Sunday, August 29, 2010

Food overload - preserving notches up a gear

There is just so much to eat at the moment. Broccoli coming out of our ears, cabbages, cauliflower, peas, Chinese cabbages, fennel, and Asparagus just about to explode out of the ground. Luckily this August has not turned on the heat - apart from the odd day otherwise things would be growing twice as fast. This August has been a couple of degrees below average due to the rain and cloudiness.

Sauerkraut, Fennel and Parsnips

So what preserving have we done this weekend?
Made my first batch of Kimchee (thanks to Mr H for telling me that is was quite ok to leave out chilli)
Made another big jar of sauerkraut
blanched and froze cauliflower
Made pumpkin chutney (the wifey).

Kimchee - ready for the brine solution

We have also been making cabbage salad with our chines cabbages.
You can do this salad with normal cabbage but not too often as raw cabbage has the ability to stop you absorbing iodine - i think.

Chinese cabbage
lime or lemon juice
soy sauce
sugar - or make your soy sauce a sweet one
sesame oil
olive oil
sesame seeds - toasted (can do in a saucepan)
spring onion leaves
coriander leaves or thai basil ( i prefer the thai basil)

Now the dressing is not precisely measure but i reckon
juice of one lemon
4 tablespoons of soy
1 tsp of sugar
1-2 tbsp of sesame oil and the same for olive oil

Generally finely shred and combine the rest of the ingredients.

We have also been making a gremolata out of our preserved lemon skin, finely chopped with lots of Parsley.
have on top of stews, baked potatoes, mashed potato
we also use the preserved lemon skin on our pizzas the other day which was very nice.

Tonight for rabbit stew with our parsnips, fennel, greens and potatoes and pumpkin mash with parsley and lemon gremolata.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sauerkraut a hit!

There  were lots of things to taste on Sunday morning including Kimchee (Korean traditional fermented preserve - thankyou Margi) fermented Diakon radish, cabbage and preserved lemons to marinade our home made olives. Margi also made some pancakes with the Kimchee which were a treat.

I had a lot of questions from the workshop participants including about the safety of eating different fermented foods. One thing i tried to explain is that it is actually much safer to eat food that you have made, have control of and know the history of. You know how the food has been treated and the environment that it has been grown in  - which is much more than we can say about the food we buy. I think we have been convinced by the media or health authorities that what we have done for centuries, and what kept us healthy for centuries is now somehow dangerous and that food we buy is somehow mush safer because it has followed regulations in some mass produced factory? It may take a while to get our confidence back after being told for so many years that new is good and old is contemptable.
Another question which i was asked was if the lactic acid had benefits other than not being a burden on the body to digest. To add to that:
Lactic acid promotes growth of healthy flora throughout the intestines
other benefits of fermented foods include:
The bio-available nutrients in fermented food are five times higher following pre-digestion.
This includes vitamins, minerals, amino acids, antioxidants and the numerous medicinal compounds found in food.
Digestive enzymes are a huge benefit as are antibiotic and antcarcinogenic substances found in fermented foods
Lactobacillus produce many of the B group vitamins.

Nourishing Australia has lots of good articles and links if you want to learn more about fermented and other traditional foods. I could spend ages looking at those links. Much of what i have learned about fermented food come from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. I had decided to buy it after reading a copy at the local organic shop- and then was given it by a relative. Enthralling reading - the click thing doesn't work by the way.

Now the recipe below isn't fermented but its simple and delicious and a friend asked for it so here it is - for those of you lucky enough to have limes falling on thr ground.


This recipe originally came from Ansty …….. I was never all that fussed about lime pickle before I tried this pickle – and now I am sadly addicted and am probably using it with far too many meals. Of course it is great with curries!

30 limes (we used 60 small ones)

1&1/2 cups salt (we used uncrushed, iodised sea salt)

½ cup Fennel

½ to 1 cup Chilli Powder

½ cupCoriander

½ cupTumeric

1 cup of Mustard seed Black or brown

2-3 cups of Mustard seed oil

Dee- pip and cut up limes thinly. Add salt. Sit for 2 weeks, stirring once a day.

After two weeks add about ½ cup of each the fennel, tumeric, coriander and chilli

(In my recipe I ground all the seeds but some people have left the fennel seeds whole). Stir well and leave for one week, stirring daily (taste after a couple of days to see whether it is the right flavour for you). Heat up mustard seeds in small amount of oil till they go ‘pop’ and release their flavour. Then cover the seeds with about 2 -3 cups of mustard seed oil (you want enough to cover your pickle yet not to much). Let it heat yet not bubble. Pour over pickle and stir well. Leave for a day or two to settle, stirring daily and of course testing for yumminess. Jar up and enjoy!

Even with I cup of chilli – this pickle doesn’t seem to be all that hot. I also made the pickle without any chilli and its still great.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Raddicio - you are a very special vegetable

Lots of Raddicio has gone into the garden over winter and spring. I love seeing it turn red as the winter colds up and the frosts kick in.
I have a couple more punnets that i will be scratching my head about where to stick, but i haven't tried very hard. Raddicio is one of the few leafy green vegetables that will survive  in this climate over summer without daily watering. Over the summer ours get water every 2 - 3 days and the keep on producing and seem to outgrow the pests. I don't think i have ever had any killed by pests. It does have a deep tap root which probably accounts for its drought hardiness, thus it is very different from lettuce which it can be mistaken for.

 They are indeed a bitter vegetable and i find they are best mixed with other leafy greens in a salad - but i do find as with Rocket, that the strong flavour is lessened when you add a bit of olive oil and Balsamic. Do not nibble a leaf and decide you don't like them - they are meant t o be dressed and put in salads!

They are also great food for rabbits and chooks and just seem to keep producing after quite savage picking. Our rabbits will always go for the Raddicio first if there is a choice. You can get varieties with long leaves which are more like chicory or fat leaves which are more like Raddicio.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Cabbage aphids arrive, knit one pearl one and processing bunnies

I knew they would arrive some time soon and as such I discovered a budding colony of blue cabbage aphids – under the cabbages actually. See link for more info -

Usually they start off in these tiny numbers then breed up to a plague and make the broccoli most unappetising. This year they are not stressing me though as I have no great goals of saving seeds from the Brassicas I have – apart from Mizuma, which has just started to flower. I’ll cross my fingers for those. However if you do have a need to get rid of them, one way is just to pull up the plants that the little populations are on – this slows down their population growth for a while and may just give you enough breathing space to get viable seed set on your plants. I have found that sprays that use soaps and oils to make a worse mess than the aphids do as they can burn the plants in warm weather.

Well I have taken up knitting as I just felt I needed to be doing something when my wife was knitting- I’ve already found it to be therapeutic. It makes me slow down a bit. By the way i am not yet pearling.

Processing bunnies. That’s a nice way of saying the half grown rabbits have now transitioned from their homes outside to inside the freezer. They have such soft beautiful fur at this time of the year. I’m wondering if I can scrape it off and use it for felting? I have tanned skins in the past – and I still have them and have done nothing with them. That may have to wait if and when the kids want to learn a new skill.
The kiddies have also transitioned to being present at the processing and are seemingly unscarred.

Down at the plot potatoes and beans are poking out of the soil , and we have planted some more tomatoes hoping that spring has now come. Chinese and other cabbages are looking good and carrots are sweet.

I tried the sauerkraut that I made a couple of weeks ago and it is surprisingly good for a young batch. It already has quite a sour taste. I wonder if it has anything to do with using the whey from goats milk, rather than cows milk?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sour foods - Learn how to make sauerkraut next Sunday

Sunday August 22 , 11am - 12
33 Clarke st.

Lactofermented foods are a traditional way of persevering food in many countries. It has been somewhat replaced by preserving using vinegar and sugar which was spawned by industrial processes that were able to produce these 2 ingredients at low cost. However a lot of goodness was also sacrificed by the transition from lactofermentation.

Sauerkraut is most commonly made using finely sliced hearting cabbages that are pounded and naturally fermented with lactobacillus – the lactic acid produced gives the sour flavour and preserves the cabbage. Sauerkraut improves with age and attains the best flavour after more than 6 months of cool storage.

Why bother making sauerkraut? It is yummy , healthy and you can’t buy stuff that is as good for you as the home made. We also can’t grown cabbages during the summer and even leafy greens can be a struggle. By making your cabbages into sauerkraut of the end of winter you are preserving your harvest, making a convenient and healthy condiment that can be enjoyed with lunch and other meals, and provide the family with something healthy to eat in summer of your other crops fail to produce. Growing vegetables in winter also uses less water than in the summer.

On the day we will:

Make a batch of sauerkraut using locally grown cabbages and taste some product that was made recently and some that was made last year.

We will cover the benefits of fermented foods.

Provide recipes and references to take home.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sauerkraut and socks in the sun

It was all a very relaxing picture on a Sunday arvo, with wifey knitting her socks and me pounding away at some sauerkraut in our chasseur. She has nearly finished one sock incidentally. We were pondering our differences the other night - the process drive verses the goal driven person. I reasoned that a process driven person would end up knitting longer socks because they are not focused so much on finishing the job as a goal driven person. This also partly explains why when we are doing a very big job like cutting up a fallen tree or doing roadwork, Helen peels off and looks for a job that is more rewarding and gives her a feeling that she is getting somewhere. However, there are many advantages of being goal driven and she is much more likely to complete projects in a timely fashion eg. ask for a baby present for friends, and in a matter of hours craft project is completed! 

Sauerkraut did get made. 1 cabbage turned into about 2 large jars.

 I also decided to try some preserved and fermented lemons. I have tried preserved lemons before with salt and citrus/ tartaric acid and they worked well. Hmm - must look up that Lemon liqueur.

preserving lemons

preserved lemon with cinnamon sticks

Tomatoes planted last weekend at the plot were hit by frost, so we will  have to start again with those. Potatoes and beans are still safely underneath the ground. The carrots are getting big enough to pick but should start putting on some bulk in the next month. The snopeas are also feeling the effects of being nicely frozen and are not setting new pods while the already formed pods look a bit speckled.

Planted lettuce and endive seedlings, planted Tat tsoi seeds, thinned tomatos, basil and greens in punnets. My Iranian lemon balm has come up in the punnets which is good. I was given the seed by a man who obtained the seed through his family and it is an annual rather than perennial. I've never seen this seed advertised anywhere and i may be the only seed network that has this seed. My plan is to grow these plants out and multiply my seed supply because this is one of those special heirlooms that could be easily lost.

The Valencia Orange trees are loaded and looking great. These trees never seem to miss a year, while the navel oranges definitely seem to fruit better in alternate years.
This one is growing in the chook yard but its roots are somewhat protected from scratching by black plastic.
Our old chooks have started laying now that the spring is near, so maybe we are not just feeding them for nothing after all.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Action packed long weekend

So the mulberry thinks its spring. This black fruited white mulberry was always a little earlier than the white fruited white mulberry near our back fence. Sometimes it suffers the consequences and gets caught by a late frost - which is predicted for this week. 

 The Asparagus are also showing signs of life especially the ones i have been growing in pots. My neighbour plants which get a bit more sun than mine are up and she is picking. However i'm in no rush to get Asparagus as there is plenty of Broccoli to be had as well as cabbages, sno peas and fennel. We picked some great bulbs of our 2 year old fennel plants from out at the garden plot on the weekend. If you let them grow , the following year that will produce bulbs on the end of long stems.

 Another surprising thing about the fennel was that when i dug over the bed next to them fo rthe tomatoes - there were lots of roots up to 1m away from the fennel plants. I 'd never had thought they would travel so far, even in good soil like that. I planted the tomatoes (grosse lisse) just out of reach of these roots just incase there was an effect from the fennel roots releasing nasty anti nutrients.

At the garden plot there was more work to be done than i had thought. We turned over the compost heap for the last time,

 planted tomatoes, potatoes, french beans, zucchinis, snake beans. I also mulched  the carrots with native Enneapogon grass which is everywhere after the rain this year. I find it very hard to bring myself to buy Hay for mulch when it has travelled so far and when we have perfectly good natural suplies of it growing all around us. I am a scavenger at heart which helps.

camping on Emily creek overnight was great fun and the kids just ran off and made their own fun. We just had to fend off the toottery babies walking around the campfire - and luckily this was successful. The treed were full of budgies and they seemed quite unperterbed by the fact that we had camped there. They still used the same roost trees  above our tent. The morning chorus was quite lovely to listen to as we lied in the swags. A small walk through the bush near the river revealed stacks of Litte Button quails, blasting off from unexpected points on the ground and making me jump. The other exciting find was that Brown quails are back after an abscence of about 7 years. They appeared in Central Australia after the big rains in 2000 and 2001 but then disappeared. The fact that they are back again means we have had a pretty good season

planted thai long green eggplants that i received from Mareeba seedsavers. I had been wanting to try these for a while as i think that they are much more heat resistant than the large purple eggplants that we have grown in the past. The large purple one tend to produce great buckets in the Autumn afte rthe hottest weather is over - that is if they are not eaten by grasshoppers. Eggplants are a very favourite of theirs!