Fermenting, Foraging, Homesteading, News, Preserving

When life gives you apples..

I’m finally sitting down to write this week’s blog post. I’ve accepted they will be weekly if I’m lucky!

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Blogging is a funny thing, If I could plug into my internal monologues there would be so much content to share! I keep telling myself I will keep a note book handy to jot down ideas for posts but the reality is I often write my most interesting posts when I’m somewhere random like weeding the garden so for now you will just have to put up with nonsensical ramblings whenever I squeeze time in between animals, babies, gardening and home chores!

Right now I am enjoying a glass of the blackberry sparkling wine I made last week. The warm weather means that it has fermented a lot quicker than my recipe stated so I need to amend that(especially since my friends who used my recipe had some exploding bottles!!!)

Our market last weekend went well we had some surprise visits from old friends which was wonderful. We survived with no Nanna help by bringing a travel cot to make a extra play space for the kids.

Dane has picked up some extra work so the homesteading chores have greatly fallen on me which has kept me busy. I’ve still had to squeeze in getting products ready for the Bathurst riverside market this weekend and Taste of Bathurst on the 12th. I’ll be trialling a new fermented summer garden pesto which I’m excited about.

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Kisses calved and it was exactly what we wanted a little bull calf that Miss Nyah has named Seaweed (our last calf was stingray). I’m so excited about having our own beef and although it is always hard taking the life of a animal we have grown attached to we know it’s had a good life and we truly appreciate the gift.

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I have been going well on my personal challenge of processing all the fruit in the freezer.
I did set myself back a little though by taking the kids on a spontaneous foraging adventure to this tree I had been eyeing off for a while nearby. I suspected they were apples but wasn’t sure until we got there to confirm it. On legs with Nyah by my side, Banjo on my back, Gypsy on the leash and Haggis the tortishell cat following behind I felt like we were characters in a story book heading off on a wild adventure! The apples were delicious and we filled the bag to the brim and struggled back home. I’m sure we looked a sight but we were all in good spirits and I have been merrily processing the harvest and will be back for more apples!

So far I have fed a bucketful to kisses with molasses which she greatly deserves, made two buckets of experimental hard cider, canned some Apple pie filling and used the cores and ‘waste’ materials to start another batch of cider vinegar which I will share the recipe for below. You can also save all your Apple cores and discarded toddler apples in the freezer to make this when you have enough but organic is best if you can get it.

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        Apple cider vinegar

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Ingredients

5-10 apples or cores,skins ect
Filtered water
1 cup honey or Sugar

Method

Put all your ingredients in the  jar or bucket (I use a 5L food grade bucket) and stir to dissolve the sugar.
Cover with a cheese cloth or tea towel and secure with a string or elastic band

Leave on the counter for at least a week mixing once a day. The sugar will ferment into alcohol and start to bubble.

Once the Apple/scraps sink to the bottom you have made hard cider!
Strain the apple/scraps off and recover the bucket or pour into a fresh bucket to continue fermentation.

Leave for another 3-4 weeks to allow alcohol to turn to acetic acid. The small amount of sediment at the bottom is normal this is the ‘mother’

After 3 weeks start tasting and once it is to your liking bottle. It will never go ‘off’ but may produce extra mothers that you can use to speed up future batches.

We use ACV all the time. We make it continuously whenever we have enough apple cores saved. It’s great for our health and well being but also great for treating animals as well.

Fermenting, Homesteading, News, Preserving

This Week

This week I am focussing on preserving our harvest and abundance of local produce available. I’ll also be foraging lots as blackberries are everywhere and I’ve seen a few rouge Apple trees around. Kisses is going to calf any moment now (I know I know I’ve been saying this for ages) and I’d love to give her some buckets of Apple’s and molasses.

I’ve decided to empty out the freezer I’ve got so much fruit in there and as there will be even more available to freeze soon I feel it’s better to get it ready sooner rather than later.
My preserving list for this week is huge so tonight I’ve been making more Worcestershire sauce, elderflower cordial and dandelion syrup, plum bbq,mixed raspberry and blackberry jam and plain Blackberry jam .

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Earlier today we went and filled another two big buckets of blackberries and I started on 10litres of BlackBerry sparkling wine. I hope it’s as delicious as the raspberry wine was!

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I’m still drowning in squash so will pickle more of these and maybe experiment with some fermented vegetables.

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Dane has been enabling my chicken collection and brought me home these gorgeous salt and pepper shakers. Growing up I used to collect cows and they were always my favorite animal (still are!)but my cow collection disappeared in my late teens and early 20s. Perhaps if I’d paid more attention to my young selfs obsession with farm animals my path in life would have become apparent sooner. In any case now I’ve turned that obsession to rustic furniture and chicken paraphernalia.

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Now I must end my ramblings for today and get back to the task at hand!

*Edit * Everything is processed and canned now. I’ve cleaned up and cleaned down and am enjoying a relaxing drink before a shower and bed. We still need to be up at 6am to start the homestead chores.
I forgot to mention previously that this weekend is our regular market at Tarana. The following weekend we will be doing a new (for us) market in Bathurst called the riverside market. We’ve visited this market before and love it the only problem is it clashes with out local farmers market in Oberon. We weighed up the pros and cons and decided to try Bathurst. We don’t sell enough at the Oberon spending more than we made last market. The riverside market is shady and has play equipment we can take the kids too plus there is a amazing op shop (thrift store for my American followers) I do hope we sell more product there. Really I don’t care about the money although it’s all adding to our goal of buying our own farm but really I just love sharing my passion for food and preserving with people and I’m running out of storage space!!!!

Foraging, Preserving, Uncategorized

Busy Busy

It has been another busy week here. The freezer is absolutely chockers and I had no room to fit in the plums we got last weekend. Over a few days (and in between kid and animal wrangling)  we managed to bottle some whole, make a few different varieties of Jam and sauces, replenish the Worcestershire stocks and try our hand at fruit leather.

I think I have found a new addiction in fruit leather as it’s simple to make and really delicious ( If you are Australian you might know the processed version of fruit leather known as roll ups) . We first tried it in Tasmania where it is widely available at market stalls and I had been researching different ways to make it.

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The first lot we made by simply pureeing the fresh plums adding a little sugar and popping in the dehydrator. I found the puree wasn’t consistent so I tried a different method of baking the plum halves with a sprinkling of sugar on top before pureeing in the food processor. This made a much smoother consistency and resulted in a delicious leather.

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In between all this we managed another family forage for Elderberries. Miss N was kept busy taking photos of us and we filled 3 5 litre buckets and will go for more later when the tree in our other spot is ripe. We tried a few different methods of de-stalking the berries. This is a very painstaking and tedious task and we can see why the berries are not available commercially. The first de-stalking method involved  was freezing the berries on the stalk and then breaking them off this works well in the beginning but as the berries start to defrost its not really that effective.

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The most effective and fastest method for us was using a fork and using it to pull the berries off the stalk. This saved our fingers going purple and got us through the mountains of berries. Elderberries are a antioxidant, diuretic, laxative, immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory and is high in vitamin A,B and C

I’ve made up two versions of syrup which is a health tonic to get us through the winter and keep cold and flu at bay. My first version is Raw honey based one it doesn’t taste as good but has the added benefits of raw honey. I’ve decided not to hot process it as I was worried about damaging the benefits of the honey so this one is stored in the fridge. I’ve made enough for our supplies and enough to sell some jars.

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Version number two was sugar based this tastes a lot better and I pressure canned it so I can store it in the pantry.

Both versions contain the benefits of the berries so I really don’t know which is better and I think it comes down to personal choice.

We have also bottled up batches of Elderberry Kombucha and the last job will be making Elderberry fruit leather. Through all this chaos I’m still passionate (and obsessed) with preserving but I really do NOT want to deal with another plum until next year that’s for sure!

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Now we are off to get ready for the Tarana Farmers Markets tomorrow. We love our market days because it’s a chance to share our passion for good food and local produce but it’s also a great way to meet people in the community and we have made many friends since starting markets. If your new to a small rural community and feeling a little lost and alone get out and chat to the stall holders chances are they are looking for new friend too.

Until next post keep gathering!

Foraging, Homesteading, Preserving, Uncategorized

Plum Cordial

It has been another busy week and we are finding ourselves crumbling into exhausted heaps all over the place. I wish we could tap into the kids energy supplies. They are bouncing around and we find ourselves playing with them over doing our chores as it’s more fun.

We have been social butterflys this week catching up with many friends before they go away. We were gifted yet another two huge boxes of Plums so more and more preserving and experimentation is waiting on the kitchen counter.

We also went foraging and got a huge bunch of Elderberries.

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We will be heading out for more tomorrow afternoon after our interview for community radio. This was a very unexpected request from a customer who bought some vinegar from us at the last market and is talking to different home bakers and cooks in the area. I will be sharing with her the same recipe I will share today for plum cordial.

This cordial truly is the essence of the saying “a season in a bottle”. The plum flavour is divine and the colour is vivid. While making it I thought it would make a wonderful natural dye and if I ever manage to find time to add learning the art of natural dye I will be experimenting with some plums (and Elderberries!).

Please read the entire recipe though particularly if you are like me and go for it then realize half way through you’ve done something wrong and have to back track!

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Plum Cordial

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Ingredients

1kg Plums

3 Litres of water

Sugar

Tartaric acid

Method

Place plums and water in a saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer for 15 mins

Scoop out plums with a slotted spoon then strain liquid though a sieve or muslin cloth measuring as you go

For Every cup of liquid add 1 C of sugar bring to boil stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Reduce heat and simmer for 2 mins then add tartaric acid

Pour into warm sterilized bottles and seal.

If you like you can cook longer to reduce the liquid and make a thicker syrup suitable for Ice cream. You can also use it to flavour cakes, cookies , icing , fillings or in cocktails. Experiment and have some fun!

Fermenting, Foraging, gardening, Homesteading, News, Preserving

Weekend Work and Foraging Fun

We had a wonderful day at our stall at our local Oberon Farmers market we nearly sold out of Kombucha and met so many lovely people who were new to the area and had lots of great chats about foraging and preserving. One of these chats revealed the whereabouts of a wild elder flower tree not far from our place.

This morning after our regular chores of watering the garden, chickens and animals I spent some time bottling Tepache which is a mexican beer recipe made by fermenting pineapple skins, brown sugar and spices. I will leave one bottle to do a second and maybe another to do a third ferment to be alcoholic and I can’t wait to try it at Christmas time!

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After the Tepache is was time to bottle more Kombucha I decided this time to try out a new flavor of Hibiscus, Honey and Jasmine. It will be a real struggle to wait another week to try this one as it smells heavenly.

While I kept bottling Dane went out to collect the seeds from our Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Kale. We have huge amount of seeds much more than we will need but I hope we can use them to Barter with other growers to get some more varieties of seeds later on.

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Kombucha bottled we discussed our plans for the day and decided we would go on a adventure to try and find this elder tree to forage some more flowers for cordials. I didn’t have high hopes as generally when we go on adventures to try and find things we don’t have the greatest success but this tree was exactly where we were told it was the only problem was all the best flowers we would need a cherry picker to get too!!

We collected enough to make 7 litres of cordial and 5 litres of Sparkling wine

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I had already been making fermented soft drinks last year and I discovered the process is very similar to country wine so the only thing I did differently is add the wine yeast IMG_4846

I will let everything sit for a few days in the container stirring it everyday and then I will bottle it and give it a few months where I will open a bottle in winter to enjoy the tastes of summer.

it is now getting cool enough outside that we can venture back out and collect some raspberries. I haven’t managed to get enough for my products yet as the kids keep hoovering them up as soon as they come off the bush!

Until next post enjoy the rest of your weekend

gardening, Homesteading, News, Preserving

Elder Flower cordial

It’s been too long since I’ve posted and I do apologize. My only excuse is that we have been spending lots and lots of time outside and my inside free time is dedicated to making preserves and getting ready for the market tomorrow.

Lots of beautiful things coming up in the garden and I’m stating to get excited about summer produce!

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We had a very sad event a few weeks ago with the loss of the quails we were quite devastated as they had just started laying and I love the gorgeous spotted eggs. Originally we thought a fox had got into the cages they were flipped and holes dug but now we think it was more likely a dog. We will be looking into getting a dog next year for protection of the flock. We may get quails again one day but not for a while. The last eggs I have blown out for keepsakes.

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Last week we visited a friend on their stunning property and spent some time touring the garden and right at the end was the biggest Elder tree I have ever seen. We talked about the berries and I asked if she had ever made cordial from the flowers. We mentioned we had tried the cordial at BOOMTOWN festival when we were in the UK sold to us by a troupe of children pulling a cart. It was the most beautiful thing I had tasted and I have been wanting to make it ever since but alas before I got the chance our chickens devoured our free and I had been mourning the chance until now. We were gifted a nice big bag of flowers and I got to work.

This is my recipe for elderflower cordial I have made it up from my experience experimenting making lots of cordial syrups recently and this is the best method I have found that works for me.

ElderFlower Cordial Syrup

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  1. Wash your elderflowers to remove bugs and then pop in your bowl ( I use a 5 Litre food grade bucket but I like to make HUGE amounts) pour boiling water over the flowers and leave overnight.
  2. Using a muslin cloth over a colander strain the liquid to remove the flowers plus any bugs you might have missed washing.
  3. Measure the Liquid and place in a saucepan for very cup of liquid add a cup of sugar.
  4. Over medium heat stir to dissolve sugar and bring to boil
  5. Once boiling add 1 teaspoon Tantaric acid and boil for another 2 minutes.
  6. Bottle in sterilized bottles and can with preferred method or store in the fridge.

Easy!!

You can follow these instructions for basically any herb syrup so get out in the garden and get experimenting!!!

Foraging, gardening, Homesteading, Preserving

Kale catch up!

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Spring is such a busy and beautiful time! We’ve had lots of lovely visitors and have been so so busy in the garden. I recently had a friend say to me “Do you ever get bored at home with the kids?” I had to giggle to myself! We always have so much to do that some days I long to be having a rest. At the moment our Kale is starting to go to seed and we need to get our patch ready for the Spring/Summer Vegie crop. I’m only just going to start sowing these today as frost is still a risk here until November!

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So back to the Kale wow do we ever have a lot! I really didn’t want it to go to waste (not that it ever does as the animals get our “waste”) So I’ve been googling and experimenting to develop some more products for market. I’ve nearly sold out of last seasons preserves and the freezer is now empty of fruit but I want to still be able to sell products where the base ingredient is either home grown or sourced locally from friends and local farms. I think it’s important to show case the wonderful area we live and also show people the variety of things you can do with a simple base ingredient.

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This brings me to Experiment 1. Fermented Kale Pesto at first I was thinking of just making a regular kale Pesto and canning it but the information on Canning pesto is a little vague some say it’s safe while others warn against due to the garlic content so I thought to be safe bottling and refrigeration as the best option. I stumbled across a recipe for fermented kale pesto and then had a chat with my fermenting guru Zoe from Warinyan farm and off I went with my experiment. One 5L bucket of Processed kale, local apples,balsamic caramelized onions, vinegar,orange, lemon balm, garlic and rosemary infused olive oil plus 5 days and YUM the experiment was a success! We ate ours with home made pasta and bottled the rest for sale. I’ve now started another batch of Garden Pesto and added some brassica leaves for a different depth of flavor.

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The other thing I am experimenting with is Kale powder. The kale is dehydrated and then crushed to a powder which can be added to smoothies, sauces or whatever takes your fancy. I used a Dehydrator at  55 degrees but you could also do it in a oven at a low temperature. I added a teaspoon to our pasta sauce the other day and YUM intense kale flavor so I think this is how I will process the remaining plants (we still haven’t managed to harvest it all!) I’m not yet sure if I will sell this but through my research i have actually discovered you can buy kale powder from health food shops so It’s something I will definitely consider.

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In Other news Our lovely mother of the year Straighty One eighty (aptly named as she is a Wyandotte with a straight comb) has hatched our 9 beautiful French wheaten maran chicks I am especially happy about this as this is the 4th lot of eggs we have had posted and the ONLY lot we have ever had success with. These ones came all the way across country from W.A so I’m very happy indeed! We have another lovely mumma due next week with our own Araucana and have set another 17 Gold laced Wyandotte eggs under our Black Brahma so we will have lots of new additions soon.

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On Friday Miss Nyah, Mr Banjo, Myself and the cats went for a walk around our garden and paddocks and collected Dandelions. Since last year I have been wanting to make Dandelion Syrup and Jelly. We foraged a big basket of Dandelions and made the Syrup which I have included the recipe for below. It is a little tedious but the result was surprisingly delicious and tasted just like Honey!!! I’m eager to try some on Pancakes and can’t wait to see peoples reactions to trying it at the market.

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Dandelion Syrup 

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Ingredients
  • As many dandelion flowers as you can pick (I had 3 cups)
  • 1 litre water
  • 2 – 3 cups sugar (or stevia or anything you prefer)
  • juice of half a lemon
Instructions
  1. Wash flowers then cup green bits off with scissors, cut off as close to the base as you can.
  2. Boil the kettle and pour all the water over the petals leave over night then strain with a muslin cloth
  3. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to steep overnight in a cool place. A cool counter or the fridge is ideal. Use the back of a spoon to squeeze out and extract as much liquid as possible.
  4. Return water to pot (or save in fridge/freezer until you get time for the next step), add sugar and lemon, and simmer on low heat for 1-1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  5. Check for desired consistency by dipping spoon into syrup, letting it cool a bit, then testing it with your finger.
  6. Bottle and store as desired -Canned in jars, pressure, waterbath or in plastic containers (3 months for plastic)

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Now I’m off outside to start our vegie seedlings and convert our old chook dome into a extra green house. I hope everyone enjoys their weekend and gets a chance to get out into the garden 🙂