Friday, March 28, 2014

Apples and applesauce

It's apple season here on CTF. I am steadily working my way through mountains of apples. OK 'mountains' might be a slight exaggeration, but there are certainly quite a few kilos!
Here is a big box of delicious 'Reinette du Canada' apples - a French heirloom apple - that I picked yesterday. This variety is great for cooking, but it can also be eaten as a dessert apple. We usually cook it.

Some of these apples get quite big. The biggest one I picked was 500g (18 oz)!

So I'm busy in the kitchen still - this time making applesauce. It's really easy to make, just a bit time consuming - as all preserving can be, when you're dealing with large quantities of fruit. From a bit of research on the web it seems that some folk just chop the fruit and then when cooked put it through a food mill to remove the pips and skin etc.
I prefer to peel, core and slice then cook up and puree with my stick blender (immersion blender) until I have a nice smooth sauce. Then I process in my trusty Fowler's Vacola water bath unit.

It's been great to finally put these old 'Agee' preserving jars into action. I've had them stored away for just the time when they'd be needed. They were given to me by a work friend quite a few years ago now.

Disappointingly though, when getting them out of storage I noticed quite a lot had small cracks on the base. Some of them you could feel that it was broken but some of them G and I thought might be just where the glass came out of the mold rather than damage, they had like a tiny line on the base but no obvious break or chip.

I am going to have to test the ones we're not sure about to see if they'll be OK to use. I found a site that said to boil the jars in water for 15 mins to test them, has anyone tried this? I'm loathed to throw away what may be a potentially usable jar, but on the other hand I don't want any disasters with jars full of fruit cracking and leaking!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Fresh figs

G came home with a treat the other day, some lovely fresh figs. Unfortunately these figs were not from our trees, not having much success with them so far, probably too exposed a site for them as they are staying like stalks!

Anyway, these lovely fresh figs, although only a few, went straight into a cake that I've been wanting to make for simply ages. Fresh fig, raspberry and almond cake.

Fresh fig, raspberry and almond cake
The recipe is from Kylie Kwong's book 'Heart and soul' and contains raspberries and ground almonds. If you know how to make a friand, it's basically the same mix - egg whites, icing sugar, ground almonds, melted butter, a little flour and milk. The figs were sliced and lightly pressed on top of the cake.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

3 little piggies

It's pig raising time again here on CTF. This year we have 3 pigs, this time we have 3 boys and the breed is 'Long White'.

They are very shy at the moment and run away pretty much whenever we are around.  In their run they have some small pumpkins (and I mean small - we had a very disappointing crop this year - not enough rain!) and some kikuyu grass to munch on. This is supplemented with vege scraps and more pumpkins. Also they are getting cow's milk - we're hoping to source a good supply of that this year.

The ground in their run is very hard at the moment so it will take a bit of rain to soften it up enough for them to get their snouts in action. They will have a 2nd area to move into, a large paddock - when the grass has grown long enough, and they have turned over the soil for us. Pigs really are living ploughs, and they also fertilise as they go too, so it's 'win-win'.

Hopefully by shifting them to 'pastures new' this will work a lot better than previously. It means we can then plant out the original run with more fodder for the next lot of pigs. Timing, as always, is everything.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Grape juice

As you know I've been really busy in the kitchen lately, preserving  lots of lovely peaches and tomatoes. I've done several bottles of peaches now, which I know we will enjoy in the coming winter. The tomato sauces, both Italian and spicy Indian versions, are lined up in the pantry at the ready for future pasta dinners and curries, both of which are a big favourite here at CTF.

However, this past week I've been picking bunches and bunches of juicy ripe red table grapes. Now there are only so many grapes we can actually eat 'au natural' - I say 'we' but the truth is I don't actually like them much! So there was only really one other alternative - grape juice!

It's easy to make, just a little time consuming. Here is a quick guide to making:

1. Pick your grapes
2. Wash your grapes and remove stalks, insects, leaves..
3. Put into clean stock pan
4. Mash with potato masher
5. Bring to boil and simmer for about 10 mins.
6. Cool for about 10 mins
7. Pour into 'jelly bag' aka old clean pillow case.
8. Suspend 'jelly bag' over another big pot to catch juice, leave to drip for a while. N.B. Juice will stain so use newspaper on floor
9. Squeeze out any extra juice you can
10. Bottle up and sterilise in water bath as per preserving fruit.
11. Drink - we dilute with water but I'm thinking soda water would be lovely.

Note - no sugar was added and the juice is sweet enough for us. It's delicious!