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Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Secret of Boiling Eggs

Many years ago I had a girlfriend give me some simple advice. 
"Do you know what the real secret of good poached eggs is? They have got to be fresh."
So true.
So here is the secret of good boiled eggs....
They have to be not so fresh!
It's true (and many of you already know this but it is worth telling) if you try to do a soft boiled egg (yolk medium rare) with a fresh egg from the hen house, they will be nearly impossible to peel without sacrificing precious white and pitting the egg into a lunar landscape.
If however you boil the heck out of an egg and make it so hard it could bounce then you will probably have no trouble removing the shell old or fresh.
This discussion today is for the purposes of achieving that beautiful 3 min egg with the soft creamy centre.

If you have chooks of your own then boiled eggs take some planning ahead.
You have two choices; one, you go to the supermarket and buy eggs or two, put some eggs into a bowl and leave them on the bench for a few days (not in direct sun or extreme high temps).
This ages them a little faster than being in the fridge and the egg white will not be so adhered to the shell membrane when you are trying to peel them.

Place the eggs in cold water from the tap covering them by a few centimetres or an inch and place on a med heat to bring them gently to a simmer. This avoids cracked eggs. 
Take note of the photo above as this is an important and yet misleading part of "boiling" an egg. You want the water to be a gentle simmer not a hard walloping boil which over cooks the egg.
Once at a simmer time for 3mins. I then remove from the heat and leave the pot in the sink covered once again with water from the cold tap. This starts to cease the cooking inside the shell and cools the egg down to prevent over-cooking which results in the greenish ring around the egg yolk. Not harmful, just a reaction between the sulphur of the white and the iron in the yolk, but it would have the CWA ladies tutting about the signs of unaccomplished cook.

After tapping the shell all around on the sink it comes away easily especially if you get it started at the air sack end (the big end of the egg). 
It is from experience and trial and error that you adjust up or down from your timing to achieve the amount of firmness you desire and account for the egg size too. Common sense will indicate that you don't boil a bantam egg for as long as your big girls' eggs.

Once they are cooled you can simply keep the unpeeled eggs in a bowl in the fridge for up to a week and they are very handy for sandwiches or on toast or dressing up a salad. I find the older they get they will start to develop that green ring around the yolk anyway as the chemicals react over time. 
There is so much egg lore that used to be taught in Home Ec at school but a lot of it has gone by the way-side and I promise to broach the subject again sometime.

So fresh eggs for poaching,
older eggs for boiling.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Eating Raw

I have been quite ill for a number of weeks now but have finally turned a corner. I have had lovely friends concerned that I have not been able to feed myself properly being alone and all. Listening to my body though I didn't need to be loading it up on fuel that it had to divert extra energy towards digesting and eliminating. A lot of my body's energy was going into eliminating on a different front.
I felt like very simple food. One night a steamed zucchini, another night boiled egg on toast, another night just a piece of meat. Very simple single digestive enzyme action.
My physical energy output was very low having some couch days so my caloric intake desire was low too.
There are some advantages to being on your own; you can listen and be still with your body and go with it's needs. 
My forage in the garden last night for dinner told me I was feeling better as I got excited about my food, and who wouldn't when you have coloured chard? It excites any salad and gives me a mental feel good just seeing it all cut up. If you cook it you loose that wonderful colour.

Raw is something I found has become quite alien to a lot of people whom I ran into at the growers' market. I could see the slight hesitation from people whenever I said "try a piece". I'm talking about beans, peas, chard, mixed greens. Edible flowers were a real confrontation for many. That's not how I remember it when I was a kid, there was a lot of raw food eating as dinner was prepared. Do you think it is because people buy so much of their fresh produce frozen now? Is it because beans now go from the freezer to a pot? Once upon a time they were topped and tailed fresh and admittedly then cooked, but there was still some raw sampling going on at the sink.
Is this how our kids have lost touch with their food in pure form? Not enough preparing and exposing them to food from scratch? I notice that my friends who grow vegetables have children who embrace food really well and don't tend to have "fussy eaters". That's why I think it is so important to grow something. You don't have to have the whole self sustaining thing going on, just one or two things. At the very least every garden should try for tomatoes, beans and a lemon tree.

(Rat Tail Radish Flowers)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Flora Jean's Green Tomato Pickles

Boy oh boy when the weather drops to 0C and the snow is on the mountains it signal an end to your tomato season. By now you will have harvested lots of beautiful ripe orbs and the plants themselves will be looking a bit tired and wan, leaves withering, yet still some smaller glossy green fruit remaining.
My mother came to town and I convinced her to have a day with me making green tomato pickles. It is her mother's recipe we used, where it came from before that I know not for it is a hand written recipe.

We picked yet more tomatoes, this time green. Such a gorgeous colour and vibrancy, as I chopped them I thought of the term "apple green" yet more luminous. 
As we worked she admitted to me how sorry she was she had not asked more questions when her mother was alive, prompted because of the various musings and suppositions we made as we read and re-read through the recipe.
I know Nan used to soak the vegetable over night in salted water but we debated about the validity of the step as opposed to just cooking it all up. Mum thinks that sometimes there were funny theories about such things, like cucumbers and gas for instance. Well we opted to cook without soaking which is the only deviation from the recipe. 
It follows....

Green Tomato Pickles

4lb green tomatoes chopped
2lb onion chopped
1/2 small cauliflower cut into flowerets
1 small cucumber peeled and chopped
1 tabs salt
1/2 cup flour
2 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 tabs mustard
2 tabs turmeric
1/4 tabs cayenne pepper
1 tabs curry powder
2 1/2 cups of malt vinegar

Place all the ingredients into a large pot except for flour and boil for about 20mins till the vegetables are tender. 
Mix the flour with a little water and add to the pot and boil for up to another 10 mins until the mixture thickens.
Remove from the heat and bottle and seal.

We may have gone overboard quadrupling the recipe! It seemed like a good idea at the time but in hind sight I won't be needing to make pickles again for a long time.
Above is the last lot of tomato relish I made and these #14 Fowlers jars are a great size for relish and pickles. The last of them were used to bottle up the pickles as well.
I love this on warm buttered toast in the morning or with cheese in a sandwich for lunch. It also goes great with cold meats or alongside a salad.
I would also like to tell you ladies who commented on the last post what a great bunch of girlfriends you are. You helped to give me that push and the impetus to pull that knitting out and wind it back up.
As much as I love the colour, the yarn is just not me. It certainly would not have done the pattern justice.
I have decided to give it to one of the patients who comes into work. She does lots of knitting for charity and I'm sure she can put it to much better uses.
Thank you so much ladies for your kind, caring and considered responses.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Your Bouclé Thoughts

I have been a little quiet of late owing to some slight indisposition which has forced me to the couch and some quiet time with a rug over the knees. An ideal situation for taking up the knitting.
I have acquired this bouclé and admire the dusty pink and muted lilac shades but ....

before I knit on and on,
I can't help thinking.....

Is it yarn appropriate for this?
Any thoughts?
Even though the ply is correct, I can't help thinking it looks bulky.

I have in mind that it will go well with fuscia, mauve and grey.
It's not the yarn that I fear to waste but the time is certainly more valuable.
Perhaps it is just suck it and see,
and perhaps bouclé will by it's nature be flexible and forgiving.

Have you worked anything in bouclé?
What did you make and have you loved it?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Tomato Paste

I made tomato paste for the first time this year. 
The crop has been so good this year that I have extra to play with.
It's very simple but it did tie me to the house for hours.
First I washed and wizzed the tomatoes in a food processor and then passed them through a mouli food mill.
I made about 6lt of pulp and filled two baking dishes.
I placed them in the oven at 180C

and reduced, stirring every half hour or so...

after about three hours I reduced the heat to 150C as it was coming closer to a thick paste.

Until after another half hour or so I had a nice thick dark firm sauce.

Someone once asked me what I use my smaller Fowlers Vacola jars for and here is a great example.
These are a #10 and perfect sizing for the paste.
Some recipes say to keep the paste in the fridge with a thick layer of oil on top but I processed mine in the water bath at 80C for half an hour to sterilise and seal so that I can have them on the shelf for the year till next summer.
Six jars this size are too small for my FV outfit so the pasta cooker comes in handy. It is just right for the bottles and keeps them off the bottom of the pan. Alternatively, you could use a cake rack inside a stockpot.

Quite a few hours but definitely worth the effort.
Tomorrow is tomato relish day.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Hero Bugs

It's been a particularly fungal year here around the squash plants and zucchinis but I don't use any sprays. I try to periodically clear spent leaves back to new and fresh ones and the plant keeps producing just fine.
When I trim back the leaves I check them out and make sure these guys make it back to the plant.
They are my heroes.
The job is enormous and they are so small but they keep busy all day munching away at the fungus.
Little troopers!
How could you bear to spray and wipe these guys out?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Store Updated With Seeds

The soap has all sold out and another batch a little way off so I have updated the shop
"Jubilee Jumble" button at the top
with saved seeds.
Some are ready for sowing now in the Southern Hemisphere and others are right for the Northern Hemisphere.

As promised I have Rat Tail Radish seeds available and they ready to be sown in Spring.

Coriander seed is available now and contrary to popular belief this is best sown now and up until early winter, particularly in Tasmania where it bolts to seed in Spring. It is such a welcome hit of fragrant lush green in the dreary depths of winter.

As is the cross bred green leaf that we grow through the winter yummy in stir-frys but also great as salad. You can eat the stems, leaves and flowers. 
Also available for those in the Northern Hemisphere for Spring/Summer planting are the giant sunflowers.
One hundred percent of the cost for these goes to helping fight against Youth Suicide and Depression.

Read about the cause here.
Please don't forget to calculate you postage. If you are unsure, email me and I can send you a complete remittance.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Get The Straw In

Summer season is winding down and a lot of work is concentrated in the kitchen preserving but....
Don't Stop Yet!
Keep that momentum going for just a little longer. 
There are a few jobs to be done yet for winter ahead.
Now is the ideal time to buy your straw and get in some manure.
Pea straw is available now either in the paddock or delivered, whatever suits your circumstances best.
The key here is to think ahead over a whole year though. Most people only think in the moment or one season when it comes to straw and by summer when you are needing mulch it is an astronomical price.
What will you use it for?
Mulch; for trees and beds over winter suppressing weeds, adding nitrogen and also for conserving moisture during the next summer period - that's going to take a few bales!
Compost; to actively heat your pile with layers of brown and green waste.
Chook pen; for dry bedding underfoot and for insulation.

If you live in a cold district, stacking some bales against the an exposed side of the hen house helps insulate. This straw stays relatively dry on the bottom layers with little spoilage and is a great resource come spring.

Conserve that baling twine too for all your tying up jobs around the garden. It's great for temporary fencing, beans trellising and tomato staking.
I go through at least 20 bales a year and I always get to summer and wish I had more.
I like pea straw because it is quite clean and if any peas germinate they are easily dealt with. Because it is a vine product, the trash spread tends to stay entwined and thick on beds and resists being blown by the wind and dashed by the rain. 
Be aware of the type of straw that you use in poultry sheds. You don't want it to be too dusty or mouldy as this can cause respiratory problems in your hens.
So make a list and check it twice and then order twice as much as you think and you should be about right for the year.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Home For A Few Days...

You may have heard about the widespread torrential rain and flooding in Western New South Wales and that means wet sheep so....
my man came home to me for a few days!
That's what has been keeping me (busy) quiet for a few days.
The first thing he did was a blitz on the garden, especially the edges.

Sorting and labelling saved seed is high on the agenda also.

And Tomatoes....
 are a huge preoccupation also.
I spend a lot of time every morning picking and bottle twice a week.
There are tomatoes in baskets, boxes on benches and trays all over the kitchen and the dining room table. 
But I wouldn't have it any other way.
Most people around me are complaining about their tomato crops.
It's been a very, very dry hot year and all I can say is that watering is key.
Water enables the plant to not only drink but cope with respiration from leaf surface area which is large. It also makes nutrients available in soluble solution for the plant to take up.
By watering I mean deep soaking once a week so that the sub-soil is damp. Most people sprinkle for five minutes with a hose every few days and that really isn't going to cut it I'm afraid. You are better off leaving the hose on the root area at a slow drip for hours.
Some people kept praying for rain which didn't come. Well the proof is in the pudding there and you can't blame the tomato variety or the weather. As a suburban grower you are well set up and able to irrigate.
Remember my favourite saying, and you can use it here for sure...

"IF  IT'S  TO  BE  IT'S  UP  TO  ME"

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