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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Of Sloe Wine and Sour Dough

Another fascinating meeting of the Living Better Group last Thursday night.
It was a small group but there were a couple of new faces with lots of interesting experience too.
We talked of making sloe wine. One in the group had picked 23kg last autumn and was in the process of making wine from sloes for the first time.
I found a couple of links about sloe wine making here and here.
Here in Tasmania it is common to find sloes growing along back roads in thorny hedgerows of hawthorn where you will also find wild rosehips. They are best harvested after a couple of good hard frosts when the plant draws back the harsh tannins in the fruit. They look delicious but are not particularly edible and are best used for preserves. They are more commonly known for infusing gin to make sloe gin.

We talked of olive adventures and yet another experience of a local farm who were ditching their olives this year as the pressing price was too high. One of our group was in the fortunate position to pick quite a few kilos for pickling. She then made a large batch of tapenade and was using this like butter on home made ciabatta. 
I have had experiences where transporting my olives has moved some to the top of the oil and not been quite covered allowing oxygen to interact with the olives. After transporting them, make sure that they are still well covered by at least a cm of oil to exclude air so they will happily keep on your shelf.

One of our group spoke about her experiences with trying out different "tooth paste" formulas or tooth powders is a better term I guess. A lot of people commonly use bi-carbonate of soda which  creates a salt when mixed with water and is not all that pleasant. Our member uses a base made from a calcium carbonate which is ordered from the pharmacy.
As July was plastic free month, searching the web will reveal many recipes for different tooth powders as people looked for alternatives to plastic tubes last month. It is also something for people to consider if they are concerned about fluoride. (I have an old post here about the fluoride debate). I wish I had thought to ask my grandmothers about what they used to use when they were children....

Another from our group spoke about her easy, no knead, work-every-time, sour dough bread method. She makes her dough from "starter and flour to a consistency that you can barely stir". Her secret to success she says is the cast iron pot she cooks it in. She advises to warm the pot in the oven at 220C for about 30 mins then place the dough in the pot and cook with the lid on for 30mins and then the lid off for another 20mins.
I haven't tried this method yet but I hope to in the next week. Has anyone else used this method?

We also spoke about a project that one of the group is working on. It is a fundraiser for the Westbury school and will be held over a weekend in October. It is a pioneer and re-skilling fair and sounds really fun.

Maybe you have some skills that could be displayed here or perhaps you would like to have a stall. they are looking for stalls for preserves, meat, wine and beer making, plants and herbs, doll making, spinning, knitting, wrought iron work, pottery, hat makers, basket weavers....
The Westbury school is one of the ones on the list for closure by the State Government and they are trying to show the government how vital the school is to the community and how connected we all are. I admire very much the heroic efforts these guys are making to stay alive and I hope any locals could also help.

Our next Living Better meet-up will be 30th of August from 7-9pm at the Cock and Bull upstairs. All welcome.


  1. Hey Tania, these get togethers are always interesting, with lots of great ideas coming out of them.

    Shame about the olive grower dumping his harvest, but the tapenade on ciabatta sounds delicious.
    I hope the Westbury school can manage to save their school with community help.....

    It's a beautiful day here after a frosty start, perfect for gardening and working on the weeds!!

    Claire :}

  2. A very interesting and informative post Tanya! I do hope the community can save Westbury school. The 'razor gang' of the new state government here in Qld is starting to be quite ruthless with job sacking and cutting of funding to various community groups. I predict it won't be long before they start trying to close schools and clinics etc.

  3. sounds like a wonderful group, full of great tips.

  4. I am assuming a sloe is a type of fruit? I have never heard of it but judging by that first pic they look like plums.
    I mentioned to hubby and our older kids the other day about using bicarb to brush my teeth with and wouldn't you know it they have all followed suit.
    I attempted a sour dough starter a few months back but just never got it right, I hope to try again when I return from NZ at the end of the month..any advice you can give on getting it started would be greatly appreciated.


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