Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Speckles of gold.

I have always looked through my canning books and every time I see "Habanero Gold" I have always wanted to make it,but something always stops me.
.I am trapped on the coast at the moment as my man is away at work, I  try to keep busy to make the time go faster.
So the other day I thought, today is the day I will make that beautiful pepper jelly.
I gathered all my ingredients, but was unable to get any habaneros, so made do with a slightly milder green chilli as a substitute.So I thought I would document this journey as I went along.
I decided to make two batches as i have read that you have to be a little careful multiplying batches when doing jelly as  they sometimes don't gel as well as single batches, so I heeded that warning.
Firstly I finely chopped 1/4 cup of dried apricots and put them in in a plastic bowl over which i poured 3/4 cup of white vinegar, I then covered this with cling film and left about 4 hours9But it can be left overnight if needed)

I placed the apricots into two stainless pots, and then chopped 1/4 cup red onions into small dice and added to the pots.

I then chopped 1/4 cup of a sweet red pepper into small dice and added it also to the pots.

I then I put on protective rubber gloves(which I have learnt the hard way,that one should always do) split my green chillies down the centre and removed the seeds,and chopped them also into a fine dice to measue 1/4 cup and added these also to the pots.

To this I now added 3 cups of sugar to each of the pots and mixed together with a  whisk until combined.

I then put this on high heat and brought this to the boil,stirring constantly and boiled hard to a rolling boil, I then stirred in 1 pouch of liquid pectin and returned the mix to a hard boil again and continued to boil for 1 minute.I then turn off the heat, allow to settle and skim off any scum or film that forms( this makes a clearer jelly,with no "froth" on top.
Meanwhile prepare your lids in a pot of just simmering water,don't boil them, and fill your clean,hot jelly jars, de-bubble if necessary and leave  the required 1/4 inch headspace. Place lids on and screw on bands to finger tight.

Then out comes my trusty  big electric water bath,and I place all my jars into it, cover  them with a couple of inches of warm/hot water, place the lid on and turn the dial to boil. When it reaches that magic number I then time it for 10 minutes, turn off, and remove lid and let the jars sit for  about 5 minutes. I then lift all the jars out onto a towel which I have placed on my bench and leave to cool. I check they all have "pinged" and leave them for 24 hours before removing the rings.

The next day after removing all the rings, I wash the jars to remove any sticky residue, and label them, and then I show off a little by arranging them and taking a pretty photo( I was very proud of my first attempt, I thought they looked gorgeous) and then the final test

When my man returned  home from work after being away we broke open a nice bottle of Sauvigon Blanc(for me) and a beer for him and gave  the Habanero Gold a try.....all I can say is YUM  !!!!
So I must go,
So until we meet again,

Friday, 26 July 2013

The old Blue girl

When my husband refers to "The Old Blue Girl" it usually either means our old blue cattle dog {Tilly} or he means the other love of his life, the old blue Fordson Tractor.
She is about as old as he is,and we bought her off the local town Progress association cheaply  as it was becoming a burden for them to  find  volunteer drivers for her to do slashing and mowing, as they needed to have the appropriate training and certificates to operate it in the town.So the council now does all that work for them.
We use her for so much, there is rarely a visit to the farm goes by that she isn't brought out for  some work.

We used her to rip all the trenches down to the bore that we drilled, and up to the generator with the aid of a big old heavy single ripper that we borrowed off friends in Dubbo. Then after all the pipework and electric cables were laid we borrowed a blade off one of our neighbours and filled all the trenches in.

My husband hooks up the old scarifyer in the above photos and drags it around to break up the earth to plant a bit of feed or grass, this old piece of machinery was on the property when we bought it and has been very useful.,It's not the greatest way to do it, but serves the purpose for now.
Every time I hear him on the tractor ,I take my camera out, and if caught photographing him I usually get a cheeky smile or a slightly rude gesture telling me to go away.
I think he just loves to drive around his little farm, wishing it was bigger. I often say to him to slow down, to take it easy, that he's on holidays... but he reckons it's like he is on holidays ,and he loves working on the tractor.
We have done so much with the old blue girl, pulled tree stumps, carted rubbish, carted the water cart when we are burning  rubbish, Carted  these huge loads of rocks, which were every where in our house yard. We use her with a jib on the back as a hoist when we are  butchering the sheep or pigs, and she is used regularly for getting loads of firewood from up on the hill behind the house and dragging around all the fencing materials as my husband has renewed most of the fencing on our place and added a few new ones.

We had a very  tumble down unused and messy  old chicken yard with some old sour plum trees,and when we had a very good old friend visiting we took advantage of the extra hands to remove the posts. I always hate to watch when he is  pulling posts or stumps, as I have a real fear of tractors  as they can be very dangerous if not handled sensibly,but he has worked with them most of his life.
Unfortunately  at some point all machinery needs repairs. While doing some work the tyre was staked and had to be replaced, and as there had been an ongoing issue with brakes my man  had a big day of repairs. Thank goodness he is handy with all that stuff other wise it would cost a fortune in repair bills.
And last but not least the tractor is a social vehicle, . The  final photo is one I love, my man and his brother next door were busy beavering away on  slashing the grass down on both of  our places, and he seemed to be taking quite a while longer then normal when I looked out and found them chatting away over the fence, their respective machines parked nearby...and they reckon that women can talk, you should see and hear these two together. They are good mates, and that's good !!!
So here's hoping the "Old Blue Girl" is around a while yet, I don't mind sharing my man with her and I hope that their relationship lasts for many years to come.
So until I  am back next time,
Cheers to everyone
Jane from Aus.

Monday, 22 July 2013

A glut of citrus

As Usual at this time of year we have a glut of citrus. I gave  a lot of citrus  away as I just didn't have the time or the need to preserve  it this year as I already had a wonderful supply of marmalade from last year.
So this year I only kept  the tangerines and ruby grapefruit and I only had a few lemons and limes as the trees are only new.
I decided to attempt jelly which I have never made before, My Mum( and after speaking to my cousin this morning,) my Aunty Belle  used to make quince jelly when I was very young, but I barely remember.
I borrowed my sons big Breville  juicer which he has in storage at our house and took it up to the farm with me.This sure saved me a heck of a lot of time.
I had two  shopping bags of tangerines to juice , and i ended up with 9 litres of tangerine juice,and one litre of ruby grapefruit juice,and a cup full of lemon juice and a small amount of lime juice.

I kept four litres aside to make four batches of jelly and decided to attempt to can the remainder of the juice to use at a later date. I have never canned any juice before so this was a real trial for me..will let you know how it goes.We simmered the juice for 10 minutes,then strained through several layers of muslin,placed back into pot,added the pectin and reboiled for 1 minute, then added the sugar and reboiled for another 1 minute.
I made four individual batches as I wanted to try a variety of  additives, in one batch I did I added lemon juice and the 4 1/2 cups of sugar and the pectin another I added no lemon juice and less sugar and pectin and the grapefruit I added lime juice. This was purely all experimental for future use.
We prepared our jars, rings lids ect according to instruction filled to within a quarter inch, removed any bubbles and sealed. We then processed them in a double layer in my trusty old Fowlers Vacola water bath preserver for 20 minutes. We decided to set it up outside this time  so that we could run a lead to the generator to run it.
As our property is off grid,  we only have limited amounts of electricity, and on a fine sunny day we would have been ok to run it off our batteries, but we had had several overcast days and so we didn't want to add the extra drain onto the batteries on top of regular household use.
We removed the jars after processing and left on the towel covered table overnight to cool completely and seal which they did.
I then removed the rings, and washed the jars. I had already pre-labeled the jars  as they had been different things and needed to know which was which.
The colour was quite good, though  the jelly not quite as clear as I had thought it would be, maybe the straining process needs to be more thorough. The taste of the tangerine jelly was good, although quite tart, but that suits me. the ruby grapefruit jelly was quite bitter, we think because the lime juice we added was from Kafir limes and not the sweeter  tahitian limes, and I think that may have affected it.I would use the ruby grapefruit again  but omit the limes...the colour of it was beautiful.
So my next attempt at jelly making  will be with a sweeter fruit, either pomegranates or grapes or mulberries,or what ever I happen to come across. I have been contemplating purchasing a steam juicer for this purpose.
The canned juice colour seemed to keep good, although the juice has appeared to have separated slightly.Whether this  all comes together again on re-opening the jars remains to be seen. Will  keep you informed when the time comes.
While we were up at the farm this time I went around and took a few house photos for record keeping and history purposes as we are planning quite a few changes over the next year or so as we make more serious  progress towards living on the farm full time.
So I thought below I would pop in a couple of pictures of my old workhorse of a kitchen. Nothing glamorous but it has been fairly practical.

We arn't sure what we will do exactly but that big brick chimney that leaks water everywhere every time it rains will go and be replaced with big glass sliding doors out to our later to be covered entertaining area,It has created a huge chain of events, each relying on another job to be done before it can be...I am sure we will be living in chaos for a while but it will eventually all be worth it.
So until next time,
Regards to everyone,

Winter ,what a lovely time of the year!

I just love winter up at the farm, I am not a summer person at all and the older I get the less and less i am  liking summer. Give me winter anytime.
There is nothing lovelier than laying in bed watching that low winter sun rise up  over a snow white  frost covered front lawn and watch it slowly melt  and everything come to life. We take our early cuppas out onto the front verandah and sit and plan all the world events and days jobs while  we sit there.
Even though it is cold ,crisp and frosty  its just right.
This photo shows it about as cold as it gets, we have only ever had snow in our area twice in my lifetime, although we do get cold nasty winds that feel like they are blowing straight off ice some winters.(Those, I don't love quite as much). But when it  is cold and chilly we have a lovely warm fire inside that we keep burning day and night and the house stays warm and cosy
We have been having some issues with this old wood fire, it is  about 30 years old now and is having a few  smoke leaking problems so we will be replacing it hopefully by next winter with a  slick new  dual purpose wood heater/cooker. This one will be relocated into an outdoor area we are making, along with our old kitchen wood cooker (which is also having a few major age related problems) , so that our outdoor entertaining time can be extended more.We decided to combine the two  fires into one dual purpose cooker/heater to be more fuel efficient. Also with the old  wood cooker outdoors, i will probably do more of my canning and food prep out there too, instead of inside where we swelter in summer.When we finally get around to doing it(or should I say saving the money to do it) I will post  the photos on the blog.
While we were up the farm this week, we had a lovely surprise, one of our sheepy mums gave birth to a very tiny sweet set of twins.

They are so cute, I just love watching their funny antics, they frolic around,leaping and jumping and just having a wonderful time.I think they are both boys, we didn't touch them, we let them be, when we go back up in a couple of weeks, we will tag and tail and mark if needed.I have a real soft spot for the black headed ones.The Dorper breed comes in two varieties, all white and black heads.Dorper Mums are fairly quiet and friendly, and we keep them even more so by hand feeding a little hay each time we are there,so that they are easier to handle.
Each year my husband  tries to grow a little patch of extra feed for the sheep, and as we only have some basic equipment(we have a scarifyer,not a plough) and he broadcasts the  fertilizer and seed by hand, we have had varying success and failures over the years. What the drought misses, the flocks of our beautiful Galah( a pretty pink and grey medium sized bird) usually get and if we are lucky enough to get anything up the kangaroos usually nibble it all off.
One of these days, we will buy the correct machinery as we can afford it and do it better.......But.....This year  we got a crop. The rain came at the right time, and my husband decided to run the scarifyer over a second time after he had thrown out the seed and the birds left it alone. So the photo below shows our little crop of rye rye corn,, We are very pleased with it considering everything.

With a little more rain predicted over the next few weeks, when spring kicks in we may have a nice little feed crop for our sheep.
While we were there this time and that rain had been predicted we went and bought 8 extra bags of fertilizer and my husband spent two days walking around our little place  throwing it around every where, then we got the predicted half inch of rain the next day, so all is good.
We had a fairly quite week, did some canning, but mainly rested and relaxed as it's been a hectic few months and were just in  need of  the break.
So..on that note,
We wish  everyone well,
Until next time
Jane from Aus.

Curry in a hurry

I haven't been on line much this week as we have been up at the farm, and for some reason the internet service up there was really bad this time. So I decided to wait until I returned to so called civilization to write up a couple of entries to the blog.
My ready meals in the pantry are always in much higher demand in the cooler months and the pantry is starting to get a little empty, so thought I would make up a new batch of curried sausages,using our own homemade  lamb and rosemary sausages instead of bought ones.
So to start with I par boiled the sausages and cut them up into smaller rings,which is just a good  size  and ready to eat.

I then chopped, 1 kilogram of onions, 4 kilograms potatoes, 1.5 kilograms of carrots,200 grams dehydrated peas and one large bunch of celery with my trusty  chopper  that I really couldn't live without and  put all the vegies in a big pot with 4 quarts of previously canned chicken stock(or whichever stock i have available.

To this I then add, a couple of desert spoons of minced garlic, a heaped teaspoon of minced chilli, a good handful of dried herbs, and I added 3 pints of previously canned tomatoes,salt,pepper and  I then add a variety of sauces( i usually keep my just empty sauces specifically for this, add a little water,and  wash them out into the pot.) I also then add curry powder to our taste( a few tablespoons usually to a pot this size) There  should be enough liquid to totally cover all ingredients,if not add water or stock)
I then cook this mix  in the big pot until the potatoes are  just tender, I then add the sausage pieces back into the pot and heat through.
I then prepare my jars, rings lids ect according to normal Ball instructions and fill my jars. I choose to use quart jars for this as I find that 1 quart jar just does us a meal perfectly, either on toast or with rice or pasta  or other vegies.
I then place all my jars in the pressure canner,mine holds 14 quarts or 19 pints and process at 10lbs pressure(for my altitude) for 90 minutes. With this batch I think I may have filled the jars just a smidge too high with the mix as I had a bit of leakage during processing, something I will watch closer next time. The photo shows the overflow  in the canner.
I placed all the jars on a towel on the table and waited for that magical ping, they all sealed beautifully, I left them the required 24 hours and then removed bands, washed and labeled them and they are now tucked safely away in the pantry for future  quick lazy yummy meals.
When I am ready to open one of these jars, I empty into a saucepan, heat for 10 minutes,  and decide if I want to eat this as a stew like consistency or thicken it. If it is the latter I mix up a paste of plain flour, curry powder and water and stir into the saucepan and stir until thickened and heat through, being careful to avoid the flour mix clumping. We enjoy it both ways, although my personal preference is to thicken it.
We had a lovely break away, the weather is certainly cooler, we had about half an inch of rain which was very welcome and life is good.
Cheers to everyone until we meet again,