Apple and walnut cake

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Apple season is starting soon. They happily grow in this climate with lots of backyard trees as well as many delicious foragable trees available. They grow along roadsides and old train lines, most likely popping up from the seeds of cores people have thrown out windows. We have two very old large apple trees in the back yard which we share with the birds. This year we’ve had a bumper crop and will need to work out multiple ways to eat, prepare and share the bounty.

150 gm b.d farm butter

150 gm coconut sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

2 eggs

150 gm wholemeal spelt flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

pinch salt

400 gm apple, cored then grated

60 gm walnuts, lightly toasted then chopped

Topping:

60 gm walnuts, chopped

30 gm coconut sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 180C. Get a loaf tin ready by lining it with baking paper. Beat together the butter and sugar until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time beating them in until well combined.

Add sifted flour, baking soda and powder, spices, salt. Use a wooden spoon to fold in the ingredients until just combined. This will result in a fluffier lighter cake.

Add the grated apple and walnuts and fold in. Place mixture into loaf tin. For the topping mix all the ingredients together in a bowl then sprinkle evenly over top of cake.

Bake for 45 mins or until skewer poked in middle comes out clean.

 

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Crabapple jelly

CRABAPPLES

Crabapples are the cutest little fruit, looking just like a miniture apple. They ripen just before their relatives the apple. They’re tart when eaten fresh but the flavour can be mellowed by stewing them. Once stewed they can be run through a food mill to remove the seeds and used like apple puree. They’re high in pectin and a pectin stock can be made with them to use throughout the year for other jams and jellies. They would be good to mix with blackberries which are in season at the moment but low in pectin. Like regular apples these come in all sorts of colours and flavours and the green ones are the most tart. I foraged these from a tree at the local youth centre. They were just dropping on the ground so I figured it was ok to pick some from the tree.

Crabapple jelly recipe

Crabapples

Water

Sugar

Soak the fruit in a sink with hot water and about a cup of vinegar. This will lift off any dirt and clean the fruit. Remove any bruised fruit. No need to cut the fruit, just rinse and then place in a heavy based pot. Add just enough water to cover the fruit. Bring to a boil and a rolling simmer for 30 mins. It’s ok if it cooks a bit longer, you just want it soft and for the flavour and pectin to release in the water.

Once it’s cooked set up a strainer over a large bowl and line it with a clean cloth. I used calico but any clean cloth will do. Place a small plate into the strainer to stop the big particles pushing through the cloth. This will result in a clearer jelly. Pour all the crapapples into the strainer and carefully remove the small plate. Don’t gather up the sides of the cloth and squeeze or you will get cloudy jelly. Leave to drain into the bigger bowl overnight. In the morning I had a delicate pink coloured opaque liquid from this batch. I kept mine in the fridge until I was ready to do next step the next day.

At this point instead of continuing with making jelly you could freeze the liquid in 1 cup batches and use as pectin stock later. You will have left over stewed fruit which can be run through a food mill and use like an apple puree.

Back to the recipe – when ready add 1 part crabapple liquid to 0.7 parts sugar. I used 1 cup to just over 2/3 cup sugar. Bring to a hard boil for at least 10 minutes to help it reach setting point. Do the plate test to check if it’s ready. Try to put in the sterilised jars straight away or it will start setting in the pot. If you pour it in down side of jar you won’t get air bubbles in it like I have in the picture below. Preserve by giving the sealed jars a bath for 10 mins then cook and store in dark cupboard. Eat within the year.

And here’s the finished result – crabapple jelly.

finished jelly

Macadamia mylk

MYLK

It’s a moment that I chase everyday while growing and foraging my own food. It’s the moment my mind is blown by the flavour of what I’m eating. I had one of these moments drinking some homemade macadamia mylk. I’m sure it was because the macadamia nuts were so fresh. They dropped off the tree a week ago and were cracked open to make this recipe.

Macadamia mylk recipe

1/2 cup raw macadamia nuts

water for soaking

500ml water

pinch of salt (optional)

1 medjool date, take out pip (optional)

  1. Crack open nuts. Rinse the nuts well to make sure they are clean. Soak in water for 2 hours make sure they are covered well and there is some space for them to expand a little. Take nuts out of the soaking water, drain and rinse well. Discard soaking water.
  2. Blend nuts and 500ml fresh water for one minute, I use a nutribullet. There’s no need to strain when finished. Bottle and keep in the fridge.
  3. If you want a sweeter mylk add the medjool date and include when doing step 2 above.

Harvesting macadamia nuts

macadamsia-nuts

Macadamia nuts are the queen of nuts and I love them. I have wonderful memories of whiling away the hours cracking nuts from the tree in my backyard. I used to gather up the nuts and crack them and eat fresh or add into pesto. Any that were crushed too much in the cracking process were fed to my chickens who absolutely loved them. These chickens were spoilt as at the time I worked on a blueberry farm and used to bring home the blueberries with the caterpillars in them. They would gobble them up as quickly as they could. They had the shiniest coats and were incredibly healthy. They laid the nicest eggs I think I will ever eat ever again.

Moving to Adelaide I lamented the loss of living in a subtropical zone. More so for the loss of knowledge of plants. When I looked at the landscape then I could read it like a book. Its plants were like characters where the names, history and relationships were known. It was a happy day when I found out Macadamia’s grew on the Adelaide Plains and even better when I found a few growing on public land. Macadamia trees are a good contender for a guerilla gardening plant and would be cheirshed by other foragers for many years to come.

The nuts start dropping to the ground from late March to September. In the lead up to the season the tree will start dropping baby nuts and some mature nuts. The nut needs to be taken out of the husk as soon as possible so it doesn’t get damaged. You don’t need to cut the husk, just wait for the green husk to split open then remove. I put them in a basket in a warm spot to speed up the husk splitting open.

Put them back in the basket in the warm spot until they rattle around inside the shell and then they’re ready to crack open. Use a hammer to crack the nut open on a surface with a little indentation so the nut doesn’t roll away while cracking. If you have a regular steady supply then it would be worth investing in a purpose built macadamia nut cracker.

Muntries aka Kunzea pomifera

I planted some muntries in my front yard in the hope of plentiful summer berries just out my front door. In retrospect they are in the totally wrong spot and it’s amazing they are still alive. The patch has other native shrubs which mean they don’t get a huge amount of sun. Muntries like full sun and sandy soil. Mine have shade and clay soil where they are growing. So they haven’t sprawled out like they do in the wild and they haven’t fruited either. Nonetheless, given that they are content I’ll be leaving them there to see what happens. I’m really keen to have my own supply and will be experimenting with a growing some more up a trellis in full sun later on.

It’s the start of muntrie season at the moment and for now I’ll have to be content to just admire this little patch I came across while down the coast the other day.

Apparently, muntries were traditionally pounded into cakes and dried like fruit leather. These cakes were then traded with other Aboriginal groups for goods. Like any berry they are a delicacy and take time to pick but the taste is well worth it. These would be delicious dried and included in muesli or added fresh to recipes in place of sultanas or berries. They have a crisp apple flavour when fresh.

Tomatoes

This year had a very long winter and my tomatoes have been very slow going. I really hope the tomato season gets going soon. In previous years the tomatoes have been pumping at this time of year starting at the beginning of December and finishing up around March.

tomatoes

Previously, I grew these cherry tomatoes on a simple tent like bamboo structure which worked well. The only downside was the ones growing on the inside needed specialist picking, luckily I had the perfect person with keen eyes to find them. The six plants were very prolific and supplied us with plenty of tomatoes.

tomato-harvest

Later in the season at the end of March I bought two big boxes of South Australian sauce tomatoes from the local fruit shop to make into tomato passata. There are lots of ways to make it and everyone who does make it seems to have their own special way to do it. A few of the ways to do it ask for the skin and seeds to be removed. I much prefer the idea of using all the fruit so that’s what I did. Also, I read that there is a spike in hospital admissions of people that have had sauce bottles explode in their face and burn them so I took that into account when experimenting with my first rather small batch of 20 kilos. I tried a couple of ways to do it and settled on a recipe I was happy with.

Twenty kilos sounds like a lot but it was so good we used the passata in everything. The flavour really was pretty amazing and I can see now why people devote a whole weekend to preserving this beautiful fruit. To work out how much our family uses in a year I have been saving all our passata jars to get an idea of exactly how much of this we actually eat. I will recycle these jars and use them to preserve the following years supply.

Passata recipe

passata

1 kg of tomatoes will make around 750 ml passata

Wash the tomatoes well and cut of any bad bits. Slice tomatoes in big chunks eg – four to six pieces, and place in big pot. Put pot on stove on medium heat. The juices should start being released from the tomatoes. Once they have released enough tomato juice get a stick blender and puree. Simmer the tomato puree until fragrant, 15 – 20 mins or so. Put puree into pre-washed and sterilised jars and seal lids. I used a combo of fowlers jars and supermarket passata bottles, you can also use beer bottles.

Get a preserving unit. I used an old one I picked up off Gumtree that has a built in thermometer. Our next door neighbour uses a large drum over a fire. Use whatever you have. Put a towel at the bottom of the unit and then start stacking the bottles in with tea towels, cloth, rags, newspaper (whatever you have on hand) to separate the bottles so they don’t break when the water is boiling. Fill the drum with cold water and slowly bring to the boil. I heated up my unit on the BBQ. Using the BBQ kept the kitchen cool and meant that I didn’t have to move it when hot to use my stove. Make sure the water boils for at least 30 mins and then turn the heat off.

Don’t try to remove the bottles at this stage as you might end up in hospital. Leave the bottles in the unit overnight and remove when cold the next morning. Store bottles somewhere dark until ready to eat. Enjoy.