What I Do

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It is nearly a week since I last posted and you are probably been wondering what I’ve been doing.  Some days I wonder the same thing.  My full-time job keeps me pretty busy and t here is always plenty to do when I am at home.  So much so that I barely have enough time (or energy) to blog about it.

Here is a sample of one of the things I did today.

GMan picked up a large bucket full of passionfruit that had fallen from the vine.  The easiest way to store passionfruit is to simply scoop out the pulp and freeze in ice-cube trays.

Some of the fruit ready to cut.

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Work in progress.

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Ready for the freezer.

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Despite the fact that the garden gets minimal attention we still manage to harvest a range of produce.  Over the past few weeks we have picked passionfruit, pineapple, mangoes, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, lettuce and raspberries.

Glass is Good

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I have tried, as much as possible, to reduce our use of single-use plastic.  I know that there is always more that I can do so it is a work in progress, or as some would like to say, a journey.

As with any journey, it is also easier if you are connected with like-minded travellers so I am a member of a couple of different Facebook groups whose members have similar goals.  Some people are keen to remove all plastic, however, I am not about to throw away all of the plastic containers I have (to landfill) so that I can replace them with glass.  On the other hand, I am happy to look for glass when I need some more.

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After much research, I recently purchased 2 dozen Ball preserving jars.  You can read all about them in this post.  I have used some when I made jam recently but am also looking at other ways of using them.

I am aware that some people regularly freeze food in glass but that is not something that I have really done much so I decided that some research was in order as I know several people have had problems with glass jars breaking in the freezer.  This is not a saving of resources or money so I want to avoid that happening.  It turns out that for a glass jar to be suitable for freezer use it must have straight sides – that is no shoulder where it slopes in to the neck of the jar.  The preserving jars which I chose meet this criteria and are also deemed as suitable for freezer use on the panel on the box.

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Naturally, you also need to use commonsense and not put hot jars into the freezer and leave suitable headspace for the food to expand when frozen.  I also choose to chill them first in the refrigerator before transferring to the freezer as well as keeping the lids loose until they were completely frozen.  This strategy seems to have been successful.

Here are some jars of frozen mango puree and refried beans which I was about to transfer to the small freezer downstairs.  I tend to keep this freezer for storage and items which I use on a day-to-day basis in the freezer section of the refrigerator in the kitchen.

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The other purpose for which glass can be used is when taking your own containers to be filled at the shop.  This afternoon I took one of the smaller jars to the deli counter at the supermarket and bought olives.  There was no problem with the staff weighing the container prior to filling to to assess the tare weight and the price sticker was attached to the bottom of the jar.

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Plastic containers certainly have their place and I will continue to use them rather than discard simply for the sake of discarding them, however, it is an interesting exercise to test the boundaries as to how and where glass jars can be used.

 

Onion Tears

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Do the tears flow when you start cutting up onions?  Here is a way to minimise the suffering in the long-term.2015-07-27 01I bought this 10kg bag of onions last weekend for $7.99.  I shared a couple of kilos with a friend and had used a few myself but today it was time to prepare them.  I peel and quarter the onions before chopping them in lots using the food processor.

First I filled the four trays of the dehydrator.

2012-02-02 01When the onion is thoroughly dried I will grind it to make flakes/powder.  It takes up very little space and stores well.

I bagged the remainder of the chopped onions in as many ziplock bags as I could muster.  I do not buy ziplock bags.  I collect mine through “dumpster diving”.  There are people in my office who bring 2 Weetbix to work for their breakfast in a brand new ziplock bag, tip them into a bowl and toss the bag in the bin.  If I open the bin and the discarded bag is on the top I simply bring it home and wash it for reuse.

Anyway, I digress – the chopped onion is in ziplock bags.  I pack 150g which is equivalent to a medium onion in the small bags and 300g in the larger bags.  I ended up with 10 small packs and 7 large packs of diced onion.  Because I packed the diced onion fairly flat, it is easy to break off a section if you only want a small amount of onion.

2015-07-27 03I sliced the remaining onions by hand and they are packed in the red lidded container.

This means that that I will not need to chop or slice an onion for several months.

No Waste

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One of the challenges of growing your own food is dealing with the gluts of produce which invariably occur.

The issue today was passionfruit.  We planted a passionfruit vine about 18 months ago and in now covers a large section of the perimeter fence of the chicken run.  For several weeks now I having been collecting and eating passionfruit almost every day but today I decided to store some for when there are no fresh ones available.

001My efforts yielded 2 trays of passionfruit pulp to be frozen and stored for later use.

The vine appears to have 2 different types of fruit on it.  One of them is a common purple passionfruit but the other are much larger and are yellow when ripe  and the pulp is a very bright orange and has a somewhat different flavour.  You can see the different skins in the compost bucket in the following photo.

002These will go back in the compost and eventually be added to the garden beds to grow more food.

Basil Day

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Six months ago, while we were overseas, our housesitters bought a small pot of basil as it was actually cheaper than buying a bunch of basil.  When we arrived home I planted it in the ground.  It is now doing its best to take over the garden!!

I took this photo yesterday morning.  The rain had finally stopped and the sun was shining.  You can see the ‘lake’ in the background.

2015-02-23 01I knew it was collapsing everywhere so I had intended to cut it right back and use as much of the leaves as possible.  When I got closer I discovered that the bees were loving the flowers so I could not destroy their fun so I have left the flowers and just picked lots of leaves.  Mind you, it is hardly noticeable where I picked them from.

I could afford to be picky so I chose only the best leaves and rinsed them thoroughly.

2015-02-23 02Then spun them in the salad spinner.  As an aside, I only bought this quite recently as I had never really seen the need for one.  After seeing my sister use hers, I realised that a salad spinner could be quite handy and I was delighted to find one at Aldi soon after.  It cost the princely sum of $6.99.

2015-02-23 03Next step was to chop the basil in the food processor.

2015-02-23 04I had about 2/3 can of chopped tomatoes in the fridge so that was added to the mix.

2015-02-23 05Then I used a small spoon to fill ice-cube trays with the basil and tomato mixture.

2015-02-23 06Finally, I double-bagged the trays in re-used bread bags and sealed them tightly before putting them in the freezer.  The basil blocks will be useful for when there is no basil growing.

 

Mango Madness

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First it was the figs that I dried, then the corn being blanched and frozen.  Today’s glut is mangoes.

We have 2 mango trees, one large one that is about 20 years old and does not fruit.  I have no idea why there are no fruit and I am not sure how long we will maintain a non-productive fruit tree when the space could be better utilised.  The other tree was planted about 3 years ago and has produced a few mangoes last year and this year there are 2 that have reached mature size so we are waiting for them to ripen.  So the glut is not from our own trees.

As we were going out on Sunday I noticed several mangoes lying on the driveway of a property not far from us.  I knew that the was a mango tree in the front yard but I can honestly say that I had never noticed fruit on in previous years.  Since the owners are not permanent residents I contacted them to see if I could collect any fallen fruit.  With a positive response to my enquiry I headed off to pick up the fruit this morning.

I discovered that there are actually 3 mango trees and there was an abundance of fruit on the ground.  2 supermarket bags were filled with rotten and decaying fruit which I took home and put in the compost.  The usable fruit filled 5 calico bags!

Mangoes
Some of the fruit were very ripe and others were partly damaged so it as important to salvage what I could before they deteriorated any further.  I decided the quickest and easiest solution was to puree the pulp and freeze it.  Remember, that I had picked the fruit before 6am and I still had to go to work.

Mango in blender
After 30 minutes of furious preparation and a blender I had 2.5 litres of mango puree ready to store in the freezer.

Mango puree
I have taken one of the remaining mangoes as part of my packed lunch and there are still 38 mangoes on the kitchen bench.

Of course, there are still dozens on the trees.

I am really glad that I made the effort to contact the owner of the property as it would have been a shame to see all of this fruit go to waste.

How would you use the mango puree?

Storing the Surplus

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As I mentioned yesterday, I picked corn.  I ended up with about 18 cobs and after The Duke had 2 for his lunch I was still left with a lot of corn to keep for another day.  After doing a bit of research, I decided to blanch it, strip the kernels and freeze them.

Here is what I did.

Blanching corn
Cooked 3 – 4 cobs at a time for 6 minutes in boiling water.  It needs to be a large enough volume so that the water returns to a rolling boil within 1 – 2 minutes of adding the corn.

Corn in iced water
Remove the corn from the water using a slotted spoon and drop immediately into iced water for 6 minutes.

Bundt tin to support corn
Strip the kernels from the cob using a sharp knife.  In the instructions I found on the internet someone suggested using a bundt tin to support the narrow end of the cob while cutting the kernels off.  I happened to have one of these so tried out.  I was very pleased with the ease of removing the kernels and the tin was perfect to catch them in.

Kernels and empty cobs
I gently stirred the mixture to separate the kernels and spread them on 2 trays, covered them and placed them in the freezer overnight.  I weighed the kernels before I froze them and my efforts yielded 1.7kg.

Trays of corn kernels
This morning I removed the frozen kernels and packed them into 2 containers.  This way the kernels are individually frozen and I can remove as much or as little as I need at a time.

Corn ready to storeDespite my despair of a few weeks ago, the corn has been a real success and there are more cobs which will probably be ready next week.