Monday, January 30, 2012

More bottled fruit - Pear & plum dessert filling

Last week I came across some red skinned pears for a price I couldn't refuse. Never having tried red-skinned pears before I bought some, mainly out of curiosity - I really wanted to see what the flesh looked like! Crazy, huh? For some bizarre reason, I thought it would be red, or at the very least, tinged pink, hah! Really crazy, wouldn't you say?!!

Anyway, they came home, sat in the fruit bowl for a few days until I could leave them there no longer. They either had to be eaten up or made into something. Having plums in the fruit bowl too, I decided to bottle them up into a crumble/pie combo. Do you do this? Mix fruits together for easy desserts over winter? I have to say this is my first combo in the bottling/canning arena, having always stuck to single fruits in the past..

Of course they were cream coloured inside! What on earth was I thinking?

The pears (which were sweet, juicy and delicious!), were peeled, quartered and cored whilst the plums were halved and stoned. 

Packed firmly into preserving jars and covered in a light sugar syrup (1 cup sugar:3 cups water), they were then heat processed for sterilisation.

Oops.. I forgot to mention I also added a cinnamon stick to each jar for good measure along with 1/2 tsp citric acid (pears are naturally low in acid). Don't you just love the colour of the plums and the way they have coloured the syrup?

Yep, once again, visual preserving excitement. What IS it about that? Do you suffer from it? (Or rather, revel in it?).

Three #31(1 litre/1quart) Fowlers jars. Pies or crumbles..or maybe even a cake! It's so much fun to have options....

Do you have any favourite fruit combinations for canning/bottling?

Friday, January 27, 2012

ethic. What if every town had a shop like this?

"It's a fantastic new shop. Full of organic dry goods, body care and cleaning products. There is even a cafe where you can sit and have a coffee, with a kids play area. The best bit is that you take your old empty containers and fill them up!"

This is what my friend told me when I ran into her while out getting milk the other day. Just a short drive away in the next town, I had to go! And so, an impromptu excursion took place, nicely timed with the tweens coming to the end of their school holidays.

What would we find? What would we take home? Was it really as good as she said it was? And the most important question of all...would we manage find it, loosely following her directions from memory? 

It was fine, we found it!

Set away from the main shopping streets, it had a large sign that we couldn't possibly miss. It also had several cars parked out the front which was also an encouraging sign..

Inside, we were not disappointed. Reluctantly moving through the tempting handmade items near the entrance, we made our way through to the back of the store to see what lay there..

Immediately greeted by the friendly owner, we were given a brief introduction to the shop, how the prices are kept low to cater for families and how to go about shopping there.

Organic body care - shampoos, conditioners, shower gels, handcreams and moisturisers. 

 The idea is that you take your empty containers, weigh them and record the empty weight on a sticker that is provided. You then select your product, fill the container up, write the code and take it to the front to be weighed and paid for. The original weight of the container is of course deducted from the total weight. Prices are insanely reasonable because of bulk purchasing and selling the products 'nude'.

Organic muesli and other assorted breakfast cereals. Even puffed rice, much to the tweens' surprise and delight!

An extensive herb and spice selection, along with yummy choc coated treats..
Below, we (I) could not go past the organic choc coated blueberries. Delicious! Next time we will try the cherry version..

The tweens received a good lesson in weighing/measuring and did a fine job of sticker labelling..
Handmade bamboo baby gifts, hand knits and eco nappies are available too, with the emphasis on supporting local handcrafters..

Comfy chairs beckon to be sat in with a friend or two over a coffee. As my friend said.."It's very 'veggiegroup'!). 

Feeling slightly overwhelmed by the choices available and with three tweens antsy for a milkshake, we managed to make our inaugural token purchase with the promise that we would be back very soon...

Organic - rolled barley, rye flour, jojoba & rosemary shampoo and conditioner
and of course those choc-coated blueberries! 

(I have no affiliation whatsoever with this store, I just happen to be completely and utterly smitten with it!).

-bulk organic wholefoods
-bulk biodegradable cleaning products
-fair trade coffee and tea
-kids play area

63 Urquhart St, Woodend, Vic, 3442.  (Ph) 0458 370 709

Is there a store like this near you?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

This day..

This day:
- "Dad's home!" Kind of, sort of, well really he is, but not this one!
- 'Lucy'. Lucy used to live with my mum and dad. She used to gleefully prick her claws into my dad's feet while he slept in his chair. She has come to live with us as her home now belongs to someone else.
-BBQ-ing and bike riding
-eating bottled peaches and ice-cream
-the eldest breaking in her new school shoes while wearing her pyjamis all's enviable fashion around here!
- slowly navigating my way through a new phone that was given to me on my birthday (wayyy back in December!)
-oiling outdoor furniture which also used to live at my parents place
- sorting out the 'bushfire cupboard' and all of the individual backpacks in there
-listening to Barnesy and Neil Diamond (up loud..very, very loud!)

We don't make a big deal of Australia Day, preferring instead to reflect on and take pleasure in where we are and WHO we are. I do hope your day was a good one.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Stovetop Tomato Passata

Last week after our trip to the 'pick your own' orchard, I called in at a market stand on the side of the road on the way home and picked up a 9kg box of roma saucing tomatoes. I'd been wanting to make some passata and our homegrown tomatoes are still a way off so was pretty excited to come across these juicy offerings!

They were cored and cut in half and then the pulpy seeds were squeezed out and put into the compost bucket.

The nine kilos of tomatoes just fit into my two largest cooking pots, full to the brim!

They were cooked down gently over a medium heat until the juices were flowing and the skins were loosened, about an hour.

Then it was through our trusty old food mill on the medium disc. The skins went through twice to extract every last drop of precious tomato puree from them..

The result was a thick homemade tomato puree ready for bottling..

After ladling it into jars (to which citric acid had been added - 1/2 tsp for the largies, 1/4 tsp for the smallies, to ensure safe acid levels during storage), they were processed in the Fowlers Vacola steriliser.

The yield was the equivalent to 10 x 700ml jars, (5 x 700ml and assorted 500-600ml jars). 

Just one bottle failed to seal, I don't know why. The lid was removed, cleaned out and re-processed, which then sealed without any problem.

It's hard to pack them away in the cupboard, I like looking at them on the bench! We need our bench space back though..I think I'll pack them away along with the bottled peaches this afternoon...

We popped open a jar the other night to go in some butter chicken and it was pretty tasty...pretty darn tasty!! If only our homegrown tomatoes would hurry up and ripen!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

'Pick Your Own'

We used to live in a fertile growing valley not all that far from where we are now. Although we used to visit the market stands along the roadside regularly, taking advantage of buying direct from the farmers, it took moving away and then a trip to collect the eldest's school uniform for us to actually call in and enjoy the fun of 'picking our own'! It was always on our list of things to do and I'm so glad that now we've done it. I think I could easily go again... and soon, too!

Avenue of Honour, Bacchus Marsh, Victoria.

The strawberries (1.5kg),  are being munched on and the peaches (4.5kg), still slightly firm are ripening on the kitchen table. Ahh, to feed the preserving addiction is such fun!

Besides bottling/canning, how do you like to preserve peaches? Chutney? Jam? etc.. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Fowlers bottled peaches (plus a severe case of preserving addiction)

It's true, I have a very severe case, I'm infatuated with my Fowlers Vacola.  I daydream about what to put into jars next. I wander around the fruit market getting sidetracked from what I should be buying, instead veering off towards whatever fruit is on special this particular visit. Earlier in the week it was peaches. At $2.57/kilo I just couldn't walk on by! Glorious, glorious stone fruit, how I love to take a big, juicy bite out of thee...

Last week it happened to be apricots. A whole box of them from the Victoria Market! (Well, granted, the box was only 5kg, but still, 'box' sounds so much more grander doesn't it?!). I've discovered fruit inspired excursions to the Vic Market are soooo much fun, things are just so cheap and twice, no three times the size of fruit commonly seen elsewhere. Mangoes the size of a small pineapple! A meal in itself!

So, back to the preserving addiction, I decided to bottle up my humble six kilos of peaches and happened to take a few snaps along the way...

Fowers Vacola Peaches

First up the seals were placed in a bowl and covered with warm from the kettle water to soak.

Next, these oh so glorious peaches of mine were halved and stoned using a small paring knife and a sturdy teaspoon (sitting at the kitchen table while doing this kind of work makes for a much more pleasant experience!).

They were then peeled using my old, favourite vegetable peeler. I suppose they could also be blanched in boiling water to remove the skins but I really didn't want overcooked peaches so decided to prepare them this way..

After peeling, each half was sliced into quarters and packed into the clean jars. Note - remember to put rubber seal on jar before filling jar to brim, it's much easier!

The peaches were packed alternately with warm sugar syrup (I used a light syrup, 1:3 sugar to water). They fruit was packed firmly until the jar was nearly full, leaving a headspace of 10-12mm. Ensuring the seal was not twisted, I gave it a quick wipe to make sure no peachy debris was caught on there..

The lids were then positioned and the clips secured in place..

This is how the clips look when correctly positioned:
They should be centered and the groove of the clip should be sitting under the glass lip of the jar. 

The jars are then ready for processing in the Fowlers Vacola steriliser. As I have an old 'Year Rounder',  I put mine in for 1 hour, although different models take different amounts of time.

Below, the bottles after they have been processed and allowed to cool.
Clips can be removed after 12 hours and the seal checked. If the lid won't budge, the seal is good!
If not, either re-process or place the jar in the fridge to eat up first.

I couldn't resist stacking my jars somewhere I could admire them for a couple of amongst the rest of my addiction jars...

The last couple of weeks have seen bottled peaches (yuh!), bottled apricots, blackberry cordial, raspberry jam with apple and rhubarb (after Kirsty gave me a delicous jar of hers!), strawberry jam with rhubarb, plum jam, four berry jam and apricot jam with brandy.  I'm finding rhubarb really is a most delicious addition to berry jams, have you tried adding some to yours?

What are you preserving at the moment? 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Summering around here..

In the greenhouse - volunteer tomatoes
corn - a late planting!
apricots - moorpark
pumpkin - golden nugget
the curtain of garlic!
Notes to oneself

bottling apricots in sugar syrup
older sisters doing younger sister's hair..
I can't stop admiring this mutato potato! Are they eyes or ears on the side? Either way, I'm smitten with the 'nose' in the center!!
You haven't tasted meringues until they've been cooked in a 'still warm the next day' woodfired oven. A seriously good crumbly explosion of white sugary, powdery sweetness..seriously!

Growing, eating, baking and jam-making. Visiting relatives, garage clean-ups and kids' playdates. This is what is filling our summer days. If only the weather could stay constant or at least a tiny bit predictable.. then we'd really feel complete!