Preservation order

With Autumn in full swing its time to get active in the kitchen, preserving the fruit and vegetables that we’ve grown and foraged over summer.

One of my favourite breakfast spreads is quince jelly flavoured with vanilla. I’m making it with the quinces that I foraged back in March – thankfully for me quinces store very well. I’ve only had to get rid of a few pieces of fruit that had gone bad.

Washing the fuzz off my quinces
Washing the fuzz off my quinces

You will notice that these are not your perfect fruit. Manky quinces make perfectly good jelly because all you need to do is extract the flavour from the fruit. The fruit pulp isn’t included in the final product.

Here’s how I did it. After washing the fuzz off the quinces I cut the fruit up, skin, pips and all, removing any dodgy bits as I went. I then added the juice of one lemon to the cut fruit, covered the fruit with water and brought the mix to the boil. Once the mix was boiling I reduced the heat and allowed the fruit to simmer until it became soft.

Now I drained the liquid from the fruit, straining the juice through a sieve covered with a piece of muslin, to catch any stray pieces of pulp. I chose to hang the fruit in a bag and allowed it to drip overnight. But given that I only extracted about an extra half a cup of juice by doing this I’d say it really wasn’t worth the effort.

The quinces dripping out the last of their juice
The quinces dripping out the last of their juice

The final step of the process was to measure a quantity of sugar that was equal to the amount of liquid – in this case 7 cups of liquid and 7 cups of sugar. To add the finishing touch I cut open and scraped the seeds from a vanilla pod and added both the seeds and the pod to the syrup.

The quince juice, sugar and vanilla start to come together
The quince juice, sugar and vanilla start to come together

This mix is then cooked until the jelly has reached setting point. (If you’re not sure how to judge the setting point you can find a good video guide here).

The heat of the stove creates one last miracle. The hard white flesh of the quince turns a sublime pink. What more could you ask for on your slice of toast!

The finished quince jelly, ready to be served with some of my newest vintage teaspoons
The finished quince jelly, ready to be served with some of my newest vintage teaspoons

The recipe I used is based on the Quince Jelly (2) recipe, from Sally Wise’s book, A Year in a Bottle.

 

 

 


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Morning has broken

There’s not much that can beat walking in the garden after a night of rain, (16mms for the record) unless you also come across six saffron flowers sitting proud above their slender leaves.

Saffron buds in the early morning
Saffron buds in the early morning

Our harvest last year was pretty limited as it happened while we were overseas. This year we have our fingers crossed for a better harvest.

And just as exciting to come inside to some ‘shower rolls’, surely one of the easiest bread making recipes I’ve come across in ages. I found it over on Mike’s Pad and I’ll direct you over there for the details. Basically you make a sloppy bread dough before you go to bed, stick it in the fridge overnight then bake however many rolls you want the next morning. Any leftover dough can be put back in the fridge for another day.

These may not be the prettiest rolls I’ve ever made, (I think I need to practice my roll-shaping technique) but there’s not much to beat a bread roll fresh out of the oven!

Shower Rolls fresh from the oven
Shower Rolls fresh from the oven

By the time the rolls were baked not only did I have my shower, but the saffron buds had opened enough so they could be picked.

Within the hour the buds are open ready for picking
Within the hour the buds are open ready for picking

The saffron stigmas were then dried in the cooling oven cools, prior to being stored.

Saffron stamens ready for oven drying
Saffron stigmas ready for oven drying

After all that activity it was good to be able to sit down to a breakfast of fresh bread spread with my friend J’s plum jam.

Freshly cooked 'shower rolls' and plum jam
Freshly cooked ‘shower rolls’ and plum jam

I’m now looking forward to tomorrow morning as I can see at least 4 more saffron flowers ready to burst.

 

Renovators delight – part 1

Our front yard has been quite a spectacle for some time now and I don’t mean in a good way. A while ago we started to makeover our front garden and that was when we found the termites both in the garden and then in our house. We were soon under strict instructions not to disturb them any further to ensure that the baiting program was effective.

A very neglected garden
A very neglected garden

So here we are some two years later. We have the all clear on the termite front and now we can actually get stuck into re-making the garden. The first steps taken were to finally clear out the gravel that was once under our wooden boardwalk – well what the termites had left of it – and removing the few remaining garden plants and the weeds on the house-side of the garden.

The biggest change is our decision not to reinstate the path that meandered from our letterbox to our front door. Indeed we’ve filled the old path line in and the garden will go back to the vaguely flat area that it used to be. We are going to include a number of large flat rocks into the design that will give us access points for watering and weeding. The first of these has gone into place. The stone that we are using is a dense basalt quarried from Wee Jasper which is near to the ACT. Our stone has been split and inside there areĀ  beautiful patterns, although we don’t know if these will disappear with weathering.

Over the past week we have hauled 4 trailer loads of soil into the garden. We have also moved the one feature that we’ll keep, a large wooden trough which once held water. The ends of the trough have rotted out, but surprisingly the termites never attacked it. TB is trying to work out whether there is some way we can tastefully re-line the old trough so it will hold water again.

We have now come to the the exciting part, laying out the plants and placing the remaining stones. The garden will contain Australian plants, many from the similar type of grassy woodland that was the original vegetation in this part of the country. We will be using many plants that we have been nursing through from our purchases made two years ago. I have even successfully propagated some cuttings from the correas that I bought. I’ll be making use of the Australian Pelargonium rodneyanum (Magenta storksbill) which is already growing in the garden and propagates quite happily from its tubers. TB will be trying his hand with growing root cuttings of the Wahlenbergia communis (an Australian plant commonly known as a ‘bluebell’) which he has done in the past. I can hardly believe that I will shortly have a legitimate reason to go and buy lots of new plants!

The first astage of bringing in the new soil is complete
The first stage of bringing in the new soil is complete


Make mine traditional!

Putting the finishing touches on the buns before cooking
Putting the finishing touches on the buns before cooking

Growing up as a child in an Anglo-Australian household in the 60’s and 70’s there wasn’t much in the way of food traditions – at least not many food traditions that you’d want to go and celebrate. So I’d just like all the commercial primpers and renovators of recipes to leave my Hot Cross buns as I have always known them.

For the record I do not want them:

  • available from the first week of January
  • made with chocolate
  • sandwiched with ice cream
  • or apple pie flavoured
  • or called Criss Cross Easter treats!

What I do want to eat are sweet, white bread yeast rolls, with a full complement of currants, sultanas and candied peel. Of course there also has to be the flour-slurry cross on the top of each one. Luckily for me TB makes a great Hot Cross bun from scratch, but I do admit that there are many commercial bakers that still make a good traditional bun.

Out of the oven and ready to eat with lashings of butter!
Out of the oven and ready to eat with lashings of butter!

Sadly, my preferred Easter egg appears to have gone the way of the dodo. It’s been a while since I saw an all sugar egg. As I child I preferred these eggs to chocolate. It might have been that pastel-coloured hard shell, but I think it was the decorations of flowers and curlicues made of a type of paste icing that really made them special. But I haven’t seen one in years.

These days I favour the chocolate Bilby, an endangered Australian native marsupial, that’s trying it’s best to push the European rabbit, off the shop shelves at least. One strange hangover from the traditional European way of celebrating Easter is that my bilby still comes with eggs!

Chocolate Bilby with eggs
Chocolate Bilby with eggs

Now if you wanted to be somewhat more logical about this the promoters of truly Australian Easter chocolates could have used the Echidna as an Easter animal instead. It is at least one of the two extant egg-laying mammals in the world (the other being the platypus) and I think the Easter Echidna has a certain ring to it.