i went down to the community garden in the late morning to collect habaneros for the hot sauce i'd be making later today. it'd rained earlier, so the garden was still a little damp. i brought my dSLR because i had a feeling that my the monkshoods had bloomed, which they did. monkshood is deadly poisonous, and every year people die from accidental ingestion. so it surprised me to see that a few flowers had holes in them, either insect or slug damage (my money is on slugs), which seemingly are impervious to the effects of aconitine poison. monkshood flowers are quite distinctive and no other flowers look like them. maybe some of the flowers will have enough time to mature and produce seeds, which i'll try to grow indoors.
i was also surprised to see that my striped mallows are still flowering. these along with monkshoods i consider tibetan garden flowers as i saw them in my visits to western sichuan. there were some striped mallow seedlings growing from the ground. some of the leaves are showing signs of spotted disease, perhaps the same kind that plagues hollyhocks.
as for habaneros, i only managed to collect half a dozen at most. they weren't in very good shape and a few had insect damage. fortunately i had a lot of habaneros from the belmont backyard garden.
the period after a rainstorm is a great time for garden photography. i noticed a snail crawling on one of my rotten tomatoes. snails are fascinating (i prefer them over slugs) but when they're in my own garden i hate them with a passion and always kill them when possible. a few things i never noticed about garden snails: they're actually kind of translucent, not only their body but the shell as well. the eyes are located on tall stalks, while down below are a pair of antennas. i ended up tossing the snail as well as the tomato.
elsewhere, butterflies were busy feeding now that the rain had stopped. there was a monarch taking advantage of the numerous garden flowers. it seems like all the monarchs i've seen have been females, and this one was no different. i see them a lot this season, which hopefully is sign of population rebound. there were also a few painted ladies (Vanessa cardui, the cosmoplitan, not the american version virginiensis). i find them rather dull but the prettiest part of the painted lady is the underside, where there's a flourish of blue and green eyespots and patches of peach on the upperwings. i noticed the monarch feed with wings closed, but the painted lady preferred to feed with wings opened.
i was planning on making the last of my grilled cheese and ham sandwich for lunch when i noticed a pool of liquid on the lower right most stovetop. the aluminum foil oil shield i placed there was looking a bit tattered so i decided to replace it. i then found out the liquid was all underneath the foil, and in fact that spilled underneath below the gas burner. so i pulled up the metal range cover and discovered congee liquid had flooded the area below. i ended up spending the next hour cleaning the stovetop, found out this also happened to the left side but not as bad. i know li did this because i'd cleaned it before he arrived, so any mess is new. the liquid was everywhere, and most likely also dripped to the floor behind the range, but that's not something i can get access to. this is probably one of the worst kitchen mishaps caused by a roommate in recent memory. what probably happened was he was making rice porridge but didn't watch the stove and everything overflowed. i didn't eat lunch until after 1:30pm.
next on the agenda was performing a water change on the aquarium. it was just a week ago i did a water change after getting some new plants. since that time a new film of slimy green algae had formed on some of the gravel. i was hoping the plants would take up most of the nutrients, keeping the algae in check, but so far that hasn't been the case. as well as vacuuming up a bucket worth of water (2 gallon), i also took out the driftwood and trimmed off all the excess java fern roots, many of which are still covered in algae. my own theory is a lot of algae is coming from the driftwood. if i can't control the algae, i may end up pulling off all the ferns, boiling the driftwood (sterilizing it), then replanting the ferns.
i made hot sauce using red habanero peppers last december. it's so hot that just 12 oz. of habanero peppers made enough hot sauce to last an entire year. i'm trying to reproduce the habanero hot sauce i brought back from hainan island. the habaneros they use is a yellow variety. the one that i grew this season was an orange habanero. if this recipe is good, i may try growing yellow ones for next year for a better match.
after washing them, i pulled off the green stems and sliced the peppers in half. i also tossed in 4 hungarian wax peppers which were formerly yellow green but changed to orange and now red. some of the habeneros were bad, a few with insect holes or slug damage, then grow black mold on the inside; those i threw away. the habaneros didn't seem that hot. there was none of that characteristic habanero smell unless i put my nose up against it. i licked one of the halves and felt nothing for the first few seconds until suddenly my tongue was burning. i left the peppers to dry.
moments later my hands began to hurt. i didn't wear gloves when i was handling the habaneros, which turned out to be a mistake. though they seemed deceptively mild, there were in fact seriously hot. i washed my hands, but i must not have washed the areas between my fingers and they ended up hurting, turning red. even after i washed them several times later, the oils must've been absorbed into the skin at that point and there was no relieve, just had to ride out the pain. cold water helped, but minutes afterwards my hands would feel like they were on fire.
around 5pm it was time to make the habanero hot sauce. i wore gloves this time but it was a hassle working while trying to take photos with latex gloves on, so i ended up tossing them. instead i made sure i didn't touch the habaneros directly, using utensils instead.
i processed the habaneros first, splitting them into 2 batches. the processed habaneros looked like shredded carrots from a juicer. because they were orange, they didn't look very threatening compared to red habaneros, but i wasn't going to let the color fool me into letting my guard down. after the peppers were done, i processed the garlic. into a bowl i added the processed ingredients as well has 2 tbsp of fine salt and 2 tbsp of white sugar. i wanted to use brown sugar but i didn't have any and didn't want to go through the hassle of making my own using molasses. white sugar works just as fine. i also added 1/8 cup of chinese baijiu. the last time i made it i used too much, nearly 1/2 cup for the two jars of hot sauce, which was overpowering. 1/8 cup is just enough to add some flavoring and complexity but not drown everything else out. i mixed it all up and spooned the hot sauce into a pickle jar, managed to fill up half (so about 16 oz.).
i gave it a taste test, sweet, salty, spicy. i'll let it ferment for a few weeks, let the flavor gain some complexity. even though i used less baijiu (1/8 cup instead of 1/2 cup), the hot sauce was more liquidy compared to last time. i'm not sure why that is, maybe because i used fresh habaneros picked from the garden just last night.
li went to the office today despite the columbus day holiday. i'd invited him to the mt.auburn cemetery last night, but he declined the offer, said we could go next weekend. he came home around 5pm, but was busy working on a powerpoint presentation for a chinese graduate school scholarship he's trying to apply for that's due thursday. i asked him about the flooded stovetop and he confessed it happened this morning, and he'd tried to clean it up. i told him to be careful next time, but i didn't tell him i spent an hour cleaning up his mess. for dinner i ate a slice of quiche, then baked some potatoes to make some thick-cut fries.