A workshop in Sourdough

Yesterday I attended the Prickleberry Sourdough workshop on how to make sourdough. Considering how much I have learned and how my bread turns out most of the time (not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but not bad none the less) I was really surprised with just how much I learned. All complimentary to what I already knew but I did learn why some of the breads I’ve made are less than satisfactory. And I’ve now got another starter on the go who shall be named Andreas (please don’t let mt brother-in-law know I’ve named some flour, water and wild yeasts after him 😉 )

I’ve come away with 2 recipes, or 2 variations of the same recipe for bread and then information on how to jazz up the bread in a dozen ways. Whilst we made fruit loaves using soaked apricots, sultanas and spices, Oskar made chocolate loaf. Yep, chocolate bread! NOICE! 😀 I’ve come home with quite a doughy bounty. I have a new starter, a loaf of plain shaped loaf, a cob fruit loaf (the way to form a cob loaf is MUCH harder than I thought – practice needed there), dough that I made there, now baked into olive bread here at home this morning and as there was extra dough at the end of the class and we hung around to chat, another batch of dough I made into a tinned loaf this morning. I learned that the oldest known sourdough starter in Australia is about 150 years old and kept in 3 forms – dried, fresh and frozen. I learned that starters do well with sugars in them and Andreas has a slice of apple in him which I will discard tomorrow and a generous pinch of sultanas which will remain indefinitely. I also learned that using the water from cooking spuds makes a very sour smelling starter but even an over fermented apple based starter will smell of sweet apple cider vinegar. I also learned that I have been baking with a LOT of starter which may not all be necessary. Now there are different ways to bake and everyone has their own method, recipe and style and I’m not actually wrong which what I’ve been doing but I now have other recipes and techniques. I had an absolute ball making it too.

The only bad news I have to report is that not once did I think of taking a photo! Not a since one. Sorry.

Prickleberry Sourdough are only a new bakery (although Oskar grew up in a cake bakery on Ackland Street) and have done very well for themselves with their new store opining in a little over a month in Mair Street (just in case anyone is going through Ballarat or lives locally) and given the taste of the breads we ate throughout the day, if you can visit I highly recommend it. They have a Facebook page if you’re on Facebook too –https://www.facebook.com/prickleberrysourdough

I love my early mornings… And more (of course).

I really do! I can’t believe I’m even saying this but I simply adore my early mornings. 😀 As long as they’re not interrupted by small people wanting food/water/Daddy (so go and annoy HIM then 😉 ) and everything else under the sun. Those mornings are a little less lovable. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids but those early mornings are my sacred time of waking up my brain and then cramming it chock-a-block full of information for the day. It’s much harder to do that with the constant interruptions of little people. 😉 Continue reading

In preparation for Easter

Not quite figured out the connection between rabbits and eggs yet but we’ll get there.

Easter here is going to be an interesting affair. We heavily restrict sugar in our house as even the smallest amount causes incredible silliness and misbehaving in both Jasper and Allegra. For example, a 1/6th of a bounty bar and a single bakery biscuit each last week created an awful afternoon of two children who basically spent their time swinging from the rafters. Continue reading

Re-education

I’ve not achieved much the last few days. It’s frustrating. I have however been learning. Learning about the olden days. I’ve been watching a wonderful series called Edwardian Farm. It’s where 2 archaeologists and a historian live the life of Edwardian age farmers in Devon England for 12 months. It’s been fascinating! I can’t call it anything but highly educational for someone like me and my old brain box is ticking at high speed. I want to make a barrel smoker, I want to raise pigs, I want to try some of the recipes they made I want to try try try and then try some more. 😀 I found so much of the series quite sad too. The Edwardian Era was the beginning of the end of horses on farms, the beginning of more and more mechanised work being done and also the beginning of more reliance on oil. The Industrial revolution had brought in the use of steam power through the Victorian Era but more and more the Edwardian Era saw this mechanisation filtering through to the small farmers and landholders, not just those with money.

However, the poorer farmers were still Jack of all trades but also masters of their own. They were farmers and raised their crops, livestock or both but during times when the money was thin on the ground and farmwork not pressing (working around planting, harvesting, lambing, shearing etc) then they turned to other means. Fishing, mining, cottage industry and so on. One comment has really stuck with me though. In the country the old ways persisted. The ability to forge iron was the example they used. In the cities, if folk needed iron they bought it. They had no other option but in the country people remembered their fathers and grandfathers, or mothers and grandmothers, doing things the old way and that skill base took a lot longer to disappear. The same is true today to some extent. Thankfully we have the internet and libraries which allow us to research the old skills though as so many have died out. If you needed to sharpen a knife for example, would you know how to do it? Without a knife sharpening doovahickey I mean. With a whetstone. I I know the theory but I wouldn’t get it right I know.

So today I have been researching. I’ve also been learning some other lessons. Like what happens when you burn too much wood that isn’t ideally suited to the fire. WHOMP! Yup, a big puff of smoke and a belch from Ignisa. Yes, belch is the right word. I ahve to say it scared me out of at least 5 years of my life. I instantly panicked and thought I’d set the chimney on fire. Thankfully I didn’t. I was home with 3 kids by myself! Martin has been out hunting and gathering wood to season for next year as well as finding some wood from last seasons cut which we can burn this year. 😀 YAY! Anyway, I totally dampened down the fire and called Martin who was on his way home. We’re thinking that a bit too much poplar has gone through her tummy giving her some creosote indigestion. I’m just grateful all she did was belch. Not very ladylike Ignisa. 😦 Thankfully she has behaved for the rest of the afternoon and evening as she was on dinner cooking duties. 🙂 I’d thrown some lamb chops into the schlemmertopf along with some veggies and my last bottle of tomatoes I’d bottled last year (all 50 or so of them). Into the oven around 2 or 3pm and slow cooking away in there at temperatures between 100C and 150C give or take. Delicious! The meat literally fell off the bones which are currently simmering away to reduce down to a nourishing bone broth or stock. I can use that to flavour risotto or pasta or anything I fancy. 🙂 Just 1 more way to get as much as I can from what we have.

I’ve also spent today sewing up a cardigan I knitted on the machine the other week. I added a few more rows in where I thought I might need the extra length but it’s come out a bit huge and baggy so I need to see how it fits after a wash. Currently it’s better suited to someone a size or 2 bigger than me and approximately 6 foot 6 inches tall or taller! Whoops. Hopefully it will tighten up in the wash but being acrylic I am holding little hope. We will see. Sitting and knitting or sewing etc helps me justify sitting down and watching something like this. It stops me from having idle hands which in turn gives me the fidgets or makes me feel guilty for wasting time. I COULD be doing something if you know what I mean.

Now I know there are some generous and wonderful people out there in the world but one of my wonderful readers takes the cake. I won’t name drop as I’m sure she would kick my backside but you know who you are. We have been gifted some wonderful books for our children in years to come (I reckon I will enjoy them before then too), a bicycle helmet, 2 bicycles and a rooster. Generous, no? Both Martin and I are more than a little overwhelmed by the generosity of this lovely lady and extremely grateful. The rooster comes to us courtesy of this wonderful lady’s workmate. Sadly, he does not come with breed information and although he came to us on the understanding that he would most likely end up in the dinner pot, his exquisite beauty has put us in a tough place. We don’t want to cull this beautiful bird. He is seriously the George Clooney of roosters, fitting considering his name was George. I say “was” as I’d renamed him Golden Boy (Black Boy is our black Dorking rooster) but Jasper decided he was Mr Skinny Legs and the moniker does suit. He has lovely long and non-stocky pins on which he dances around like a ballerina. Very light footed, rather noisy (hence why we can’t keep him), rather feisty and not impressed with Black Boy at all.

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Can you help identify the breed?

Anyway, it’s time for me to hit the sack. I have a brain box that needs some quiet processing time, plans to make and mst importantly, sleep needs to be had. Here’s hoping I get to sleep later than 4:30, although it is quite pleasant having those 2 full hours totally devoid of other people, watching the light creep into the room and having the house to myself in some ways too.  Who knows Fran, you might end up with company for your insane o’ clock starts after all. Now just to get you on Skype so we can chat easier. 🙂

Ok, Fran I am up early again. I’m learning that the quality of sleep I get after having woken up early isn’t there. Lightly dozing just makes me a cranky Mumma so here I am, up at 4:45. Am I truly this insane?

Wild harvest

What better way to add to your pantry than to harvest something for free. But what about wild harvesting? Ok, I know the concept and I love it. It’s about harvesting from nature, not from other homesteaders, property owners or farmers but direct from Mother Nature, planted by her where she wills and grown by her hand entirely. That’s where, in my book, it gets a little scary.

When you’re harvesting from nature you need to KNOW what you’ re harvesting, not just pretty sure but because you haven’t planted the seeds yourself there is no manual or seed packet to remind you. Many plants are poisonous as are many mushrooms, some lethally  so and taste is no indicator so seriously, KNOW WHAT YOU ARE HARVESTING!

In this instance I knew what I was harvesting. Several sources have confirmed it and even a cursory glance at google backed me up. I KNEW what I was doing in this instance but trust me, that will not make me confident. Even knowing and being sure and convinced and all the rest I was still nervous… Just in case. I had to make sure I’d done the necessary worrying before things went wrong just in case they do. 😉 Yeah yeah, I’m a worry wart. 😛

I’ve taken these photos from Dr Google as I picked and cooked all of mine before realising I should maybe take some photos. Not the brightest spark in the fire, am I?

Pretty flowers, sadly no scent. When we cleaned up access to the creek we hacked off many of the lower branches and hence, most of the flowers and hence, most of the berries. Lesson learned. What the goats don’t eat, we will next year.

So this time we harvested our Hawthorns. Hawthorns are really beautiful trees. They have lovely green foliage, frothy white bunches of small flowers in Spring and in late Summer and early Autumn they are covered in bright red berries hanging in little clusters, not unlike a Barbie doll sized apple but in clusters like cherries. They are however, one of the most vicious trees I know. For those that are of Christian belief, this is the bush widely held to be the supplier of the branches woven into the crown of thorns. Some of the thorns are inches long! And the rotten things sting like billy-o if you’re unlucky enough to impale yourself on one. And if you’re seriously unlucky the tip will break off inside whatever unfortunate piece of flesh you stabbed yourself in. And if you are the unluckiest of the unlucky, you will react to whatever toxin is inside or on those thorns, causing the pain to increase 10 fold. When I stabbed myself I resorted to vicious methods to extract the 1mm long thorn tip embedded deeply in my hand as there was nothing short of amputation that could have possibly hurt more. Thankfully today we are victorious with zero casualties. Yay!

You really do NOT want to find out about one of these the hard way. Trust me!

So, whilst Orik slept, Jasper, Allegra and I, armed with out 15L stock pot (overkill in hindsight) headed out to the other side of the fence, keeping a wary eye out for any unwanted legless visitors (we saw none thankfully) and picked any of those lovely red berries we could find. Once we’d stripped every berry within arms reach and a few more besides we headed inside to remove leaves and stems. We ended up with 640g of berries. We’re following this recipe. I washed my haws as the berries are rightly known, threw them in Hermy the Thermy and gave them 60 mins/100*C/sp slow reverse. I did forget the mashing step but they kind of mashed up pretty well anyway. Martin picked up 1/2kg of white sugar on the way home last night. Normally this is something we never have. Sugar is refined, bleached and totally devoid of anything remotely resembling nutrition and it’s highly addictive but sadly, rapadura doesn’t really cut it for jam making. It’s different in many ways so on the odd occasion I can deal with a little sugar. I tipped my haws into the jelly bag to drain, gathering the liquid in a bowl underneath.

The liquid, around 640g (it works out similar in ml but the Thermy works only in grams) so in went all the sugar – 500g and on to 100/60 mins/sp 2. I checked for gelling. Nope, but close. 15 more minutes and I thought I had it. Into their sterilised jars, clear cellophane covers on and labels on the jars. I’ve checked them this morning now that they’re cool and a little later it will be off with the cellophane and back into Hermy the Thermy for about 30 minutes. No gel, just thick viscous sweet and delicious syrup. Bugger. 😦

Well, you live and learn and I’ve always been a little premature on the gel front. Except for the lemon marmalade I made whilst on the phone to Ing a few years back. That stuff was nearly teeth breaking! I have it on good authority that it was delicious though but I cannot attest to that being truth. Who in their right mind eats lemon peel in any way shape or form. Any peel for that matter. Bleuch!

Well, when they’re done I’ll share a photo of my 3 finished jars. 🙂

I would like to get into wild harvesting a lot more but I know I need to learn a lot more before I do. I would simply adore to be able to safely and confidently go mushrooming but I might stick to buying used mushroom compost for now or a grow your own kit. There’s too much at stake to play around with mushrooms. Or any wild harvest when you don’t have the knowledge to be honest. Still, it’s exciting to know that there is food just waiting to be discovered and picked. 🙂