Monday, December 20, 2010

Brandied Cumquat Chocolate Truffles

The brandied cumquats from my blog post several months ago (August I think) are now coming into their own. The other day I made some truffles for Christmas using the brandy and some cumquat rind to flavour dark couverture chocolate and cream. I thought I had better get a photo of them before they all get eaten....they are so delicious. This container was full last night! The second flavour was a mix of Frangelico liqueur, chocolate and cream - still delicious but not such a strong flavour. I think I might just have to stock up on some more couverture chocolate when I drive past Anvers Chocolate Factory at Latrobe next week.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Time for Tea and Jam

Despite the unusually wet weather, some fruits are starting to ripen in the garden. In fact that is where I should be right now instead of writing this.

There are more loganberries to pick and this is what happened to the ones I picked on Sunday afternoon. Perfect for Christmas presents for friends. Better grab my bucket and go and enjoy the last of the day's sunlight.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Wensleydale cheese

On Saturday as it was raining yet again, decided to make a new cheese. Wensleydale hails from the Yorkshire Dales and I found this recipe of Greening of Gavin’s blog site. It was fairly easy although involved a bit of stirring every 15 minutes which meant I had to find other things to do in the kitchen. Stay tuned

 The recipe suggested a layer of sterilised sage leaves in the middle of the curds prior to pressing which sounded rather delicious.

 After pressing overnight, it looked like a proper cheese and dried out very nicely during the day.

 I think it will be ready for some wax tonight and it is meant to be ready to eat in about 3 weeks at the earliest

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Four Cheeses in One Day

Yesterday was a mammoth cheesemaking day - 4 different types in one day. I decided I might have just enough time to mature a camembert in time for Christmas- well I have no idea really but I will give it a go. I thought I needed an ingredient which I didn't have, namely the white mould culture however a friend who has recently done a camembert workshop informed me otherwise. According to her teacher, you can just scrape a very thin sliver of the white mould off the outside of a bought camembert and it does the same job. Well, the proof will be in the pudding. The recipe was relatively straight forward other than my timer kept going off and reminding me to do the next step. It has been so humid here for the past couple of days though that the cheese is still quite wet so it hasn't made it to the cheese "cave" yet. Speaking of which, the two parmesan  are getting be quite smelly now and every time my son sits at the computer next to the cheeses, he thinks his feet are really smelly and then realises it is the cheeses!
In between doing the steps of the camembert recipe, I made a batch of halloumi as well. A slightly different method this time which didn't involve pressing but one that I think is more authentic Cypriot and which I adapted from the way I saw it made on Will Studd's "Cheese Slices" program earlier this year.
I also made some Anari from the left over whey, also Cypriot style, right down to the panty hose used to drain it! It seems to be almost identical to ricotta really- of which I made a batch using the whey from the camembert.
And if that wasn't enough to do for the day, I also decided to make some Panettone (yeast version this time) and biscotti and sourdough bread and yoghurt as well. No wonder I was feeling a little weary by the end of the day...and had no desire to spend the day in the kitchen today!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ginger Beer 2

Sunday morning and the ginger beer plant was ready. It is a really simple process to make. Just melt 4 cups of sugar in 1 litre of water on the stove. Take off the heat and add a further 4 1/2 litres of cold water and 1/2 cup of lemon juice.

Strain the ginger beer plant through some muslin and add the strained liquid to the water and sugar mix. That's it.

Now pour the mix into some clean PET bottles, put the lids on and wait for about 2 weeks. I still always store the bottles in a shed outside but that is just out of habit. In the old glass bottle days, it was much safer to have them outside where the mess of an exploding bottle didn't matter so much!
To keep the plant going,  the residue in the muslin is divided in half. Put half back in your plant jar, add 1 cup lukewarm water, 1 teaspoon of sugar and ginger. Continue to add sugar and ginger each day for another week, then you can make up the recipe and bottle another batch. The second half of the residue either gets thrown out or made into another plant to share with a friend!
Happy drinking.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ginger Beer

Summer time barbecues are missing something if you don't have someone opening a bottle of ginger beer and it all fizzing up and going everywhere! Time to start the ginger beer plant. It is so easy to make ginger beer. First make a plant with 1 cup of warm water, 1 teaspoon each of ground ginger, sugar and yeast. Each day for a week, add another teaspoon of ginger and sugar and then by next weekend it will be ready to make up and bottle. Using PET bottles is so much better than glass ones because they don't risk exploding everywhere!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Manchego, Ricotta and Doce de abóbora (pumpkin jam)

Yesterday I tried out a new cheese recipe. This time it is a cheese I have only heard of recently – Manchego, a cheese from Spain, from the region of La Mancha. It is traditionally made from sheep’s milk but cow’s milk will just have to do this time.  A few weeks ago I went to a cheesemaking workshop which demonstrated making this cheese and also had a tasting platter of the finished product. Even though it was only a month or two old, it had a lovely strong flavour. This means that the cheese I made yesterday might just be ready in time for Christmas. After the curd is cut, it is heated gently in the whey for about 45 minutes to 40⁰C, then drained, hooped and pressed for several hours. It then sits in a brine bath overnight to dry out a little. It now has to air dry for a week before I wax it.
Since I had to stay in the kitchen for a while, stirring the curds, I decided to put some jam on to cook. We still have several of last season’s pumpkins so I had the idea of making pumpkin jam. When we were in Portugal last year visiting the little town in the mountains where my son’s father in law Fernando was born, we tasted a very nice pumpkin jam (Doce de abóbora) which was traditional to have with a soft fresh cheese (requeijão) and bread.  So I also had to put the whey from the cheese to good use to make some fresh ricotta just in time to have for lunch.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Multi fruit Marmalade

Another wet day so it is a good day to stay inside and do some cooking in the Preserving Patch Kitchen. I have never been a great fan of marmalade and have strong childhood memories of our house being permeated with the smell of cooking marmalade which I found a bit sickly sweet. Usually I love citrus things but that smell always put me off trying to make it myself. However with several citrus trees fruiting in the garden, I felt compelled to do something useful with them and have a go. I took this photo of my citrus grove on a nice sunny day a few weeks ago!
Today was the day. I pondered over which I should try of the vast number of recipes I have, to be assured of the best chance of success. I ended up doing a combination of recipes and also a combination of citrus. Orange, grapefruit, lemon and tangello were all mixed in together. Surprisingly the smell was not overpowering at all and I ended up with several jars of a beautiful orange red marmalade that I am sure my mum would have loved!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Planting Time in the Patch

First weekend in November - well at least today is November and in northern Tasmania it is a public holiday so I think that counts as the weekend still. First weekend in November especially in my neck of the woods, signals time to plant out frost tender plants like tomatoes, pumpkin, zucchini, squash, eggplant, capsicum, basil. The weather is still quite cold so I haven't put all my eggs in one basket and still have some tomato plants in reserve. However I did plant out all my pumpkins and zucchinis today. I just hope that where I have put them, down near the plum trees, they will be a little bit protected.
 Old pots make good protectors however if I suspect there might be  
frost, I pick some branches of something with a small foliage like myrtle, and poke them into the ground next to the seedling to provide an umbrella type shelter.
And remember those potatoes I planted in July/August? Take a look at them now. We should have a heap of new potatoes this year and plenty to put away for next year too. I think there are 5 or 6 different varieties to choose from and although some were a little slower than others to get going, they all seem to be doing well now. Just got to make sure to keep them covered so I don't end up with all green inedible spuds.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mmmm - Marinated Artichokes

It's artichoke time in the Patch. All the baby artichokes are starting to form in the side branches and they are delicious when preserved in oil. While they are still young there is no choke in the middle of the flower to remove so they are quite quick to prepare. Yesterday morning I picked several and after bringing to the boil in a mix of white wine vinegar and white wine, packed them in a jar and covered with oil. I threw in a few peppercorns and bay leaf to give a bit of flavour. They last for months and months and are great to add into a salad or top a pizza.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sourdough Panettone, Marinated Fetta, and Tasmanian Peppers.

Hmmm- lucky I tried this recipe for Sourdough Panettone before Christmas as it has not been the raging success I had hoped. It tastes very nice, just like Panettone but is very dense (almost puggy one might say!). I think I might go back to my original yeasted version to ensure success for Christmas Day breakfast. Ah well, it was worth the try. The original Italian Panettone from Milan was a sourdough type bread which took several days to make and ended up light and fluffy in texture. This is not what was produced in the Preserving Patch kitchen today.

Yesterday I decided to marinate some of the fetta cheese I made a few weeks ago. I threw in some fresh rosemary and thyme sprigs, chilli flakes and some Tasmanian native peppers then covered the cheese with olive oil. Tried it on top of a pizza last night and it was pretty delicious.

When we went up to our hut near Cradle Mountain a couple of weekends ago, I was hoping to pick some fresh Tasmanian peppers (Tasmannia lanceolata) but I was a bit late for this year's crop and there were hardly any berries left. Instead I was given the task of getting enough prunings for several hundred cuttings for Max to propagate in the nursery. The cuttings have to be from a female tree to be able to produce the berries but Max had his favourite tree just up the track from the hut. It was a bit chilly perched up on a ladder with snow on the ground below. The peppers add quite a different flavour to dishes from normal black peppercorns and as we have literally hundreds of trees on our land in the mountains, it seems too good an opportunity to miss to harvest them occasionally. Here are some I prepared a little earlier - along with some dried leaves. I am keen for anyone to give me recipe ideas to use them!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Mulching in the moisture

This weekend in the vege patch and orchard I have been getting ready for summer. I planted the first batch of sweet corn seed and weeded all the other little seedlings popping up. I still think there might be a rabbit getting in the vege patch despite checking all the boundaries, as the sugar snap pea seedlings are looking a bit nibbled.
 The rabbits are becoming a bit of a problem this year as no calici virus or myxo flea has affected them yet.. Every morning I hear them under the house hitting the heads and often see them through the windows, chomping on things in the garden when they think no one is looking. Of course I never have the camera ready though.
A bale of spoilt straw found its way into the garden during the week so I have been busy spreading it around. Mulching the raspberries and potatoes now will keep the moisture in the soil and hopefully ensure bumper crops later in the year.
Instead of doing any preserving this weekend, I made my Christmas cake instead with lots of fruit soaked in alcohol for a couple of days. By December it will be well matured and ready for all our Christmas visitors.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Pickled Beetroot from the Patch

Not much time spent in the Preserving Patch kitchen this weekend but while I was doing some more digging in the vege patch this morning, I thought it was a good time to pickle some beetroot. The start of daylight saving always brings with it thoughts of summer salads and I'll need that patch of dirt where the beetroot are growing soon enough. So into the pot went 4 beetroot, boiled until they were tender, sliced and then covered in a vinegar spice mix. I am going to keep it in the fridge in a Fowlers bottle, not because I am planning to preserve it, but just because there is not a lot of room in the fridge!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Time to get digging in the Patch

The wind has dried out the soil over the past week and now it is just right for digging. It is best to get in and dig over the ground when it has just the right moisture content to crumble into a tilth as you lift your fork. I got a decent sized area dug over on Friday (before it rained again on Saturday) ready for some planting over the next few weeks. I planted some Squire Kale, lettuce, and  fennel seedlings and, in a week or two, I will plant the first of the sweet corn seeds. I cut my first artichoke( la mamma) yesterday and we shared it for dinner. There are already a few smaller ones (i nipoti - the nephews) forming for the next meal....yum
Meanwhile in the kitchen, I waxed the Cheddar cheese I made last weekend and tried out my new cheese making baskets with a batch of Fetta. We are down to the last little bit of the Fetta that I made in July so this lot is not going to get a lot of maturing time. This time I experimented  using a mix of skimmed evening milk with full cream from the next morning's milk. This is the mix of milk that you use making parmesan but I don't see why it wouldn't work to make a reduced fat fetta.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Wild Winds and Wet Weather

I was going to make some farmhouse Cheddar cheese on Friday but Mother Nature had other plans. Storm force winds on late Thursday afternoon blew the electricity wires down the road so strongly they touched, and melted and ended up on the ground. This left us without power until 4pm Friday. The poor cows had to walk to a neighbour's dairy where they were able to be milked using generator power. Luckily a paintbrush doesn't require electricity so I busied myself painting window frames for the day with my battery powered transistor radio for company.
Yesterday however it was back to plan A, although almost foiled by the milk truck arriving very early to take away all my raw ingredient! This morning I took the cheese out of the press and now have it air drying, a process which will take a few days. Then it will be waxed (if my wax arrives in the mail on time) and matured for a couple of months. I have just bought some baskets for fetta and halloumi making from Cheeselinks in Victoria which should arrive in the mail soon too).
Meanwhile out in the vege patch, I am finding small patches dry enough to dig and plant some lettuce, wombok and leeks seedlings but a lot of it is still too boggy. My potatoes are starting to come up - I spread my planting over several weeks and it's funny but the pink eyes planted half way are far in advance of the earlier and later plantings. I will be spending a lot of time outside in the next few weeks gradually putting in all my summer veges so I hope we get a break in the rain for a while. I usually sow sweet corn in early October so I have to dig over enough ground for that first. Then by early November, it will be mass planting of all the frost tender things like tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber, pumpkin, squash, eggplant, capsicum and watermelon.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Cordials and Cumquats

Last summer, at the height of the picking season, I picked a heap of blackcurrants. Some were turned into jam, some I froze to cook later and some I cooked and strained through muslin and then froze.. This strained liquid I turned into syrup a couple of weeks ago by bringing it to the boil with some sugar. Unfortunately I misjudged the time I left it on the heat and when it cooled down, it ended up as jelly! Luckily the same day, someone rang talkback radio asking Sally Wise what to do in exactly the same situation......put the bottle in the microwave for a few seconds. It was a bit of a job getting the jelly out of the glass bottle and into a smaller PET plastic one for easier melting but definitely worthwhile.
     Today I made some cordial with some of the box of Kiwi fruit mentioned in the last blog. It 's ok although it tastes a bit cooked and doesn't have the same zing or colour as the fresh juice of a kiwi fruit. At least it didn't jell.

On an overnight work trip to Hobart several weeks ago, I raided the cumquat tree in my daughter's back garden. There weren't many left on the tree and they were very small however I thought I would try putting them in a brandy and sugar mix for a few months. So they are still sitting in the cupboard biding their time. Ask me around Christmas how they turned out!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Kiwi Fruit and more Kiwi fruit

One day last week I arrived home from work to discover a large box of kiwi fruit on the table in the Preserving Patch kitchen. Since then I have been gathering ideas on what to do with them. Today I have been given a collection of ideas for jam, chutney, sauce, pickles which I might try out next weekend. In the meantime, last weekend I made some fresh juice (with a hint of fresh ginger for added zing) which was very tasty and then thought I would try dehydrating them. The drying process really intensified the flavour and I think they will make great bushwalking snacks for our next hike...that is if they last that long! I have bagged up the dried slices and put them in the freezer to ensure that they last. This way I only had to dry them to leathery texture rather than crisp.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Parmesan update / From Plum Blossom to Plum Cake

Three weeks down the track and the parmesan is still in one piece albeit with a few little spots of mould. I turn and wipe it every day either with vinegar or brine but it still seems to have formed some white mould spots which are easy to wipe off and a few little black/brown spots which aren't. I am not sure whether the humidity in my plastic box "cave" is right as they are supposed to be forming a rind and seemed too moist. I left the lid off for a couple of days and one of them developed a small crack, so I think that meant not enough humidity. The lid went back on. Not sure what the outcome will be in a few months time. It could turn out to be a day of my life wasted, although the ricotta make from the whey was very tasty on biscuits with a little sweet chilli sauce.
Meanwhile in the orchard, my Satsuma and Santa Rosa plum trees are starting to blossom. They are only 2 or 3 years old but fingers crossed, if we get some fine calm sunny days, the bees might get busy and I will get a bumper crop. And then....there will be Polish Plum cakes galore next year. Yum yum.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sowing Seeds for Spring

Well it is not quite spring until next week but it felt like it today. I haven't posted a blog for a couple of weeks but that does not mean I have been idle by any means.
Upstairs in a nice warm room I have punnets of seeds popping up. Italian and Squire Kale and some Beetroot are coming along nicely. I also have started off some Roma and San Marzano tomato seeds in the hope I can have them a decent size and ready to plant by late October.
  Out in the vege patch today, I have sown some carrot, bok choy, parsnips and planted some New Zealand yam tubers. Amazingly, the ground was quite reasonable to dig even after all the rain we have had of late. I always have to protect newly sown seeds from hungry birds here and old mesh baskets from our nursery come in very handy. I also put in some gooseberry plants which had layered themselves from my gooseberry bush - couldn't let them go to waste.

It hasn't been quiet in the kitchen either - I have been experimenting with sourdough breads each weekend. Last night I made some Turkish sourdough bread which went very nicely with a Fish Tagine for dinner. Thanks to Jennie who gave me a Wild Sourdough Bread recipe book for my birthday a couple of weeks ago, there is much more experimenting to do. Maybe even a sourdough Panettone for Christmas breakfast this year. I will have to do an experimental version first of course!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Parmigiano - Flowerdale Style

My cheese press in action
This weekend I found some time to make some hard cheese after the initial experiments with halloumi, fetta and mozzarella. My cheese press is now up and running (and stable) so it was time to venture forth. According to Antonio Carluccio's Complete Italian Food, Parmigiano reggiano can only be made in Emilia Romagna while elsewhere in Italy, an almost identical cheese gets called Grana Padano. This all begs the question, what do you call it if it is made in North West Tasmania? Anyway perhaps I am jumping the gun as it has to age for more than 6 months (12 if I can wait that long) before I will be able to taste it and see if it comes anywhere near the real thing. I've been thinking about how I can create the right maturation conditions (12-15 degrees C and 85% humidity) for a while and I am still not sure if my "cheese cave" is going to be right. It is currently in a plastic tub in the coolest room in the house but I might move it out to a concrete walled shed when the weather starts to warm up.Parmesan takes quite a bit of time to make as it involves heating up the curd very slowly after the curds have been set and then cut. It is then pressed gradually increasing the weights over about 15 hours to achieve the final shape.
My cheese cave

Of course there is always heaps of whey left over after the curds have been taken out and so rather than waste it, I made some ricotta as well.