Thursday, November 27, 2008

Rhubarb Vanilla Mincemeat

I love Christmas cooking and with Lyssie away at Mum and Dad's for a few days now is the perfect time to start and prepare for the upcoming festive period.

I never use to be a fan of fruit mince pies at Christmas, but I have discovered that they don't have to be heavy and gluggy like I remember. I really like Nigella Lawson's take on them in Feast. This morning I made Nigella's Rhubarb Vanilla Mincemeat and bottled it ready for use closer to Christmas and also for next winter. It really is delicious- the vanilla works surprisingly well. It is suggested by Nigella that it may also be nice mixed through a sharp apple crumble, I will definatley be trying that when we find ourselves with excess apples.

This is definatly a recipe I would recommend to others, very simple but really tasty.

Fresh rhubarb awaiting the pot!

The fruitmince quietly stewing away- I love the colours

Bottles and ready for storing- shame all the colous have gone. Strawberry and brandy sauce in the background.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Growing Challenge Update Photos

I had a quick feel under the potatoes today and found these! Should be quite a few in there I think. Ian will be happy as he is quite a potato fan.

One of the potato spots- my potatoes have never been this vigorous before- think all the rain may have something to do with it! They are grown in layers of straight pig compost and straw all rotting together.

Triamble pumpkins just starting to run
Some sows of carrots which I thinned out a little today, some are much bigger than others as I had to replant most of the rows when they mysteriously disappeared. Baby leeks and spring onions behind. The bare patch in the corner is ready for the second planting of corn that will go in next week.

Half of the garlic harvest on the veranda to dry. Probably picked a fraction early but seems to be drying well. Glad it was harvested before the big rains is it would have done it a bit of damage I think. Last year I left the garlic in the ground a bit too long and some of it rotted. We have been using it this week and it is really zingy!

Growing Challenge Update 3

It has been a while since I have updated the challenge, not a huge amount to report- mainly lots of rain, 2 inches in the last week! It is good for the garden, but not really helpful when we should be harvesting canola, wheat, barley and oats- all of which will not be worth significantly less. The rain also has consequences for the sheep as it ruins the dry feed so they have to be fed grain and fly strike is a constant problem.

Anyway back to the very well watered garden!

Planted since last update on the 9th
  • 3 punnets o9f basil (need plenty to make a years supply of pesto)
  • punnet of lettuce
  • punnet of silverbeet (didn't actually need it as I have found many self-seeded silverbeets popping up with this rain)
  • Ned Kelly passionfruit- a present from my mother-in-law
  • 2 rosemary plants that I had dug up and had in the greenhouse waiting for a good spot
  • pulled out rest of the pansies that boardered the path in the vegie patch
  • lots of weeding (al least it is easy with the rain)
  • continued to put pea straw around- nearly all done
  • harvested 40 bulbs of garlic-thankfully before the big rains
  • gave most of the vegie patch a dose of seaweed fertiliser to give them a boost- they look like they could really do with a few nice warm sunny days
  • continue to help train tomatoes up, some through a ringlock fence and some with stocking tie
Harvesting at the moment
  • English spinach
  • garlic- all gone
  • rhubarb
  • a couple of potatoes
  • onions
  • strawberries
  • the usual herbs
Thunder is getting a bit close again, will post photos later, had better unplug computer!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Strawberry Jam

The last couple of weeks have been really busy and with Emme still getting up 5 times a night I haven't had a chance to achieve much. The last 3 nights have been quite manageble- especially last night she only woke up at 11.30 and 3.30- it was like a dream come true! So finally managed to achieve something.

Last year was the first year I have ever made strawberry jam- I still can't get over how easy it is (and how delicious). I admit that my strawberry jam is really quite runny- but that is actually how I like it, I don't like jam that doesn't spread itself.

This morning was jam making morning- well it only took an hour or so (as long as you are prepared it really doesn't take long). I washed, cut and weighed the fruit last night so today I just had to prepare the jars while the jam was cooking. Ian took the kids for a drive so I didn't have to worry about them.

I wish I could say that all the fruit came from my garden, but I can't as the slugs and earwigs really seem to love strawberries! Below the fruit I picked yesterday, I made it up to 2kg with some seconds my mother-in-law picked up last week from a local grower in her area.

Simple Strawberry Jam

2kg strawberries, halved if big (I like jam with texture)
2kg sugar
juice of a lemon or two

Put the strawberries in a large, heavy based pan with the lemon and gently cook for 15 minutes, stirring every minute or so. Add the sugar slowly as you stir to dissolve it, then let it boil for 15 minutes stirring a few times. Let it sit for 5 minutes and then pour into prepared jars and seal.

I always store my strawberry jam in the fridge as I'm not sure how long it will last as it is quite runny.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Growing Challenge Update 2

There is lots of planting and maintenance happening in the garden but not a lot of harvesting as we really are in between seasons at the moment. All the winter produce has now finished and I am awaiting some summer vegies to get a move on! We have had a couple of quite cool weeks so things are really quite slow.

For harvesting at present
  • rhubarb
  • garlic all needs to be pulled this week
  • still asparagus, although probably for not much longer
  • English Spinach
  • Strawberries (there would be bucket fulls if it wasn't for the bugs)
  • lots of herbs although the coriander has now finished and won't be replanted until the end of summer
Planted over the last week
  • 2 punnets of leeks
  • 1 punnet of spring onions
  • 1 punnet of basil into old laundry troughs
  • 6 Japanese pumpkins (don't really need them, but couldn't resist grabbing a punnet and having a go as I haven't grown them before)
  • 3 zucchini I raised in the greenhouse
  • row of climbing beans
Maintenance this week
  • Pulled out the rest of the silverbeet (all gone to seed) and gave to the pet lambs who loved them
  • pulled out rest of climbing peas and moved frame to put climbing beans on
  • finished putting pea strew around tomatoes, eggplant and capsicum, Ian brough more down from the shed so there is more to go around this week
  • potted more baby asparagus seedlings
  • gave most of the vegie garden and pots a good dose of seaweed solution
'The Boys' waiting for another wheelbarrow load of scraps from the garden
Henry, Alex, Charles, Lawrence and Bruce

Friday, November 7, 2008

Asparagus, Asparagus Everywhere!

When I was growing up asparagus always seemed to be a really fancy and exotic vegetable. Living in rural Western Australia we never saw fresh asparagus and it wasn't until my late teens that I actually ate fresh asparagus. My mum always had a tin of asparagus in the pantry and often put it in quiches. I was never a fan of the tinned variety but was quite quickly hooked on it fresh.

Before growing asparagus I always imagined it would be a difficult plant to grow as I didn't know of many people with their own asparagus patches- how wrong I was! It really doesn't need a lot of loving care, just some good compost, bit of straw and a deep water once or twice a week and with a bit of luck it should continue producing for 20 years! Some of mine has been in for 4 years and this year we have been getting a nice bunch every second day. Asparagus seems to grow from seed quite easily and has self seeded itself all through the compost heap which is next to the asparagus patch. They are popping up everywhere and Lyssie and I have been potting them for friends this week. When I say they are popping up everywhere, I mean everywhere. That is everywhere I have moved compost, in the corn, in the lettuce, pots of basil and even under the orange tree, all over the garden.

Some of the asparagus Lyssie has helped me pot- 2 year olds are such help in the garden, especially when they insist that they wear the gloves, use the spade and hold all the pots!

A baby asparagus popping up in some lettuces growing in an old laundry trough

A two year old asparagus plant under the orange tree (and a few weeds!)