Archive for the ‘Preserving’ Category

Storing potatoes

March 27, 2014

Potatoes are so easy to grow and I always seem to have more than I can eat at any one time. As a result of which, in the dim depths at the back of the cupboard under the sink, this often happens:

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Sometimes it’s even more embarassing and this happens:

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So I need some other method for storing them where they won’t sprout. I investigated freezing and found that it’s possible but they need to be blanched first. So…peeled and diced, dropped into a pot of boiling water, then removed when the water comes back to the boil. Dropped into iced water to cool quickly and stop the cooking process. Drained and frozen in batches:


I’d hoped that when defrosted, they’d be suitable for potato salad, but I found that when I tried to mix them into the dressing they were too soft and broke apart. However they’re just great for mashed potatoes. Into the microwave for a minute or so, add butter, S & P, chopped parsley, a dash of milk and mash. Quick and delicious!


Handy hint corner

An old spice container full of fine sand, makes a great shaker for covering fine seeds after sowing:


Freezing tomatoes for winter use

August 23, 2013

I deliberately grow many more tomatoes than I can possibly eat during the growing season. The quickest way to deal with them is to throw them whole into the freezer. When frozen, they clack about like cricket balls. Last season I finished up with four large plastic boxes full and now have two left. Number three was taken out last week and turned into a batch of spicy tomato and red lentil soup (Thermomix style):

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There was more than enough for the batch of soup so I turned the remainder into puree. I’ve written here about how I leave them to defrost on the bench overnight and then tip off the water that’s expelled, so the puree doesn’t need so much cooking to reduce it. I put the puree back into the freezer in 400 gm lots which is the size of a can of tomatoes, so one lot fits most recipes. It works well. For making the soup though, I left them as is and just chopped them in their frozen state in the Thermomix.

Of course, they’re no good as fresh tomatoes (which I never buy at any time of the year), but there are endless uses for cooked tomatoes and freezing them whole is a quick way of dealing with an excess that can be dealt with when there’s more time.

Around the garden

February 16, 2013

I was weeding under the quince tree, stood up and was donged on the head by this:

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A quince! It’s the first and only quince the tree has borne! There are three trees, all grown from seed, planted in a group. They’ve flowered each year for the last 3 years but have never set any fruit. See the brown spots on the leaf. That’s a fungus disease. I think it’s quince leaf blight. The trees get it each year and generally lose all their leaves prematurely. It’s spread by water and since it hasn’t rained for a while, most of the leaves haven’t been too badly affected. The recommended controls are chemical, which I don’t want to use. I might try a seaweed spray.

These are Diva cucumbers. The good thing about them is that all the flowers are female! And they don’t need a pollinator. They’re bearing like crazy. I’ve already bottled five jars:

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The three large jars are using my standard bottling recipe and the two on the right are using Suburban Tomato‘s bread & butter cucumbers recipe. I’m looking forward to trying them.

These are some of the pumpkins growing in the hugelkultur bed. They’re Red Kuri, a variety I haven’t tried before:

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These plants haven’t been watered at all and are looking remarkably green and healthy:

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They’re all self-sown from seed dropped last year. Just a single tall stalk, 2 metres or more high, with clusters of yellow flowers at the top:

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It’s Evening Primrose and its seeds contain a very high concentration of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). GLA is an omega-6 fatty acid that is found mostly in plant based oils such as borage seed oil and blackcurrant seed oil. Omega-6 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids: they are necessary for human health, but the body can’t make them—we have to get them from our food. Along with omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function, as well as normal growth and development. I’ve been harvesting the seeds for a few years now and mostly put them in my bread and sprinkled on mueslii  (I need to work on brain function!).

My Black Kale was nearing the end of it’s life and was being attacked by Cabbage White Butterfly caterpillars. I was gradually taking off the lower leaves (plus grubs) to give to the chooks (they go mad for it) and in the end, completely cut off the tops of these 2 plants, leaving bare stalks which I intended to deal with later. In the meantime we had 16mm of rain—the only rain in January—and the stalks started to shoot again:

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I’ve noticed this happens with silver beet—when it’s gone to seed I don’t dig up the plant, just cut it off at ground level, cover the stump with fresh compost and mulch and it usually shoots out new growth. I’ve been wondering about perennialising plants by cutting them back severely and then feeding and watering, to promote new growth. It’s worth doing some trials, I think.

I’m not a great fan of summer any more (let’s be honest, I hate it), but it is good drying weather. Today I put tomatoes and chopped pumpkin out on the deck (the wire frames standing up at the rear go over the drying racks to keep insects off):

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Last but not least (it was hard work!), I’ve finally finished clearing out all the water plants from the first pool. Waiting now for some rain to fill it so I can see real water again:

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Dehydrated pumpkin

November 7, 2012

I read this post at Not Something Else blog and thought, “now that’s interesting”. I have a dehydrator,  and hadn’t thought of drying pumpkin before.

At first I thought, “why bother?” Pumpkins store pretty well and if there’s been a good harvest it’s possible to have pumpkin to eat right through the winter.

Then I thought of those times when I’ve had a poor harvest (pretty often, unfortunately), and have been given a monster pumpkin by a neighbour, and once it’s cut into, there’s a fair chance it will go to god before I can eat it all — buckets of pumpkin soup and lavish plates of roast pumpkin nothwithstanding.

So I thought I’d have a go at drying some pumpkin.

Not Something Else roasted his pumpkin first, then mashed it, spread it on the dehydrator tray and in the end had a lot of trouble with the dried product sticking to the tray. I watched the video he linked to and wasn’t impressed with the greyish-looking product the woman in the video produced.

I didn’t want to go down that path and thought of the Thermomix (when am I not thinking of what I can do in it!)

I peeled and cubed a small amount for starters (a quarter of a small Butternut), and gave it 5 seconds at speed 5 in the Thermie. Nicely chopped. Put it in the dehydrator on a piece of baking paper over the top of my tray, because the basic frame of my trays is covered with a piece of perforated plastic. It took a few hours to dry at a temperature of about 40º C (I had a batch of yoghurt curing in there at the same time, so couldn’t increase the temp).

It dried pretty well and didn’t stick to the paper. Some of it had stuck together in lumps so I put it all back into the Thermomix and gave it a few seconds to free it all up and make it more friable.

The dried mix contained some coarse pieces and some fines. I sieved it through a couple of sieves and ended up with three particle sizes:

Next day, I finished off the rest of the Butternut and also did a piece of Jap that had been in the fridge for a while. Here’s the Jap just going into the dryer. It was a coarser chop than the butternut, even though it was chopped for the same speed and time. Lovely colour!:

The dried Jap pieces didn’t stick together as much as the Butternut; I think the coarser chop was the reason.  And I think the reason why I got a range of particle sizes with the Butternut was that it chopped much finer than the Jap initially and putting it back into the Thermomix to break up the dried pieces ground some of it to smaller particles. I didn’t need to sieve the Jap pieces because there were no visible fines.  Probably, it’s all something to do with the different textures of the pumpkin flesh.

Now I have some dried pumpkin. What next?

Well, I’m going to put a couple of tablespoonfuls into my next loaf of bread. Should give it an interesting colour. I’m thinking of a batch of biscuits using the very fine stuff. Savoury or sweet, I think the pumpkin will complement them. It can also be used in casseroles as a thickener — there are loads of possibilities. Of course, the Thermomix will reduce dried particles of any size to a powder, so it doesn’t matter what the initial chop is like, just that smaller pieces will dry more quickly.


September 22, 2012

Some weeks ago I bought Sandor Katz’s book Wild Fermentation. I didn’t know it at the time, but he’d just released a bigger, updated version with lots more information on fermented foods.

Look what arrived in the post yesterday:

The big updated version. It is sooooo comprehensive!

A complete surprise and generously sent to me by a reader of this blog, Fran from Serendipity Farm in Tassie. Fran’s blog is The Road to Serendipity. Apparently she had acquired two copies, thought I’d like one and posted it across Bass Strait.

How serendipitous is that! Thank you, Fran.

Freezing tomatoes & making relish

August 9, 2012

Following a comment from a reader about drying tomatoes, I replied that I usually dry cherry tomatoes and freeze all the others.

Cherry tomatoes are easy to dry, out in the hot sun, on a wire screen. Like this:

At temperatures over 30º C, they’ll dry in a couple of days and I prefer this way since it saves power. If there’s an intervening cool snap and they’re not dry, I put them in the dehydrator to finish them off:

The larger tomatoes take longer to dry and it’s easier to freeze them. Once they’re frozen they clack together like so many cricket balls. I freeze them in a single layer on a tray and once they’re hard, transfer them to plastic bags or a large plastic tub at the bottom of the freezer. Throughout the year I use them to make pasta sauce or tomato relish or any other tomato product.

Since I just had an interesting experience with the frozen ones, I thought I’d pass on what happened.

I wanted to make another batch of tomato relish. I love it. So much so, that I’d just about put it on ice cream (I’ve put the recipe below; needless to say, I make it in the Thermomix now).

I took out a kilo of tomatoes from the freezer and put them in a bowl on the bench. Normally I’d chop them up straight away and use them as is. Something more important came up and I didn’t get round to doing it that day, so the bowl of tomatoes sat on the bench overnight.

Next morning, there was a bowl of saggy red bags sitting in a sea of clear liquid. It had just a slight tomatoey tang and taste. I realised that probably most of the nutrients, flavour, and certainly all the colour, were intact and all I’d lost was most of the water, as the cells damaged by freezing thawed and released it. I tipped the water off.

What it meant was that I wouldn’t have to cook the mixture as long to get to the desired consistency and that would preserve more of the colour and nutrients. It took only 2/3 as long as the previous batch I’d made, in which the tomatoes hadn’t been defrosted overnight.

I was delighted. Now I have a whole new way to use frozen tomatoes with much less cooking.

OK, here’s the recipe. It’s written for cooking in the Thermomix, hence the references to times, speeds and temperatures, so you poor deprived people without one  😦  will have to do all your chopping in a food processor and your cooking on the stove. Note that ‘ripe tomatoes’ means fresh tomatoes, so you’re going to have all that extra water to cook off. If you do use frozen tomatoes, use the same weight as fresh tomatoes and pour off the liquid after defrosting.

Tomato Relish

800 g ripe tomatoes
300 g onions
1 tsp salt
300 g sugar
40 ml Wild’s Ezy Sauce (available in most supermarkets)
2 tsp mustard powder
2 tsp curry powder
20 g plain flour

Place onions and tomatoes in bowl. Chop  5 seconds on speed 6.

Add rest of ingredients and cook 40 minutes at 100º C on speed soft or 1.

Check consistency and if necessary cook a further 10-20 minutes.

Bottle into pre-heated jars and enjoy (on ice-cream, if you want).

Rainy Wednesday

August 8, 2012

I know God hates me because I’m an atheist and when he sees me out in the garden, he sends it down.

He must have been otherwise occupied this morning because I actually got a lot of weeding done before he woke up that I was out there.

I had a coffee while I caught up on other blogs and (for me) had a stunning idea.

I’ll go shopping.

Wait a minute! I hate shopping! And I hate to drive in the rain (to be fair to God, though, it wasn’t heavy).

Friday is my usual food shopping day. I go to a small local centre where there’s a supermarket, PO, newsagent, bank, hot bread shop, butcher and a chemist. It’s about a 12 km return trip. My record for getting there, getting the groceries and getting home is 40 minutes. Not bad for an anti-shopper (and without speeding).

There’s a bigger shopping centre about twice that distance away, where I only go when I want something they have that the small centre doesn’t.

I’d almost run out of chicken stock and there’s a chicken place there that sells 3 chicken carcases for a dollar. Can’t get better value than that.

There’s also an el cheapo bookshop where everything’s $5 and an el cheapo greengrocer (although I prefer to shop for fruit & veggies at a Sunday market where the stuff is local).

So, later…..

Three chicken carcases in the stockpot (note: rainwater only, don’t want toxic fluoride in my system):

Two books, one on beekeeping (I will, one day) and a risotto recipe book. Since I made the mushroom risotto so easily in the Thermomix, I’m sold on risottos:

A couple of leeks, a dollar each (better than I can get at the Sunday Market):

They were destined for the dehydrator:

Five litres of delicious chicken stock. I can’t understand why anyone would want to buy the dishwatery stuff in a carton:

So not a bad outcome, eh God? Can’t keep a good atheist down, even on a rainy day!

The versatile Excalibur dehydrator

July 30, 2012

Last year I bought two new gadgets somewhat expensive pieces of kitchen equipment.

The first was an Excalibur dehydrator and the second was a Thermomix. If I had to score them for usefulness, I think the Thermie would come out ahead, but the dehydrator does its fair share of processing and drying.

Baby tub of home-made yoghurt maturing in the bottom of the dehydrator:

(I need to start making larger batches. The Girls love it on their porridge!).

At the same time, apple rings drying on the top shelf…..:

…..and pumpkin seeds drying on the lid:

This season’s oca…..picked & pickled

July 26, 2012

The oca plants have fully died back and I’ve picked all the tubers…..

…..and started pickling them. Here are the first two jars:

The recipe I use for the pickling liquid is fairly simple:

3/4 cup vinegar ( I use apple cider vinegar)
1/2 cup water
2 tsp dill seeds
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
2 springs fresh dill (place in the jar with the sliced oca)
1/4 tsp salt
4 tbsp sugar

Mix all in a saucepan and bring just to the boil. Pour over the sliced oca in a pre-heated jar.

I like oca fresh, either raw or pickled. I know there are people who rave about it roasted, but to me it’s yuk. The texture goes like mashed potatoes and the flavour is like old socks (no, I’ve never eaten old socks, but you know what I mean!). Maybe I cook it for too long, I don’t know. Or maybe I have a different variety to other people. I think I’ll try gently steaming a few tubers in the Thermomix. If that can’t do it, nothing will!

Some of the biggest tubers, scrubbed and ready to go:

They don’t need peeling. They’re crunchy and slightly lemony. If left in the sun for a few days after harvesting, they sweeten up a bit.

I’ll be posting out tubers this week to those who asked for some.

I’m all oca-ed out!

August 16, 2011

I’ve started harvesting oca in earnest. All the stems have died down and I need to get them out so I can prepare the beds for the summer stuff.

This is the harvest from just one bed, about half a square metre in area. To give an idea of the scale, they’re sitting in an upturned rubbish bin lid:

There are some nice big tubers in this lot and there are still 2 more beds to harvest!

I only eat these raw or pickled (not cooked) in flavoured vinegar. Some people say they’re delicious roasted. I’ve boiled, roasted and microwaved them and to me they’re well,…….bleaaaah!

I pickled a couple of jars today. It’s a pity the colour bleeds out of them, because the effect of the dark-coloured internal rings when they’re sliced crossways, is lost. But they’ll taste good in salads, anyway:

Later edit:

My pickling liquid recipe is below—after one of the comments.