The pressure is on!

We started very early yesterday morning with quite a mess to deal with, the residual washing up and bottling off from the Preserves class of Saturday.

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This was to be the day also, to pay homage to the splendiferous Moor Park apricots that a friend had acquired for us. Bottled in halves in a little sugar syrup, some stewed and bottled for pies and crumbles, plus the inevitable jam and chutney.

20170115_104416 Meanwhile, Robert set to work to pick the jostaberries and blackcurrants. Our wonderful neighbours came to help – the two bucketfuls in the photo were just the beginning. There were almost 5 buckets in the end.

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There were tomatoes to be dealt with – chopped and bottled in their own juice for later use in preserves or everyday cooking. Plums too are in the process of conversion into Worcestershire sauce.

MIxed berry jam, lemon cordial syrup, jostaberry syrup, chutneys, chilli sauce and more – so much to do.

Friends came for lunch and Robert conscripted them into helping fill Fowlers jars with crushed tomatoes.

Then there was a hiatus while I sought out bottles and jars. I sterilised every pre-used one I could find in the shed and still not enough!

My Nan used to say her forgettery worked well, and so indeed must mine. I’d forgotten I had a box of jars in the boot of my car, brand new ones I purchased last week. I must have wasted at least an hour sterilising those old ones.

Somehow amongst the piles of washing up, Robert managed to fit in time to start off a German lager – the one he makes from scratch.

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Just now at dusk as I turned to go out the door of the cooking school, with “Complete Preserves” at the ready for tomorrow’s currant and berry blitzing,I’m not sure the mess looks like it’s much reduced when we started.
Well, it’s different – one mess has been cleaned up, and this one reflects a busy preserving day.

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I have to say, it’s very satisfying to see the benches full of season’s produce preserves. Incidentally, by tomorrow afternoon, some of them will find their way out to the stall at our gate – I think I can spare a few!

Morellos and such

We were able to pick some exquisite Morello cherries at a friend’s orchard on Monday, red currants also. Morellos always look like beautiful glistening jewels in the bucket as they are plucked from the tree.

They keep their colour when preserved too (bottled the water bath/Fowlers way).

20170112_07553720170113_132658Then Morello cherry cordial is very hard to beat – its colour too is absolutely amazing.

In the strainer in the photo is the pulp – you can see it has given its colour (and flavour) over to the cordial liquid.  Our chickens like the pulp though, or if there’s too much even for them, it can go the way of the compost heap.

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I will use this Morello syrup not just as a cordial, but also as a ready-made coulis, or to flavour ice cream (or drizzle over it), or yoghurt or add a little splash to a gravy or jus ….. and so on.

The red currants have been made into a jelly – best use for them I think. This will be used to glaze little fruit tarts as the year progresses, with a little kept aside for scones, toast and lovely, fresh baked bread.

While I was at it, I preserved some stewed nectarines and apricots. These are very handy to make fruit crumbles and pies. If you bottle it unsweetened, you can use it to make jam and chutney during the year as well.

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In the background of the photo below you can see the pressure canner.

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Hmmm – I have been a little apprehensive about using this, remembering from my childhood a neighbour’s issues of a pressure cooker gone wrong.

Their dinner ended up on the ceiling on more than one occasion, with her, the mother, left weeping over the sink as the dinner she had prepared for her family of six was wasted in a most horrible way.

However, daughter Stephanie assured me that this pressure canner (an entirely different beast) is fine, so with some trepidation and watching her pressure can stock, pea and ham soup and chick peas, I now have made some of my own. I am sure I will preserve by this method more often in the future.

Do you know what I think will be the best to preserve this way?

Gravy. Whenever I prepare a roast, making the gravy is that last minute chore that throws things out of kilter. So the stock with appropriate flavourings and maybe a little wine, then pressure canned and therefore shelf stable, would be wonderful to have at the ready. Pour it into the roasting pan and reduce or maybe thicken just a smidgeon with cornflour paste. What a time saver it will be.

Interesting isn’t it, that although it’s called canning (an American term I am told), it is actually done in Ball Mason glass jars (or similar) that are especially made strong enough for the task.

Now with all that done, I am pretty pleased with the look of it all sitting prettily on the benches in the cooking school. Only thing is….. I need to clear the benches for a Preserves class here tomorrow morning. It’s a tough one, but will find a solution somehow.

Meanwhile, standing at the ready are the preserving outfits, 2 Fowlers and one OzFarmer, ready to get back to the bottling tomorrow after the class.

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I think, yet hardly dare hope, that 30 kilos of Moor Park (!!) apricots are coming my way this afternoon. A little jam, several jars of chutney … summer produce is well and truly on its way.

Catmint

I’ve planted a few cuttings of catmint around the garden that have subsequently grown most enthusiastically. I thought maybe “catmint” was just a quirky name for the plant, but lately our cats have shown how much they love it.

Here is Rosie smooching the bush, and Tom acts similarly, then often sleeps for several hours underneath.

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It apparently has a soothing effect, which will be helpful you would hope with fractious Rosie’s temper. This bush is at the end of the path near the cooking school. She is shut out when we are cooking in there, pleasing her not one jot. This is obviously how she calms her nerves.

All in all, it’s very amusing to watch. As I think I might have said before, at times this place is a circus.

Summer has landed in Molesworth

As the rains seem to have receded, I realise the dry weather will soon inevitably have its effect on my lovely green grass. So I took a little stroll around the garden at dusk to take a few photos before the worst of the summer heat sets in.

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I’m not much of a gardener really, not too successful. My strategy is probably a poor one by most people’s standards, as I like to see things grow wild and free. We’ve planted bit and pieces, cuttings people have kindly given us from their own gardens, plants as well and every now and then I scatter a handful of seed, such as Sweet William and wait to see what will survive and thrive.

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I’m very happy with how things are looking now, and even better, the aromas from herbs (we have 42 at last count) and a whole range of flowers.

Tom has a favourite and most appropriate spot where he suns himself each morning, under the cat mint bush.

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There are lovely shady walks and archways fragrant with jasmine and honeysuckle.

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The wet winter has certainly pleased much of the garden here. There’s even a little spring of sorts come up under the large shady elm where tiny little frogs have taken up residence.20170106_205352

The raspberry canes are still quite badly affected by last summer’s onslaught of little green beetles, but are slowly showing signs of recovery. We finally were able to pick a few ripe raspberries this morning – hopefully the promise of things to come.

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The jostaberries and red currants have thrived though, black currants and white currants also.20170106_20555520170106_205615

The lemon tree, so ravaged by possums a couple of years ago, has flowered since it’s been enclosed in a large protective cage, but the fruit has never formed. However, there are now dozens of tiny lemons very evident.

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I am ecstatic – I love this tree, it’s one of the reasons I was attracted to the property. Its neighbouring lime tree is in full fruit also, even the orange tree and cumquat are looking very healthy.

Grandchildren came for a sleepover on Saturday night. This always leads to a lovely baking session with Charly (while Jacob goes exploring). This time it was jam drop biscuits and Minecraft shortbreads made with special cookie cutters.

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Finally, a hastily prepared lunch of a pasta bake with lots of herbs from the garden. We also prepared fresh baked focaccia plus coleslaw made with all vegetables from the garden, all in readiness for the rest of the family to share when they arrived.

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I hasten to mention that this very dark photo – look carefully – you will see the long awaited solution to the destruction wreaked by possums in our orchard over the last four summers. Those are flashing solar powered Christmas lights. Nothing has worked before – not even loose chicken wire or electric fence.

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A mere 140 metres of LED lights means we now have fruit on the trees at last. As I mowed the grass of the orchard I was able to pluck dark sweet cherries to eat, and there are plums, nectarines and medlars ripening.

All things considered, not much not to like about this little spot in the Valley.

And so back to work (if indeed it can be considered such) – I need to pressure can some chicken stock I’ve made, and bottle (water bath) nectarines, tomatoes and plums….

In readiness for Bottling class of Saturday

Produce at the ready for a Bottling class here last Saturday, the calm before the storm of activity.

20170106_182815As you can see, there were are yellow nectarines, fresh picked apricots, delicious sweet plums, tomatoes, zucchini, capsicums, onions and more. Then there were beautiful cherries purchased from the cherry farm nearby.

Great fun, lovely people, a wonderful way to make the most of the start to the summer season’s bounty.

It’s arrived! The Little Book of Slow by Sally Wise and Paul McIntyre

My oh my – look what just arrived on our doorstep! The advance copies of “Little Book of Slow”.

20170104_132726It’s been a huge pleasure to have written this with the wonderful Paul McIntyre, ABC producer and highly respected playwright.

The book is about how to live more mindfully and meaningfully with simple tips on how to do so.

With respect to slow pastimes, Paul has written delightful chapters such as Throwing a Theme Party, Rediscovering Board Games, Slow gardening: bonsai, The Ultimate Slow walk: beach combing, Relax with a Perfect Pot of Tea – and so much more.

Mine of course – cookery related with chapters on cheese making, preparing a high tea, cooking over a campfire, planning an old fashioned and truly wonderful picnic, baking cakes, making pies, cooking for a fete and a great deal else besides.

Each of us has written 25 chapters with the underpinning theme of living more mindfully and enjoying the simple pleasures of life.

Both Paul and I are very happy with our book – biggest thanks to our publisher ABC Books/HarperCollins.

The official release date of “Little Book of Slow” is January 20th.

Post Christmas Cooking

Needless to say it’s been a wonderful and scrumptious feasting. Best of all were the family get-togethers, with two exquisite new grandbabies to cuddle. Who could ask for more!

I seem to somehow create an inordinate amount of leftovers and so today the time had come for the situation to be addressed. I did write of course, the Leftover Makeovers book, but there were some extra bits and pieces I wanted to play with.

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For example, between making pastry and cakes, there was well over a kilo of butter bits, tucked away, albeit safely wrapped, in various corners of the fridge.

I’d bought loads of milk too, of the delicious full creamery Tasmanian kind.

Our chooks forgot to take a holiday so there were eggs everywhere, not to mention a dozen egg yolks leftover from pavlovas.

Butter was first cab off the rank – how about some ghee, as I’d not made it before? What a wonderful process that is to watch, almost therapeutic, as the butter simmers and froths, then subsides, clears, the solids clump and finally froths again. This is the stage where is strained through several thicknesses of muslin. It looks and tastes amazing.

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Next – I had a large tub of ganache as well plus some of Stephanie’s raspberry curd.

Then there was the lemon curd style filling I’d made for the lemon meringue eclairs… and so the list went on. How best to utlise them?

It seemed like to ideal time to make lots of Neapolitan-style ice cream. Three bowlfuls of the respective flavoured base custards are now cooling in the fridge before churning. Instead of vanilla ice cream I incorporated the lemon curd, yum.

20161231_105201 Frozen in layers in rectangular containers, I will then turn it out and cut into slices to place between ice cream wafers for tasty ‘cream-betweens’ as we used to call them. Just need grandchildren to come to eat them, lots of them. Hope they are hungry as I made rather a lot.

Of course there’s a price to pay for all this experimentation, and no-one could ever say I’m a tidy cook as anyone who visits well knows. Neverthless, clean up I must as Stephanie is on her way out to visit. This afternoon we plan to do some pressure canning.

This evening there are red currants and raspberries to be picked, and so it will be time and opportunity for more experimentation. Bliss.

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New preserves in the stall at our gate

Funny thing about preserving, once you start, as with the (fun) cooking class of Saturday, it’s hard to stop. Oh well, means there’s plenty of stock on the stall at our gate.

There’s the usual suspects of course – raspberry jam, tomato relish and kasoundi for instance.

With a great crop of gooseberries fresh picked from the garden, I was able to do a little experimentation.

Our mint is absolutely lush at present and I was in need of mint jelly. The mint will soon suffer with the heat, and it’s not too fond of our bore water. High time to use it. However apples, that are usually essential to make the jelly, are low in pectin at present (long storage will do that).

Answer? Gooseberry mint jelly. Gooseberries are notoriously high in pectin so it’s perfect match plus the flavours work very well together. The end result – well, I may be prejudiced of course, but I think it will be great with lamb or pork. It could be used as a glaze also. Only a little would be needed, as the flavour is quite intense.

Anyway, I’ve put a few jars out on the stall.

There’s pineapple relish too, made with fresh pineapples – wonderful to serve with ham, hot or cold. Or mix with equal parts cream cheese to make a delicious dip.

Lots of other things too – like raspberry and mulberry syrup (drizzle this over a pavlova or cheesecake or even ice cream, or use as a cordial syrup or basis for a cocktail or mocktail. Pretty yum).

For now, the weeds of the garden need some serious attention, but this afternoon I’ll bottle off sparkling raspberry, gooseberry and pineapple, before I can allow myself to go back to the preserving pans again. Tomato sauce is next on the list…..

Complete Preserves

Most people are aware of my preserves books “A Year in a Bottle” and “out of the Bottle”.

Now there is “Complete Preserves” – a combination of both of the above (with updates), but with an extra section on bottling the fruits of the season. It contains a chart for how best to bottle each fruit – times, temperatures and sometimes recommended pre-treatment.  This is a culmination of more than 40 years of preserving experience.

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I hope you enjoy using this book – my personal copy is getting dog-eared already with fruit and vegetables ripening apace.  It’s going to be a wonderful summer in the kitchen!

Pineapple Cordial

Lots of fun at Salamanca this morning with ABC’s Chris Wisbey and Tino Carnevale. Order of the day was for Tino to learn how to use a pineapple peeler and corer that also swizzles the fruit into rings as it goes. Looks like a lethal weapon but works like a dream.

The most recent versions of this dazzling kitchen implement now has an added piece that cuts the rings into smaller segments.

Tino mastered the task in no time at all, very impressive.

Pineapples are delicious at present, ripe and juicy. I’ve had the luxury of three beauties this week and so have made relish, sauce and cordial syrup.

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The cordial is made from the otherwise wasted core and peel of the pineapple. It’s simplicity itself to make and you’ll agree it’s well worth the minimal effort to do so.

It’s delicious served with one part syrup, four parts iced water or soda water and as part of a cocktail or cocktail, sensational.

After making the preserves only the cut-off tops of the pineapples remained. Robert has even planted those (somewhat optimistically I fear) in the garden in a very sunny spot. Time will tell how successful that exercise will be.

I’ve had some requests for the recipe for the cordial, so here it is.

Pineapple Cordial Syrup

1.5kg pineapple cores and peels
2 cups water
Juice and rind 1 large lemon
1½ teaspoons tartaric or citric acid
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger, optional
Sugar

Chop the pineapple peel and cores roughly and place in food processor. Process until the pieces are quite fine. Pour into a saucepan with the water., lemon juice and rind , tartaric or citric acid and ginger, if using..

Bring to the boil and then barely simmer for 15 minutes.

Strain though a colander, then the resulting liquid through a fine sieve, pressing down to extract maximum juice. To each cup of liquid add 1 cup of sugar.

Bring up to the boil , stirring, and simmer one minute. Pour into sterilised bottles and seal immediately.

To serve – use one part syrup to 4 parts water or soda water.

Store in the fridge.