Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Ginger Beer and a repeat of an old favourite.

When we lived on the coast ,every summer I would make home made ginger  beer from a plant  and it would be consumed at alarming rates, not until many years later did  we realize that it was probably "slightly" alcoholic ???( still not sure  to this day)
Then when we started coming up here to the farm  I decided that we needed to have some for when we were up  visiting and working so once again I made a few batches and stored them in my nice cool laundry off the kitchen and went home again to the coast.
On returning a few weeks later with friends we were met  immediately inside the front door with  the lovely  sweet gingery smell of the ginger beer, no longer tucked away safely in my laundry but now exploded  all over the kitchen and living area of the house. The were shards of glass from one end of the house to the other, we found glass in the most  unbelievable spots for months and possibly years.
Lesson learned, never bottle ginger beer in glass bottles.!!
So last week, I said to hubby, "let's make some ginger beer again", ...he looked at me  with trepidation and said" are you really sure", and I said  "of course  plastic bottles though"..
I couldn't find me  old recipe , I looked high and low( still in a box somewhere safe I imagine), so  instead googled  a new one to try, this one from  Nigella Lawson who stated that it was a family recipe.
To start the plant you  pick a decent sized jar and combine, 8 raisins( or sultanas),  1/4 cup lemon juice,1 tspn grated lemon zest, 1 tblspn  white sugar, 2 tspns ground ginger, and  2  1/2 cups water
 Cover with a clean  cloth and  let it sit for the next 2 to 3 days, then after that feed it  2 tspns ginger and 1 tblspn of sugar each day.
When the 7 days have elapsed, strain the contents of the jar through a couple of layers of fine muslin or a clean tea towel.
Then  squeeze and strain the juice of 3  good lemons.
In a big pot  add 3 cups white sugar to 5 cups of boiling water and stir until disolved, add the strained ginger plant liquid,
Then add the lemon juice,
and then add 14.1 pints ( about 8 litres) of  cold water.
Get all the bottles( I now use recycled  soft drink bottles and buy new seals  each time) I have made rhubarb champagne and use these bottles and seals for that also, so had caps on hand. Fill the bottles with a funnel, leaving a good space at the top to allow for expansion, cap and seal.

You then take the residue that was left after straining the plant and divide it into two,
and place it into two jars, cover with clean cloth and start feeding them both as before for the next 7 days, at which time you can make 2 batches. (you can always pass the  spare plant to a friend or just throw away)

It has been 2 days since I bottled  the ginger beer, and on checking  early this morning I can see that it  is beginning to "work".
Nigella's recipe said tto wait 3 or 4 days, but on a Don Bourke  recipe nearly identical, it said to wait a couple of weeks, so time will tell, I will watch cautiously as I  did break my golden rule and actually filled 2 glass bottles, as I  was 2 plastic bottles short, but have put a call out and will be  able to be 100% plastic bottles next time. Those 2 glass bottles will certainly be the first two sampled.

I also made another old favourite this week,  something that I have  posted on here about before, but as there are many new people popping in and out I thought I would share  it again this time.
We and most of our acquaintences  adore Habanero Gold, that delicious sweet  pepper jelly with a hit of chilli to eat with  camembert cheese, mix with cream cheese for a delicious dip or use as a baste  or a dip for spring rolls, it's uses are endless.!
For this sweet treat you first need to  finely chop  1/3 cup of dried apricots and soak it overnight in a  bowl  with  3/4 cup white vinegar.  The next morning  , after preparing your jars ,lids and rings and canner ,
  you need to   finely chop and de seed  1/4  cup  Habanero chillies,

Then you    finely chop 1/4   red Spanish onion, and 1/4 cup finely chopped red capsicum(bell pepper)
In a  deep  stainless steel saucepan  you then add all the chopped  ingredients and  3 cups white sugar,
You then heat on high heat until a rolling boil that can't be stirred down is achieved,
Then you add 1 pouch of (30z/85ml) of liquid pectin and boil hard for exactly 1 minute.
Remove from heat and immediately skim off any foam and then pour into  pre-prepared jars.
After capping , place in a boiling water bath and process for 15 minutes( 20 for higher altitudes)
When the correct time has elapsed, turn off heat, remove jars out onto a heat proof area to cool and seal.
After the seals or pop as the jelly slowly starts to cool, you must  move the jars around, tipping slightly to  try and get the chopped particles  to suspend within the jelly, this may take  a period of several hours, if this step isn't taken you will end up with "layered " jelly.
This jelly is just so delicious,  everyone that tries it falls in love with it, I just can't make enough.( my issue is that liquid pectin isn't  easy to purchase, it has to be ordered from a supplier and be posted to you.) , But it is so worth the effort.Now I must state that this recipe is  from "The Ball  Complete Book Of Home Preserving" and to make the amount of jelly above, that this was double the recipe.It's not advisable to make  more than this amount as jelly  can be a tricky thing when it chooses to be.

While I have been playing around in the kitchen, hubby decided that he would  finally close off the old back laundry ( now my canning pantry ) doorway as we no longer need it.
I then took a photo of my pantry with all that light coming in for the last time we always kept the door shut) but now it is much better.
I also removed a small garden bed that  will have to be gone when we add our back verandah,
and hubby slowly worked his way up the door matching the rows as best he could.
It is still obvious at the moment but with a little filler up on the top left and right hand corners and a coat of paint all over the outside, I think it will look great. A cupboard will sit in front of it anyway and no one will ever know.
He then went inside and  squeezed a large amount of gap filler into all the  spaces to block out any chance the creepy crawlies had,  and next week will put in some insulation and repair the inside with a sheeting as well. Then I can finally  errect my final set of shelving in there to increase  and better utilize the storage area. We also plan to put a high shelf up above the chest freezer to store the canners and big pots.
We have  preserved 2 batches of  bread and butter zuchini pickle and have another batch to go tomorrow and probably another next week, the way the zuchini's keep producing, but they are delicious and will be great to have in the pantry for year round use, we are loving them just with our salads on plates for lunch.
It's been a busy, hot few weeks but we are  seeing results for our efforts and that's all that matters,
The mad summer canning season is nearly over, it will be good to back off a bit.
 I hope  that  we catch up again a little further down the track,
Take care everyone,

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Another Busy Week Of Preserving.

It is that time of year again, with preserving it is either feast or famine !!
When the produce is there there is no option but to  do what needs to be done so  that you have it  for  everything you want to make or eat   for the rest of the year.
Although we are not dependent on these stores it just makes sense to us to  keep the supplies built up, as we live in a small country town, services are very limited and what  we have available  is rather expensive to purchase.
So, as our tomato crop  was such a failure this year we decided to make a trip to the Narromine Tomato Farm and purchase 50 kgs( about 110) lbs of  tomatoes (cookers or seconds)
We brought them home and got straight into getting them into  my jars.
For about  30kgs of the tomatoes,  we simply  quarter and remove cores or any spots and squash firmly into the jars until no spaces are there( we do not skin these).
I then add a little salt for taste, a squirt of lime or lemon juice  for acidity, wipe rims  and add the rubber ring,lid and clips, and then pop them into my  electric water bath preserver.
The next  15 kgs of tomatoes, I decided that I would make a basil,garlic pasta sauce with. I  Have made tomato sauce and habanero tomato sauce before as a condiment style sauce but not the pasta style.
I decided that the tomatoes I was using for this needed to be  peeled, so I dipped them  quickly in a pot of boiling water and then popped them into iced water in the sink and te peels just  easily slip off.

I then did what I  often do , and didn't read the recipe correctly and processed the tomatoes before cooking them( not sure if it mattered, but will know next time)
Then into the pot with the tomatoes, I added the pre cooked onion and garlic and simmereed until it reduced to the required consistency,

Then  it was bottles, sealed and water bathed  ready to be used when required.
  After the tomatoes were all tucked away safe and sound in their bottles,  I then took all the tomatoe skins that I had removed and  put them into the dehydrator,
 After about 24 hours when they were completely dry, I put them  into the magic bullet processor and powdered them up, this will be a handy   flavour boost for rissoles and meat loaves and soups later on. It doesn't produce much but it all helps.
Another great bi-product was the tomato juice, which we scored a couple of jugs of and enjoyed  drinking ( with added salt and pepper) for a few days.

We ended up with a good supply of tomato products that will see us right through the year hopefully. We are big tomato  eaters and I use them frequently in  meals I make.
My Mum had  told me that the pints of  canned soups that I do for her are really now too large as she is getting older and no longer requires large amounts of food, so she requested that I make her some in smaller jars to reduce waste or the risk of her leaving left overs too long in the refrigerator.
So , I did a big canner load of beef soup in half pints for mum and then the left over in pints for us and topped off the canner load with some chick peas( as they are processed for the same time as  soup with meat) One of these jars of soup, a peice of toast and some fruit  should make a  wholesome nutricious meal for her  with minimal effort.
When we were living on the coast we regularly had a glut of cucumbers and I used to  can a lot of Bread and Butter cucmbers, but out here, this year the  zuchini plants have produced an amazing amount ,
 so I  took a gamble and decided to  use my recipe for the cucumbers ,but to replace them  with zuchini,  but instead of slicing into rings I chose to chop them up a little more rustic and chunky, along with sliced onions.
The  zuchini and onions then went into a large container, salt was poured over,covered with water and left for a few hours.
I then  brought to a boil the  liquid, vinegar,celery seed,yellow mustard seed, sugar and tumeric.
The zuchini,onion mix is then  drained and rinsed and packed into preserving jars and the  hot liquid poured over,
any air pockets or bubbles removed, rubber rings added,lids and clips and water bathed for 20 minutes.
All the   preserving over the last few weeks has been safely  stored away into my pantry, the shelves are once again beginning to fill up.. All the   boxes full of jars that I have been lucky enough to be gifted or purchased cheaply are  finally finding new homes among my other jars, Ball masons and Fowlers Vacola all in together.  There  are not many things as beautiful as rows and rows of glass preserving jars full of colourful food. ( except maybe my grandchildren.) !!!

It hass been an exceptionally busy few weeks, but  things will slow down on the preserving front a little now for a while until the next wave of produce hits .
i will get in and catch up on some house work and a bit of gardening  in the interim, so until I  catch you again down the track,
Take care everyone,