Tuesday, April 29, 2014

How I made Apple Cider Vinegar

I've been so busy with the garden over the last few months and my lack of blog posts made me think that I was cooking less.  I have been doing a lot of cooking - but mostly making things from recipes I've already posted.  It is really nice to have a 'critical mass' of recipes that represent my family's meals.

I have though been doing a fair amount of preserving.  I currently crave a food dehydrator and tonight I start my first attempt at dehydrating using our oven.  I've made my usual autumn jams/ jellies and the chest freezer we purchased prior to my hospitalisation last year is full of tomato soup, frozen berries and blanched vegetables.

We have been picking and eating a lot of apples so I was very pleased to make my own apple cider vinegar.  It costs about ten dollars for 250ml from our supermarket so having made a litre for very little work made me very happy!

How I made Apple Cider Vinegar is based on three to four minutes of clicking through dozens of websites.  I was inspired by a post on the Wellington Garden Share Facebook page.

How I made Apple Cider Vinegar.

Day one, week one.

Get a very clean glass or plastic food safe container (I used a ten litre glass jar).  Sterilise (I used the Iodopher that came with my cheese making kit).

Fill the glass jar with apple peels and cores (more peels than cores).  Cover with water.  (You may wish to put a plate or something over top of the peels to keep them below the water.  Add a teaspoon of sugar. Put a muslin over the top of the container and secure with a rubber band.

Put in a consistently warm place out of direct sunlight (I put next to the fridge on the floor).  

Shake gently each day.

Week two or three

After a week or two you should notice signs of fermentation (fizzy or bubbly).  Strain the mixture into a clean bowl, clean the original container and put the strained contents back inside.  You should have a weak, fermented apple juice.  Add the mother (the cloudy bit or jelly like bit) from a purchased jar of fermented apple cider vinegar.  Try not to use a metal utensil.  Many sites claim that metal might somehow deactivate the mother, but none I read gave a plausible explanation.

Leave in a consistently warm place out of direct sunlight.  Cover with a muslin (do this until you are sure that fermentation has ended, otherwise the lid might pop/ explode off.

Week three to five

After a week or two you should notice that the mother is increasing in size.  There should be no other signs of fermentation.  When the mother is quite thick and gelatinous and covering most of the surface of the vinegar you can remove it.  Put the mother into a clean glass jar and add about half a cup of vinegar - you can then reuse it for other vinegar making.

Bottle the apple cider vinegar and leave for another couple of weeks to age. It should smell and taste vinegary - mine is also a glorious pink colour and has a definite smell of apple. Glorious.

Warning:

Do not use this vinegar for preserves.  Recipes for preserving rely on known ingredients and it is hard to know from batch to batch exactly what the composition of the final apple cider vinegar is.  For example, some websites mention testing the ph level to determine if the vinegar is acidic enough for preserving.  I think with preserves it is best to be safe and use commercial products.  Use this vinegar in water for a drink or for dressings.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Curcubit surprise

My determination that we would be self sufficient with vegetables this summer means that we have a lot of vegetables available to eat.  I'm not sure we got to self sufficiency - but we got close.  The money saved on buying vegetables (and we did go five or six days at a time without buying vegetables) was spent on summer stone fruit!  While my boysenberries, strawberries and blackberries have all performed well, they do not keep us in fruit.

What did change was a determination to find recipes that fit the ingredients in the garden

I cooked these courgette and scallopini in a herbed mustard vinaigrette.  I just put the lid on top and baked them in the oven.  The reason I called this recipe 'curcubit surprise' is that I had no idea I was growing scallopini, let alone white ones.  I was checking on my mad pumpkin patch when I realised that the group of baby pumpkins were in fact scallopini.  Alas, because they had reached a very large size I think that the plant has produced only one crop and then died.  Still, it was good for a few days of odd shaped vegetables.  I think I also prefer the American name for scallopini - patty pan squash.

Last summer I had two courgette plants and was annoyed that I had no glut of courgettes.  I thought that the plants were slightly unproductive due to being grown in containers.  This year I have five courgette plants, two green and three yellow.  They came from a mixed pack.  The yellow courgettes seem to grow more slowly than the green ones, and produce nowhere near as much.  Still no glut.  I can't work out though if we just eat a lot of courgettes?  Since our stand by meal option is usually some kind of stir fry, we can easily grow through two or three in each stir fry, a few times a week.  I was really hoping to freeze a lot for winter, and to have so many that I would be forced to make things like chocolate zucchini cake or beg friends to take them off our hands.

Another curcubit in the mixture above is crookneck squash.  I planted many of these seeds and got two small plants.  Mine didn't get very big, and I only got maybe ten off both plants.  If they get very big they turn into squash with a hard, warty skin.  You then have to bake them, as the skin isn't soft enough to eat.  Only one of mine made it to this size, mainly because I gave up hope that the plant would produce anything.  I can't work out if they were just in a bad location, or if they just aren't big producers.  I'll give them another year!

I have learnt a good lesson - one which I suspect most gardeners know through common sense.  Don't through the potting mix from your non-germinated pumpkin seed wantonly through the garden.  As of this evening it appears that I will have thirteen pumpkins.  I only deliberately planted three plants, four have just sprung up and one I swear was supposed to be a cucumber plant is actually a buttercup pumpkin plant. Sigh. Still, the pansies that grew from the same method are very cheerful.

I did later find the cucumber plant - I planted it in the communal vegetable garden I share with my neighbours.  I nearly cried I was so thrilled to see a cucumber and not another blinking pumpkin.  It was delicious.  The second one is on my kitchen bench, and I will probably eat it this evening rather than subjecting it to refrigeration.

Last summer I went crazy with peas: snow peas, sno peas, capucijner peas and garden peas.  This year belonged to the curcubit.  I think next summer will be beans.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Cucumber

Isn't it beautiful?



Beetroot Tart Tartin

I've been enjoying Hugh Fernley-Wittingstall's Veg TV programme and managed to have a good read of the lovely cookbook that accompanies the series.  On seeing this recipe I knew it would only be a matter of time before I made his recipe for Beetroot Tart Tartin.

My garden has been very productive this summer, and so I had plenty of these beautiful beetroot chioggia to use.  They look like candy canes!  The children were quite bemused by the presentation of these vegetables - surprised enough to try them!  Both ate a surprising amount (for my oldest a surprising amount is more than one mouthful of something new).  Next time I will try and arrange to have all baby beets.








Saturday, December 28, 2013

Post Christmas sales

We found a good use for half off Christmas decorations - fairy mobiles. We found sticks at the park and the children chose decorations. If you are an adult and focused it will take five minutes to make. We managed to fill in nearly thirty minutes doing this with children aged three-nine.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Candy cane meringues, mince pies and Christmas craft.

Chocolate mint truffles rolled in pistachio crumbs.
I recently looked back on my blog to last year to try and find which recipes I'd used for steam pudding and Christmas mince - and had some attractive photos but no actual clues as to what recipes I'd used.  This year I used Hugh Fearnly-Whittingsall's recipe.  I had no ginger cordial like the recipe specified but did have some gingerbread spiced syrup from Starbucks which substituted rather nicely.  I then used my trusty Edmond's Cookbook to create the steamed puddings.  Steam pudding always seems like a really stupid idea for a summer Christmas when you boil the damn things for four hours (note, that is the FIRST boil, you boil it again on the day).  This year I'm going to put some of the Christmas mince in some vanilla ice-cream - terrine style.  Perhaps add some orange zest to the ice cream......

Delicious mince pies, pastry recipe from an old tea towel of all things.

Our advent calendar last year was full of little chocolates.  This year I really wanted the children to get a bit more out of the Christmas countdown so I've put in little activities, including a few to try and get them to learn about more about helping others.  Those ones haven't gone down so well, but I'm hoping if I repeat them every year they will start to look forward to them as part of the Christmas build up.  Today we are off to pick a book at the Children's Bookshop that Altrusa will distribute to needy families.  Yesterday we got out all the paints and stamps and made metres of wrapping paper.  One rainy Sunday two years ago I bought a box of brown wrapping paper from Warehouse Stationary and it is still going strong!!

Gift wrapping paper

I think that these are my favourite home made Christmas present this year - they are so cute, and so easy.  I often find it hard to believe that something as delicious as meringues is made from eggs and caster sugar.  Nothing else.  You can add vanilla for flavour or a pinch of tartaric acid to help with the beating (and make them appear slightly whiter) but they are not necessary.  For Christmas presents though, food colouring made an appearance.

I painted stripes all the way around the piping bag I used.  The first few meringues had no colour, but after that they were all perfect - they remind me of candy canes.  If you like it then a drop or two of peppermint essence would really Christmas-ify them!


Paint stripes on your piping bag to get the candy cane effect.

I'm not cooking Christmas dinner this year - my Mum is.  It is hard for me to let go of being in charge of such arrangements as I love the hunt for great recipes.  But, a small part of me is very happy not to need to do all that cooking and planning.  As a result, the presents are all purchased/ made and I have more time for crafting and gardening.  Score.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The hard work pays off.

All of a sudden we can eat from the garden every day.  And sometimes all of our veges for a particular meal are from the garden.  It feels amazing.
White carrot, courgette, calendula, lettuce, strawberries. 

Our rather large raspberry bushes turned out not to be raspberries.  But boysenberries are equally welcome!!!


It has long been a dream of mine to harvest enough garlic to create a garlic plait.  On harvesting the garlic, which was an unnamed variety from Commonsense Organics I learnt that it is Pearl Garlic.  I think I'll search out a different variety next year as I will get through the Pearl Garlic quickly (it is just one large bulb).


The garden does requite a fair amount of attention at the moment, but it is worth it.  The deep freezer is full of frozen herb pestos, homemade cordials and soon it should be full of frozen beans and courgette as well.  So sweet. Each year I garden it becomes more cost-effective (particularly with the berries and fruit trees).

I'm off to create a lovely picnic dinner of garden salad, white carrot, calendula, cucumber (I bought this but should have my own in a fortnight) and parsley pesto roast chicken.  I'm really enjoying this year's Christmas parties!