bye bye guavas… bye bye.

the guava tree went gangbusters this year so yesterday i went berserk and picked 17 pounds because… i’m selling the house.

yup. it’s time for reinvention once again.

away with the old and in with the new… and unknown. all i know is that the guava tree has given me at least two good preserve-making seasons in seven years. this time around i did habanero/guava jelly in addition to jam. i had to whip out mcgee and see what the deal is with pectin because i have never made jelly – i mostly stick to the fruit butters and conserves.

pectin and sugar seem to be best friends but there is something sort of appalling about adding 7 cups of sugar to ANYTHING. so i got ingenious. mcgee maintains that at 65% solution the pectin/sugar/acid matrix should gel. so i decided to add less sugar but cook it down longer – which is actually the same thing as adding a ton of sugar but it takes longer and adds (seems to me) a richer more caramelized taste to the whole proceeding.

the habanero idea came from the concept of mint jelly for some reason. i chopped three habanero chilies finely  and added the zest/peel of a couple of meyer lemons and let that  cook down until the guava juice (extracted the night before by adding water to the 17 pounds of fruit and cooking it.) the resultant juice was ruby colored and spicy. i strained it several times through a flour sack towel (i have always wondered what a jelly bag was for. now i know) and cooked it some more. mcgee says that once the solution reaches a temperature above 212 (217 and up) the sugar content is about 65%. i got it up to 217, added lemon juice and the liquid pectin.

i infused the guava puree with garam masala spices, star anise and allspice. i decided to just go pectin-mad and added some to the jam which i usually do not do.

now the jars are sitting there waiting to gel. i’m not going to freak out about whether or not they will gel for a week or so (freak out MORE than i am already what with the whole finding-selling-moving of it all.) I’ve also put up a gallon of guava mead and i’m soaking some fresh olives (which i have never seen in bulk) i found at super king. terribly exciting – went back – no mas. some armenian meemaw scored them all. olives are definitely on deck for experimentation wherever i land. if i have a kitchen of any size. here for the record is the kitchen i designed and built (i’m not exaggerating) with my own two hands:


sigh. okay i'm done. onwards!


and here’s the last project from said kitchen:



kitchen aid

the oven is kaput . she will not start. she beeps forlornly at me, patently ignoring my need to bake the loaf of all-rye, whole grain, essene-style sourdough bread that i just invented because these freaking starters are beginning to drive me insane.

sander’s book is almost fully dry, if a bit… puffy. the freezer schtick worked. as expected he had sage advice on sourdough starters which in essence is: don’t freak out, they just need to be fed regularly and discard more than you think you need to discard before feeding. he does a bit of the measuring and weighing but nothing extreme. i think of the prospectors heading west during the california gold rush and cannot imagine that they spent time weighing and measuring and marking their mason jars with tape. the starter probably lived in a can in some hairy old codger’s spare boot in a cool spot in a filthy wagon. so i’m not overly fussed.

a bit of research reveals that the famous san francisco sourdough DOES stem from the gold rush era and that boudin bakery can trace its starter back to 1849. sourdough has been a form of leaven since the dawn of time – or at least the dawn of bread. in france pain au levain has been made by the poilâne family since 1932. (another fine example of a family craft business.) rye bread has traditionally been leavened by sourdough because rye lacks sufficient gluten and the acidic nature of the starter does something or another to do with amylase that allows the dough to gel and therefore rise more effectively.

the whole thing started with the idea of adding sprouted rye berries to the eventual rye loaves for which i was making all of this @#&%@ starter. having gone through a raw phase that involved much sprouting and fermenting and dehydrating (way too much. four days to create a meal…. hmmmm. hey! no.) i am familiar with sprouting grains. so i soaked and sprouted a mass of rye berries. lovely. this is when the starters began to look a bit peaked. so i gave them a big fat feeding in preparation for using them…. and then the oven went down. so the rye sprouted a bit more than i actually intended. remembering my raw days and… rawing… classes, (at OHI in lemon grove, ca – perilously close to san diego) i decided to make rejuvelac, a probiotic beverage made by adding water to rye (or wheat) sprouts and letting it ferment for a few days. it is apparently quite good for you but somewhat nasty tasting however it is…. essentially a starter.

i decided to add rejuvelac to one of the starters for giggles. et voila, it went berserk. so now i have two starters going, one rejuvelac-based and one conventional one. oh and the one in the fridge made of the leavings from maintaining the other starters. the house is a fiesta of yeasts.

while waiting for the kitchenaid oven repair guy who is conveniently scheduled to come between 1 and 5PM today i decided to just make a bloody bread, in a quasi-essene (look it up) style. which is to say, i ground up the sprouted rye berries with rejuvelac. then i created a dry mix of 1 cup rye flour with 1/2 cup flaxseed meal, 2 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt, one teaspoon of xanthan gum and two teaspoons of tapioca flour (the latter two for stretchiness in the absence of the tons of gluten from wheat.) into the wet i dumped half of the rejuvelac starter from the fridge (after warming it up) a glob of barley malt, some soaked golden flaxseeds (for more gooey-ness.), a bit more salt and i chickened out an added a packet of yeast. mixing it by hand and adding rye flour as needed it became decidedly… stretchy! and it is proofing really nicely! huzzah.

an all-rye, mostly sourdough, whole grain, essene style dough

i’m thinking it can proof for a couple of hours and then i can form and rest the dough and maybe even shape the loaves by which time the oven will be fixed and we will have bread for dinner. if not i will have to make it into crackers and dehydrate the fucker. stay tuned.

the bread came out well. i like the nutty chewiness of the rye berries. it is truly a peasant bread of the old world – one slice is pretty much a meal. frank has asked for a non-grainy one – more like the rye bread of his childhood. i’ll indulge him. meanwhile here are the first loaves:

a meal in a slice


an update on the rye bread mission. i made two plain rye loaves a few days ago and they got the frank’s-childhood-seal-of-approval: moist, dark-crusted, pale grey… it too is really good. and all without a recipe. i am pretty psyched.

i love anything that comes in a tube

we had ham and rye sandwiches last night after we got back from the la cienega gallery scrum. and luckily the german mustard arrived last week. all is right in the world.

the lion of mustards



whole foods vs home depot (aka vague hysteria)

writer x delivered the pilot yesterday. how many weeks late? let me check. ok the producer’s draft was due on april 30th… let’s call it ten. two and a half months. forty-six days (give or take, excluding weekends. ’cause who works on weekends, right?) 1104 hours. 66,240 minutes. 3,974,400 seconds. 3,974,000,000 nanoseconds. i could take it down to yoctoseconds but i was a comp. lit. major so big numbers make me nervous.

the combination of relief and vague hysteria i feel today is urging me towards a trip to home depot to buy a refrigerator, maybe two. one to hold all of the fermented pickles on the planet living in the pantry (except for the ones in the harsch crock which will be an ongoing experiment) and another for the eventual baby cheesus because the delivery of the draft does not necessarily obviate the possibility that i will some day soon be selling pickles and cheese at one farmer’s market or another to supplement my welfare check.

breathing deeply. it’s all good.

i am inveigling frank to accompany me on this whole foods/home depot boondoggle because my latest project is an all-rye sourdough starter. let me start from the beginning.

last week sandor ellix katz’s new book the art of fermentation:  an in-depth exploration of essential concepts and processes from around the world arrived. i am in love with this book. it covers the history of fermentation from acidophilous to zymase and is massively informative, entertaining and cool. kombucha-fiber garments anyone? (i draw the line at breeding kombuchas although i do like to drink their excretions. the one time i grew a kombucha colony i had nightmares for weeks that it would crawl from the fridge and gloop around the house and consume the dog and then me. this was pre-frank. and you need to wear gloves to handle it. frightening.) i love this book so much that i took it into the bath to read one night and the inevitable happened. now sandor’s book lives in the freezer in a ziplock bag – one technique for saving a waterlogged book. so i haven’t had access to it.

i’m sure sandor has essential information on culturing grains but i had to resort to the internet (who doesn’t?) when frank opined that although he is fearsomely wheat-intolerent, a little rye sourdough might not kill him and would be the perfect adjunct to our frequent germanic meals, i leapt into action. i came upon a blog called wild yeast written by a lovely woman named susan and have very sketchily followed her instructions and advice. i have two all-rye cultures going (they won’t be starters – i.e. ready to actually rise a bread for some time) but they are bubbling away merrily. the main thing is that you have to feed the fizzy  little suckers every 12 hours to keep the bacteria and yeast satiated. i am out of rye flour so off to whole foods and home depot we go.

frozen book. and gluten-free waffles.

frozen book. and gluten-free waffles.


animal husbandry

i am so fixated on the cheese concept that i went hunting for a goat farm in altadena yesterday. frank was very busy with finals and i had failed to find a date to watch PROMETHEUS at soho house (which is a bit mysterious because the screening room there is beyond fabulous. drinks, snacks, CASHMERE THROWS, hello.) so i decided to check out the new wednesday farmer’s market in altadena. it was okay – just getting started – but our needs are mainly served by the csa so there is really no reason to schlep up there… or is there??

i had asked silverlake farms if they could provide me with pickling cucumbers in bulk and i also put it out there that i am looking for a source of goat’s milk for cheese-making. they gave me a couple of options and later followed up with an email about mariposa creamery, and a link to an article about gloria putnam and her husband steve rudicel. turns out they are raising goats and making award-winning cheese from their house in altadena. house might be putting it mildly. they own the zane grey estate a gorgeously dilapidated 1907 mediterranean revival pile. and they have goats. i lurked about, querying neighbors (“hi! are you the people with the goats?”) and finally a very nice man said “that’s probably the house you are looking for, the one with all of the hay in the yard.”

no one was home but i am determined to meet these people. sounds like they are doing cool stuff. getting to know them will probably be easier than raising my own actual goat… which is plan b.


just a note on PROMETHEUS and how badly it sucked: ridley – wtf? really? as a bona fide geek who has seen ALIEN more times than any other movie (something like 40 at this point – my dad had a betamax copy when i was a kid. yes betamax.) how could you make such a meaningless piece of crap? i won’t go on about the weird michael fassbender robot butler, or the requisite aggro born to die team member with a mohawk and a tattoo on his face, or idris’ bizzaro-world accent (he’s british, let him talk like ALL THE OTHER BRITISH PEOPLE IN THE GODDAM MOVIE.) i won’t linger on the accordion, or the surgery machine (ew) or that noomi rapace’s cheekbones are insane and actually she looks like an alien. or even that the aliens look like some sort of ayn rand wet dream. i’m not even that bothered by the usual vagina dentata squid and the birth of a pterodactyl-ish thing that is supposed to presage the later aliens. or the robot butler’s head referencing bishop from ALIENS, or the lack of cohesive logic or the way i felt cheated and wanted not only my money back but also the time i’ve spent over the past 8 months being all geeked out and excited about the film. what i am supremely pissed off about is that they did not let us watch idris and charlize fuck. we got to see noomi and her milquetoast soft focus baby squid-making sex scene, but even today, in 2012, there is resistance to showing a black man even KISSING a white woman let alone banging her (at HER behest i might add.) sigh. this is why i am considering swapping hollywood for animal husbandry. i mean at least you get some cheese for all of the shit you have to step in, know what i’m saying?


(one month later….)

remember the lupini beans? well i didn’t. but there they are in the fridge, presumably bathing in their own toxic alkyloidal juices, more than a month later. to be honest i did drain the brine and added fresh water about 3 weeks ago. i tasted one in the process: it was absolutely spit-it-out-in-the-sink disgusting. so back in the fridge they went. looking at the fridge today in preparation for the 40lbs of cucumbers i ordered from the csa (i know i know) i spotted the poisonous little bastards in their jars and decided to give them a rinse. this time they tasted… okay. bland and only very slightly bitter. so i’ve changed the water one last time and have started thinking about what to do with them.

from what i can glean from the interwebs, they are marinated and served as antipasti or as a snack with drinks. they will need a lot of flavor: probably marinated in some sort of vinaigrette for another month. this, perhaps, is the essence of food one must wait for: the emblem of my project, the ne plus ultra of… whatever. I’ll whip up an italianate vinaigrette and see what happens. maybe they will be delish. they certainly have gotten better with time, so that is a good thing as martha might say.

UPDATE: i threw these revoting and time-consuming legumes into the composter a few weeks ago. i mean really. and i needed space in the fridge,

baby cheesus


i was looking for a birthday gift for my brother-who-has-every-freaking-kitchen-thing-known-to-mankind, a khun knife-owning, cameron stovetop smoker-using food freak, and came across this book. mark bitterman is also one of the curators of my  new favorite website THE MEADOW. they deal mainly in salt, bitters, chocolate and flowers. what else does one need in life? so i got him the book and a himalayan salt block. and i had to have one of each myself. and a set of salts. and some xoxolatl de david chocolate caramels and the requisite pineau de charantes flour de sel caramels. yessssss.


meadow sel gris,  maine apple smoked, fiore de sal di cervia, marlborough flaky, kona deep sea, kauai guava smoked

also the paneer-making extravaganza has rekindled my interest in the baby cheesus. there was a small rampage of lipase and rennet buying, cheese cloth and flour sack towel sourcing and book research. hard cheese takes a looooong time to realize. yay.