Another Parcel

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About 10 days ago I placed an online order with OzFarmers for some glass jars.  They arrived by courier a few days later.

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Time to open it up.  I was impressed that the box had clearly been reused and was excited to find that the packing was not bubbled plastic or styrofoam beads, but good old newspaper.

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The newspaper was shredded quite uniquely but it is a little difficult to see in this photo.

These are 2 Weck glass jars with glass lids.  I am quite glad that they were wrapped in bubble wrap to ensure that they arrived safely.  We ordered these as GMan needed one for making a sourdough starter.  He has been making bread in the breadmaker for many years using bread mix and yeast but has decided to branch out and try sourdough.

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Since we were only able to buy these online, it made sense to purchase an additional one so that we would have a spare.  I have used reused glass jars for preserving jam, chutney and sauce but recently made the decision to invest in proper canning jars with a two-piece lid.

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I bought 12 of each of two sizes – Half pint and Pint jars – for those of us who deal in metric the actual capacity is 250ml and 500ml respectively.

Here is a closer look at the newspaper packaging.  There are about 6 layers of newspaper which have clearly been put through some sort of mechanical shredder to make a series of incomplete cuts and then it is spread to make a grille pattern.  The newspaper is now in the compost bin and the cardboard box is flattened and will be used as a weed suppressant when we next spread some mulch in the garden.

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Sadly, the entire trays were shrink-wrapped in plastic but rather than just ripping it off, I split the corners at one end until I was able to slide the whole wrapper off in one piece.

This is what it looked like.

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I sealed the untouched end with an elastic band and this will now be a future rubbish bag for my kitchen bin.

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No matter how hard you try, it is impossible to completely eliminate single-use plastic but it is possible to be conscious of your consumption and to think outside the box when it comes to disposing of it.

I am comfortable with accepting what is a relatively low level of plastic packaging to enable me to acquire products which should last a lifetime.  By using the jars we bought to prepare more of our own food we will reduce reliance on other food packaging.

Stocking Up

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I have spent today in the kitchen but most of it was not preparing meals.  It was about making and bottling jam and sauce.

There were 6kg of cherry tomatoes squirreled away in the freezer ready to make sauce and today was the day.

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The recipe for the sauce is here.

Next up was the 10kg bag of onions I bought yesterday.  I set 2kg aside for a friend and then sliced and diced another 7kg and have packed and frozen them.  I decided to turn the last kilogram into onion jam and the taste test indicates that it has been successful.  The recipe I used had carraway seeds in it so I bought some this morning when were shopping.  I have never bought carraway seeds before but if it looks as though I will be making onion jam in the future I will definitely get some more.

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Finally, I made some plum jam which is GMan’s favourite.  It turned out better than the batch I overcooked last year which was closer to toffee than jam!

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The recipe is very simple.

1.5 kg plums
1.25kg sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup water

Place in saucepan, boil until setting point is reached.  The stones can be removed with a slotted spoon during cooking.

Tip:  Count the plums before you start so that you know how many stones you are trying to remove.

I also made another batch of spreadable butter.  Here is the recipe.

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The only problem with cooking all day is that I did not get the ironing done!  However, we do have ironed clothes to wear to work tomorrow.

 

 

Tomato Trial

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I apologise for the break in posts but my computer access has been somewhat curtailed due to some repairs to the main computer.  It is all resolved, thanks to the local computer shop, and we are back in business.

Today I want to share my latest success in preserving our bumper harvest of cherry tomatoes.

After removing the stalks and rinsing the tomatoes, I blitzed them in the blender.

My dehydrator has solid sheets for making fruit leathers so I poured the resulting puree onto the sheets.

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Here is the same tray after drying for about 8 hours.

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I removed the dried tomato and broke it up.

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It was quite leathery and pliable so still had some moisture.  I returned the pieces to the dehydrator and dried them some more.

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Finally, I ground the dried pieces in the blender and this is the result.

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From a couple of kilos of cherry tomatoes I have 1 jar of powdered tomato concentrate.  This can be blended with water to make tomato paste which I can use on pizzas or added directly to casseroles or soups.  I am sure there will be a hundred and one uses for it and the great part is that I have a single jar which stores easily in the door of the refrigerator.

Flashback Friday

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Here is a post from 3 years ago when I first tried my hand at making Tabasco sauce.  It was a great success and the quantity lasted for a couple of years.

Unfortunately, the chilli bush did not survive the changes to the vegie garden area so we bought another one in the middle of last year.

Today I am making more sauce and using just half of the quantity stated in the original recipe.  This has to be one of the simplest preserving recipes around.  I am looking forward to having a bottle on hand so that I can add a couple of drops to various dishes that I make.

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Tomatoes – Tall Tales and True

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Six months ago I watched on wistfully as my Northern Hemisphere blogging friends struggled to bottle, preserve and freeze their abundance of tomatoes.  It was winter here, and although the ground is not covered with snow, it was far too cool to be thinking about growing tomatoes, let alone harvesting them.  I hoped that my turn would come, and sure enough, it has.

A couple of weeks ago I made tomato sauce and blogged about it here.

As well as the wild cherry tomatoes we are growing Roma tomatoes for the first time and they have been a runaway success.  The next tomato project I decided to try was tomato paste.  As usual, I found several recipes on the internet, compared them and then made it to fit my available ingredients and quantity of tomatoes.  The site which I referred to most is here.  You will see that I used much less oil than suggested.  Also, please remember not to mix up pounds and kilograms.  I used 5 kgs which is 11 pounds.2013-01-13 01These are 4kg of Roma tomatoes which I picked yesterday.

2013-01-13 02And another 1kg of cherry tomatoes which I had in the freezer.

2013-01-13 03I roughly chopped the Roma tomatoes.

5kg tomatoes, 125ml olive oil and 1 & 1/2 teaspoons sea salt into the stockpot and simmer for about 10minutes.

2013-01-13 04Then it is time to put all of the liquid and tomatoes through a food mill.

2013-01-13 05All of the liquid and puree went into a large saucepan and the skins and seeds into a separate bowl to be discarded.

2013-01-13 06Simmer the liquid for 1 – 2 hours or until reduced and thickened.

2013-01-13 07Pour the thickened puree into shallow oven trays and bake in the oven at 180C for 30 minutes and then for another 30 minutes at 140C.

Check the mixture about every 15 minutes and be sure to stir any caramelised bits on the edge back into the middle of the puree.

Transfer the paste to hot, sterilised jars.  Be sure to tap the jars to remove any air bubbles as you pack it in.  Place the lids on the jars and process in a hot water bath for 30 minutes.  For your health and safety, please refer to more detailed instructions about hot water bath processing.

2013-01-13 08Remove the jars, allow to cool and check that the vacuum seal is intact before storing them.

2013-01-13 09This is an easy but somewhat time-consuming process.  It is a great way to be able to store a large quantity of tomatoes for later use.  5kg of tomatoes made these 6 small jars plus a couple of spoonfuls that I have in a container in the refrigerator which will be used in the next day or so.

The harvest continues.  Here are more that I picked today and there are still heaps more of the Roma tomatoes on the bushes.

2013-01-13 10Finally, here are the first 2 full-sized tomatoes that I have grown for several years with plenty more to come.  I cannot remember what variety they are.  They have some imperfections but those can easily be removed.

2013-01-13 11And one final photo for Mrs Thrift from Not Just Green Fingers who asked how we managed to garden in the heat we are having.  I live in an area of Australia where we have a more temperate climate due to the elevation and also a good rainfall.  In fact it is sometimes more than we need.  However, the last 6 months have been particularly dry and very hot for the past week.  The tomatoes and red peppers have coped well but with more hot weather forecast I decided to rig up some protection for them today.  The main covering is a large piece of shadecloth which came from my parents’ home.  It has timber frames at each end and eyelets in the corners so was very easy to attach to the star pickets at the corners of the fence.  The extra piece is an old curtain (very thin) which is covering the peppers.

2013-01-13 12Despite the heat we are still managing to produce some of our own food.  There are plenty of chillies, we also have figs and peaches.  The fruit are unfortunately attacked by fruit fly but I salvage what I can even if it is just one bite.  I am going to see if I can rescue enough peaches to perhaps preserve a bottle or two to enjoy in mid-winter.  The first cantaloupe was picked yesterday because the side that was touching the ground had started to rot.  It was a little early so not superbly full-flavoured but I diced it up and mixed with some locally grown pineapple was very enjoyable for breakfast.

Do you have anything growing in you garden at the moment?  How do you cope when you have a glut of a particular fruit or vegetable?

Look forward to hearing your comments.

Squirrel It Away

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I have had a very productive weekend.  Following on from yesterday’s post about the Tabasco sauce I wanted to show you my other achievements in the kitchen.

The bell chillies were dried and the 4 trays of sliced chillies ended up reducing to this.

2012-02-05 01I then ground them in the spice grinder attachment for my food processor.

2012-02-05 02This is what I ended up with.  45g of powdered chilli – grown about 20 metres from the back door with no chemical sprays.  The smaller jar is the residue after I had sieved it mixed with some avocado oil.  I will use the chilli oil to add a little bit of flavour when cooking.

2012-02-05 03Today we went to the Caboolture Markets.  I bought the fruit and vegetables that I needed as well as 9kg of tomatoes.  These were being sold for 99c/kg so I filled my Ecosilk bag.

2012-02-05 04I decided to make tomato pasta sauce that I will be able to use in a variety of ways.  The ingredients are tomatoes, onions, basil, tomato paste and red wine.  The onions were from our crop last winter which were diced and frozen, the basil from the garden, tomato paste and red wine from the cupboard.

I forgot to take any photos as I was working flat out to get this done this afternoon but here is the end result.

2012-02-05 05The sauce in the plastic containers will be frozen and the jars of sauce were processed in a hot water bath so they will be stored in the cupboard.  This was my first attempt at processing anything in a hot water bath.  I am confident that it has worked well as the pop-tops have all been vacuum sealed.

I am definitely going to do some more research and learn more about this method.  It means that I can preserve food without using the freezer and being reliant on a consistent supply of electricity.  There is also a small matter of available space in the freezer, too.

Any tips or recommendations of resources on preserving would be appreciated.