An Autumn Garden

In earlier years its always a relief to turn the calendar over to March.  March means autumn, a relief from the heat and a little less time watering the garden.  This year has been different.  Summer was wet and surprisingly cool.  The garden has produced such a bounty this year, much more than I expected.  Endless carrots, beans and just enough tomatoes to freeze a small supply of sauce for the next few months of the ‘between season famine’.  Oh and see the basil there at the front?  Most of it has gone to seed now but a few plants I will chop back to below the seeds.  Then in a few weeks there will be another batch of basil to harvest and turn into pesto.  Not that I haven’t already got a freezer full of green goodness.

With the tomatoes looking tired and full of fruit fly, it was time to pull them out.  Compost went in and chicken-poo-infused mulch on top.  The big gap in the garden will be filled later today with the first of this winters brocoli plants.  I brought a punnet and will share half of them with the neighbour so 4 plants will go in.  I figure that buying in the stock will put me 4 -6 weeks ahead than if I sowed my own.  Meanwhile I still have 3 trays in the propagation box germinating (hopefully) as I type.  Which will be ready for planting out in about 1 month.  This will be a follow-up crop.

Also in the propagation box I have cauliflowers, onions, parsnips (they’ll  be directly sown but their space is now occupied so I will try transplanting them…)  mini cabbage and Calendula.  The Calendula are for some winter colour and I’m busting to make some Calendula cream.  (I found a recipe at Rhondas ‘Down to Earth’)

I’m enjoying my current gardening style, when something goes out, something must go in.  Be it a few lettuce seedlings from the nursery (ready to eat in just a few weeks)  to climbing peas that replaced the carrots.  I am trying to space out plantings, to avoid that glut as I’ve had in earlier years.  Only putting in 1 tomato plant and when it starts flowering the next went in and so on.  I do the same with dwarf beans.  To date this has worked amazingly.  A steady supply of food is flowing into my kitchen and our bellies!

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Mulberry Pie Filling

Earlier in the week I showed you how I’ve turned our mountain of mulberries into Jelly.  After making the Jelly I was left with cups of pulp.  Not wanting to waste it I started searching online for a recipe.  I found my perfect recipe here.  Just the right amount of sweet with a good kick of spice and a hint of lemon.  I didn’t use alcohol in my recipe as I didn’t have any and no one (the hubby) wanted to go for a drive to buy any.  Luckily for him it tastes just perfect though!

Now if you had patience (which I don’t) you will have snipped off all the little green ends before you made your jelly.  But again I cannot be bothered, seriously 5kg of fruit harvested today, so I find I have to blend/ food process the pulp just abit.  The stems are very tough!

To make my pie filling I place the pulp, sugar, lemon and enough water (remember it’s been strained dry) to make it wet – apart from the water my measurement are as per David and Dawns recipe.  Once it has come to a boil I add the cornflour to make a thick sauce.  Since it’s already cooked, the filling only takes 10 – 15 minutes.

Now you can make pies, turnovers, crumbles and tarts.  I’ve also been freezing and preserving it in my vacola kit.  To date 4 Vacola bottles and 20 ziplock bags full of filling.  Oh my I think we will turn purple!  I hope you’ve enjoyed these recipes and if you have a good recipe, or know of one online please send it through!  Now I am off to make some more (MORE!) Filling.

Mulberry Jelly/ Mulberry Jam

This is an oh-so easy Jelly to make, with (to date) rave reviews!  In the beginning you will need to split the fruit and the liquid.  This is done by cooking the fruit until it’s soft.  Just remember to wear an apron, have a cloth to wipe up spills and to use glass or metal bowls and pots….  Everything will become purple!

Ingredients & Utensils

  • Mulberries (preferably in 1kg increments or as close as you can)
  • 1 large Green Apple per 1kg of fruit – chopped skin and seeds into 2cm squares
  • Water
  • Wooden Spoon, A big pot (preferably stainless)
  • Potato Masher, A Fine Strainer, Glass Bowl

Method:  Rinse your mulberries with water and remove any mouldy or rotten fruit.  If you don’t want stems in the pie filling (to come later) now is the time to snip off all those tiny stems.  I usually cannot be bothered.  Place the berries and apples into the big pot with a few cups of water.  I don’t use an exact measure – roughly 5cm in the base of the pot to stop the fruit from sticking.  (If your fruit is tiny and dry you may need to add more water during the cooking process)

Now place the pot on a med/ high heat and bring to the boil.  Once boiling turn it down to a simmer and remember to stir often.  You may need to add a bit more water if the liquid gets low.  When the apple is looking soft, it is time to carefully mash the fruit to release even more liquid – be careful!!!

Once it is all mashed, let it cook for 5-10 minutes longer and then turn it off.  The fruit now needs to cool enough to safely handle the pot for straining.  Normally in Jelly, the fruit would be put through a Jelly bag, but again I cannot be bothered.  I’ve found a simple fine strainer does the trick. 

Strain the fruit and syrup-liquid into a big glass bowl.  Let it stand for 30 minutes to be sure all the syrup is out of the fruit.  The fruit can now be covered and put in the fridge.

Ingredients & Utensils

  • Mulberry liquid from above
  • White Sugar
  • Lemon Juice
  • Pot, Wooden Spoon, Chilled Plates, Measuring cups

Method:  Begin by measuring the syrup liquid, for each cup of syrup a cup of sugar is needed.  Place these both into the pot.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a fast simmer.  Next add the lemon juice, roughly a big tablespoon per cup.

Simmer the juice for 20 minutes, again stirring often.  After 15 minutes begin checking for setting point.  This is done by placing a spoon full of syrup onto a chilled plate.  The plate is then returned to the freezer for a minute.  After a minute take it out and run you finger through the syrup.  It is ready if a wrinkle forms on the skin of the syrup.  Reaching setting point can take up to 40 minutes, but its a fine line between setting point and burning.  Check for setting point every 5 minutes.

Once setting points reached, turn off the heat and ladle into hot sterilized jars.  Seal and label.   The Jelly once cool, will set to a slightly runny gel.  But oh so delicious on toast, scones and pikelets!

Enjoy!

Tune in on Wednesday to find out how to turn your Mulberrry Pulp into a yummy pie filling!

 

 

Mulberry Madness

I cannot help but become childishly excited when I see the tiny mulberry flowers forming at the start of spring.  A hint of the bounty that’s to come.

A bounty were certainly getting this year.  To date the harvesting total stands at 15kg!  That’s a lot of tiny sparkling balls of goodness. (That’s not counting the many many handfuls eaten by the children, husbands and visitors!)  I guess you’re wondering what would one do with 15 kg of purple?

Mulberry Jelly, Whole frozen Mulberries, Mulberry Muffins, Mulberry cakes, Mulberry Crumble and Mulberry Pie Filling – just to name a few.

I’ve been ‘putting up’ much of the fruit, you can eat only so many berries at a time.    To celebrate our Mulberry madness I will be sharing our two favourite recipes here over the next few days.  Starting with Mulberry Jelly and then Mulberry Pie filling that uses the pulp leftover from the jelly (no mulberries wasted here!)

 

Loofah Loving

 

Kicking around in the back pantry since, oh autumn.  Five little loofahs have waited my attention.  Forgotten by me until I was looking for the seeds.  here is a quick rundown of preparing loofahs for use.  Seriously so easy!

  1.  Tip out, shake out or just get out as many seeds as you can.  These are the ones that are replanted next spring.
  2. Peel off as much dry skin as you can without damaging the inside.
  3. Soak the loofah in warm water for a few minutes, then peel off the remaining skin.
  4. Now they need to be soaked in a weak bleach solution – Bleach is dangerous please be careful!
  5. Soak the loofahs until the mouldy bits are gone or gone enough for you to be happy
  6. Rinse well
  7. Dry in the sun – I put them on a cake rack
  8. Your loofah is now ready to use!

What can you do with them?  Use them to clean your dishes or in the bath.  And the best bit? They’re compostable when they become ratty!

Now, would you like to grow a loofah?  I have some seeds, ok I have a fair few seeds to GIVEAWAY!  So if you would like to try a loofah plant this spring, drop me an email at littlefarminthecity at hotmail dot com –  HAPPY GARDENING!

 

Pickled Beets aka Beetroots

With harvests coming slowly from the garden I’m trying to make the most of everything.  Needing to make room for more carrots the beetroot had to be pulled.  A basket full later I was left pondering ‘what to do’ with them all.  I’d been making my way slowly through the crop eating them raw, grated and roasted, but that was one at a time. Now I had almost 2kgs

In the end I went to our local library and found ‘Canning: for a new generation.  Bold, fresh flavours for the modern pantry’  by Liana Krissoff.    Ok really I loved the cover and the other books weren’t in.  But it contained a recipe for ‘Pickled Beets’ page 56.  “Most pickled beets are so achingly sweet I tend to forget I’m eating beets or pickles.  All you need is a touch of honey to mellow out the vinegar a bit” 

I had all the ingredients and it sounded tasty…  Lets go

Begin by boiling the beets in water until soft.  I had such different sizes, I added them biggest to smallest over a 15minute period.

Once cooked, drain them and dump them into a sink of icy cold water.  You need to chill them enough to handle.  When cooled its time to peel off the skins, this is really easy the flesh kinda pops out. 

Next the now naked beetroot need to be sliced.  Heres a hint – wear a glove and old clothes.  Roughly 3 to 5mm is a good size.  Place them into a big pot or bowl.

In another pan or a really big pot heat the cider vinegar, honey and spice mixture to boiling.  (I’m not sure of copyright if I can post the exact recipe here) Once boiling add the beets and return to a simmer.  Working quickly add the hot beets to hot jars (I sterilized them in the fowlers kit)  top up with liquid and cap.

I boiled them for 30 minutes as the water was already boiling and the beetroot were hot too.  In total : 2 bottles of fowlers no.20 and 1 no.31 with just enough extra to fill this jam jar too.  And seriously wear a glove, don’t wear white and be ready for a purple splattering on everything!

Taste test:  Still a strong vinegar taste, need to sit for another week or two.  But the sugar to acid is just perfect.

Choko Pickles

Seems it was only a few weeks ago I was wondering here if I would ever get Chokos on the tiny vine I planted to shade the Chook Pen.  Well worry I need not! 

It seemed at one point we had over 30 of the things in a huge pile on the kitchen bench.  Now there is only so many steamed, stewed, boiled and roasted chokos a family can eat before they start begging “No more!”  And neighbours stop answering the door in fear of another bag full.  (One neighbour chopped them up into her homemade dog food!)

So in desperation I began looking for other creative ways to use them up.  In my favorite cookbook circa 1944 I found ‘the recipe.’  Could it be the answer to my pleas?

Choko Pickles (aka Chutney)  this is exactly as it appears in the book

Peel and cut up 8 Chokos, sprinkle with salt and let stand for 24 hours, drain well.  Peel 3 lb. onions and slice.  Prepare 1/4 peck French Beans.  Sprinkle with salt and let stand for 12 hours.  Drain well.  Put 2 quarts of vinegar on to boil, add 2 ozs. ground ginger, 1 oz. whole pepper, 2 ozs. whole spice, 2 or 3 chillis, 2 lb. white sugar (spices must be tied in bag).  When vinegar, etc, comes to boil add chokos, onions and beans; boil till chokos are soft.   With some of the 2 quarts of vinegar mix together 1 cup flour, 2 desertspoons of mustard, 2 ozs. curry powder,  add to chokos and boil 5 minutes stirring constantly.  Remove from stove, cool and bottle.  Beans maybe omitted.

So over the 2 days I made choko pickles. How did they turn out?  Delicious!  To quote the husband ‘Anything will taste good with that much spice and vinegar ‘  Guess who has them on bacon and eggs, steak and every sandwich at lunch….  Yes one word delicious.

So if you would like to try your hand at this come next choko season here are a few recommendations

  • Wear gloves when peeling chokos, otherwise you will end up with a superglue like coating on your hands that takes 2 days to get off!
  • Overnight is fine to soak the chokos.  If it is hot they may begin to ferment.
  • A food processor is a good idea to chop the onions as 3 lb.  /1.5kg is a lot
  • I added cauliflower to our mix
  • Chop everything up very small, about 1cm squares
  • This recipe will make 3 or 4 No.20 Fowler jars
  • Do not eat it straight away as the vinegar will take your breath away (yes learnt from experience)

And finally   ~  ENJOY  ~

 

Now Harvesting …. Chokos

It wasn’t that long ago I was wondering if we would harvest any of these beauties before the cooler weather set in.

Well worry I needn’t!  The vine has taken off and engulfed the Chook Pen and now we are feasting on the watery green fruits.

Can you see the tiny one in the above photo?  The fruits start about 1cm long.  And I swear grow massive overnight!  These were not here last night! 

(Yes the fruits hand down through the chook pen roof.  Its making it really easy to see them.)

Today I have 5 sitting on the table beside me waiting to be turned into a choko chutney.  Oh yum!

Eggplant a many

As always in my garden the Eggplants are the slowest to grow.  The tomatoes have come and are just about finishing but not the eggplants, who finally start producing their purple bounty! 

This years plant is producing a massive amount of fruit!  More than we can eat. 

Our favourite eggplant dish here at Little Farm? Eggplants sliced and roasted in the oven, served with basil, ricotta and oven roasted tomatoes.  Oh Yum!  Once I have roasted the eggplant slices, I stored them in the freezer in serving size portions.  There waiting to be enjoyed for months…..  This year I have more than enough fruit to satisfy our eggplant cravings, enough that I am looking at recipes for eggplant relish. 

What is your favourite dish with Eggplants?