Sunday, February 22, 2015

More bottling!

As the stonefruit continues to ripen on the trees in the orchard, I've been busy with bottling for the last week. This time it's the small local peaches, known as Pahi River. This peach is small but tasty. I did have to use a peeler to remove the skin, but otherwise they weren't hard to prepare since I put them in whole. They are freestone however so for other purposes are easy to deal with.



The 'River' peach was 'discovered' locally in a farmer's paddock and saved by Kay Baxter, founder of the organisation known as Koanga Gardens which used to be in Kaiwaka. The River peach was the peach which started Kay on her journey to save NZ heirloom plants (for more on this see one of my earlier posts here). And it was Kay Baxter/Koanga that started us on our journey and for that we are very grateful.

I've put up 15 jars of the peaches so far and hoping to get a few more done as the last of the fruit ripens.


Not bad for a small tree that has only been in the ground for 4 years.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Bottling plums


We currently have lots of Luisa plums on our trees. G came in with a big haul and so that only means one thing really - time for bottling! I dug out some jars, seals and lids and my retro Fowlers Vacola.

The Luisa plums are quite big some of them weighing in at over 100g each, I would say they are on average about twice the size of a standard plum.


This does make it a little tricky for bottling purposes - when bottling whole that is. However, I managed to squeeze in at least 6 plums into each quart size jar.

Since I use the Fowlers Vacola my method is to make up the sugar syrup first so it has a chance to cool somewhat before I put it into the jars. I did a ratio of 1:3 sugar to water for this particular syrup, decided upon by a process of trial and error. I bottled figs last year but made the syrup quite dilute (1:4); G and I decided it would be better to up the sugar content for flavour purposes, especially with the likes of figs. We had bottled feijoas in the 1:3 ratio and they were delicious.

I sterilise the jars in the oven for about 20mins on a low heat. Once the jars are cooled (but not cold) I filled with the fruit, packing in as many as possible without crushing them, filled up the jars with cooled syrup (leaving the 1/2 inch headspace) and then put on sterilised seals (I boil them in a small pan of water for a few minutes first) and screw on the lids (undoing them slightly so as they're not too tight to allow for expansion while cooking). Into the Fowlers Vacola they go - I can get x5 quart jars in. Then I fill with tepid water up to the necks. Here I'm not sure I'm doing it right. Not sure if I should be taking the water right over the tops, seems some people do and some don't. I then turn the vacola on and leave it for 60 mins (or time from boiling for 25mins). Turn off the power, drain out some of the hot water and remove the jars with my jar lifters, before tightening the lids right up tight.

Now what you must never ever do is drop a bottle of hot sticky preserves on your kitchen floor. It makes a heck of a mess and bits of glass and sticky fruit syrup get EVERYWHERE. I know this, that's why I have my jar lifter of course. But what you must do when using the said jar lifter is to use it properly... Grab the bottle securely and once suspended put your other hand (with a cloth or rag) underneath the jar to support it while transferring to your cooling board. Do not let your grip slip so that you are only holding the jar around the rim. It will most likely slip and there will be a disaster. Need I say more? You will have endless cleaning up of glass shards which fly much further than you'd imagine, and there will be a lot of sticky glass and fruit/syrup to dispose of and endless mopping of the kitchen floor so it's no longer sticky underfoot. Yes this happened to me yesterday. Thanks to my little Superman D for coming to my assistance with dustpan and brush, mop and bucket, Crocs (yes I was barefoot). Lesson learnt the hard way!

So anyway, the jars (as you can see there are 9 in the picture not 10..) will sit for a few more hours with their lids on before I remove them (leaving the seals only), then they can be stored away for later.

Sadly there is not much in the way of other stone fruit as a storm last year blew the blossom off most of the trees. Hopefully next year will be better. So I might be putting the preserving gear away early this year.

However I do still have one last bottle of 'Black Boy' peaches squirreled away which I'm saving for a special treat!


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tasty tomatoes



One of the highlights of Summer for me is beautifully ripe spray-free tasty tomatoes fresh from the garden. This year I have a handful of varieties growing.

Cocktail tomatoes
Aunt Ruby's German Green
Black from Tula (beefsteak with green tops)
Indigo Rose - almost totally black fruit, take ages to ripen though.

I also sowed seed for Bloody Butcher but am now not sure which plants they are as the markers got lost somehow - note to self: put big clear markers in next time!
Inside the Aunt Ruby's German Green

Clockwise from top left Brandywine Pink, Black from Tula, Indigo Rose

All of these varieties are doing really well growing in the old pig pen area which is fenced off so nice and sheltered, plus the soil is well fertilised.