Fig jam

fig

It’s fig season and they’re delicious fresh and in salads and deserts. Our neighbour on one side has two massive trees and we usually get some given to us. They prune them very hard and while they are quite old they aren’t much taller than a person but are very wide. This makes for easy harvesting of the fruit and easy netting. The neighbour on the other side also has two fig trees. The big one is quite tall and the birds tend to get most of those fruit as its really hard to pick from it. The small one is growing over our side of the fence and the fruit is delicious. As well as drying the fruit to preserve, it also makes a lovely jam.

1 kilo figs, peeled and quartered

200 grams sugar

4 tablespoons water

Select figs that are just ripe and are firm. Peel and quarter the figs. Prepare a syrup with the sugar and the water. Add the figs to the boiling syrup and cook on medium heat until gelling stage is reached. Put into sterilised jars and seal the lids. Boil jars for 10 minutes to preserve.

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Harvesting walnuts

There are plenty of old walnuts trees growing around Adelaide. Some kind souls probably planted them for the generations to come. I don’t think they’d come up on their own. The one growing next door gets visited regularly by a flock of white cockatoos who have a great time munching away on them. There are also a few trees I know about on public land that can be foraged. I went to one of those trees to see if they were ready for harvest and managed to collect a full bucket in about 15 minutes.

walnuts

It’s better to collect them while the whole husk is green as the rotting husk damages the inner nut and shell.  Before you start thinking about dehusking the nut make sure you keep in mind that the husk will create a pretty permanent dark brown stain on any surface it comes in contact with, including your hands so use gloves. To dehusk, get the shell and roll it under your foot on a hard surface. The husk will crack and sort of lift of the shell. If you add too much pressure the nut will crack. Once you’ve rolled it around a bit pick it up and peel off the husk. Most of it should come off. Then place it in a bucket of hot water. Soak the nuts in the hot water for a couple of hours. This will soften any left over husk and the ones that sink are the good ones. Scrape of the rest of the husk with steel wool or a knife and place in a tray to dry.

hulled-walnuts

Let the nuts cure for a few weeks in a shaded ventalated space outside. Protect them from rats and birds but ensure they get good ventilation. The lighter ones in the above photo were the one from the green husks and the darker to black ones had more rotting husk on it they are most likely no good for eating but the light ones should be good.

 

Passionfruit

passionfruit

Passionfruit can be difficult to grow but once its established it’s well worth it. They like morning sun and are heavy feeders. I’ve been told if you have a roast chicken put the left over chicken carcus under the vine when it’s first planted. I haven’t tried this though. My little vine got attacked when it first went in and got nibbled down to next to nothing. I got a plastic pot and cut out the bottom of it and pushed it into the soil to protect it from whatever was eating it. Eventually it started growing again. Mine is growing up the fence of the chicken run with a nectarine tree and bronze fennel to keep it company.

While it was getting established I kept a good amount of compost around the base and gave it a 9L bucket of water once a week. I used a grafted vine so had to remove any shoots that grew from the root stock. The vines only live between 4 – 7 years but can die unexpectedly at any time. If you want a continous supply of passionfruit it’s best to plant another vine once the first vine starts producing fruit.

To harvest the fruit wait for it to fall of the vine. If there are none on the ground give the vine a little shake and the ripe ones drop off. We haven’t had the problem of having too many ripen at once to worry about preserving them and they are being eaten fresh. If you are saving the seed I have heard that they are only viable for about a year.

Passionfruit kombucha

pulp of one passionfruit

1 litre kombucha

A small amount also goes a long way to flavour kombucha. Add pulp into the kombucha when doing the secondary ferment. Seal in an airtight bottle and check each day until you are happy with the flavour and the fizziness. Store in fridge when ready to drink.

Preserved lemons

lemons

My neighbour dropped over some lemons and cucumbers the other day. I was especially chuffed to hear the story about where they came from. Basically neighbour A has a beautiful garden full of lovely fruit trees and some vegies. Neighbour B next door is a gardener but is always too tired at the end of the day to have a veggie garden but wants one. Neighbour A doesn’t have much room in his own yard for more veggies so he offered neighbour B to put in a veggie patch. Neighbour A runs his hose into neighbour B’s garden and has put in a massive veggie garden and neighbour’s A & B eat the veggies. Neighbour B also has a lemon tree and excess lemons so neighbour A is sharing them around to other neighbours like me. They also had way too many cucumbers so I luckily got some too. My cucumbers got shredded early in the season by my chooks so I have a shortage this year so I was very grateful for them.

Preserved lemons

Sterilise some jars. Wash the lemons well and dry them. Cut off the end of the lemon that was joined to the tree. Then quarter them but leave about 1cm uncut at the other end so that the quarters stay together. Split open and add 1 tablespoon of sea salt in the middle of the lemon. Press the lemons into the jar and push down firmly. Repeat with all the lemons and stuff until the jar is full. Then submerge the lemons with lemon juice. Make sure the lemons are completely submerged, a small sterilised jar can be used to hold the fruit down. Put on lid and seal. Then put jars on a plate or on tray to catch any oozing lemon juice. Open the jar each day for a few days to let out the pressure as it will be fermenting. Store for at least a month before using. It’s ready when the rinds are soft. To use scrape out flesh and just use the rind.

Sterilising jars

Preserving most things requires some sort of sterilised storage jar. I bought most of my big jars by scouring the op shops and Gumtree. I looked for old fowlers jars and found heaps. Up until 30-40 years ago every household had a set. Most households were used to preserving their own food and were well equipped. The fowlers jars are tough and purpose built for the job. Replaceable rubber seals and lids can be found at any Mitre 10. I also keep jars I’ve finished from things I’ve bought from the shops – eg passata bottles. Just check that the seals are still intact and not split and don’t have any mold on them. New screw cap lids and jars can be bought from places like Globe Importers or Imma and Mario’s Mercato.

Sterilising jars

Get your jars and clean them as well as you can. I run them through the dishwasher with dish washing powder. Washing in the sink is fine too. Leave on a clean tea towel to dry but don’t wipe the jar dry with the towel. Put them on a tray and put in a preheated 180C oven for 10 mins. Take them out carefully and place on a clean tea towel on your bench or table. They are now ready to fill.

Sterilising lids

While the jars are in the oven sterilise the lids at the same time. Boil the kettle and put a shallow pan on the stove on high. Add the boiled water then add the lids and rubber rings of your are using them in the boiling water for 10 mins. Take out and place on the dry tea towel, they are now ready to use.

 

Satsuma plums

plum-garden

Plums are one of my favourite fruits and I have great memories of eating plums as a kid. I only planted this tree 18 months ago and have had my first harvest. The fruit was actually pretty juicy and better than any plums I’ve ever tasted before. They were very much enjoyed while they lasted.

The tree is still small so the bird net did it’s job and I hardly lost any to birds. However, a bird did get it’s foot caught in the net and died which was pretty awful. I’m not sure how to avoid that happening again. This post is actually late as the fruit all got harvested a couple of weeks ago. I got about 8 kilos of fruit and most of it was eaten fresh but I also made jam.

Plum Jam recipe

1 kg pitted plums

500 grams sugar

juice of one lemon

This recipe works with any quantity of fruit. It’s a ratio of 2 parts fruit to 1 part sugar. It makes a loose jam.

This fruit was large so I cut it into eight pieces. Put all the ingredients into a pot and cook on low heat for an hour or so. Don’t be tempted to turn up the heat as the sugar will burn. Take off any frothy impurities with a spoon. Freeze a small dinner plate so you can test when it’s ready. It’s ready when you take half a teaspoon out of pot and it sets a little like toffee on the plate. Pour mix into steralised jars and then seal. Boil jar for at least 10 minutes and let cool. Store in dark cupboard and eat within the year.

Start of blackberry season

blackberries1

The Adelaide Hills are full of blackberries right now. Big, juicy and flavoursome berries free to anyone who doesn’t mind being spiked repeatedly in the hands and having their clothes pulled and torn while picking them. This is just part of the fun of the harvest. It reminds me a bit of the kids game ‘Operation’, where you have a pair of tweezers and need to pull out the different bones without touching the sides or the buzzer goes off. You feel a great sense of achievement picking the berries without touching any other part of the plant. You know straight away if you have touched anything as the buzzer in this case is the spikey thorns.

The spikes are the least of your problems, the real danger to picking them is making sure the plants haven’t been doused in poison. Blackberries are a weed of national significance. They are on the hit list of councils, national parks and private land owners – but with approximately 9 million hectares of it across Australia it physically can’t all be sprayed.

Try to pick them on private land and talk to the person who looks after the land about how they are managed to know if the berries are safe to eat. This patch above was like a wall and was taller than me and fairly deep. I harvested along the edge. If the patch was shorter you can beat a ladder down or a piece of timber on top to create more edge to harvest from. Take a little hook to pull out any bunches hanging just out of reach.

Stay away from patches growing along roadsides as the probability is higher that these would be sprayed by councils. Anyhow, these wouldn’t be as good as those berries would be more dusty from the passing cars. Apparently, a dye is used so you can tell if it’s been sprayed recently. The spray is said to smell like kerosene so stay away if you smell this or anything unusual. Another tell tale sign someone has been poisoning it is if the branches have been slashed back or leaves are dying back.

Blackberries don’t ripen after they are picked so make sure you pick ripe fruit. It’s ripe when it’s all black and shiny. Don’t pick the fruit that looks a little dried out, it’s old. I don’t mind a bit of tartness so I’ll also pick the ones with a few pinkish cells. Use a baking tray or large shallow container when collecting so the fruit doesn’t get squashed. The fruit freezes well for use throughout the year. It can also be made into jam and wine amongst other things.