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.