Monday, February 28, 2011
I love this time of year in the garden when there is so much to harvest, it's very rewarding. The only challenge is keeping up with it all! I hope all the southern hemisphere gardeners are enjoying the your own late summer harvests. To see what other gardeners are up to, including many in the northern hemisphere, pop over to Daphne's Dandelions.
Saturday, February 26, 2011
I've been wanting to make some tomato relish for a while but MMSTL isn't keen in it, although I'm convinced that I will be able to make a version that he will. I made-up a recipe last week containing tomatoes, onions, cloves, cinnamon, vinegar and sugar but it didn't go down to well. Not wanting to give up quite yet, I found this recipe which looked like it might taste more like his beloved chilli sauce. Actually it turned out so well that I don't actually mind if he doesn't like it - I'd happily eat the whole lot myself! It's quite sweet but with a lovely smoky warmth from the chipotles and a hint of ginger. Chipotles are smoked, dried jalapenos. I've had mine in the cupboard for years and I think they are more common in the US, but I found them online in Australia here. If you can't find chipotles, you could substitute some smoky paprika and some ordinary chilli powder or dried chillis. The original recipe has 8 cloves of garlic which I was planning to put in, but forgot. Tastes fine without though.
Making the jam was straightforward, the only really time consuming part was peeling and slicing the onions, which I did on my mandolin - with the guard on of course - the rest was just boiling time.
Recipe (adapted from French Tart's recipe on recipeshare)
2 kg ripe tomatoes (I used a mix of what I had - yellow, green zebra and red ones)
1 kg red onions, cut in thin half moons
250ml red wine vinegar
500g brown sugar
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and chopped finely
10 Cardamon pods, crushed with the back of a heavy knife
4 dried Chipotle chillis, crushed in a pestle and mortar
Put all the ingredients into a large heavy bottomed pot and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently for an hour and them bring to the boil, boiling rapidly until the mixture is reduced, glossy and syrupy. Pour into hot steralised jars and seal. I turn the jars upside down when the lids are tightly on to steralise the top. I think that to preserve this properly it should be put in a hot water bath. I'll have a think about that. I prettied up the jars with some map wrapping paper that I bought for Christmas, just in case I give them as gifts.
Note: I checked the jars this morning and all the buttons on the lids had been sucked down so I think they will be OK. I'll probably store the jars in the fridge just to be safe though.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
The evolution of our backyard or, how to fit in as many veggies as possible into a small suburban block.
In the first year here, I stuck a few tomato plants in among the natives. They struggled. I didn't know much then about improving the soil and probably didn't water enough. Undeterred the next year I moved some of the natives and planted four zucchini and more tomatoes. Four zucchini? What was I thinking? We were overrun with the things!
|The back corner of the garden BS and AS (before and after shed)|
There is still work to do: a wall to build out of reclaimed bricks and new garden beds to plant up - all part of the evolution of our little backyard but it's getting there, and we enjoy our weekend projects. The guy who came to pick up the shed was a concreter and remarked "I guess you don't need my services because it looks as it you are trying to turn every square inch of your backyard into veggie garden" Not quite, but it is certainly a lot more interesting and productive place to be than it used to be. So, anyone thinking of digging up some lawn - front or back - or the nature strip I say go for it. Make your outdoor space productive for growing food. Not only will you be reducing your food miles, it's fun.
Monday, February 14, 2011
disaster. This time the seeds were planted in a semi-raised bed in much lighter soil so were much easier to pull uo. Like before, they lacked the sweetness of parsnips grown over winter, but they were tasty nonetheless. The root veggies were joined by some red onion, home grown garlic, thyme and lemon, and some beans and cherry toms were tossed in for the last 15 minutes. Delicious!
Sunday, February 13, 2011
I was hoping to bottle tomatoes this year. We picked up a second hand Fowler's preserving unit recently but first we haven't got around to getting any new rubber rings, which are essential for successful preserving and second, I have to admit that I am a bit nervous of getting the process right. It seems a bit complicated: getting the right acidity, temperature, making sure the seals are good etc etc. As they are a low acid food, tomatoes are easy to get wrong, and botulism is a risk (hmm, scary!) so I might need to do some more reading first. In the meantime, this batch of sauce is destined for the freezer. It should last a good few months.
The recipe, such that it is, involves sauteing a finely chopped onion and 4 cloves of garlic in some olive oil, adding 2.5kg of roughly chopped tomatoes, a tsp of salt, a few springs of basil and some fresh oregano in a big pot. Simmer for 1.5-2 hours until thick, then pass through a food mill.
I also dehydrated a batch of cherries and Principe Borghese, which are supposed to be the best kind of drying tomatoes. I'm going to dry them until they are semi-dry and then pack them in oil. Should be tasty!
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
These are some of the beautiful heirloom tomatoes that were harvested this week, Clockwise from top: A red beefsteak variety, no idea of the name (the seeds were saved from a friend's grandfather's crop); Rainy's Maltese, a delicious pink low-acid variety; Principe Borghese; Tommy Toe; Break 'O Day; Green Zebra which have a nice zingy taste; Purple Cherokee which are probably my favourite; and in the middle Yellow Katinka Cherry which, according to MMSTL taste "like a party in your mouth".
It is amazing how varied the tastes are and we've enjoyed eating them in their multi-coloured glory on fresh sourdough with some basil and just a touch of olive oil and salt. A perfect taste of summer!
Sunday, February 6, 2011
|Sunset at Lake Colac, Victoria|
One challenge though, of going on holiday is making sure that the garden and animals are taken care of.
Fortunately we have wonderful neighbours who agreed to look after things in our absence. We assigned tasks to the older children - one took responsibility for feeding the cat, another the fish and rabbit and our friends fed the chickens and watered the garden. It certainly needed it on those hot days.
|Many, many zucchini... and a cucumber|