Saturday, October 12, 2013

News nuggets from the patches

First of the season's artichokes

I'm thinking of boiling these beauties up, extracting the hearts, slicing them and putting them on sourdough pizza with some kefir fetta. Could be strange, but could also be awesome.

Last of the season's silverbeet.

There's a lot of it, I know. It got steamed, chopped finely and frozen, ready for spinach pies.

Lettuce, munched hard by the rabbits, late August 2013

We didn't get to eat much of this winter lettuce. The rabbits got there first. I got these as seedlings from our neighbour, an expert veggie grower. See the darker variety at top right (I think its radicchio) - the rabbits left those alone.

Kale, mid July 2013

Shamefully, I let most of this go to seed. Turns out not many people in my family like Kale. Next year I'll do a smaller crop and try the kale chips option.

Mizuna, July 2013

The rabbits also monstered the mizuna - bloody gourmets they are. But we ate it anyway, munched leaves and all.

Lemons, late July 2013

We turned our glut of limes and lemons into lemon cordial which turned out to be tasty in lemon cordial icypoles. The lemon cordial recipe called for what seemed like a lot of sugar so we cut the sugar by 25%. Still lovely.

Lemon cordial, July 2013

Our veggie-growing neighbours, lets call them J and B, have been giving us so much delicious produce, including this gorgeous pumpkin. Pumpkin soup is a favourite for school lunches in the new whiz-bang wide-mouthed thermos.

We exchange fermented goodies too. J is learning the ins and outs of all sorts of natural fermentation tactics. I've had the pleasure of trying her ginger kefir soda, a naturally-carbonated fizzy drink that packs a punch. And the latest loveliness from J is kimchi - korean pickled cabbage. Unfortunately I'm the only one in the family that thinks this is a truly awesome condiment. I think it would be bloody good as dumpling filling. Wonder if there is such thing as a sourdough dumpling?

B and J's sourdough loaf, made using my wholemeal starter, and a Thermomix.

I gave some of my wholemeal starter, which is now at least 4 years old, to B and J. J used her Thermomix to produce this ridiculously proficient looking loaf - wha!, as Tashi would say. It inspired me to crank a loaf out - even though the demand from the family is for pizza bases rather than bread. I can't really complain though - we certainly do not have what you'd call a fussy kid. B eats pretty much anything we give him, loves salads and most veggies, and loves to try out new things. Among the foods he's added to his palate lately are tuna, avocado, chutney, prosciutto, steamed dumplings, and homemade sourdough garlic naan. He often hangs around the kitchen while I cook, helping with various tasks, and I encourage him to taste dishes at various stages of their preparation. We describe the flavours together, so his taste vocab is also expanding. He's starting to use lemon in a distinctly middle eastern way ;)

 Sourdough, September 2013
This is Dan Lepard's Mill Loaf, from his book The Handmade Loaf, with an increased % of wholemeal (versus white).
Red wine vinegar in the making, September 2013.

J and I are experimenting with making red wine vinegar. Back in July I pulled a bottle of organic shop-bought red wine vinegar out of the pantry and noticed a bloody great big disc of slimy stuff floating in the bottom. I did not panic. No, not I. I was pretty sure it was a 'vinegar mother', and indeed it was.

Vinegar making is basic science. In the presence of oxygen, Acetobacter bacteria feed off of alcohol and convert it to acetic acid. That acid, plus the water from the wine, creates vinegar. Even industrial vinegar makers rely on this basic biology. - See more at:
Vinegar making is basic science. In the presence of oxygen, Acetobacter bacteria feed off of alcohol and convert it to acetic acid. That acid, plus the water from the wine, creates vinegar. Even industrial vinegar makers rely on this basic biology. - See more at:
Red wine vinegar mother, July 2013

A red vinegar mother is a thick slimy disc , the colour of liver. It is a biofilm of acetic acid bacteria (Acetobacter spp.). In the presence of oxygen, the Acetobacter feed off the alcohol (red wine) and convert it to acetic acid. Too high an alcohol concentration however, is not tolerated by the Acetobacter so when you add wine to your mother, you need to dilute it. I've used the rough proportions given in this website:

I gave some of the mother to J and off we went to ferment ourselves some red wine vinegar. After a couple of weeks, when I pulled out the jar and smelt it, I knew something was wrong. It smelt like nail polish. A quick spot of internetting revealed that because I hadn't aerated the mixture regularly, the bacteria had produced too much ethyl acetate (produced in anaerobic conditions), over acetic acid (produced in more aerobic conditions). D'oh. So I threw half out, added some more red wine and water and stirred it every couple of days for the next few weeks. And lo and behold, its now smelling very much like the shop-bought red wine vinegar I have in my pantry. If I don't stir regularly, the vinegar produces a thick disc of bacteria that completely covers the surface.

Some newly formed vinegar mother.

Additional vinegar mother is continually formed. Like sourdough starter and kefir culture, this can be given away to friends.

Lemon and rhubarb pie - rhubarb from the patch - about to go in the oven. Witness the fine food stylings of my partner.

First avocados - Reed variety, September 2013

I'm pretty stoked to have avocados on one of the trees planted 3 years ago. This is the Reed variety. The other 3 trees (Bacon and Hass) haven't produced anything yet. The one I planted from seed (variety unkown) died so I replaced it with a grafted Reed from Diggers.

Reed avocado, planted to replace a failed attempt to grow an avocado tree from seed.

There's been a lot of action in the patches over the past few weeks, with Spring well underway - clearing, sowing, fertilising and so on. But that will have to wait till the next post. Also in the next post - reports on an inspiring agroforestry tour, and an update on the Sandalwood project. There has been movement at the station folks.

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