Friday, 30 May 2014

DIY sultanas

Last month we harvested almost 15kg of grapes. Far too many to eat, too many to just turn into jelly, and we don't drink much grape juice (unless it is the alcoholic variety!). What to do? I decided to get out the dehydrator and try making sultanas.

I craqzed the grapes briefly (dip in very hot water) to crack the skins to assist in the dehydrating process, then left them in the dehydrator for about 24 hours (some a bit longer - probably didn't craze as well). We ended up with three decent sized jars of rather tasty home made sultanas. Slightly tarter than the shop bought variety, although th egreen grapes were sweeter than the red ones. Perfect for the winter porridge season!

Monday, 26 May 2014

Getting back to home made

It is well past time for me to get back into making more and buying less. I got out of the habit when overwhelmed with work+work+uni, but as the weather gets cooler and I have time before next semester I need to re-establish some good habits.

Step 1: Bread. I have a new sourdough starter fermenting which should be ready to start baking with it next week. In the meantime I will get back to making bread rather than buying it.

Step 2: I will start making yoghurt using the cultures I bought. I made a batch 2 days ago, and converted about 3/4 into labna (yoghurt cheese). My next experiment will be to infuse the milk with vanilla bean before making the yoghurt to see if I can come close to the flavour of 5am's very delicious (but expensive) vanilla bean yoghurt. I'll let you know how that goes.
Step 3: Get back into make some hard cheese. I think I'll start with caerphilly as it has a short maturing time, and we enjoyed it last time.

Step 4: Eat through the food we have in the pantry. We have loads of dried beans and I still have some ham bones and a hock or two so this excellent soup will be getting a few runs in the next couple of weeks. The presence of dozens of jars of fruit suggests that there will be a lot of crumble made and consumed in winter :-)

Friday, 11 April 2014

Garden Update

I've taken a semester off uni (again) - I have a lot or work on, and it was all getting a bit much. However this has meant I have had the luxury of time to get out into the garden and remember why I hate weeding, and I really hate couch grass!

However, I've cleared 3.5 beds, and have even planted some winter veg, so I am making progress. We signed up to the local CSA scheme again this year so our veg is still (very) local, but at a minimum I'm determined to have some Kale and garlic in the ground over winter. I haven't had to buy garlic for years now and I don't want to start now. It will be hard enough to go back to buying tinned tomatoes at some point in a few months when I run out of my preserved ones.

Here's how things are looking.

These will be garlic beds - one "resting" after a mammoth dig-over, the other a work in progress.

Beds I dug over last week - now planted with 3 kinds of kale and silverbeet, cauli, cabbage, spring onions, turnip, swede, sugar snap peas, rocket, lettuce and a few radish varieties (mixed, podding and daikon)
The "wild garden" beds - all a bit haphazard, but at least there are a few peppers (L) and chillies (R- jalapenos) still to pick, as well as cherry toms. 

 And this will give you an idea of what I still have to do.......

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Is it April already?

How did that happen? It doesn't feel like more than a month since I last posted...but if it's any consolation you haven't missed much!

I thought I'd get back in to the swing of things with some garden updates. After 10 weeks away last winter/spring, and uni and work over summer the garden is really in a "state" (to put it mildly). Thank goodness for berries and the peach tree so the harvest season hasn't been a complete bust. The tomatoes were an epic fail this year, other than the self seeded cherries and tommy toes, which just keep on keeping on. I have had small successes with a couple of chilli plants, the eggplants were a waste of time, but the parsley and basil varieties have been outstanding.

Many locals have reported poor tomato crops this year, probably due to the late start to summer and a few cold snaps in November. As for the rest I'm not sure why - this year I bought seedlings rather than started from seed, and it is tempting to blame that, but who knows. Berries have been the hero crops this year - around 35kg of them. However I must put in a mention for the peach tree I was going to pull out 18 months ago. I cut it right back to 3 "stump" branches, but it wasn't going to give up without a fight. It surged back, and this year we harvested 17kg of the most gorgeous peaches - some up to 350g. Needless to stay its survival is now assured.

The garlic did very well again, and I have enough bulbs to eat, as well as to plant out for the next crop.

Updated garden pics to come in the next post

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