Sunday, March 04, 2012

Gumby dog

Late February harvest, peninsula patch

First of the season's tomatoes (Siberian) from the Peninsula patch

Well, I was going to post about Costa Rica, visiting the amazing Punta Mona permaculture site there, and growing sandalwood, but there is so much  stuff happening in the garden and kitchen that that is now slated for the next post.

Above are some of the season's tomatoes from the Peninsula patch. This variety is called Siberian and it doesn't require staking. They're bigger than tommy toes and are apparently better adapted to early sowing and to colder temperatures. They've been fantastic producers, although not as sweet as cherry tomatoes, but I forgive them because they're so low maintenance. I've found that they get nibbled as soon as they ripen and I think that this may be partly because they're easy pickings on the ground (looks like bush rats but also caterpillars).

I know from Peter Cundall that its temperature rather than sunlight that ripens tomatoes so I'm following his advice, and picking them at first blush and then putting them in warm place to ripen. It works well - takes only 3-4 days.

 Siberian tomatoes in Peninsula patch

I'm making passata out of them and freezing it, and we're also eating them fresh in salads with cucumbers and sweet basil from the patch. Because they're small and there are so many of them, I can't be bothered peeling them, so I just cut them in half, de-seed them, cook them down, then put them through the moulinex (hand-cranked sieve) to separate the passata from the skins.

Fresh garden salad, with cucumbers, tomatoes and basial, all from the patch, bar the cheese, which is homemade kefir fetta.

The artichoke patch. We were harvesting globe artichokes until late January.

The beetroots also put on a good show, unlike last year. Here they are in a rocket salad, with a kale risotto. The rocket has popped up as a volunteer all over the peninsula patch, ditto for the kale.

In the inner city, I'm converting what was a primarily edible garden to a low-maintenance, native-dominated one. But I'm going to keep a herb patch, close to the kitchen. Here it is prior to planting out with herbs, sown down with mustard seed as a green manure

Green manure (mustard) in soon-to-be herb garden in inner city.

Potatoes from the peninsula patch
I've done well with the alliums this year - onions and garlic from the peninsula patch, which I dried and braided, and which should last us most of the year till the next harvest.

 Onions from the peninsula patch

Garlic from the peninsula patch, dried and braided, and hanging in the entrance next to the kitchen for easy pickings.

I've been going to some of the harvest swaps that have started recently in my area. There seems to be a new one every week. Definitely a sign of the times. I've been swapping produce, preserves and, of course kefir culture.

Log of kefir-cultured home-made butter

I had a go at making cultured butter with kefir and organic cream. It was surprisingly easy, fast and yummy. Instructions are below. Unfortunately I didn't have enough butter to use the bewdiful butter churn that my partner gave me as a present a few Christmases ago. I think I'd need a house cow like the one in this fantabulous post in one of my favour blogs - Aged Cultured and Brewed - about making cultured butter from absolute scratch. This fantastic blogger is also now blogging about sourdough - yay! How fantastic does that ceramic crock look that she's baking in.

I've also started making  kefir-leban (labneh) and kefir fetta with goats milk rather than cows milk. I buy the goats milk direct from a property 20 minutes away - the proprieter has but one goat who is a prolific milker.

How to make kefir-culture butter
1)  In a clean jar, add 2 tablespoons kefir-cultured milk to a cup of fresh cream. Place a clean lid on the jar, but do not seal the jar airtight. Let stand for 24 hours at room temperature. Then seal jar airtight and refrigerate until you're ready to make the butter.

2) Follow the instructions for making butter in food processor shown in this post from the Food Renegade blog, complete with pictures for each step. Just use your kefir-cultured cream instead of straight cream. 

One thing the Food Renegade post doesn't cover in enough detail is how important it is to remove as much water as you can in the final step. Put your cultured butter onto a wooden board put on a slant to let any water left in the butter drain away, and work it, flattening with a flat spatula or if you have them traditional wooden 'Scotch Hands' butter patters to force as much water out of the butter as possible. Work it to form a block of fresh butter or roll it. Then wrap it in greaseproof paper and store in the fridge for up to a week. 

The butter will keep for up to a week in the fridge. It is amazing on fresh baked sourdough.

And to end on a doggy note. Here is our Jack Russell, Pablo, in a pose we have dubbed 'Gumby dog', for its strange jointless quality. We're not quite sure why he adopts this pose, but believe he is warming his belly and nether regions on the sun-warmed deck.

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