The 1,000 label milestone

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We thought a box of 1,000 labels would last us a lifetime...
We thought a box of 1,000 labels would last us a lifetime…

Three years back, we started creating branded labels for the products we produce, starting with some jars of pickled bur gherkins. At the time, I bought a box of 1,000 labels, and Priscilla laughed. A lifetime it would take to get through these!

Well, fast forward three short years, and the box of labels is finished. I’ve done countless jars of honey, chutneys and pickles, not to mention numerous boxes of eggs.

While a fair bit of the produce has been sold to friends and neighbours, more than half has probably been given away. So that’s 500 jars, bottles and boxes of eggs that have come out of our small patch of land, and have gone on to make someone else happy.

Onwards into the second 1,000 box of labels!

Heirloom zucchini

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"Costa Romasesque" zucchini, along with snake beans
“Costa Romasesque” zucchini, along with snake beans

When you first start gardening, every harvest is a miracle. Over time, this abundance becomes normal, as evidenced by the recent lack of vegetable pictures posted to this blog.

Every once in a while, however, you get a pleasant surprise. In this case, it’s the heirloom zucchini (courgette) “Costa Romanesque” that I obtained as seed from Green Harvest.

We’ve already had five of these ribbed monsters, which have a beautifully soft flesh, great for pan frying. I’ve also shredded several of them, then blanched and frozen them for later consumption.

We’re certainly enjoying the last days of summer:-)

Making our own seeded mustard

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It was with some anticipation that I picked up a copy of the Cornersmith recipe book. Not only a local Marrickville cafe, but one renowned for pickles and preserves.

My first project out of the book was making our own seeded mustard, which turned out to be delightfully simple (as well as delightfully tasty!).

Mustard seeds and honey plus vinegar  = seeded mustard
Mustard seeds, honey plus vinegar = seeded mustard

The starting point is generous pile of whole mustard seeds (yellow and brown), which can be obtained very cheaply from your local Chinese or Indian supermarket. To this is added honey (our own, of course!), plus vinegar, and some extra flavourings.

Ground mustard seeds, plus the seeds that are left whole for texture
Ground mustard seeds, plus the seeds that are left whole for texture

The majority of the mustard seeds are ground down to a paste, using a coffee grinder. The whole seeds are then added back in for texture.

Once everything is combined with the vinegar, it’s left in the fridge for a month, allowing the flavours to infuse together. Then into jars.

The result is every bit as good as the store-bought, for a fraction of the price.

Five jars of home-made seeded mustard
Five jars of home-made seeded mustard

Who knew? Possums like honeycomb

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A family of possums live in the trees behind our house, and every night they walk across our roof and around our back fence. While adorable in theory, in reality they ate our green roof, nibble on our ferns, and when really hungry, head to the front garden to munch through our vege patch.

What we recently discovered is that they also love honeycomb.

A possum on our back verrandah, munching away on our left-over honeycomb
A possum on our back verandah, munching away on our left-over honeycomb

To extract honey, I use a fruit press to squeeze the honeycomb. What’s left over is a thick lump of wax, honey and detritus. I left this on the back verandah for the bees to re-collect the honey, back into the hive.

One night, when watching TV, we heard heavy movements on the varandah. Turning on the lights, there was a possum, munching through the lumps, as bold as day. It was so fearless, I had to wrestle the tray off the possum, who was very reluctant to let it go.

The next night, we found the possum munching the left-over bits off the honey press. The cheek!

Who knew that possums love honeycomb?

Next night, the possum nibbled the left-overs off the honey press!
Next night, the possum nibbled the left-overs off the honey press!

Making beet-kraut

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Packing jars full of delicious beet-kraut
Packing jars full of delicious beet-kraut

It’s a well-understood phenomena of growing your own vegetables that you’ll inevitably end up with gluts of produce throughout the year. This season, it was beetroots.

The small ones we baked in the oven with olive oil and thyme, but that still left us with some monster beetroots.

The book Fermented Vegetables provided an easy solution. Organised by vegetable, this great book provides a heap of basic (and more exotic) ways of fermenting, plus recipes that make use of the results.

In this case, I created a straightforward “beet-kraut”. Four big beetroots were grated in minutes, using my food processor. To that, I added half a red cabbage, to introduce the vital lactic acid bacteria.

Combined with a small amount of salt, the bright red mix was packed into tall Mason jars, with airlocks. As the bacteria bubble away they produce carbon dioxide, which forces the air out of the airlock, keeping the vegetables protected against moulds.

About a month later, I decanted the vegetable mix into smaller jars, for final storage in the fridge.

The end result has a sharp sauerkraut hit at the front of the palette, finishing with a strong lingering taste of fresh beetroot. Delicious!

Reworking our Aerobins

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One of our two Aerobins, alongside our worm farm
One of our two Aerobins, alongside our worm farm

At present, we have three Aerobins and one worm farm. The thing that makes the Aerobins special is the  patented lung ® or aeration core inside. This is a series of connected pieces that provides greater levels of circulation, and therefore faster decomposition.

The pieces of the Aerobin "lung", mangled through use.
The pieces of the Aerobin “lung”, mangled through use.

 

At least, that’s the theory. In practice, the pieces often get mangled when turning over the contents of the Aerobin, and several of my hat-like structures have been damaged beyond use. I know I’m not the only one to experience this.

A replacement aeration method, made of out 90mm pipe
A replacement aeration method, made of out 90mm pipe

Taking a suggestion from my dad, I emptied out each of the Aerobins, and removed the aeration core pieces. To replace this, I drilled holes in a length of 90mm polypipe, adding a cap on the end. (These are standard plumbing items that can be obtained from the nearest hardware or plumbing store.)

The result is a more robust source of air circulation, that should be resilient against day-to-day use. Touch wood, it should still give me the faster aerobic breakdown of compost.

The Aerobin refilled, with its new home-made air spike
The Aerobin refilled, with its new home-made air spike

Wattleseed scones

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Homemade wattleseed scones, soft and delicious!
Homemade wattleseed scones, soft and delicious!

I recently ordered a bunch of “bush food” ingredients from Wild Hibiscus Flower Co, including ground wattleseed, ground mountain pepper, whole native pepperseeds, and whole bush tomatoes.

So with Australia Day last week, I had a hankering to use some of these wonderful native ingredients. Wattleseed scones were the first thing to come to mind.

These are a ‘classic’ bush tucker item, and I’ve heard them mentioned often. They’re also listed on the menus of many restaurants and catering companies.

But how hard was it to find a recipe! I looked through all my native food cookbooks, and spent 45mins searching on Google. I finally found a recipe buried in the middle of a Northern Rivers Landcare PDF.

I ended up varying it a bit, so here’s my version, to help others more easily find a recipe:

Wattleseed scones

1 egg
150ml cream
½ cup milk
2 tbsp plain yoghurt
1 tsp vanilla essence
2½ cups self-raising flour (add more if needed, if the mix is too wet and sticky)
3 tsp ground wattleseeds
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder

Mix together the wet ingredients. Add the dry ingredients, and mix, making sure you don’t overwork the batter.

Spread into a 2cm thick layer, and use cookie cutters to cut out circular scones. Place these side-by-side on a non-stick baking dish, and bake for 10-15mins in a 190°C oven, until brown.

(How were they? Delicious! The wattleseed has a distinctive flavour, almost like coffee, and we had the scones with homemade rosella jam and strawberry jam.)