Sunday, April 29, 2012


See those quinces in my last post? This is what they look like now...
Turned to bottles waiting to be labelled. The white flecks are the old label that I haven't cleaned off well enough- funny how you only notice some things when you see them in a photo!
I took this bottle outside, hoping to catch the amazing red colour in the photo, but haven't quite succeeded. It's so pretty! I'm in love with quince jelly- it was so easy to make and its a bit of a 'win/ win' because you can eat it like jam, on toast or whatever, and serve it as a condiment. Tonight we had it with roast lamb- I was trying not to ration everyone's portions being the first day, and all (as in- NO- we don't need to eat the whole bottle in one sitting!) 
There are plenty more quinces where they came from and I'm thinking there will be more quince jelly as well.

Friday, April 27, 2012

In Production

I could show you abit of sewing that is in production... which is fun, because lately I have been sewing and have several things in production. At times I frustrate myself because I am not a 'linear' sewer, you know- start a project, finish a project, move on to the next project...but I am comforted to note I am in good company. I wonder if Nikki's floor gets as messy as mine!

Anyway, I have distracted myself- I could show you sewing in production, but that's not my plan, I am taking you on a little walk around my backyard and showing you some fruit (and nuts) that are in production.
Chestnuts- aren't they funny looking fellas! Many of the plants in our garden are not considered 'ornamentals' but seriously- I call them 'productive ornamentals'- because I think that they look great. And fruit tree blossom- oh my, how that makes me happy!
Pomegranates- I think I will have a go at making pomegranate molasses, or syrup this year- any one else made that before? If you have- any tips?
Quinces. I think I will go will 'quince jelly' as well as some in the Fowlers for later in the year. I'm keen on making quince jelly rather than paste because I just chop them all up (skins, pips- the whole shebang) and put them in a pot with a little bit of water, cover them with a lid and slowly simmer them till it's 'mooshy'. Strain through a 'jelly bag' overnight (I use a piece of muslin fabric)- then find a recipe that gives you a ratio of this liquid to sugar, and often I reduce the sugar a bit. 
Some people find quince paste is dead easy to make but I reckon I was scarred for life (at least for a few years) when I made it and painstakingly stirred it for, I'm sure it was it thickened and thickened- and then, in the when it was so so close to being ready, it burnt (so really, that sentence should read- when it was actually over ready and should have been taken off the heat already!). I was abit beside myself! My friend has made it in the microwave and reckoned it was a cinch, but, like I said, I am not up for trying it again just yet!
Apples. I realised my children were spoilt for (some types of) fruit when we had friends from the city stay with us and we were picking apples and pears- our kids would walk along, pick one, if it wasn't 'to their taste' (too sour, too floury, too tart, too dense- don't think I've ever heard a 'too sweet'!) they would piff in and pick another one. My friends children were looking on- in retrospect I realise they were waiting for me to pull out the 'don't waste fruit' lecture which was obviously familiar to them because as their mum cottoned on to the 'gee, if we chucked out an apple, we'd get in to trouble' looks that were being thrown around and  I heard her talking about how it's okay because there are heaps of apples and it won't be wasted, really because the pigs will get to eat it!
Passionfruit. Now there's an ornamental flower- if I was sensible enough to put tags on my blog I could show you because I am sure I have posted a photo here before. I can't wait until these turn purple. Mmmm, mmmmm.
Avocado. Yes, we have frosts and yes we can grow avocados. Some varieties do better in cold climates, but if you protect the tree for the first few years while it gets established. This is the first year this tree has fruited and it's got about 4 on it, I think. Well done tree.
Persimmon. I am generally happy to leave persimmons as an ornamental- although I really like them dried (possibly because of another scarred for life experience maybe). My grandma had a persimmon tree in her front yard when we were growing up and we did not know what it was- it was an astringent variety so if you tasted them too soon (before they were 'mooshy') our  faces did involuntary contortions because, well, of the astringency- or as wikipedia would say, because of the 'dry, puckering mouthfeel'! 
As an ornamental they are really amazing- they will get much more 'orangey' than this, the leaves will fall off the tree and (often) the garden won't have much colour- until you see the persimmons and can't help but smile! I often think they look like they are waiting to be sketched because they are so interesting.
Madarins. Just starting to ripen. Hurry up, I say, because these are a family favourite.
Kafir lime. We don't actually eat these but I wanted to include this photo so you can see the funny bumpy skin. I use the zest of these, and the leaves in cooking often combination with green chilli, coriander, fish sauce and coconut milk. 

I mentioned that most of our garden doesn't have 'ornamentals'. One exception is the bulbs I mentioned in my last post- well, imagine my displeasure on Anzac Day when I got home from the Dawn Service (first one I have ever been to) and our six 'free range' pigs were 'free ranging' through my newly planted daffodils. Yes, it's happened before- but I didn't have lovingly planted bulbs then.

Oh- and because it's getting closer to the time of year when you plant bare rooted fruit trees, I should remind you that you can get them here, from us! 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The brown vest.

Ahhh, it's nice to sit down and type.
Means I can catch up with myself (anyone else ever feel like that?).
I have been enjoying the Autumn weather- so sunny, but crisp nights...I tell you what, I haven't been enjoying the mozzies- they are so little but gee, bzzzz in your ear is really annoying when you are trying to sleep.
I got out in the garden yesterday. I am abit of a 'wanna be' gardener, really. I do herbs- they are pretty hardy, but in recent years, that's been the extent of my domain in the garden. Until yesterday, when I planted a big patch of daffodils, I'm imagining a sea of yellow that will make me smile in Spring.
I've been sewing, been knitting- I'm not really a knitter but a new baby was on its way (his way, as we know now!) and I thought I would pick up the needles. I searched Ravelry for a vest pattern and found this free one It's very straightforward, all in one piece, little vest thing. I also bought a copy of the Milo vest pattern, but I think I will have to work up to that one- knitting in the round sounds daunting (but hey, so did invisible zips until earlier this week).

I sent it the day I heard the baby had been born, because I wasn't sure how many wears it would get otherwise, it was pretty little (quick to knit!). I used pure wool that hadn't been dyed, I don't know much about yarn, but it felt nice to knit with.
Modelled so elegantly by the 'baby doll'...

If I get off the computer I might just have time to finish off the bag I am working on, and still get a decent amount of sleep. I was making it for a present...but now I am not sure, it's really quite 'me' I think, and I haven't made myself anything for ages. I'm looking forward to finishing it, and showing you a photo...but that bit wont be tonight!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Tradition, expansion!

As usual, the tradition continues...
I did a bake up for my neighbours on Good Friday...7 visits this year. 

The year the old man down the road wasn't home when we visited (me and Miss 9, who was keen on the 'dropping off') . So we left them on his table (it's the county!). He appeared in our driveway about 30 minutes later with chocolate easter eggs for us. I think he's about 93...he's lovely- he said 'you're a very kind lady Karen' (my names not Karen!). I told one of my other neighbours that he'd dropped in eggs, and she smiled and said he'd mentioned looking forward to my hot cross buns! Gosh (lucky it IS a tradition!)- I felt chuffed, but also sort of, confronted- if he looks forward to my yearly hot cross buns, well, I could be alot 'kinder' than that. I resolve to visit him more than annually with home baked treats. 

The helpers chipped in again. I love having a tradition that they are so willing to participate in. This year I also baked an extra 5 dozen and gave my workmates some too, the helpers were happy to join in the delivering of these ones as well, fussy around with brown paper bags.
I reckon we did 11 dozen 'wheaties' and 2 dozen 'gluten frees'.
And guess what happened to me this morning?
My 'down the road' neighbour, who had just come off night shift got busy making hot cross buns when she got home and brought some up for me for morning tea- I tell you, that was the nicest hot cross bun I have tasted this Easter! She uses my recipe, but hers taste better, which is a little bit rude, I think!

I hope whatever you've been up to this weekend, you've had some nice things happen to you.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Many hands...

On the weekend (allow me to interrupt myself and say I feel like I am doing a grade 4 piece of 'reflective writing'  and that it should be Monday morning...but it's not) I was saying, on the weekend we had a crowd here and boy, were we productive.
Between us all (12 adults, 2 kids and 2 babies) we:

  • picked two wheelbarrows full of butternut pumpkins
  • picked and bottled about 40 kg of apples

  • turned 13 1/2 litres of milk into feta cheese

  • turned 7 litres into another soft white cheese 'queso blanco' (the link is not the recipe we used but similar, it's an easy peasy cheese that needs no special cultures or rennet, it's coagulated with vinegar. We experimented with both a basic white vinegar and apple cider vinegar- the latter worked better, I thought). Apparently it cooks quite well, I'd make it again as a cheese for ravioli, I reckon. The kids were happy to hook into it 'as is'.
  • turned 3 1/2 litres into a soft white cheese called 'fromage blanc'. We added this one to a ravioli filling with roasted pumpkin, roasted garlic and sage. Ravioli is a great 'bang for your buck' pasta to make at home, I reckon. it's just flat sheets you make but add little tasty morsels, cut them out and they look just smashing (unfortunately eaten before a photo was taken!)

  • Made bread- 3 loaves wheat flour, 1 loaf gluten free
  • Made pasta- wheat flour ravioli and fettuccine, gluten free ravioli and fettuccine
  • Vanilla ice cream
I had other 'big ideas' but I had a friend who was more sensible than me saying 'let's just see how we go'! I arrived at work yesterday and a colleague said 'gee, you look tired!'...I've been to bed early the past two nights and I'm planning to do the same tonight. I am not known for my ability to 'pace myself'! 

My blog 'by-line' is "crafty fun and the goodness of home economics".
I tell you, this weekend was all about the goodness of home economics. 
Good food (our food!), happy times, hard work, laughter, chatting  and a cider at 4pm on Sunday arvo with friends, tired but satisfied friends. They headed back to the city with cheese, apples, a fruit tree if they were lucky, herbs to pot up, garlic and memories of stars and lovely fresh air. 
I'm planning on heading down for my 'city fix' of lovely coffee, quirky cafes,  interesting sights, tram trips, city noises next week. I love Melbourne.