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

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 Β 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. πŸ˜‰ Yeah yeah, I’m a worry wart. πŸ˜›

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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚

Fresh harvested lunch

Lunch was a simple affair here today. Salad, scrambled eggs and some fried polenta from the other night. Yum. The salad however deserves a YUM instead of just a yum. It was so full of flavour that if I had any doubts about the wisdom of growing our own then they are totally allayed by the taste of my lunch. The spinach was fresh, crisp and delicious. The rocket was actually so spicy it burned my tongue a little. The tomatoes, albeit very small, packed a punch well above their weight and the radishes burned my tongue quite badly. Whoo pepper! The only lacklustre vegetable was the capsicums but they weren’t bad.

The eggs were local harvest from Highland Heritage Farm and the olives in the salad were purchased through them too. In fact the only ingredients not organic, biodynamic or local were the milk in the scrambled eggs and the polenta. The salt was also Himalayan rock salt which I don’t create and nor is it local. But it IS good for you. πŸ™‚ The polenta came from Coles cornmeal from the pantry and the milk is just from the supermarket but all in all pretty good I reckon.

I have no photos to share as we scoffed the lot before I thought to take a picture. Sorry.

Our only ripening tomatoes so far are the Tommy toes but there are a few others on the bushes so if the frost holds off… I just need that first blush of colour please. Then I can pick and ripen them inside away from birdy beaks.

The mad scramble for lids, a hot day and procrastinating.

Let it be known… I am not the best at making decisions that bring together ALL the elements. Not my strongest area, not even remotely close to it actually. I’m not very good at planning things at all. I’m better at coming up with harebrained schemes or dreaming about things for ages but putting things into action with forethought and direction? Naaaa.

I decided Monday that I wanted to pressure can some chick peas. I stuck them in my stock pot to soak as I am following the instructions from this blogΒ and they soaked overnight. Yesterday morning I remembered that the forecast top temperature was 32C. Probably a little warm to have the stove on all day but not much I could do by then. I’ve ended up with 11 of the size #20 Fowlers Vacola jars (about 11 pints – the #20’s are pretty close to a pint and close enough for working out pressure and time πŸ™‚ ) Β but of course, whilst I’m filling up and putting on lids I discover that I’m 3 lids short. I’m just sooooo good at planning ahead. 😦 A mad scramble finds me 3 jars of which I can pilfer the lids and we’re good to go. Then I discover that the canner fits 9 jars, not all 11 so the remaining 2 are waiting to be pressure canned along with the 5 #31’s of pumpkin soup ingredients (the #31’s are 900ml and I pressure can them as quarts – again it’s close enough. Please note, NEVER puree the pumpkin soup before canning. It’s too thick to can safely, yet as partially cooked ingredients it is safe. πŸ™‚ ) I’ve followed my own pumpkin soup recipe but the canning information is here and also in my canner instruction manual. πŸ™‚ At least I had the lids and rings and clips all ready for the #31’s. πŸ™‚

So I now have 5 jars of pumpkin soup ingredients and 11 jars of chickpeas all cooling and settling and ready to go as convenience foods which I know all the ingredients. It’s exciting. πŸ™‚

Pumpkin and potato soup ingredients. If you blend it then it doesn't get hot enough int he middle to kill the bugs as it's too thick. So, open can (bottle), heat and puree in Thermy, with blender etc and serve. Easy peasy. :D

Pumpkin and potato soup ingredients. If you blend it then it doesn’t get hot enough int he middle to kill the bugs as it’s too thick. So, open can (bottle), heat and puree in Thermy, with blender etc and serve. Easy peasy. πŸ˜€

Chickpeas!

Chickpeas!

Chickpeas MUST be pressure canned. A Fowlers Vacola won’t process them at a high enough temperature to make them safe to eat as they are a low acid food. PLEASE be vigilant with this if you want to process your own foods. πŸ™‚

Now, if I am to be perfectly honest, I had no absolute need to can those chickpeas. They’ve been sitting snug and dry in their jars for several months and will happily sit there snug and dry for probably a lot more than several months more but the real reasons I wanted to can them was because I am having a ball canning things and I love seeing all the jars lined up nice and neatly in my pantry. I also love the convenience of grabbing a can from the cupboard and hey presto, dinner is served but as many cans are lined with plastic containing BPA and I have no idea just how many or which brands (this article states it’s as high as 92% of cans) I made the choice to avoid canned food as much as possible. Yes, that means my kids have not had the pleasure of canned spaghetti nor of baked beans very often (although they did the other night) but once I get some navy beans and tomatoes I can make my own tomato sauce (tomatoes have been ordered) Β and then my own baked beans. I can’t wait!

MUST get more lids and rings before then though. AND more jars. πŸ˜€