Stocking Up

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I have spent today in the kitchen but most of it was not preparing meals.  It was about making and bottling jam and sauce.

There were 6kg of cherry tomatoes squirreled away in the freezer ready to make sauce and today was the day.

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The recipe for the sauce is here.

Next up was the 10kg bag of onions I bought yesterday.  I set 2kg aside for a friend and then sliced and diced another 7kg and have packed and frozen them.  I decided to turn the last kilogram into onion jam and the taste test indicates that it has been successful.  The recipe I used had carraway seeds in it so I bought some this morning when were shopping.  I have never bought carraway seeds before but if it looks as though I will be making onion jam in the future I will definitely get some more.

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Finally, I made some plum jam which is GMan’s favourite.  It turned out better than the batch I overcooked last year which was closer to toffee than jam!

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The recipe is very simple.

1.5 kg plums
1.25kg sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup water

Place in saucepan, boil until setting point is reached.  The stones can be removed with a slotted spoon during cooking.

Tip:  Count the plums before you start so that you know how many stones you are trying to remove.

I also made another batch of spreadable butter.  Here is the recipe.

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The only problem with cooking all day is that I did not get the ironing done!  However, we do have ironed clothes to wear to work tomorrow.

 

 

Tomato Day

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It was nothing like ‘Tomato Day’ as described in the novel, “Looking for Alibrandi” but The Duke and I had our own mini version when we cut up 5.5kg of tomatoes yesterday.

A couple of weeks ago I asked at the local fruit stall if they had any cooking/sauce tomatoes as I wanted to make tomato sauce.  After some discussion it was agreed that they would try to get some from the market if there were any available and let me know.  I had not heard anything so I asked again when we went yesterday to buy our weekly supply of fruit and vegetables.  B then presented me with a box of assorted over-ripe tomatoes which had been sorted from the regular ones rather than specifically purchased.  These were then given to me as they would otherwise have been thrown out.

Back at home, we only had to discard 3 or 4 that were completely rotten and the rest were chopped up and placed in bags in the freezer.  I simply do not have the time to make sauce this week in the lead-up to Christmas and holidays so they can stay in the freezer until I have time to make the sauce.

This is an example of the benefits of eating seasonal produce and also supporting and getting to know your small, local retailer.  I could not imagine this scenario happening at my local Coles or Woolworths supermarket.

Weeds That Feed

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What is a weed?  A plant considered undesirable, unattractive, or troublesome, especially one growing where it is not wanted, as in a garden.

If the above definition is applied then my cherry tomato plants are definitely weeds.  They are not particularly pretty, grow in places where I do not want them and generally get in the way.  I am forever pulling the seedlings out of the ‘formal’ vegetable beds and The Duke must mow over thousands of them in the lawn.

However, we usually have a few that we leave to their own devices in areas where they are not causing harm.  There is one plant which has been growing and bearing fruit for several months on the far side of the driveway in ‘no man’s land’.  It has spread over a heap of mulch and has intertwined with thistles.  I had not picked any fruit for about 6 weeks so I braved the thistles yesterday and was surprised to find all of these fruit just waiting for me.

2013-04-29 01  There was about 3.5kg of fresh, full-flavoured cherry tomatoes.  I have cleaned, rinsed and frozen 3kg of them in readiness to make more tomato sauce.  I hope to do that next weekend.  The remainder are spread on a tray to ripen fully and then they will grace the last of our summer salads.

Plants that are self-sown which survive and thrive will be good as they have passed the ‘survival of the fittest ‘ test.  Perhaps that is why we have such success with the cherry tomatoes.  Other self-sown plants which provide use with food include pumpkins and cucumbers.

Do you harvest from any fruit or vegetable plants which just appear in your garden?

Tomatoes – Tall Tales and True

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Six months ago I watched on wistfully as my Northern Hemisphere blogging friends struggled to bottle, preserve and freeze their abundance of tomatoes.  It was winter here, and although the ground is not covered with snow, it was far too cool to be thinking about growing tomatoes, let alone harvesting them.  I hoped that my turn would come, and sure enough, it has.

A couple of weeks ago I made tomato sauce and blogged about it here.

As well as the wild cherry tomatoes we are growing Roma tomatoes for the first time and they have been a runaway success.  The next tomato project I decided to try was tomato paste.  As usual, I found several recipes on the internet, compared them and then made it to fit my available ingredients and quantity of tomatoes.  The site which I referred to most is here.  You will see that I used much less oil than suggested.  Also, please remember not to mix up pounds and kilograms.  I used 5 kgs which is 11 pounds.2013-01-13 01These are 4kg of Roma tomatoes which I picked yesterday.

2013-01-13 02And another 1kg of cherry tomatoes which I had in the freezer.

2013-01-13 03I roughly chopped the Roma tomatoes.

5kg tomatoes, 125ml olive oil and 1 & 1/2 teaspoons sea salt into the stockpot and simmer for about 10minutes.

2013-01-13 04Then it is time to put all of the liquid and tomatoes through a food mill.

2013-01-13 05All of the liquid and puree went into a large saucepan and the skins and seeds into a separate bowl to be discarded.

2013-01-13 06Simmer the liquid for 1 – 2 hours or until reduced and thickened.

2013-01-13 07Pour the thickened puree into shallow oven trays and bake in the oven at 180C for 30 minutes and then for another 30 minutes at 140C.

Check the mixture about every 15 minutes and be sure to stir any caramelised bits on the edge back into the middle of the puree.

Transfer the paste to hot, sterilised jars.  Be sure to tap the jars to remove any air bubbles as you pack it in.  Place the lids on the jars and process in a hot water bath for 30 minutes.  For your health and safety, please refer to more detailed instructions about hot water bath processing.

2013-01-13 08Remove the jars, allow to cool and check that the vacuum seal is intact before storing them.

2013-01-13 09This is an easy but somewhat time-consuming process.  It is a great way to be able to store a large quantity of tomatoes for later use.  5kg of tomatoes made these 6 small jars plus a couple of spoonfuls that I have in a container in the refrigerator which will be used in the next day or so.

The harvest continues.  Here are more that I picked today and there are still heaps more of the Roma tomatoes on the bushes.

2013-01-13 10Finally, here are the first 2 full-sized tomatoes that I have grown for several years with plenty more to come.  I cannot remember what variety they are.  They have some imperfections but those can easily be removed.

2013-01-13 11And one final photo for Mrs Thrift from Not Just Green Fingers who asked how we managed to garden in the heat we are having.  I live in an area of Australia where we have a more temperate climate due to the elevation and also a good rainfall.  In fact it is sometimes more than we need.  However, the last 6 months have been particularly dry and very hot for the past week.  The tomatoes and red peppers have coped well but with more hot weather forecast I decided to rig up some protection for them today.  The main covering is a large piece of shadecloth which came from my parents’ home.  It has timber frames at each end and eyelets in the corners so was very easy to attach to the star pickets at the corners of the fence.  The extra piece is an old curtain (very thin) which is covering the peppers.

2013-01-13 12Despite the heat we are still managing to produce some of our own food.  There are plenty of chillies, we also have figs and peaches.  The fruit are unfortunately attacked by fruit fly but I salvage what I can even if it is just one bite.  I am going to see if I can rescue enough peaches to perhaps preserve a bottle or two to enjoy in mid-winter.  The first cantaloupe was picked yesterday because the side that was touching the ground had started to rot.  It was a little early so not superbly full-flavoured but I diced it up and mixed with some locally grown pineapple was very enjoyable for breakfast.

Do you have anything growing in you garden at the moment?  How do you cope when you have a glut of a particular fruit or vegetable?

Look forward to hearing your comments.

A Saucy Tale

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Yesterday I picked 2 kg of cherry tomatoes from the bushes that grow wild in various parts of our garden.

Tomatoes
Firstly, I removed the stalks and rinsed them and then added the 1.5 kg that were already prepared and frozen from a couple of weeks ago.  It was time to make some tomato sauce (ketchup).  The recipe is super simple and is written near the end of this post.

Frozen tomatoes
Home-grown cherry tomatoes have a very short shelf life so unless you are feeding an army, it makes sense to freeze the excess immediately or otherwise they go to waste rather quickly.

Frozen tomatoes on scales
You will need a large saucepan or stockpot depending on the quantity of tomatoes that you are processing.  Mine is a stainless steel one with a heavy base which helps to stop the food burning.  This is important because by their very nature, most jams, pickles and preserves have a high proportion of sugar.  Many of the old-style preserving pans are aluminium, however, I do not use aluminium for perceived health reasons.

Stainless steel stockpotApart from the tomatoes, you will need a few other ingredients.

Tomate sauce ingredientsHere is the recipe.

TOMATO SAUCE

Ingredients

3kg ripe tomatoes
15g whole cloves
15g whole allspice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
250ml vinegar
375g sugar
60g salt
500g onions

Sauce ingredients in stockpot

Method

Place the cloves and allspice in a muslin bag.  Roughly chop the onions and tomatoes.  Place all ingredients in the stockpot and simmer for approximately 2 hours, stirring regularly.  Remove spice bag and discard.  Strain or process mixture in a blender to required consistency.

Return mixture to a clean saucepan and bring to the boil for 5 minutes before pouring into warm, sterilised jars.  Seal jars and store appropriately.

Notes

When using cherry tomatoes for this recipe there is no need to chop them.

I used chilli powder instead of cayenne, powdered instead of whole allspice and I always use raw sugar. The powdered spices and raw sugar tend to make the finished product slightly darker.

I use a hand-held stick blender to process the mixture.  Whatever method you use, be very careful when handling the hot liquid as it can be unpredictable.

Tomato sauce - finished
The original recipe can be found here.  It is also in Sally Wise’s book, ‘A Year in A Bottle’.

This is a tasty tomato sauce which bears no resemblance to the commercial varieties.  Enjoy!

Kitchen Kapers

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I have spent the best part of today in the kitchen.  The first thing was to juice the 60 limes I picked from the tree.  Some is in ice-cube trays in the freezer and the remainder in a jug in the refrigerator.  I will freeze this in trays as well once the others are completely frozen and can be removed from the trays and placed in a bag.

Next were 5 pumpkins from the garden.  Unfortunately, I cannot leave them on the vine until the stalks dry out completely because some of the wildlife starts to eat them once they are mature.  Because I have to pick them before the stalk has withered, this means that they will not store.  So my plan was to cut and peel them (a mammoth job), roast in the oven and then mash the pumpkin.  I have frozen it in batches so that it can be made into soup as required.  By just freezing the mashed pumpkin I save space in the freezer as compared to making and freezing the soup.

I also sorted through the freezer and pulled out this bag of chopped onion tops.

2012-04-22 01These are from the onions I grew last winter but our winter is not long enough for the tops to die down before I have to harvest the onions.  Otherwise our wet weather starts and they would just rot in the ground.  I diced all of the onions and froze them in 150g packs and I could not bear to waste the fresh green tops so chopped them and pt the bag of them in the freezer while I considered what to do with them.

2012-04-22-02I decided to thaw them out and then put them on the trays in the food dehydrator.  My plan is to dry them completely and then grind them in the spice grinder to make my own onion powder for seasoning. I will post about the success or otherwise of this venture in a day or so.

The other thing I retrieved from the freezer was a bag of cherry tomatoes.  These were picked from the neighbour’s garden a couple of months ago when they were away and I didn’t have time to do anything with them apart from wash, hull and freeze them.

I found a tomato sauce recipe on the internet and made a couple of adjustments to suit the ingredients I had.  I cooked up the sauce and 1.9 kg of cherry tomatoes made up into 1.75 litres of sauce.

Here it is – bottled and ready to add to the stock cupboard.

2012-04-22 03I made 3 batches of muffins – lime and coconut, fig and almond as well as banana ones.  This is some of them packed and ready to freeze.

2012-04-22 04While the oven was on I made another zucchini quiche.  We have an abundance of eggs and since this uses 5 eggs it is a good way to use some up.

I had planned to make so more fresh pasta – using eggs again – but the day was almost over.  I will save that job for Wednesday which is a public holiday here (Anzac Day).

Most of my cooking and preparation was a direct result of produce from our garden, either fresh or frozen.  Since we are blessed to be able to grow this food I feel it is important to make sure that we use it to the best of our ability.