One of the advantages of living in the country is that we have an orchard farm in Yass, probably the last in the area. Basically they produce Peaches, Nectarines, Plums and Apples. All seasonal, once the sign is has been taken down, the fruit season has ended (usually the last apples are approx June each year). What this means for us is that we try to get most fruit seasonally and not get those cold storage apples from Woolworths (to be honest we do get some in the off seson).
So two weeks ago the sign outside the farm let us know that they were open for business again. So what did we get. Well a flat box of approx 30 peaches for the high price of $10. But then the real bargain, Lee-Ann mentioned that we want to make jam. For that we got a box of nectarine 2nd’s for the high price of $4. Not sure how many but when we peeled and removed the seeds we had 3kg.
So the weekend was jam making. The result 9 jars and in the fridge two more containers of jam (so 11 all up). The idea being that we don’t buy jam for the year now (well once we get the plums that is – and we already have a few jars of peach jam made).
Final result 11 jars of nectarine jam (two not in the photo)
The other bargain was limes at $4.99 a kg so we bought some. Now what to do with limes. Basically there was only one option I could think of, lime cordial.
Take 10 limes (juice and zest), 1 tblsp citric acid, 1.4kg sugar and 4 cups boiling water.
Add zest, citric acid, sugar into a bowl. Pour over boiling water and stir until sugar is disolved, add lime juice. Bottle and place in fridge. Easy. This will make approx 2 litres of cordial. Now while it makes a fantasic cordial it is great for making a gimlet (which of course we did straight away).
Using Gin or Vodka
2 shots gin or vodka
1 shot cordial
Place ice, gin/vodka, cordial in cocktail shaker. Give it a shake. Pour into cold cocktail glasses (any glass will do) add wedge of lime and a dash of soda water (add soda water only if you like) and presto.
mmmm so nice – and we are getting another bottle of vodka for tonite
Late last year, just prior to Christmas (2009) as I sank a glass of wine and had some cheese and crackers. I wondered much do we spend on crackers? So some back of the coaster numbers. If we have one box/packet per week and at least an extra packet at major holidays and when we have guests, we would roughly have 65 packets per year. At $3 per packet we are coming close to $200 per year.
So can I make them? Well we bake our own bread (bread machine) and bread rolls (oven) so I could just tag them on to that.
So here is my recipe
2 Cups of Flour
1tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup warm water
1/3 cup veg (I use olive) oil
Preheat ove – 200c. Combine flour, salt, baking powder, oil and water. Make dough. I now split the dough into 5 equal portions. With my hand I flatten the dough (keep a towel over the remaining dough so it does not dry out) and now using the pasta maker roll the dough out. I roll the dough till the number three setting on the pasta maker. If rolling by hand I guess get it as thin as possible, but really using a pasta maker is so much easier.
On the flat sheets now season. You can use whatever you like. Poppy seeds, cracked pepped, salt, chilli. Use a rolling pin lightly to push the seasoning on. Now cut the flat sheets out, I use a ravioli cutter, but a knife is fine. Place on a baking tray. Now do not forget to prick them with a fork. If you do not they will rise. Put them in the oven and bake for 3 minutes then remove and turn them over and bake for another 1 minute. Now these timings are based on a thickness from the pasta maker. So you may need to experiment. Also the batch above makes probably approx 3 packets worth of crackers.
From the first batch you can see the changes. The thickst were by hand (rolling pin and not pricked), the middle ones in the oven for approx 5-6 minutes and the last ones as I have described above.
Here are some pictures of the best breakfast I have ever had. Of course I have had many wonderful breakfasts over the years but there is something extra special when the eggs were fresh from the chook pen and the purple broccoli and asparagus picked just minutes before eating.
Basically we had a sort of do it yourself style Hollandaise suace – which we took from the Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall episode – which aired last Wedensday night on ABC. Soft boil some eggs, and then when in the egg cup add a dob of butter, a drop of apple cider vinegar and sprinkle with salt and pepper. And then you can dip the asparagus into the egg, or dip intot he salt and pepper first and then into the egg.
It was so yummy we did this on Saturday and Sunday. But sadly, since the asparagus has only been in the ground for a year, it may be better in the long term to leave the asparagus alone for the rest of spring.
Breakfast @ OGA Fresh eggs and asparagus picked that morning
As we continue into the venture of country life we slowly become more ‘Yassified’, that for me is the knowing of how things here in this town work, and I would say probably work in a lot of country towns. The latest is knowing who has lambs to slaughter. Friends of ours here have some sheep running on a few acres, mostly they are on the pasture and a little bit of top up grain. So Lee Ann got the offer “do you want one?” The answer a hesitant yes and the price “$50″, basically for the butchering. We also gave them a dozen of eggs in the spirit of bartering (yes cash did change hands but really IMHO not enough).
These people make no money off it, they do it for their own meat supply. And a qualified butcher does everything else. They reduce cost by giving a lamb to the person that supplies the grain etc.
So really not sure what we would get, we basically said, give us the legs, shanks, shoulders (boned), scrag (neck) and the other main cuts, which has basically become various chops. When the lamb was delivered in a big tub we needed to separate the meat, this is where Hugh Fearnley-Whittinstall (http://www.rivercottage.net/) and his book ‘River Cottage Meat Book’ comes into its own. And I do recommend this book. it goes thru all the cuts of different meats. We basically bagged and labeled each and placed them in the freezer (and we have a bag of liver, kidneys and heart).
Lynsey next to the lamb
The other thing about this lamb is that it is spring lamb. That night we made crumbed french cutlets which the kids devoured. Lynsey was gnawing the last bits of the flesh from the bone. mmmm meat. That should do us for a while anyway.
Yes Summer in Yass has now passed. The morning and evenings are cooler and of course the days shorter. The hottest day over the past two weeks being 24.
So how did the summer produce go. I would rate it a 6 out of 10. We did not get things in the ground early enough and we had no back up plants for the late frost that hit us.
Tomatoes, approx 15 kg of tomatoes, mostly cheery and grape variety. Witha few kgs of Roma and less of the Amish. Also I really did not truss them up, definately next year I will truss them up and at least double them up. Of course we are still enoying some of the tomates as semi dried (in the oven) and bottled. And we also cooked a lot and froze them (no more of this).
Potatoes, had approx 15kg at the end, not enough. Probably under watered and under nourished and definitely need a lot more next year to plant.
Zucchinis, nothing else to say really, they get grated into evrything (including dog food) and when they become too large the kids can enter them in the Yass show.
Cucumbers OK, not great but enough, back to buying them. Pumkin. mmm Frost killed off teh first lot but we did get some butternuts and all going well we may have two Queensland blue (still growing).
Beans, foprget it. Besides all my beans for drying being killed off in the frost, I must be the only person in Australia not capable of growing beans.
Capsicums, forgot which capsicum I planted, but is of a small variety, still a few coming thru.
Egg Plant, Now there was a surprise – three plants and we may still get a few off before the first frost comes in. Definately more next year so we can bottle some.
Beetroot, were good as were the spring onions
Corn, well thast a 2 out of 10 and I say that because thats about as many good corn cobs we got. Not sure what went wrong there but most of the cobs did not fully develop. But the chickens still loved them.
Chickens, while not really a crop I recommend two – three birds for any family. Easy to look after, not expensive to feed and so far they are all healthy.
Watermelon, got this great little watermelon seeds and they produced these small fantastically sweet watermelons. After dinner these were the perfect size to cut into 4
During the week one of our friends here in Yass gave us a bag of peaches from their tree, what does one do with 1.5 kgs of peaches? make jam. This was our second attempt at jam, the first being a cherry jam (left over cherries from christmas) which refused to set, but eventually we got it to partly set.
So act 2, we try again, this time it has set and boy has it set, tougher than creamed honey, but it does taste fantastic. What does one do with peach jam that has set too hard? Make jam drop biscuits, the jam almost takes a lolly consistency and unlike store bought biscuits I know exactly what goes in them.
2 cups self raising flour, 2 eggs, 125 grams butter, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, 1 cup desiccated coconut, firmly set jam,
Set oven to 160c, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and lemon zest and mix well. Roll mixture into walnut sized balls, roll them in the coconut and place them on a greased tray. Press the top of each ball with thumb, spreading them out a bit and making an indent for the jam. Fill the indent with the jam, bake in the oven for approx 15 minutes or until golden. We make approx 18-20 with this mixture.
Well while we have had salads from the garden and other odds and bods todays frittata is almost all home produced. The salad, tomatoes, spring onion and cucumber all from the vege patch and the frittata itself the eggs are from our chickens and the all the veges (potatoes, tomato, garlic, herbs) are home grown to.
Not that I am a religous person, but we do try to eat fish once per week and more often than not it ends up being Friday night.
For the past year we had not had any fresh fish as the only available fish was through Woolworths – the unfresh people and for the longest time I was asking, where is the fish man? why has every other small town I have visited have a fish guy, that travels from town to town? Well after a year of being in Yass, Lee Ann found the fish man. he comes on Thursdays and parks his van from 11am – 1 pm, and then he is off. I guess after a year of being here some of the locals are beginning to drop some secrets.
As usually fish is not the favourite on the kids menu I have been trying to make it fun for them. So hence home made fish fingers. Alyssa likes to help . Basically cut pieces of firm white fish (approx 400g) into finger size chuncks. Have three bowls, 1 with flour, one with eggs (we use 3 eggs) and one with bread crumbs (we make our own and freeze it in cup size bags.
Dip fish in flour, then egg and then crumbs. I then shallow fry in a frypan until golden brown. We serve them with a sweet chilli mayonnaise (1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1/4 cup sweet chilli, squeeze of lime) and roast veges. The kids love them and thy taste great. And don’t worry if they are not orange like the packet version!
It has been a few weeks so this is a bit of a catch up, have harvested radishes (French Breakfast – Diggers) probably planted too many as the only place I know to use it is in salads. So from now on only 4 of these at any one time. But they are quick and ready to harvest in under a month. Also we have harvested our first Beetroot (Mini Gormet – Diggers). These taste sooo sweet. I am ashamed to have said that the only other beetroot I had ever had was Golden Circle. So with the few that we had we also looked for a pickling recipe.
The recipe we ended up using came from the ABC cookbook “A Year in a Bottle”
1-2 cups sugar
4 cups white vinegar
1 teaspoon grd cinnamon
1 teaspoon grd allspice
12 black pepercorns
Cook beetroot in boiling water unitil tender, peel and slice and pack into sterilised jars.
Combine remaining ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil, remove from heat. Cover and allow to stand for 20 minutes to allow vinegar to cool a little and flavours to infuse. Strain and pour over beetroot (make sure they are covered). Seal and store in a cool, dry dark place for upto 1 year.
We have had our first jar of pickled beetroot and it was fantastic – highly recommend it. So I have now planted bulk beetroot so we will have plenty to pickle. Hopefull enough to last until next summer.
We are now harvesting the onions we planted 6 months ago, they are not all ready, so we are just harvesting as required. There are a few smaller ones that will stay in the ground for a few weeks. There won’t be enough onions to last the year, knowing how much to plant of anything is a learning curve. We will have approx 20-30 onions in the end. Next onion planting will at least be double the amount.
Every two weeks we usually have a roast. While a good leg is not cheap we always manage to get two meals out of it (and the dog a few bones). I am not talking about the roast but our second meal. The Shepherd’s Pie. The recipe we use always turns out tasting great and is easy to make (plus the kids love it). The other benefit is that you can vary the amounts of meat and veges in it.
Left over roast, meat cut up into pieces
1-2 carrots diced
some Peas or any other vege you have around – we are using the frozen broad beans from this years harvest. But we have also used broccoli.
1 garlic clove
1/2 glass red wine
2tablespoon tomato sauce (as in the sauce you put on your sausages)
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
1-2 cups stock
For the topping
Put oven on at 200C
Chop up meat, onion, carrot, garlic (and any other veges you have)
Saute onion, carrots in oil (for approx 4-5 minutes), add the garlic and the other veges
Throw in the meat, wine, tomato sauce and worcestershire sauce. Now add stock till it covers the mixture – season with salt and pepper. Simmer gently for at least 15 minutes. Meanwhile boil potatoes and make mash.
Now put the meat mixture in a pie dish/pot, cover with mash, get kids to make designs with fork in mash.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Also we always put some foil below as some of the mixture always boils over. Remove when mash is brown on top. Done
Now there are always many varieties, what is your favourite?