Sunday, 23 March 2014

A Prickly Situation

I have often read on many of the canning sites that I belong to that many canners make Prickly Pear Jelly, so I thought that I would have a go to as there were several prickly pear cactus  plants growing in our area. I did not take the photograph of the fruit on the cactus plant below ,it is an image I found online.
We picked the small pink fruits very carefully with a pair of kitchen tongs and collected them in a small plastic bucket.
Brian then scorched off the tiny fine hairs and prickles with a small portable butane torch that he had.

Once the hairs were all off,next I got a pair of gloves on and started to peel the thin papery skin off the fruit. I then separated it into three lots, scraps, seeds and meaty flesh.

I then boiled up the seeds in a large pot with water,sugar and lemon juice for about 30 minutes, strained the seeds and any remaining pulp off and was left with a lovely cordial that I canned.(I also reserved a few cupfuls to put in with the jelly/jam)
The next step was to put the fleshy fruit segments, sugar, citric acid, lemon juice, pectin  and the reserved juice  into a large pot and then I boiled it for about an hour or so until it started to jell on a cold plate. I also added the lemon halves that I had juiced for extra flavour and jelling.
When the desired jelling stage was  reached,   I removed from the  heat and skimmed the foam off the top and poured into warm preserving jars. We then water bathed these and the jars with the cordial in  my Electric water bath preserver  for 10 minutes after it had reached boiling point. After this time had elapsed I turned it off,removed the lid and let the jars sit for another 5 minutes. I then removed them and placed them on a towel covered counter overnight.

I was extremely pleased with the results. The jelly/jam set beautifully and the colour of the jam and cordial is very pretty and tasty.
I had also picked some of the cactus leaves( or paddles) and we also singed off  most of the prickles with the torch, then peeled them and sliced into strips. I had read that these are delicious  dipped in egg and breadcrumbs and deep fried or grilled or even stir fried.

We tried just dipping in egg,flour and shallow frying, but were not really impressed with the results. We were later told that the young fresh spring paddles are best and we had used older more mature ones. But we will try them again another time.
The photo below is the final products of jam/jelly and cordial. I will definately be making them again as they have nearly already been all used up.They have proven to be very popular.
There is much to do here on the farm and I really must keep moving,
so until we meet again,

Thursday, 13 March 2014

A bit of this and a bit of that !!

We have  been up at the farm for a week and have had a really hectic schedule. We arrived with two 1000 litre water cubes to make up drip lines for the shrubs and trees, and a whole heap of  timber garden edging to make raised beds out of  at some point in the future.
The plan for the first week was to get  a concrete slab laid to move the cool room onto  that we had previously taken up.
The good news is that we had had some rain and the place was finally starting to take on a green appearance, although much more is need , the sheep were appreciative for what was there.
We also made arrangement with our neighbour to swap rams, to give us both a changed blood line.
I don't think he was real keen at first, but he soon settled in and started chasing the small flock of ewes that we had selected for him to romance.
Hubby selected the spot to lay the concrete and started to clean the area up.
He then boxed the area up, and built it up a bit with some extra dirt.
We did a quick trip to Dubbo and purchased 16x 20kg bags of cement, then went and filled our trailer full of  aggregate and then a trailer full of sand(generously donated and loaded onto the trailer by next door) and we were ready to roll.
My big brother was the concrete mixer,
My husband was the wheelbarrow man and layer,
And Tilly the Blue cattle dog was the site supervisor.,making sure all was well.
I kept the food flowing and was the gofer for all that was needed.(This was a brown sugar and sultana slice about to go into the oven)
While the boys were busy concreting I ground up a heap of turkey  mince to make meatballs.
I made these to can, so to do them safely there were no breadcrumbs,flour or eggs, and instead I used my previously dried vegetable powders and home made plum sauce as  thickeners and binders. I then baked them  before canning into bottles and processing them in the pressure canner.
We are very pleased with them, both in flavour and texture,The liquid I used was previously made turkey stock that I had canned. I also made a batch of "Habanero Gold"  with  the pile of habaneros that I had grown on the coast this  season.
The boys had left the concrete slab to set and firm up over night and next morning removed the timbers from around the edge, They did a good job and the slab  set well.
My big brother, Hubby and his brother from next door then man handled the cool room onto the slab with a lot of pushing and shoving and sliding on metal rails until it was in position.

It will such a great thing for us, for when we butcher  sheep ect to be able to not have to worry about waiting for cooler weather and being able to let  it hang for a few days to develop more flavour.
It will also be a great assistance when we have a big party of family get together to keep food and drink cold without overloading the kitchen refrigerator.
During the week we also drenched the sheep for worms and put rings and tags on the new lambs.

I had also taken up to the farm three ham bones that I had frozen after Christmas to make split pea and ham soup.
I cooked it all up in a big stock pot , removed the bones, chopped the meat and cooked a bit longer and then pressure canned it into quarts.
This messy end of the shed had been   earmarked to become my new laundry/store room/meat room and the boys  started to do a bit of the wall lining the other day while they had some spare time
Already it looks so much better, and  I can see what a wonderful space it will be. There has to be some plumbing and electrical work done next before they can continue to do any more lining, but at least I can see a light at the end of the tunnel, progress has been made.
Hopefully while we are here over the next few weeks we will get some more done.
So I must keep moving,  always something to be done.
Until next time,