Mauna Loa Rumbling; Some coffee recipes

A little over a week ago there was a 5.0 magnitude earthquake which had the coconut wireless (the “grapevine”) abuzz. I even got a text from a friend on the mainland asking about Pele. That’s when I realized it made mainland news. It was one of the larger events since the “heightened unrest” began in mid-September.

The USGS Volcano Watch 10/23/22 update for Mauna Loa said, “Heightened unrest began in mid-September 2022 with increased earthquake rates below Mauna Loa summit (from 10–20 per day to 40–50 per day), an increased rate of inflation recorded by GPS stations, and inflation recorded on the MOK tiltmeter.”

On October 5 Hawaii Volcanoes National Park closed the Mauna Loa summit backcountry until further notice, calling it a “precautionary measure” amid “elevated seismic activity.”

The volcano at about 13,680 feet above sea level, last erupted in 1984. Since 1843, it has erupted 33 times, with the time between eruptions ranging from months to decades, according to the observatory.

The park’s online portal says this is the volcano’s “longest quiet period since written records have been kept.”

There was a presentation yesterday at Ocean View, almost 40 miles south of here, about the likelihood of Mauna Loa erupting. West Hawaii Today reported today (10/23/22) in “Mauna Loa meeting draws concerns.” It’s a long excerpt, but I find it so interesting.

HVO geologist Frank Trusdell compared the current seismic activity with records of previous Mauna Loa eruptions in 1975 and 1984. While he noted that those eruptions — the latter of which spewed lava almost all the way to Hilo — were preceded by heightened seismic activity and terrain deformation similar to what HVO has recently detected, he added that HVO has not detected “consistent and persistent” seismicity and deformation.

Hon said that, if that consistent and persistent activity is detected, then HVO will raise its advisory level to “Orange” or “Watch,” which he said would indicate that HVO is reasonably confident that an eruption will occur.

But, even if it becomes clear that an eruption is imminent, Hon said it will be impossible to predict where the lava will flow “until Pele shows us where it will go.” He said that Mauna Loa makes up roughly 50% of the island, and lava can flow in practically any direction from the mountain and threaten any part of the island.

Trusdell said that all 33 recorded Mauna Loa eruptions since 1832 have originated at the volcano’s summit, but 24% flowed into the volcano’s Northeast Rift Zone, toward Hilo, and another 21% flowed the opposite direction, into the Southwest Rift Zone.

This latter path — toward Ocean View — is the most dangerous, as lava flows in Mauna Loa’s Southwest Rift Zone have been recorded to reach the sea in as little as three hours, Trusdell said.

We just don’t know. I share this info, not because I’m anxious, but because it’s interesting. The USGS Lava-Flow Hazard Zone map shows that on the slopes of Hualālai we are in Zone 4.

Enough doom and gloom. On to lighter topics. Life’s short. If you always drink your coffee straight up, black, maybe try one of these international recipes to break out of your usual.

A Hong Kong-based recipe, called Yuanyuang, which has black tea, sweetened condensed milk, and strong coffee. I haven’t tried it, but I bet it’s good with some boba (tapioca pearls).

Tea and coffee reminds me of a chai latte. I’ve had one at a cafe, and it was good, but I still prefer EITHER a chai OR a (coffee) latte.

Another recipe from Homegrounds was the Mazagran, an iced lemon coffee. I haven’t tried this yet, but our neighbor has given me a lot of lemons, telling me to juice and freeze them. I did, but we don’t have a chest freezer; we only have so much room! In any case, we have lemons. To me, citrus and coffee sound like a recipe for heartburn. Maybe I’ll make a little one to at least try it. I noticed a tip that you can also add rum. 🙂

And a Mexican coffee cocktail, the Carajillo, if the impending doom gets to be too much.

Brunch — Do you love it or hate it?

Over a week ago there was an amusing story I heard on the radio. At the time listeners were chiming in about how they felt about brunch. I found the story online (you can read or listen), “Eggs benedict and mimosas, anyone? We Settle the Brunch Debate Once and For All.”

I think I tuned in right before Ellen Reich of Baltimore’s snippet, which made me laugh. She kind of hits all the points. I don’t agree with her, but I can relate to where she’s coming from.

“I abhor eggs. No eggs is the only phrase I can say in multiple languages,” she says. “Brunch food is just throwing a sauce or whipped cream on food items that aren’t all that exciting to begin with. Hard pass for me regarding drinks. If you want a drink in the morning, drink in the morning. No need to dress liquor up with fruit or vegetable juices to make it acceptable.”

I think it’s more common for Americans to meet in the morning over a coffee or tea than an alcoholic beverage. I guess that’s where those brunch mimosas, champagne, and Bloody Marys come into play, easing alcohol into morning social acceptance.

The Germans have their “Frühschoppen, a morning get-together, when friends meet over a Schoppen. Depending on the region, this may be a glass of wine or a beer and schnapps.  The custom of enjoying a Frühschoppen on Sundays between church and the midday meal is still popular, particularly in rural areas.” [from]. Stammtisch is the regulars’ table, which might be signified with a little flag or banner in the middle of the table. I lived in Germany for a few years. I’d occasionally see these Sunday get-togethers, usually of older men, though I was never a part of any regular meeting group.

In Germany in the early 90’s I didn’t perceive brunch to be as common as it was in the U.S. Some restaurants offered it, but only the cool, trendy ones, and it seemed to have a similar characteristic to American brunch; it might have even been called “American brunch.”

German breakfast already felt like something special to me. There’d be a basket full of an assortment of fresh rolls from the bakery (someone had run out to get that morning), a huge spread of cold cuts and cheeses, butter, honey, and a big selection of jams, and maybe some soft-boiled eggs. Juice, coffee and tea. If you’re at someone’s house, all this stuff comes out of the fridge and is nicely spread out. It’s a breakfast event.

I first heard the expression and learned the concept of “second breakfast” in Norway from my sister-in-law’s husband. I woke up later than him, and I saw him already eating a piece of bread with something on it, not what he had announced was for breakfast that morning. When I asked if he had already eaten breakfast, he said, “This is my first breakfast. Second breakfast is later.” Something to that effect. I think you take the edge off with first breakfast, so that second breakfast can be a nice, leisurely, more substantial meal with company.

We are in the coffee business. Breakfast and brunch are the coffee meals. Unless you are capable of enjoying an espresso or coffee after dinner, like many Europeans. I enjoy eating out for both breakfast and brunch. And it has been more fun to entertain and have friends/family over for breakfast or brunch than dinner. There are just different expectations to those meals. You might spend the entire day preparing and cooking dinner, which means the host might already be tired. That’s not likely to be the case for breakfast. If you prepare anything that far in advance, it’s the day before or even earlier, and the day-of you’re reheating or doing the final bake.

I had been in a book club for 26(!!) years. We used to alternate hosting weekday dinner (whether take out or home cooked) and had moved to weekend brunch in my last years. People were more alert, and the meal could be simple or more elaborate. And we had daylight for the whole meeting and still had the rest of the day after book club.

Call it what you will … first breakfast, second breakfast, brunch, and lunch are all possibilities with me. Eating those might start at 6am and be as late as 3:30pm. And then there’s a dinner, or maybe a lunner (lunch + dinner). Hee hee.

Do you have strong opinions about brunch?

The Season’s Numbers Are Coming In

As feared, the numbers are downright grim. This is our fifth coffee season as Bea’s Knees Farm. Our cherry picked season-to-date is a paltry 21%(!) of what we had in last year’s season through August.

We still have fruit on the trees, but we know there won’t be much to finish the season. You will soon be seeing a big jump in price for our coffee. We will also adjust the shipping charges to reflect the USPS increases that have happened since we last adjusted in February 2020. We simply won’t have much coffee, and the next season won’t be ready until Fall 2023. We will sell out before then.

On the positive side, most trees are still alive, and they look reasonably healthy. I hope rust won’t take hold again and damage the trees. And I hope we won’t have a 2-month dry spell like we did last year. We are at the end of our rainy season, but this month has already had more rain than the four inches we had in August. Our dry season should not be bone dry, though it was in Oct. and Nov. last year. The dry season should just produce less rain than the rainy season. The official rain gauge year starts in October. Last year we had 70″ of rain (Oct. ’20 – Sept. ’21). We aren’t at the end of September yet, but so far we’re at 46″ for this year.

On another note, we were recently on the mainland visiting different sets of friends in different places. Big Joe in Seattle spoiled us. When we arrived there was already a freshly home baked bread made, plus leftovers from a few bread experiments. And while we were there, one day he baked three different sourdough breads: one with some spelt flour, a walnut loaf, and an olive rosemary loaf. Yummo! I think he wanted to experiment, and he needed guinea pigs who eat carbs and gluten. Can’t have all that delicious bread sitting around with insufficient eaters. Plus he could discuss techniques and tricks with Hubby (the bread baker in the family). Bea would have loved to be a guinea pig. She loves bread! We’ll have to create a GoFundMe site to Send Bea to Big Joe. Bea actually has history with Washington state and Seattle, which was before she settled in Southern California.

I shared this statement and link before in a previous post: Artisan bread complements specialty coffee in various ways. This article addresses How are artisan bread and specialty coffee linked?

Big Joe didn’t have a coffee burr grinder, so we gave him one to thank him for hosting us. I think it was the second or third grind, and he poured the beans ONTO the plastic lid (like he and we did on our grinder last year). It was his solution to put a sticker on the lid of our grinder, so we employed the same fix on his. We hope he’ll enjoy many cups of delicious, freshly ground coffee. And thank you to our other friends, including our new ones, who filled our mainland trip with socializing and fun adventures, and thanks to the sitters who kept the household and farm humming along in our absence.

The little citrus that makes your mouth pucker

Calamondin, also known as calamansi, Philippine lime, and Philippine lemon, is a hybrid between kumquat and another citrus (likely mandarin orange). We had a large, mature, not well-pruned tree here before, but it was right by the highway, on a down-sloping hill, and the trunk base was in a dipped area of jumbly lava rock. The fruit appeared fairly easy to pick, until you got closer to the trunk and you realized the fruit was even higher than you thought. The ground was so unstable, it was dangerous to put a ladder there. The tree was quite prolific, so we didn’t feel compelled to harvest most of it. We took the tree down a few years ago.

The fruit is about 1-2 inches in diameter. You eat it like a kumquat, thin peel and all. I find it much more sour than kumquats, lemons, and limes. To me, there isn’t that much to do with it other than use as an occasional citrus garnish or make jam. It makes a beautiful, complex-citrus flavored marmalade. I like the marmalade enough that we planted another tree in a better location.

We planted a dwarf tree in April last year, and this was how it looked in June, just a few months later. (May and June were extremely rainy last year, so there were a lot of weeds). The tree is supposed to grow up to 10-15 feet, but we hope to keep it lower.

Quite a few more fruit developed by the end of the year, and we weren’t vigilant about culling some. Enough grew on one branch, that the branch broke. We tied it to a support stake and let it just continue on. By that point we just let the fruit stay on it, since we knew we’d prune off that branch later.

We harvested the fruit several weeks ago. It probably wasn’t quite ready (there are quite a few greenish ones you can see in the photo), but the supported branch fully broke off. Fourteen cups, or four pounds four ounces, as a first harvest. Not bad. I would be happy with even that same amount every year, since I just want it to make marmalade. I get overwhelmed if we get too large a harvest. I always try to use or share what we do get. At least the fruit aren’t highly perishable.

The fruit had developed well enough that every single fruit was juicy. We compared an orange ripe-looking fruit and the greenest one we could find. Boy were they sour, especially the green one. After some discussion and consideration, we decided to use even the green ones, thinking the sugar would compensate.

The recipe I use (Bea’s) has you cook the fruit with baking soda prior to deseeding and cutting. Already the lovely calamondin juice smell brought back memories of previous marmalade making. I’ve read on the trusty internet that using baking soda helps reduce the cooking time required. The most time-consuming part of making marmalade is deseeding the fruit. Slicing across its hemisphere is preferable to cutting lengthwise, because it’s easier to remove the seeds. For the 14 cups of fruit, it took me 1.5 hours. My fingers were shriveled.

I miscalculated (pretty badly), despite notes I’ve taken from previous years, so I actually hadn’t sterilized enough jars. Fourteen cups of fresh fruit resulted in 12 cups of marmalade. Oh well. The clean, unsterilized jars will contain refrigerator jam. I like to store whatever I can in the freezer anyway to try and preserve the bright orange color as long as possible.

How does it taste? Well, this was the most bitter batch we’ve made. It’s a little disappointing, but it is what it is. It’s not as bitter as candied grapefruit peels, which I’ve made only once for a reason. My thoughts about why are: (1) the fruit was harvested a little early due to the broken branch, (2) we should have eliminated the green ones, (3) it was the tree’s first harvest (I think fruit usually improves with the tree’s age). The internet says marmalades can be bitter because the rind isn’t cooked well. There are three cooking steps: (1) bring fruit to boil with baking soda, (2) cook the slivered peels, (3) cook the fruit with the sugar. So maybe I should tweak the length of time for cooking step (2).

Tweaks and adjustments will have to wait until next year.

“For creamy indulgence … what beats heirloom beans?”

What beats that? Heirloom beans with Bea’s Knees Farm coffee! The title is a little excerpt from the Rancho Gordo About-Us web page. Some other excerpts: “You can blame it all on the Dutch.” “American cuisine is reinventing itself.” “New World food is international food.” I enjoyed their About-Us webpage more than I expected.

Rancho Gordo has an amazing variety of delicious heirloom beans. When friends from California came to visit, they surprised us with three bags of different Rancho Gordo beans. And another friend who had come a little earlier had gifted Rancho Gordo Mexican stoneground chocolate. I hadn’t realized that Rancho Gordo has a bean club where you get a certain number of beans in a certain number of shipments per year. I think there used to be a years-long wait to transition from the waiting list and into the club, just like some wine clubs at exclusive wineries. Our friends said they were on the waiting list for a while, then something changed and all of a sudden they were IN. Then they got a bit behind in eating them all, so they shared their bean wealth with us. They didn’t even know that I had earlier asked California mules to pick up some dried beans (e.g., borlotti or cranberry beans) from the farmers market. So we were happy recipients.

Yes, the beans are more expensive than bulk pinto beans at your large, chain grocery store. But it’s about $6-7 for a pound of gourmet beans. It’s not going to break the bank. I think they’re worth it. There are so many varieties available. I’m not ready to commit to bean club amounts, but I may have to make a bean order.

Hubby and I have made three different recipes from Rancho Gordo’s website. I think those might be my three favorite bean recipes we’ve ever made. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I enjoy chai and those kinds of spices. Their recipe for Rajma: Beans in a North Indian Style are like chai beans. Hubby made them with Ayocote Morado beans. So delicious.

Not too long after I made the bostock, I was on a little roll. I tried a couple of recipes that I was procrastinating on. During that time, I tried Rancho Gordo’s recipe for Santa Maria-style beans with Medjool dates. The appeal to me was that it used *coffee*, beer, dates, bacon, and New Mexican chile powder.

Some notes on actual execution: I didn’t have their Pinquito beans, but I used some California farmers market borlotti beans. I discovered that our dry mustard had shrunk and formed into a mustard brick with our humidity here; I chipped off enough for the recipe. [I added dry mustard to my shopping list. I’ll have to store the container in a ziploc bag, I guess. ] I used a particular wheat beer from Kona Brewing Company that we bought and don’t care for, violating the rule of not cooking with things you wouldn’t eat/drink. I used Kirkland (Costco) bacon and California Medjool dates.

I used our dark roast peaberry coffee since that’s all we had in house at the time. I wanted the brew to be stronger than my normal pour-over, so I used the AeroPress. I hadn’t used it in a while, so brewing the coffee was quite a fumbling mess since part-way through I decided to switch to the inverted brew method (hubby’s preference). I don’t usually do that, AND I hadn’t started off correctly. It resulted in quite a bit of brewed coffee on the counter, but I still managed to get the amount of brewed coffee I needed.

The beans were luscious and flavorful. I recommend this recipe. If any of you vegans out there make this with a good substitute for bacon, please share in the comments, please.