Friday, September 28, 2012

Water Cured Olives Part 1

The Olives on the trees outside work are starting to turn purple so I went out and grabbed as many as many large green ones as I could off the trees around my office, think I picked around 5 pounds of the little guys. For those of you who don't know about olives, you need to rid them of their bitter water soluable compounds before you can enjoy them. Bite into a raw olive, even a ripe raw olive and you are in for a shock. I am going to cure them 3 ways and Water Curing is the first way I am going to do it. Read about it on Hank Shaw's Blog, check it out HERE if you have the time.
Just had to give them a good rinse before they were ready to start processing. 
I got 2 Ice Tea jugs form the store for $3 a pop, they came with 4 plastic cups my family can use. hopefully the spout does not fail on me. it is going to take a few months for all the junk to seep out of the olives and into the water. I sliced the olives with a paring knife to help the process, a lot of people seem to prefer this to smashing them with a mallet. 
I filled the first jug and only got halfway through the second. 
I used cheese cloth to keep the olives down, today I picked more and filled it the rest of the way up. I am going to try two different methods, one will be slightly saline and I will change the water less and the other I will change the water every day or two. Once the olives on the tree ripen I am going to try the straight brining method and once they are over ripe I am going to try the Oil Cured method. Should be fun, I just hope it turns out well.

Thanks for reading,

Update 6/22/2013: They finished some time around April, but are still good now. Check them out. -Dan

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Pickling Okra (I Promise it is NOT Slimy)

A few weeks ago I wanted to go hit up a vacant lot near my house with my daughters to pick some Orak that was growing there wild. I figured it had about a week to go, 3 days later I drive by and all the plants are gone. I was pretty disappointed the whole thing was just mowed over to clear the brush, I had a itch I needed to scratch. A short time later after my biweekly Costco run I decided to stop by the Visalia Farmers Market to take a look around. Okra was a dollar a pound so I loaded up, picking up some fresh dill on my way out.

There are a million variations to pickle recipes and you can add just about what ever you want as long as the acidic brine is right. The Ingredients I used were:
Fresh Dill
Red Chinese Dried Peppers
Morton's Pickling Salt
White Vinegar
And of course Okra

The ratio I used for the brine was around 4 cups water to 2 cups White Vinegar with a 1/4 cup salt. You don't have to be exact, you can also go 2 cups water to one cup Vinegar and 2 Tbsp Pickling salt. If you use Kosher salt you need to use some more and it will take longer to dissolve. I just heat the brine in a pot until the salt all dissolves,  Some people seem to like adding the salt directly to the jars to keep it even. I did notice in a past batch of Pickles that my last jar seemed a little saltier than my first, the salt is heavy and sinks so give it a quick stir to avoid it settling. One thing that is important is to not use table salt, iodized salt can cause off flavors, weird color change and should just be avoided.

I used the raw pack method for this job adding a large clove of garlic, 2 peppers, a pinch of peppercorns followed by packing in the Okra in my nice clean jars as tightly as I could making sure to have room for a little head space. I added the brine and gave them a shake and a poke to make sure there were no big air bubbles hiding in there, gave the rim a wipe with a clean moist paper towel an hand tightened the warmed jar tops.    
Once they were all hand tightened I dipped them in my boiling water bath for 20 minutes to process, I did them a little longer than I would do Dill Cucumber Pickles because I wanted the stems to be tender enough to eat. They can get a bit woody, especially in Okra a little later in the season.  My kids destroyed these things, we also gave a jar away to a friend and her family seems to be enjoying them. What is funny is she posted a picture of the jar on Facebook writing about how yummy they were and a surprising amount of people said "Yuck, slimy". I can not say this enough, they are not slimy, give Okra a chance. The pods are tender, the seeds give a nice pop when you chew them and there is no slime. If you like dill pickles you will like the flavor of Dill Okra Pickles, it is a good way to introduce new veggies to people.  

Thanks for reading,

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Mantis Returns?

I think I found the Mantis that hitched a ride home from Fresno in my wife's car, we released him hoping he'd like all the bugs attracted to our Passion Flower plant. I can't be sure it is the same one but it is definitely a mantis and about 100 times bigger than the little guy we found.
You see the resemblance? 

I hope he likes our front yard, we like thinking he is alright.

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Finally a Decent Day on the River

The last few weeks have been rough, between family stuff and a cold that lasted for almost a week and a half I was about to go into fishing withdrawal. I fished the Aqueducts with Sam for a few hours and got nothing but the skunk on Thursday night, even the pictures I took weren't really worth it. Saturday was National Hunting and Fishing Day and I knew I had to get out. The water in the river was starting to slow and get low, real low.
The water was right up to where the grass stops in this picture, now there is a 40 yard long mud beach just to get to ankle deep water. The fish seemed to be there though. Caught my first just a few casts in, a 12 incher. The average size of the fish seems to have shrank from around 14 inches to 12 since the early Spring, though they were scrappy for their size and looked pretty healthy. 
They all came on Stankx plastics in Dirty Blue Craw and PB&J rigged on 1/2oz LBS Showoff Jigs did the trick. It was pretty consistent though no fish of good size were caught. I did have a Run in with the largest Beaver I have ever seen. 
He looked like a mini Grizzly bear as I got closer to him, I wanted to get a good shot and so I gave a good strong paddle and coasted into the bank he was standing on snapping pictures as I came in closer. Tho Olympus Tough does not zoom well so I had to get right close, my kayak hit the shore before he scrambled into the water. Here is a shot from further away to get a better idea of the size of the thing. 
Good day to get out, not too warm and not to cold, when the fish were hitting they smacked the crap out of the jig. I only lost 2, one due to a weak spot in my line from a sharp rock broke on the hookset of what felt like a good one. 
Most the fish came off the Chunk trailer but a few hit the Hero. 
Here is a shot of an average Kings River Bass I have been catching.  I also snagged something weird...
I thought I snagged a branch but pulled in a Thumb... it was really thick and tied into a knot at the bottom, seemed to be a thin plastic or vinyl material, either way it is in the trash now. Best fish as usual came right at the end of the trip, a nice little 2 pounder. 
I need to get out more, my next goal is to hook a Striped Bass. 

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

National Hunting and Fishing Day

Last two weeks I have been feeling under the weather with a head cold from hell so I have been lacking on posting. Shoot I have even felt bad enough to not go fishing (proof I feel sick), Saturday the 22nd in National  Hunting and Fishing day I plan on getting out.

If you can take someone new out with you and share in the experiences.

"More than 44 million Americans six years of age and older enjoy fishing every year.
An average angler spends $1,046 every year on the sport.
Americans fish 557 million days per year.
More than 38 million Americans hunt and fish.
Over one quarter of all anglers are female.
Hunters and anglers support more jobs nationwide than the number of people employed by Wal-Mart.
Through license sales and excise taxes on equipment, hunters and anglers pay for most fish and wildlife conservation programs.
Anglers and boaters have paid $3.6 billion in excise taxes since 1952.
Recreational anglers spend a staggering $41.5 billion a year to fish. This has tremendous economic impacts.
Anglers spend almost $300 million a year just on ice.
Anglers spend more than $1 billion a year on bait alone"

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Make'n Bacon

I've been reading Hank Shaw's Blog Hunt, Gather, Cook at for a while now, he is full of some great ideas like smoking your own bacon. I have thought about it for longer than I have had a smoker, the fact that traditional bacon is cold smoked has left my fridge DIY Bacon-less until now. French Ventreche is delicious and easy to make.

I bought a frozen pork belly from The Food Locker in Lemoore, Ca on my way home from work. They didn't have any fresh due to the lack of demand for pork belly. After a day of thawing it was ready for me o trim the skin off with a fillet knife.

 It came off easy with the sharp knife, the tits were only slightly disturbing.
 I rubbed the meat down in Kosher Salt and bagged it for two days to cure. in the mean time I sliced up the skin into strips.
 After I sliced them I added salt, Pepper and a little Chipotle Pepper powder to give them a little kick. I let them sit in the fridge until I had the oil ready.
 They fried up nice and crisp, even my picky twin teen-aged daughters thought they were tasty. Crisp outside with a chewy inside, the fat melts right on your tongue, trust me if you are weary of trying fried pig skin it is delicious and if you don't like it the skin came for free on the belly and you aren't really wasting anything.

Once the belly cured for a day I added some brown sugar and black pepper to the mix, rolling and tying it tight. It sat like this in the fridge for another night until I was off work. When I got home I soaked some hickory chips and set the bacon out to prepare it for smoking.
 Let it smoke for 4 hours.
 It smelled delicious I brought it inside, let it sit until it was cool enough to go into the fridge for the night. in the morning I grabbed it, and sliced her open.
It did not disappoint, with a good bite of black pepper and a pork taste that is not in your average store bought bacon. It tastes good fried crispy or even just warmed through, my girls and wife love it and want me to make more.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, September 7, 2012


Just started a Tumblr page, check it out if you want to see more of my pictures.
Here is a pic I just posted of an Eagle I took in 2009 on Eagle Lake in Ontario, Canada.
A little fuzzy but still cool in my opinion

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Hiking and Fishing Monarch Lake, Sequoia National Park

The last few weeks have been pretty stressful at work and at home, it was time for a day out. My buddy David was planning on hiking up to the summit of Sawtooth in Mineral King, California and wanted to know if I would be interested in joining him. I had never been up on that side of Sequoia National Park and it sounded like a blast, but what sealed the deal was the chance to fish for mountain trout. We decided a few hours fishing would be a good rest and stop along the way up the mountain. We invited John another coworker, to come out and join the experience. He is the same guy I brought out Party Boat Fishing a few months ago (his first time fishing ever). He had never used spinning gear, caught a freshwater fish, caught a fish on a artificial lure or fished a lake or steam. It is baffling to me that people can go most their lives without fishing, I was excited to hopefully get him on his first fish and a mountain trout at that. I packed my rucksack with 2 large water bottles, snacks, a jar of pickled carrots, 2 light action spinning setups and a few boxes of tackle. I have read fishing in Sequoia is catch and release only  however most of the fish I have seen caught in fishing reports were in coolers, to play it safe i decided to make it a catch and release trip, I figured letting the fish go would be looked upon favorably by the fish Gods.

David told me he was going to pick up John at 2AM, which would have given me 15 to 20 minutes to get ready if I set my alarm to 0200. My alarm went off and right after I hit the snooze, rubbed my eyes and set my feet on the floor I got a text message from Dave "We are outside"... Great. I rushed around, my wife followed me out of the room to make sure I did not forget a vital piece of gear. She told me to be safe, kissed me and we were on the road. The trip to Three Rivers, Ca was about 55 minutes, past there is was an hour drive up a winding mountain road  barely as wide as 2 cars smashed together. It was dark when we started the hike, about 0430, winding up the first trail John stopped short and being startled by the set of glowing green eyes looking at him. We looked were his headlamp was pointed and saw another set of eyes and another. 4 sets of eyes looking at us, I figured they were deer, David took a quick flash photo and confirmed it.  We could see the lights of the towns in the central Valley peaking through the mountains, the full moon gave us a lot of light to keep good footing. We walked up to about 86,000 feet before the sun came up. A little before we rounded the side of the mountain.  

The View was amazing and well worth the price of admission.
We came across so many deer, mostly younger bucks with 4 or 6 points and a few does. There was one nice 8 point that let me get pretty close but I did not get the shot I wanted. 
The other thing in abundance were what I think were female Spruce Grouse, though I am not sure because of the lack of black and red males. Let me know if you know the ID of this bird. 
The other amazing thing about this part of the Sequoias is the landscape changes so drastically as you walk, from lush grassy meadows to barren Mars like landscapes I don't think I could get bored with what I am looking at there. We made the hike up to the lake by 8AM and it was worth the sweat and sore legs.   
We got right to fishing, John caught the first fish. It was a beauty of a little Brook Trout with it's parr marking still strong along it's sides. John's first freshwater/spinning gear/artificial lure/mountain fish. 
We arrived right during a hatch, some kind of small white midges were flying all over the water and the little trout were jumping clean out of the water to gouge themselves.  
I switched to a bobber and Power-bait worm on a small jig to sight fish the little guys. I think I could look at these little beautiful fish all day. 
Amazing little fish. 
The reds, the blues, the fainted parr marks, these fish are like little masterpieces swimming around. 
As the sun moved over head the bite died off, we decided to catch a few more and head up to the upper lake. 
It was hard leaving fish this beautiful but the camper we chatted with told us not only were there more fish in the upper lake they were bigger. Being the fools we were we fell for it. 
The view over looking Lower Monarch Lake was amazing
We made our way up to the upper lake taking the path the spill way to the dam cut through the brush and rocks, most the area was broken white and black specked granite that was blasted away to form the lake, large chunks of it were cemented together to form a dam, only a padlock prevents anyone from opening or closing the water gate and draining the lake completely. We ate Jerky and pickled Carrots, there was a lot less cover in this lake and almost no fish jumping. I suggested John switch to a heavier spinner and it paid off. 
He caught the largest and most beautiful fish of the trip, what a lucky duck. 
Another look at his Upper Monarch Brook Trout
We climbed over 3000 feet in elevation, it was hard to breath and our feet were getting pretty sore, Sawtooth summit was out of the question. It was about 1100 when we headed back down. The decent was sketchy, sliding down bare rock and loose shale, I am surprised no one twisted an ankle. 
The water was so clear and clean I will be dreaming of it for a while
Between the loose shale and steep paths that switch back and forth randomly spotted with boulders and tree roots my feet were both just a giant blister. It felt like the the path was going on forever, the sight of the car from 9,000 feet was a welcome sight even if it seemed still out of reach.  My feet were still growing heavier he last few steps stumbling towards the car, the relief of sitting in the car was beyond words. 

Thanks for reading,

Monday, September 3, 2012

Hike in Sequoia Fishing

The mountain kicked our butts today, fished Lower and Upper Monarch lake, more to come.


See the rest HERE or click on the link below.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Pickling and Canning.

Since I made my first batch of Dill Pickles I have had a bug in me to find more things to can and preserve. there is a ton of Okra I figured would be great pickled growing in a lot near my house so I grabbed my daughters and headed out there. Turns out it is not ready yet, some pods are just forming but most of them are still flowers. I'll have to hit them up in a week or two.  
Wild Okra
I decided I needed to can something so I went out to the Super Market and bought about 6 lbs of carrots, some Jalapenos and some dried Chinese peppers. Peeled and split the carrots, stuffed them in the jars with the peppers, a clove of garlic and 5 or 6 peppercorns. I topped the jars off with a brine of white vinegar, water, honey and salt. The ratio was about 1 cup Vinegar, 2/3 cup water, 2 tsp canning salt and 2 tsp Honey.
Going into the bath
Got the water up to a boil and dropped the jars in for 20 minutes at a boil. 
I can't wait to try these bad boys out, hopefully the Okra will be ready soon.

Thanks for reading,