 2 fillets each
Bag and label then refrigerate. It can keep for 2 weeks i'm told.  But it will be eaten before that.

I could have smoked twice the amount that i did, i spaced widely and didn't use all my racks, but where this was an experiment with this type of fish i didn't want to do a big batch.
I think it was a success, it tastes very much like smoked herring without the bones and less salty.

I watched an episode of Emeril this morning and he smoked some tomatoes.... he also mentioned smoked garlic. I have to keep those things in mind for later on this summer.

I sent an email off to Burpee about the grapes. I tried to not be longwinded, but i told them that i didn't want to use up my replacement option right away because of the winter factor in each possible scenario.  I basically said that i think the plants are dead, when would they advise the best time to try again? Only i think it took me 4 paragraphs to do it.  lol

I took my Sea-Buckthorn  seeds out of the fridge a few days ago but i have not seen anything sprout yet. The Huckleberry seeds will be ready to come out of the fridge soon too. The Rose of Sharon seeds haven't done anything yet, its been a couple weeks out of the fridge for them and it will be time to take out the Autumn Olive seeds by Friday.  I got them on eBay and the skill of the seed collector and the suitability of the plants the seeds came from for seed propagation varies greatly.  The listed seeds cost me less than $10 to attempt... of course i would like to see something.  I have enough left of a few to try other methods, such as wintersowing, if the tray chitting method bombs.
I also have something of a care package coming from a dear friend, with cuttings and starts from a few berry plants to try out.
I'm seriously considering  ripping out the flower beds and going to a strictly fruit and berry garden. lol I was going to put the flowers back, but i'm reconsidering that.
I noticed that what i think are the nice neighbors' raspberry plants have almost totally migrated to my garden. Its really invaded quite badly. It is a little annoying, but i'm going to pay more attention to the fruit this year and if it is good i might leave it right there. Extracting my Clematis from it will be tricky.

I have to find a spot to plant some dill.

I may need to hill up some of my brassicas...  i took the row cover off and of course the next day was windy and some of the plants were not quite ready for that.  So they are leaning a bit to the side. But i have to make sure which ones can be hilled in case its not good for all or any of them.
Its been a long time since i have  tried kohlrabi, mine don't appear to be getting ready to bulb yet. The plants are pretty tall and a nice vibrant purple color, but the stems are still pretty slender.
Its been an odd year and where i had been planning this garden since early winter it seems everything should be along further that it is, but it really isn't that late in the season.  Its only mid June, normally my earliest plants would only have been in the ground for 2 weeks instead of 4 or so.

Free Celery!

I took a short reading break in between writing here and doing little home tasks and while i was reading one of the other blogs i love to follow, i came across an idea from Providence Acres
I learned that i can regrow a celery plant from the cut bottom of a grocery store bunch.  It makes sense, i have often noticed the tiny, partially formed mini stalks inside the cut-off celery heart, but i never thought the plant could regenerate to a reusable extent from that rootless bit of waste destined for the compost pile.  But i guess (get full details and instructional pictures at the link to Providence Acres) you simply cut the bottom couple inches off, and plant it.  It can sit in a saucer of water overnight to give it a boost or to keep it until you have time for it.  Then plant it in the garden, cover with an inch or so of soil  and within a week you should see green tops coming up.  I am under the impression that this can be done over and over again to subsequent bunches indefinitely.  The idea of "never having to buy celery again" seems to not be a far fetched notion.
I use a fair amount of celery, but trying to grow it from seed seemed like a hassle and i never expected it would work for me, but this sure is worth a try.

Not much going on today.

The grapes planted yesterday of course look no different. I haven't planted any new seeds.  I did some weeding, but nothing to brag about.
I have been reading a couple pages at a time from "The Grape Grower" and i think i get it.
I like how the author gets you to start from the beginning without treating you like a dolt.

There have been lots of other things to do, like laundry. Its been a few days since we had bright sun and a nice breeze, i like to line-dry so i will hold off on washing towels for a nice day. Today is a good day to dry.

I am planning on smoking some fish.  The last time i did, it was salmon. It came out delicious!
But i don't have salmon in the budget right now, so i am going to try and see if Tilapia takes smoking well. I'm not normally a big fan of fresh water fish, they have a muddy taste sometimes that i can't get past.  I spent most of my childhood up to my neck in frog ponds, so that muddy taste reminds me too much of such things in a not-so-good way.  But Tilapia is pretty mild, close to tasteless if you don't season it carefully,  i think smoking it will bring out what flavor it does have.
I have to double-check on brining it first. With salmon i used a classic salt/sugar/water brine:
1/2 Cup Sugar 
1/2 Salt (no iodine)
1 quart of water

I soaked the salmon overnight (8 hours) in that, but it was 1" thick with skin on. The tilapia is thinner and skinless and salmon is oily.  I did notice when i steamed the tilapia the other day in the bamboo steamer on a bed of pak choi leaves, it tasted very much like fresh trout. SO if i treat it like trout, i might get it right?
I found a nice chart here:
Showing the brine time by weight of individual pieces.
Most of the flavor in the result is not going to be of fish, its going to be the smoke, but i don't want to end up with a fillet-shaped shingle.

But this is an experiment, so i think i'll just soak them in the above brine for 2 hours and smoke them for a total of 4 hours.
My smoker is a Little Chief front loader and it is sort of a warm smoker, not a true cold smoker- though in the dead of winter it can be. It heats to about 180 at the most and large roasts have to be finished off in the oven (i use my gas grill and cast-iron dutch oven). Its mostly a tool to apply the smoke flavor, not a cooker/smoker.  But it does work as a one-step for fish and jerky.