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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

When a Pot Burns...

It's been a mad place over the last couple of days with produce all ready at the same time. I've bottled 12kg of tomatoes and made more rhubarb cordial. The dehydrator has been busy with sage, mint and parsley and zucchini and squash. I have been busy freezing beans and turning 10 kg of damsons into plum sauce and plum chutney.
I haven't had a pot burn in a long time but I took my eye of the ball for a short moment with a phone call. It was not long after I had added the brown sugar to the chutney and I thought it had fully dissolved but I really should have been watching and stirring.
At least I caught it before too much damage was done to the chutney.
When you feel that stuck coating at the bottom of the bottom of the pot, it is most important to not be tempted to scrape at it releasing burnt fragments into your mix, it will taint the flavour for sure. The second most important thing is to decant into a new pot immediately. Don't keep cooking and hoping for the best.

I sold pots and pans (among other kitchenware) for a long time and one of the things I always impressed upon my customers was to avoid scratching their stainless steel cookware. It's really tempting for people to get the heavy artillery out and use a curly girl pot scrubber on a cooked on mess and scratch away at it with steel scrubbers. Think about it this way though....
If you were to look at the cooking surface under a microscope you would see thousands of grooved scratches, lots of highs and lows. This sort of surface is a greater area for food to cling to and the more you scratch, the more food sticks, the more work you have to do cleaning, not to mention how much stirring and fussing you have to do during cooking especially with something sugary or milky.
Most saucepan ware is manufactured with a lovely polished surface which is not just for good looks. It gives the pot a surface similar to non-stick. I always use wood or melamine utensils in my cookware and I never scrub at them with anything other than a cloth.
So what happens if you have a burnt on mess like above? It almost seems to have become one with the pot it's so cooked on. Sugar is usually the worst! Take a deep breath and understand that this is a process that will take a day or two.
Cover the bottom of the pan with warm water and a small squirt of detergent (more is not better it is just a waste).
Here is the magic part....
Place the pot in the sun. The back lawn works best for me.
Leave it, probably for 24hrs....

Hard to see in this photo but can you detect that the mess is no longer flat and clinging to the bottom? It is bulging and bowing in the middle.

Doesn't get any better than this does it looking at somebody's washing up!?

So what I am trying to show you is that the burnt mass is lifting away from the pot.
That thin burnt crust has started to erupt away from the bottom.

Allowing you to remove big sheets of it with just your fingers.
After removing most of the debris there was still a thin remainder about 5mm around the very edge. I soaked this again and then used a damp cloth and some bi-carb as a gentle abrasive to polish it back to it's glorious stainless steel self.
The same goes for fry pans and skillets of stainless steel. Avoid scratching them. You can still use metal tongs and spatulas but don't go cutting into them with knives and stirring with forks. Straight after cooking tip some water into the pan and leave it soak while you are having dinner. It will soften and clean up beautifully with just a soft cloth.
The more you avoid scratching the higher the polish and the more gliss the surface, saving you time and energy. There is also some commercially prepared stainless steel cleaners on the market that I also liked my customers to go home with when they bought their pots so they were never tempted to attack them with anything other than a soft cloth. They cost under $10 and last half a life time. They are also great cleaners for stainless steel sinks too.
Naturally you want to avoid burning your pots ever, but it happens probably a couple of times in your life.
The quince burning in the bottom of my oven saga has not faded from memory yet either!

Friday, February 24, 2012

More Than a Cafe

This month our Living Better With Less class talked tomatoes.

Our Perth venue is the cafe ut si which continues to be dynamic and inspirational hub for community, artists, growers and food lovers.
The cafe features a fresh art exhibitor every month or so and has a bountiful supply of books and magazines to get lost in.
Or perhaps you would care to play a game of chess...

The mission of the cafe is: eat seasonally, locally and ethically.
Along with some wonderful Tasmanian food suppliers their kitchen is supplemented with their very own garden produce and even freshly laid eggs right in their back yard.

As you would imagine the menu is ever-changing and inspiring.

Not only is this the venue for our classes in Perth but the cafe hosts a weekly Saturday growers' market in the garden during the daylight saving months bringing community together to buy organic food, swap recipes, hints and growing tips.

I can't tell you how blessed we are to have this treasure in our midst and if you follow
you can see for yourself a kaleidoscope of a dynamic community microcosm in pictures.  
Locals if you have not experienced ut si what is taking you so long?
Come out have a coffee and a shop in the growers market.
The rest of you will have to just drool and bookmark this spot for your next holiday to Tasmania.

Ut Si Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Over-run With Squash?

Here is a chutney recipe for those in the depths of a squash glut...

1kg of marrow or squash, peeled cored and cut into 2cm cubes
2tabs salt
2 large onions coarsely chopped
300g carrots coarsely grated
100g of crystallised ginger coarsely chopped
2 red chillies finely chopped
2 tabs black mustard seeds
1 tabs tumeric
750ml apple cider vinegar
250g sugar

Sprinkle the marrow or squash with a tab of the salt and let it sit and draw for an hour then rinse and dry.
Put it in a preserving pan with the rest of the ingredients except the sugar and salt.
Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 25-30mins till just soft.
Add the sugar and remaining tabs of salt and stir to dissolve.
Simmer for another 1 hour or more until most of the liquid has evaporated and the chutney is thick.
Ladle into hot sterilised jars and seal.
Chutney is ready and the flavours developed in about a month.
This should keep for a couple of years and will be a great little gift to have on hand so don't forget to label them and make some pretty for giving. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Kaleidoscope of Colours

The dresser has been changed....

Cornish blue....

Soft pastels....

Bright yellow....

Pastel pink and heart-warming orange....

Solids, stripes and florals.....

It's fun, happy and welcoming for Easter family celebrations to come.

The sideboard too.....

We'll look back in years to come and laugh about the year that we mixed orange and pink....

Just waiting for the Easter Bunny....

Inspired by these happy Asters, old fashioned pink papery Statice and delicate perennial favourite, Baby's Breathe.
(just $3 from the Perth (TAS) growers' market)

Friday, February 17, 2012

My Hair Did Not Turn Green But....

Remember this lovely emerald coloured hair rinse I made from stinging nettles?
More than a few people thought my hair might turn green
But No!
I was really happy with the calming effect it had on my normally irritated and dry scalp.

So far I have tried rosemary and that definitely started turning my hair darker.
I love my grey.
I have heard that camomile lightens hair colour....

 This is all I had from my own bush so I thought I would use a few teabags as well....
Should have read the ingredients first and not assumed it was simply camomile...

So it's another experiment for the team!
After making this up and seeing how red it looks I read the fine print on the teabags.
They contain camomile, orange peel, rosehips, and other ingredients.
Oh well, waste not want not.
I'm sure it won't turn my hair pink but it is hard to imagine it will make it lighter though either.
It certainly has a very pleasant fruity almost berry scent.
I'll let you know.
One thing is for sure, my head is a lot happier with just the tallow soap as shampoo and the herbal vinegar rinses instead of conditioner and in the last few months I have saved well over $50.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pickling Cucumbers - Natural Ferment

I am very elated about my cucumber glut this year. I don't know whether it is the current conditions this year or the improvements we made to the soil, but I have two vines producing prolifically.
I am eating them like apples and my boss has been getting cucumber raita for afternoon tea. The link will take you to a recipe that is close to the one I make but I don't grate my cucumber and  I like to use garam masala.

A recent post about Fermented Pickles on Eight Acres is a good step through guide with pictures and a link for a recipe. 
I used the recipe from Oded Schwartz's book "Preserving" which was very similar but I like the idea of blanching the cucumbers for a minute to preserve colour and kill off any bacteria as I have grown them trailing all over the soil rather than trellised.
Unfortunately the dogs excavated my precious dill and I had to purchase some, but otherwise it is very satisfying to be able to supply all the ingredients from one's garden and all things being in season.

And now we weight and wait.....
Do yourself a favour and even if you are not pickling, get a bunch of dill and crush it and inhale for a heavenly fragrant summer crush.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Time For Saving

With the garden reaching it's peak now, harvesting is required on a daily basis and there is so much to be done in the preserving kitchen, but don't forget to keep one eye towards next season.
Now is the time to take stock of your plants and make some assessments about strength, vigour and production. Choose your best plants to save seed from for next year.

Only one or two of your best plants are needed but it is good to earmark them so you know what will be ruthlessly pulled out to make way for new planting.

That's right. Don't stop planting, now is the time for sowing more than ever getting seedlings ready for the over-wintering period. Soon it will be cool enough to start some more leafy lettuce types that would have struggled in the height of the summer.

Some plants, like this Italian lettuce, add such charm as they go to seed and provide gorgeous background colours, but some can become quite wild. Simply gather a floppy over-blousey bunch and tie with some string and secure to a stake if need be, allowing them to reach full maturity.

The pods holding the seed will get fatter and fatter and then gradually start drying off and the plant starts to die as it knows it has done it's job to recreate itself. Try to harvest pods when dry but before they are so brittle that they break and pop bursting seed at the merest touch.

I find the easiest way is to harvest the heads or pods and place them upside down in a brown paper bag. Keep them well ventilated and as they complete the drying process the seeds burst forth into the bottom of the packets so you can easily discard the detritus matter.

to label the packet straight away. 
You think you'll remember but you won't!
Also be prepared to find seed may be a little changed as it may be cross pollinated with other close varieties. Coloured chard is particularly true of this. I have deliberately planted my colours in like bunches at extreme corners of the yard in an effort to reduce cross pollination. 
Last year Craig and I bought a lot of heirloom tomato seedlings from different home growers and were very disappointed to find that their varieties had been cross pollinated. We were trying to assess varieties for future growing and their different characteristics but the sample were muddied. If you are wanting a particularly variety for bottling or sauce then it is probably better to get your seedlings from a commercial grower. If you wish to save seed in turn from those plants, they also need to be grown in segregation to avoid the seed being crossed.

Also be aware that some seed that is bought from a commercial company may be genetically modified and sterile, preventing you from saving and re-sowing. This is another reason that it is vital to support heirloom and heritage seed companies and to keep saving viable seed yourselves. If we lose the ability to save seed, we lose the control over what we can plant, grow and eat.

You can find my seed packet tutorial here
Saving seed is a good habit to get into. It saves you lots of money and it is a great way to share varieties among your gardening friends.
As always these seeds make wonderful gifts too and now is a great time to get them under way for Christmas presents next year because the seeds you harvest now are likely to be suitable varieties for sowing next summer and therefore make great timely gifts. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Entertaining With Elegance "G"

We are long over due some glimpses of how it was done in the day and there are some sadly out dated customs to found under "G"
Among others are....
"The conventional gift for hostesses, and still the best, is flowers. It is more thoughtful to have them delivered on the morning of the party rather than the next day....A weekend hostess has the right to expect a gift from each guest. These are delivered in person on arrival and promptly opened so she can express her delight and thanks on the spot."
Some suggestions from Genevieve are chocolates, an amusing game to enhance and contribute to everyone's pleasure or a rare delicacy such as a whole tinned foie gras or a magnum of champagne or an entertaining book.
" The same type of gift is suitable when a house-guest arrives to be entertained for a longer period but in this case the guest should send a somewhat more important gift after returning home."

Hmmm, I've known friends of mine to entertain many house-guests. They tend to buy a bottle of wine as a thank you and then proceed to drink it before departure! I do like to send a hand written note of thanks to a hostess after a dinner party and I have taken flowers and chocolates but I do like the idea of sending flowers, it adds a sense of excitement. It also avoids the busy hostess having to find something appropriate to put flowers in as guests are arriving. What are your thoughts? Personally I think a magnum of champagne would be appropriate for any occasion and circumstance, except perhaps a funeral.

Guest Rooms...
"An ideal guest room is private and has it's own adjoining or nearby bathroom...A guest room affords you a marvelous opportunity to exercise your talents as an interior decorator....Above all you should avoid letting the guest room become a sort of catch-all for cast-off furniture, ugle wedding gifts, broken bric-a-brac and out of season clothing..."
(Sound familiar?)
The article goes on to detail the necessary equipage but here are some gems;
"On the writing table: an ashtray (!), an assortment of picture postcards of the region, a supply of writing paper and a box of stamps...."
"On the dressing table: a hand mirror, brush and comb. A vase of flowers. All drawers lined with paper and in the top drawer, a miniature sewing kit, a packet of safety pins, a clothes-brush and a shoe shine kit (remember when people shined shoes). In the bottom drawer; a pair of freshly laundered nylon pyjamas and a nylon nightdress for unexpected overnight guests..."
and so on...until we get to...
"In the Bathroom: a capacious Turkish toweling peignoir for each house-guest. (Love it)..." and the list goes on and on and on "Nail-polish remover, sticking plasters, antiseptic, cologne...." and on and on....

I'm a bit mystified as to why specifically nylon for the night attire and I adore the notion of "Turkish toweling peignoirs" but I think most of us have the spare room which does resemble the catch-all described above that is hastily shoved away to accommodate guests.
But as per the book title...
This is "Elegant Entertaining" 
I know a lot of people lament that as a whole there is a great lack of manners in society now days but reading this book it occurs to me that we totally lack any grace and graciousness anymore. I am not knocking "casual" as a mode but I wonder have we entirely dropped the bundle and let everything slip into the casual mode? Do we still recognise time, place and occasion?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Hey Girl

I absolutely love this and would even consider it for a poster-on-my-bedroom-wall-in-a-teenager-kind-of-way.
This little gem, and others in the "Hey Girl..." series are from a very horticultural blog called...

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Wishing, Bothered and Hoping

I can't stop thinking about this book!
Don't you wish it was yours too?
The photography looks divine and I love a good story of nostalgia.
My weekend started with lots of book gazing and wish listing....

It bothers me that I can no longer seem to buy watermelon with seeds.
It's not natural.
I know people thought the seeds were a bit of a bother but was it really necessary to do away with the grand scheme of things and create this sterile fruit?
Does it bother you too?
I bought a whole watermelon because it was on special for 40c/kg.
Seemed like a good idea at the time.
But I am but one and 10kg now seems like a mountain.
Giving it my best shot....

I find myself quite preoccupied with the weather.
Every day (or even better every night) I hope for rain.
We haven't had a decent drop for such a long time, while others are in flood.
Makes for jolly halcyon market days though....

Hope you are having a fair and prosperous weekend.

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