Crabapples and Elderberry Tonic

And then there were CRABAPPLES!! What a treat. Arrived home from mulberry picking this morning to find these treasures in the porch, such good quality (thanks Deborah).

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Tomorrow I will make jelly and paste from them, maybe even some crab-apple lemonade.

I neglected to take the camera with me this morning when we went mulberry picking at a beautiful B&B in New Norfolk. It was so hot, but under the massive mulberry there was a cool breeze and plenty of shade, just perfect for picking. The mulberries have all been frozen now – they will be used to make Mulberry Monkey Bun in cooking classes.

The plums are now in the pots, par-cooked on their way to jam and worcestershire sauce.

IMG_1485I’ve made that elderberry ‘tonic’. It contains loads of honey – and it would undoubtedly be great for coughs and colds. Elderberries, and indeed elderflowers, have been referred to for thousands of years as the medicine chest of the country folk. It tastes quite delicious. I will post the recipe tomorrow.

Elderberries don’t break down much as they cook, no matter for how long, so the only way to grab every bit of goodness from them is to squeeze with your hands (though most people wouldn’t bother – may well not want to anyway, my hands are stained purple).

IMG_1488IMG_1490I’ve made a batch of cordial syrup too – always refreshing. I will reboil my last batch with it as I thought it needed a little more acidity.

So another day of preserving tomorrow. There must be plenty of we preservers about. On the way into Glenorchy on Sunday, there were people everywhere by the roadside picking/’foraging’ apples and blackberries.

Again on the way out today, just travelling into New Norfolk, I counted at least 6 people picking blackberries.

How lucky are we to be able to do so?

Greengage Jam

I’ve had some requests for a recipe for greengage jam, so here it is.

Personally, I think this is the best way to capture their flavour in a bottle.  You can certainly bottle them (like by the Fowlers method), but I find that they lose a lot of their characteristic flavour.

I’d sooner freeze them, later to be stewed for desserts or breakfast fare.

Certainly I would never, ever make them into a savoury sauce because the vinegar and spices would overpower their unique flavour.  It would be such a waste – use other varieties of plums for this purpose.

Anyway, as I said, here is the recipe for that delicious jam:

Greengage Jam

1.8kg greengages

Half cup water

Juice 1 lemon or half a teaspoon citric acid

1.5kg sugar

Place the greengages in a jam pan or large pot with the water and lemon juice or citric acid. Bring to the boil and then reduce heat and simmer over low heat until the fruit is soft.

Add the sugar and bring to the boil, stirring. Boil over medium heat (at a fairly brisk boil) for 20 minutes by which time setting point should be reached. You can test by placing a little on a cold saucer and putting it in the freezer unit it cools. if this sample sets, then the jam is ready (take the pan from the heat while the sample is cooling). If it doesn’t boil for 5 minutes more.

If the jam tends to catch as it cooks, throw in 4 stainless steel forks (truly) – this will help disperse the heat, even helps the jam reach setting point sooner.

Now you will note that I haven’t removed the pips. Once the jam is cooked, I strain it through a colander. It only takes a couple of minutes, far less time than it would have done to remove the pips from the greengages. Be careful removing those forks by the way – use tongs as they are jolly hot.

 

Pour the jam into warm sterilised jars and seal immediately.

A Tasmanian Summer’s Abundance

No-one could ever say Tasmania and this Valley were not productive. Despite the challenges of the dry weather, a plague of green beetles, marauding possums, potoroos and wallabies, everyone’s gardens seem to be yielding huge supplies of summer fruits.
This morning started out with Robert bottling off a gluten free beer.

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He is, as always, accompanied by his faithful cat Rosie. She is more loyal to him than the dog (sorry Poppy but it’s true). Wherever he goes she can be seen trotting along behind, whenever he stops she is there asking for a cuddle.

IMG_1448Anyway, even our own vegetable beds are yielding enough for our table and more besides.
I love herbs, must have them growing about the place. To me it’s a bit like the kitchen equivalent to bread dough – always have to have a batch on the rise or baking.
While I was hand-watering the garden beds a day or so ago, I counted how many different herbs we have and was amazed to find there are 42. The lavender was harvested this morning and also the pepper berries (or what the possums had left of them).

IMG_1450IMG_1454I’m not quite sure what to do about the bergamot. I hate to take it away from the bees, they love it so much. The flower are constantly a-buzz with bumble bees, ordinary bees and native bees, all feasting together.

IMG_1372This afternoon we met Andrew, Emma and grandson Hunter at their friends Adrian and Lisa’s house to pick plums. And what a load of plums there were – red, purple and yellow.

Adrian tells me that he prefers to leave pips in the plum jam, adds to the flavour his mum said. I know my Nan used to do that too. Tomorrow I plan to make tri-plum jam, some Worcestershire sauce and plum sauce, maybe even fruit leather.
If you are gluten intolerant incidentally, don’t use dark malt vinegar in the Worcestershire sauce. Cider vinegar or white is fine. Not sure if the vinegar labelled ‘brown’ is gluten free though.
Picking was great fun, but in my all-too-familair clumsy, bumble-footed way, managed to trip over a rock and fall down most ungraciously. No damage done (I bounce well, one advantage of extra covering).
So now we are home. Plums are washed – these are just a few in the photos, ready for the first batches of preserves tomorrow.

IMG_1475IMG_1477IMG_1469We were also given a huge bag of elderberries, what generous people. Robert has stripped the berries from their stalks (with a fork) in readiness for making an elderberry tonic Andrew and Emma told me about. Lisa provided the recipe – ginger, elderberries, cinnamon and honey. She gave me a taste of the batch she had made, delicious, not to mention medicinal.

IMG_1471IMG_1482Poppy has been off-colour today and we found out why – she had an enormous tick on her. We removed it of course, and she soon perked up, after a restorative little nap on the couch.

IMG_1470As for Truffles, she just is…..(the most delightful, peaceable kitten). Tom, absolutely fully recovered after his 5 days missing adventure, rarely leaves our side lately and is much more affectionate than he used to be.

IMG_1441And so very early tomorrow we will be preserving, 6am start at the latest. There’s hint in the air that there may be the opportunity to go berry picking. Can’t miss out on that!
Oh yes, and I almost forgot – 10 kilos of pickling onions to be peeled and salted down.

IMG_1447Never a dull moment, aka another day in paradise!

 

Extended Cooking Class Calendar

There’s an updated class calendar on my website cooking class page.
If it looks a bit skeletal at first glance, it’s because there are lots of private classes on the go.

However, if there are any suggestions, any dates that might be requested for classes or class topics in general, let me know and I will see what I can do.

All Things Cheesey

So, a productuve weekend one way or another, and great company with the people who attended the cheese making class here on Saturday. Then yesterday a recreational catching up with dear friends from the past.

After the class there was Quark ‘left hanging’, and a surplus twelve litres of milk in the fridge (I always over-estimate in my ingredients’ purchasing). So it was back to the cheese making gear again this morning. Also had a meeting here so it was a good opportunity to try out some new recipes using Quark. Can’t remember when I used it last. Morning tea is a must under such circumstances, turns a business meeting into a party.

Now in the back of a Mad Millie cheese making book, I’d recalled seeing a recipe for little quark tarts. Finally found it last evening and set to work. Well, as is often the case when I use other people’s recipes, I lost concentration and messed up the pastry. I had to do a rescue remedy with that, but in the end it made 3 dozen crisp little tart cases.

The filling was mostly quark mixed with lemon juice, Limoncello and gelatine. Time to ad-lib, I doubled the gelatine and used lime instead of lemon. It was still a bit sour I thought, so added a little cumquat cordial I happened to have at hand.

I’d made lemon curd to top the tarts, as per the Mad Millie suggestion, and then a tiny piece of mint (as opposed to their suggested lavender or berries).

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I have to say, they are delicious, but now there is no-one to eat the remaining ‘baker’s dozen’. So they are sitting forlornly in the fridge. I hope it won’t be necessary to feed them to the chooks in the end.

Oh yes, and the remaining quark – well I wanted to make something savoury with that, so mixed it with spinach from the garden, grated onion, lovely fresh-laid eggs, basil and parsley and four different cheeses that we’d made on Saturday. Plain fare but surprisingly tasty all the same.

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A double batch of feta is now draining in its moulds lined with muslin, and there’s a fresh batch of Halloumi, made with grandson Jacob in mind. He just loves it.

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We also made this in the class on Saturday of course, then pan-fried it in a little olive oil, sprinkled with fresh oregano from the garden. As a bit of a variation, you should try sometime coating each piece with egg and breadcrumbs and then frying it, delicious and much moister than when just fried without the coating.

Pretty fun way (or should that be ‘whey’?) to spend a couple of days I think.

Jammin’ on a rainy day

This morning was ideal for jam making – nothing can be done outside, so its a good excuse just to cook.

Greengage jam and strawberry were the order of the day. In the jug amongst the jam making paraphernalia are the stainless steel forks that I threw into the greengage jam to stop it catching as it cooked. It works really well, but my goodness there’s a sticky mess at the end – they’re a bit of a challenge to fetch out of the jam. MInd you, that was because I couldn’t find the tongs – they would’ve made it a whole lot easier.

IMG_1425All those jars plus the last couple of days’ worth are now labelled and good to go. But go where? All the cupboards in the house are full, the stall is well stocked and the cooking school shelves are packed to overflowing.

IMG_1428It’s a dilemma but I have to find somewhere to store them. At least there are plenty to share around the family and a good supply for winter.

There’s Quark, Labna and Marscapone on the go in the background, and later I need to make Feta and Halloumi.

A bowlful or exquisite strawberries were kept aside and are now steeping in brandy, a little sugar and lime juice. They will be served with Mascarpone filled pancakes tomorrow.

IMG_1431Strange sky over the cooking school as we did all this – looked like a collection of fluffy grey cotton balls before the thunder and lightning tore it apart. Then came the rain again. Hooray!

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Greengage Picking in the Rain

Never been so happy to be soaked to the skin in all my life. I knew if I put clothes on the line, it just might bring back the rain that was so promising earlier this afternoon. However, schedule picking fruit – that’s a definite.

And sure enough, as we arrived to pick greengages from a tree in New Norfolk, the downpour began. It didn’t matter at all – it’s worth it to have access to the royalty of plums.

IMG_1420Wet we may have been but the rain felt so good, and it didn’t take long to fill some boxes.

A quick stop at the supermarket to buy more sugar. The girl at the checkout didn’t quite know what to make of a bedraggled, drenched old woman buying 24 kilos of it. I’m sure she must have thought we were quite mad.

But now I’m set for tomorrow to make greengage jam, strawberry too, as I was also given enough for a couple of good-sized batches by a very kind friend.

Despite all the dry weather we’ve endured for so long, this Valley is incredibly productive with lovely generous people who share the fruit around. Love it.

(All the more so now it’s raining)

Hidden Treasures and a Tale of Sleeping Tom

Each morning with our breakfast cereal, we are able to include preserved fruit. Today Robert, self appointed breakfast cook, said “Can you please fetch jar of fruit from the cupboard?”. Sure, no problem. When he opened them he declared they smelt funny and asked if they were ok to eat.

When I checked they turned out not to be preserved cherry plums as I’d thought, but rather confit cumquats. I should have known – they didn’t sit in the bottle like plums would have done. You can see from the photo that they look pretty ‘ordinary’.

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That’s the beauty of doing your own preserving though, you come across all sorts of hidden treasures in the pantry shelves, especially if they are a bit disorganised like mine.
Anyway, I was so pleased – I thought we’d eaten them all. They are the perfect match to a bitey blue cheese, and so will be perfect to share on Saturday with the cheese making class here.

We’ve spent the whole morning, almost since the crack of dawn, weeding, hoping to avoid the heat. At 12 we came inside, very bedraggled and hot as we didn’t have any cloud cover at that stage. 30 degrees the thermometer said, and in the shade at that. No wonder we are so dishevelled and wilted. What a shame everything else doesn’t grow as well as the weeds do.

Meanwhile, a mini animal drama unfolded before us. Old Tom had been missing for a few hours – I feared it was to be another missing cat episode. He sauntered through the cat flap a while ago however, devoured three sachets of food and then went looking for a likely bed to sleep off his adventures.

I’d put Puppy Poppy’s toy basket up on the couch, out of the way so I could vacuum the floor. Tom has curled himself up inside it most comfortably.

IMG_1417Now Poppy is most particular about her toy basket, she loves it and goes back and forth to it all day long, choosing this toy and that to play with for while. If visiting grandchildren take a toy out, she whimpers to let them know she’d prefer they didn’t.

She jumped up on the couch, I expect with a view to asking Tom to move. She took one look at him, saw how entrenched he was, and gave up the cause. She retreated to my chair, looking quite depressed as you can see. Better that than a swipe with Tom’s hook claw I am sure she must have thought. You can see her coveted toys in, around and under Tom. Strange old cat he is.

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Preserves galore in the stall at our gate

I’ve just stocked up the stall at our gate. The preserves have had to be placed in the Eski at its base because of the heat, but today they are back on the shelves with this merciful drop in temperature.

The chutney I made using yellow peaches turned out even better than when it’s made with apricots, very happy with it. It made quite a few jars so have spared a couple for the stall.
There’s also strawberry chilli sauce, raspberry/blackcurrant syrup, raspberry/blackcurrant jam, Worcestershire sauce, sweet chilli sauce, blackcurrant jelly and jam, mint sauce, plum syrup and more besides.

Does anyone in this area happen to know where there may be some yellow cherry plums? I’d love some more. I made some jam that has proven to be so popular that there are only a couple of jars left.  In fact, any plums would be good – greengages and blood plums in particular. And apricots, good ones, slightly under-ripe or just ripe would be best, but I’ll take them at any stage except over-ripe.

Peaches, cats and more

If I were to say it’s been busy here, then that’s nothing new. This week has been a bit beyond the norm even for this place however. We’ve been fruit picking – red currants, Morellos (though these were picked for us), jostaberries, blackberries and delicious yellow peaches.

Usually I make a bucketload of apricot chutney but as you might remember, the apricots I purchased were a great disappointment. Thankfully the peaches will fill the gap, and now two huge jam pans are bubbling on the stove with peach chutney in the making.

IMG_1392The red currants were frozen immediately when we arrived home (the trip in the car in the heat did them no favours). I just plop them out in a solid block from freezer container to pan. If the specified amount of water is boiled and poured over them, they soon melt down into the pot.

IMG_1395Strawberries too have come our way, and have been made into strawberry chilli sauce. Usually I use this primarily with fish. However, I’m told it is also excellent with chicken.
There’s been a Berry Bliss class also in and around all the preserving – amongst other things gooseberry pies were made, what a treat. I am so lucky to have at least ten kilos of them in the freezer.

Swedish pancakes were filled with a lightly sweetened labna and topped with mixed berry coulis, a raspberry cream cheesecake slice, mixed berry jam, raspberry/blackcurrant syrup, and elderflower, and lots more berry things were made. We are so lucky to have such an abundance of produce in the region.

IMG_1390IMG_1391Robert has faithfully peeled the onions for the chutney thank goodness, and now has moved on to his familiar place at the sink – this time washing bottles as his latest brewing experiment is about ready.

IMG_1397Now, on the matter of animals – can anyone tell me if there is a way to stop one naughty MIss Rosie cat beating up little Truffles? Mind you, I think Truffles knows how to work the system. As soon as Rosie appears on the scene she starts to howl like a cat-banshee, which brings me running to scold the offender, and makes Poppy chase Rosie away.

Would it be good to adopt another kitten I wonder? Another female for instance? I don’t really understand cat psychology so I should be careful. Maybe Truffles would in time have two seeking her out for harassment. Tom just watches them with indulgence and sometimes annoyance, hissing in their direction every now and then as a warning not to disturb his sleep.

Truffles herself has not a nasty bone in her body. The worst she does by way of catching birds is to find a feather on the ground from, for instance, a parrot that has been moulting. She rolls over and over it, purring at the top of her little lungs. What a sweetie.
Anyway, any advice appreciated. I am always happy to add to the menagerie here, especially cats of course.

And as for the photos – apologies if there’s a certain sameness about them – pots boiling on the stove etc, but that’s what we do here, what we love – working with the best of fresh, local produce, capturing the essence of the seasons in jars and bottles.

This final photo is one of butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-her-mouth, Miss Rosie. Don’t be deceived by the sweet look and show of affection, she’s a little tartar, but we can’t help but admire her spirit. She is devoted to Robert and I think that’s where the problem lies – jealousy, in case anything else should threaten to share his affection.

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