Saturday, February 25, 2012

Strawberry jam time

Homemade strawberry jam

Our strawberry plants have recently started producing lots of lovely fruit, maybe with the rains we've had coupled with the hot weather. Anyway, G picked a large bowlful the other day, just on 1kgs worth, so I decided to make some jam with them. In previous years I've not had much success getting the jam to set however, so this time I used 'jam setting' sugar (basically it has citric acid and pectin added).

The jam was quick to make. I used the recipe on the bag of sugar, which advised boiling for only 4 minutes (although I could perhaps have boiled it a minute or so longer to set it just a tiny bit more). The result was good though, a nice brightly coloured jam with a really strong and fresh strawberry flavour. From 1kg of fruit, I made 5 average sized jars (about 300-330g each).

Now I'm looking forward to the day we can harvest enough raspberries to make raspberry jam!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Making ricotta cheese

Homemade ricotta

 After a long time procrastinating about making cheese, I finally got myself motivated to give it a go. What prompted me (apart from having my Mad Millie Beginners' Italian Cheese Kit staring me in the face for some time..) was the recent discovery of a ready supply of farm milk, 'organic', unpasteurised, and unhomogenised. Being unpasteurised doesn't worry us, however I can understand why in certain circumstances (e.g. being pregnant) one might want to pasteurise it prior to use. According to the Mad Millie website, you can easily pasteurise the milk by bringing it up to 68 degs C and hold for 2 mins, or 63 degs C for 30 mins. Apparently though, the unhomogenised part is important and desirable for cheese making. Most milk available these days is homogenised, so I'm thrilled to be able to obtain this milk, without all the bother of having to milk my own cow (for now anyway!).

To make the ricotta I used the Mad Millie recipe supplied, which was 2 litres of milk with 1 tsp salt added. Heat this until 90 deg C, stirring all the time (all the utensils were sterilised prior to use, using a solution of iodophor - provided in the kit). It took quite a long time to reach 90 degs, as I had it on a very low heat, not wanting to scorch the milk. I wasn't entirely sure if I should be using a double boiler or not, but from the leaflet it seemed this was only necessary for the cream when making Mascarpone. Can any home cheese makers out there advise on this please?

Once the temperature reached 90 degs I removed the pan of milk from the heat and then added 1tsp of citric acid dissolved in 1 Tbsp of cold water. This made the milk curdle immediately. I then left it to cool and separate for about 2 hours (1-4 hours was the instruction). Then I scooped out the curds with a slotted spoon, and drained them in the (sterilised) ricotta basket provided in the kit (or you could use a muslin-lined colander). I fed the whey to the chooks, which they loved.

The result - a lovely creamy soft cheese.

It was very nice on crackers with fresh tasty tomatoes out of the garden, and there are numerous other ways to enjoy it too.

I chose to make up some Ricotta Pikelets using this recipe. While the berry butter was not all that popular in the house (I liked it!), the pikelets were deliciously fluffy and very tasty.

Ricotta pikelets with berry butter

Needless to say, I will be making up another batch of ricotta any day now. Like soap-making, I can see cheese-making could be kind of addictive! I particularly want to try making mozzarella, but am content to start with the easier cheeses first.

Do you make cheese at home, and if so what sort do you make?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Warts and all

Well would you have it, I was just getting back into the swing of blogging again and ...darn it... the computer decided to break down.....all fixed now thank goodness, we miss it when it's not available as we're frequent users of the internet for finding out all sorts of information.

Anyhow, I took some photos around the farm, some are ugly areas that need attention. I've been inspired by veggiegobbler (this post) to show some of the less attractive bits of the property, which I have, until now, kept out of the photos! I do have some plans to make these areas more appealing however, and am working on them slowly.

Fortunately we have quite a lot of succulents in pots sitting around the place, and some other flowering plants that could be used to smarten things up somewhat. I will post some 'after' photos in due course (don't expect it to happen overnight though!).

Newly planted lavender hedge (variety 'Grosso'). They're tiny at the moment, but have flowered already and most have survived the heat and dry of the summer.

Top orchard, which has citrus, feijoas and guavas. Hebes in the foreground, which have formed a nice hedge (which you can't see in this photo).

Driveway with lemon geranium hedge (needs pruning!)

Succulents in pots are lined up the other side

I'm undecided about what to do to make this look a bit better, maybe I should I plant them? They need mulch or groundcover to set them off.

At the side of the entranceway. I've got some ideas for improving this area.
And here are some of the flowering trees and other plants:

Flowering Houheria/Lacebark hedge

Close up of the Lacebark flowers

Tiny little fruit on the Kumquat tree, they're about the size of a grape!

Hop cones - yay there's quite a few this year (their 2nd)!
White lillies coming up everywhere


I think this is Amaranth?

Passionfruit vine, getting lots now!
Back soon with a post about making ricotta cheese!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Passionfruit curd

One of our passionfruit vines is just starting to produce loads of lovely fruit. Apart from eating the pulp straight from the shell, I thought I would whip up a batch of passionfruit curd (or honey if you prefer).

Maybe I should have made it yesterday, continuing the love theme!

The recipe, I used this one, only called for 10 passionfruit, which was a relief for G as he loves eating them and thought he would be deprived since we are only just starting to harvest them!

Mind you it only made 2 very small jars!

Do you eat passionfruit and if so, what do you do with them when you have a lot to harvest?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Loveheart shortbread

Today, being St Valentines Day, gave me the perfect reason to make some heart-shaped vanilla shortbread biscuits.

Co-incidentally I picked up my Little Oxford Dictionary of Quotations and the book fell open on, of all things, Love quotations! So here's one for the day:

"Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it. Let's do it, let's fall in love." (Cole Porter)

Hope your day was a happy one.

Dinner tonight was - homemade pizza:

Back soon with photos and a general update. Ciao!