Thursday, 20 April 2017

Quince Jelly

A bit of a cheat today, as I promised this recipe to some of my readers, but as we're packing up to go away for a short break, time is limited.
And then after doing a search of my previous posts I found this recipe for Quince Jelly 
I'd forgotten about this older post... Honestly, it's wonderful getting older, but I can just about hide my own Easter Eggs now, such is my memory.!!

Also, while I'm here, a request for Vicki M to please make contact with me again by email.
Vicki, I'm having problems working out my gmail account, can't find your address and need to contact you to acknowledge your generosity towards the Nepal projects. The deposits are coming in regularly, thank you!
Niruta's school fees have just been paid for the previous year, and now she will move up to what they call Ten plus Two (10 + 2). The Australian equivalent is years 11 and 12.
Nirinjan is doing well with his Pharmacy studies in College, quite the young gentleman now with a part time job in a call centre, and indulging his passion for cricket.
Their dear mother would have been so very proud if only she could see them now.

We're off to Kangaroo Island for a few days, 
Cheers dear readers!


Saturday, 15 April 2017

Pig Processing- Bacon

The last of the pigs has been processed, and packed into the freezers with not a square inch of space to spare. 
I wrote about making nitrate free bacon at around this time last year and in that post you will find detailed directions of how to brine the bellies, and how we smoke it in our home built smoker.

This slicer was a very lucky find. Purchased cheaply from a catering business who were upgrading their equipment, it's perfect for slicing the bacon.
Trying to cut it with a knife was OK, but but now the slices are thinner, and there are no lumpy end bits.

And that's a wrap!
I think this calls for an Easter Sunday breakfast of eggs and bacon.
Happy Easter.

Friday, 14 April 2017

The Pig Processing Continues - Brawn and Lard

In last week's post I said I would let you know how the brawn making went so I'm proud to show you my successful finished product. The entire process took more than two days, but it wasn't terribly time consuming. It was just a matter of long simmering and a small bit of unsavory and delicate business, but the end product is definitely delicious and well worth the effort.

My inspiration and guidance came from Lucy at Dawson Valley Free Range where she has a good basic recipe for pork brawn.
It all made much more sense to me now that I've been making Bone Broth  for a few years and understand more about the jelling factor (and concentrated nutrition) of long simmered bones.
My driving determination was to use every part of the pig, not waste any of it, so even though I felt squeamish at the beginning, I pushed through.

Separating the usable meat from the bones and "other stuff."
This was the tricky part first time round, but the second and third batches were much easier. Remember we had three pigs!!

Part of the process is to chill the entire pot until the fat settles on the top and can be scooped off. This required some juggling between my fridges, to accommodate a big stew pot, but we home makers are wizards at squeezing just one more thing in our fridges aren't we? Is it a female thing?
Well, then there were those bowls full of fat that were scraped off the top...too good to be thrown away, and I had plans for making pastry with it.
Fortunately, the stew pot was ready to go back onto the heat at that stage so there was space in fridges for these bowls of pork dripping, and my dreams of pastry were still allowed to flourish.
The end result as shown in the top photo above, perfect for lunch with a salad or on sourdough with chutney.
The salt content is most important, as are the various spices and herbs, resulting in flavours that are rich and tasty.
There was more of the liquid broth than was needed for the brawn, so I filled a few jars of the delicious thick bone broth to add to my stores in the freezers.

A couple of beef and vegetable pies with the lightest pork dripping pastry. 

It was cool enough to light up the wood oven, so I rendered all of the pork fat to make lard. Many trays full, and enough lard to last for more than a year. I wrote a post about making lard here.
I've poured it all into glass jars and glass bowls with lids, and am storing in the freezer, keeping just one container in the fridge for use.
Lard kept in the fridge has excellent keeping qualities for months and we all know now that it is one of the healthy fats.

Happy Easter to you all..!

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Quinces and Figs

The cycle of the seasons around the calendar are constantly tossing extra work at we compulsive preservers . As soon as the summer stone fruits are finished, there are pears, the steady harvesting of tomatoes and raspberries, and then quinces make their entrance.
Although the ground in one of the cow paddocks is littered with windfall quinces, according to Lavender, there is nothing as delicious as the carefully picked ones in my wheelbarrow.

No other fruit speaks of Autumn quite the way of the humble, but oh so fragrant quince.

And they are available to purchase by the half case too, for even better value at $10, bring your own box. 
As well as the yearly standing orders the remainder were snapped up as soon as I announced their availability on our local Facebook buy and sell page, so there were quite a few trips down to the quince paddock with the wheelbarrow.

These Portuguese Tarts were a delightful surprise gift from Jo, who buys our quinces every year. Their catering business, Deliciously Devious, has a stall at our local Barossa Farmer's Market each Saturday morning, and I can highly recommend everything they make. These were absolutely sensational and very much appreciated and enjoyed. Such a treat, and so thoughtful of Jo to thoroughly make our day.
 I'm yet to start on cooking with the quinces I've retained, but all of the living areas in the house have bowls of them, just for the fragrance.

  We found more ripe figs on a tree next to one of the leased sheep paddocks when we were doing our daily rounds. I always thought a fig was a fig, but these are called green figs and are super sweet.

I made more fig jam.

Sold some in the farmgate shop, and I might have eaten a few too many, but they are irresistible.

Half of the kitchen table is covered in jars of fig jam waiting to be labelled. I hope the outlets that I supply will want it again this year! 
What's fruiting in your area and how are you making the most of it?

Friday, 31 March 2017


After a couple of really busy weeks, I can feel this part of my world taking a big slow breath out.
Last Sunday Brian and I butchered a pig. This is the pig that we keep for ourselves, and we prefer to take full responsibility for the meat that we raise and consume.
A big job. It's not pleasant either. Both of us have our set tasks, according to our strengths, and we work well as a team.
All set up and ready to go. The water is boiling in the old copper and will be bucketed into the bath to scald the carcass.

Brian takes over to do this part of the process, then the carcass is put into the refrigerated cold room for a week before we cut it into portions, and put the bellies into brine for making bacon.
I wrote a more detailed post about the pig processing around this time last year.
We try not to waste any part of the pig, so I'm going to have  another try at making brawn this time using Lucy's recipe from her blog Dawson Valley Free Range.
The first time we killed a pig I made brawn with the meat from the head, but it didn't gel properly and neither of us liked the taste, so I'll let you know how I go using this new method.
The day after we killed our pig, we took the remaining two pigs to the butcher as it's not legal to sell the meat unless it's killed in a registered abattoir.
When animals leave the farm it creates a big gap. There's less for me to look after, but there's a gap. Every year, after the pigs have gone, I'm haunted by them and I hear their playful grunting and barking for a few days. Weird but true!
I've informed Brian that I don't intend raising pigs next year. I'm going to have a break from being tied here during those five months. As well as a couple of short holidays I might take on the spur of the moment, (because I can) my niece in Victoria is getting married in February, and I think it's too much to expect someone else to look after the pigs to the standards that I've set myself.
So you can see how far ahead we need to plan things when we have farm animals.  Our window for pig raising is from October/November to March/April, to avoid the wettest part of the year.

Mulga Bill has gone to his next appointment, but not without a couple of postponements.
We waited three weeks from the date that we know he mated Lavender and as she showed no signs of interest in Mulga for those couple of days, we made plans to transport him to his next holiday the following day.
The farmer was waiting for us to deliver him, but as we were moving the cows towards the yards we noticed him taking a lot of interest in Lavender.  So, it was looking very much like she was cycling again, which would have meant that she didn't get in calf three weeks before.
A phone call was made to the waiting farmer, postponing his (Mulga's) delivery, while we kept a close look out on their behavior over the following few days.
After four more days he stopped following Lavender around, so we knew it was OK to deliver him then.
They didn't appear to mate again, but I'm not one hundred percent sure, and will be prepared for the arrival of her calf on the date according to the first mating. In early December.

So it's quiet here.
No pigs, and no Mulga Bill bellowing his presence across the valley at numerous times during the days and nights.
My days are different too, and I'm finding time to get other things done around the place.

But the best time of day is in the mornings when I walk over to the dairy to meet my girl waiting there for me.
 The weather has cooled off, the daytime temperatures have been below 23 degrees, and the nights cool enough for a jumper, so you know what that means!
The chimney got its annual clean, the kitchen wood stove is burning, and turning out lots of baked foods.
Oh Autumn! My favorite time of year.
Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Some Small Changes for the Better

As the official date of my retirement is getting closer I'm feeling so happy that I made this decision. There are a few "Long Service Leave" days up my sleeve, so I'm taking one of those each week, which means I'm working just one day per week now.
Easing into full retirement, I'm so lucky!
For some people it's a big step to take, and they need to prepare for all of that free time they will have. I've been reading some things on-line about preparing for retirement, but as usual I don't feel like I really fit into that box.
There is so much to do here that keeps me on the go from sun-up until well beyond sun-down, but the big difference now, is that I can take it more slowly. Breathe..! Ah, it's so very good.
I have more time to practice gratitude for all the small things.
I've started washing the trims and some of the paint work outside of the house; a task I usually did at the end of each summer, but haven't done for a couple of years. The bird poop and spider webs are awful.
This beautiful home that we worked so hard to renovate to our simple tastes, looks sad and neglected, so with extra time in my week, it's a job that's being done bit by bit. I can't do it all in one day,  but when I do it I want to feel good about this work that I'm doing.
I feel such gratitude for this home that we have; the home that is all ours. No one can take it away from us, it's our past, our present and our future.
My days are busy, but it's good busy. I prefer to say they are full.
Lots of living creatures rely on me. I'm responsible for their welfare and comfort; that gets me out of bed every morning. They come first and their needs are tended to before mine.
And the garden... those plants need nurturing and maintaining to keep them alive, especially now in this hot dry climate.
No two days are the same, but the skeleton of my days is constant, depending on the time of year and the animals that I have in my care.
This time of year is fullest of all, pigs, milking and cows, gardening, watering, processing the fruits and vegetables that grow here or what we've found in our secret orchards.
Yesterday was Tomato Puree preserving in the morning, and Fig Jam making in the afternoon.

 Figs gleaned from a neglected tree made up a lovely few jars of jam for us and some for the Farmgate shop at the front gate.

 Kombucha secondary ferment with raspberries. Fizzy!

Fizzy kombucha lid explosion!
I made the big mistake of opening a bottle of raspberry kombucha before fridging it first. I was thirsty and had forgotten to put a new bottle in the fridge. Bang!  I felt such a shock, my hand felt like it had been blown up and I just stood there looking at my hand and waiting for blood to start pouring out.  And then realised how lucky that the lid exploded off and not the glass bottle. No blood though. 
I then went through the cupboard and very carefully "burped" the remaining two bottles of raspberry booch over the sink. It's only the raspberry that gets so fizzy. The ginger (Brian's favorite) hardly gets any fizz at all.
This was all I salvaged from that bottle!

Brian phoned me from work in the afternoon while the fig jam was bubbling on the stove to tell me he was called to do a bee rescue after work. Now that I have more time in my week, I love to go with him and be his run-about helper. The jam was turned off, to be finished and put into jars later.

The owners of this property have been co-existing with this wild swarm living in the wall of a shed, but now that the shed is going to be demolished, they called us to rescue them, rather than call in the pest exterminators.
This made our job a little easier as we were able to pull the boards away without concern about wrecking the structure.
Behind the lining boards was this square frame and the bees had made it their home. Our job was to cut the beeswax apart and drop the bees into our bee hive, and put all the beeswax and honey into buckets.
I couldn't take any more photos because I had one gloveless hand to work the camera button which the bees were trying to attack. One small piece of bare flesh! I don't like getting stung.
They were mean and they wanted us out of there. They didn't know that we were just trying to save their colony and their lives.
We're not sure if we managed to get the Queen. The hive box will stay there for a couple of days to allow them to get accustomed to going into it before we bring it home.
Brian will return to assess it later today after work. He will know, by observing the bee's behavior,  whether there is a queen in there or not.

 Do you wash your plastic zip lock bags and re-use them?  The other day a young friend called in and when she saw these bags drying over my utensils holder she said "What a great idea! You're keeping the flies off your wooden spoons." 
Hmmm... well no, I don't actually have that many flies inside our house, do you?  As it turned out, she very wisely didn't want to use fly spray and her house was full of flies. I sent her home with my spare fly swatter.
A text from her later in the day "Where has this fly swatter been all my life? I'm a great shot, no more flies, but how do I get the squashed fly marks off the walls?"
Enough for now,
Cheers and go well.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Raspberry and Apple Jam

The raspberry plants are bearing plenty of berries this year.  Earlier in the season it was pure joy to be in the berry patch every evening to pick them, but I have to admit that the (almost) hour that I now spend picking every day feels just a little tedious. So I do it in the mornings, when I'm still feeling fresh, and with my iPhone tucked into my bra, playing a podcast of one of Richard Fidler's interviews on ABC Radio National, I lose myself completely.
This week I listened twice to the Bill Leak interview, who sadly passed away last week. What a funny, and very clever man he was!
Today I listened to Felicity Kendall, which was totally enthralling. She and Richard Briers played the parts of Tom and Barbara Good in the 70's TV series "The Good Life".
It was my favorite TV program, as I was then in my twenties and yearned to live the good life way back then. Ha! A sign of things to come.

We generally can't keep up with eating them so they go into the freezer. Raspberries freeze very well, remaining as single berries with no preparation needed. Just freeze in air tight containers and use as needed.
My three freezers are full, and although I'm trying valiantly to empty one of them, (to have just two running and one as a spare), I'm fighting a losing battle. In just three weeks time there will be a whole pig to go in there somewhere.
So, I'm doing my best to move frozen stuff... into our bellies (meat), into jars (fruit and berries), or into bottles (tomatoes).
I've been making Raspberry jam, and filling it out a bit with apples, that are ripening on our trees.

As a jam maker, I love experimenting with blends of fruits and flavors, but I think it would be blasphemy to interfere with the pure and unique taste of raspberries, so I only want to use enough apple to stretch the raspberries a bit further without compromising the flavour.
The first batch I made this week I used 1kg of raspberries with 500g of apples.

Today I used half and half raspberries and apples. 1 kg of each.
They both taste good, but the second batch is not as raspberry tasting so I'll always use the first method in future.
So I've done the experiment for you and here are the measurements I used to make the better tasting batch of the two.

Raspberry and Apple Jam
You will need;
500g apples
1kg raspberries
1kg plus 250g  white sugar
1/2 cup water

Cook jams, sauces and chutneys in a large pan, allowing enough space to bubble and rise. It will be dangerously hot, and can spit.

500 g apples, peeled, cored and sliced
Half cup of water
Cook with lid on until the apples are soft, then mash with fork or potato masher.

At this point, take the lid off and leave it off.
On top of the apples pour in 1250g of white sugar (1kg plus 250g)
(It seems a lot, but I've already cut back on the usual recommended amount of "equal weight fruit to sugar.")
Heat through while stirring, it will almost dissolve the sugar.

Add 1kg of raspberries and stir to mix.

Keep the heat high enough to boil constantly, and stir frequently to prevent sticking on the bottom.

This will take approximately thirty minutes to one hour before it starts to thicken and look like bubbling larva.
Stir frequently!

Test for setting point by putting a dessertspoon of jam onto a saucer, and place in the freezer for a couple of minutes. Then, in very good light, move the spoon across slowly, and look for slight wrinkling on the surface of the jam. If there is wrinkling, it's sufficiently cooked and ready to pour into jars.
Another method is to run your finger through the jam. If it holds the gap, it is set enough to pour into jars.

Take off the heat and using a small jug, pour the hot jam into very clean dry jars. Screw on the metal lids immediately and they will seal as the jars cool. 

It's ready to eat immediately, but keeps well for more than a year in sealed jars, in a cool dark spot.

This calls for a batch of soda water scones.

Making jam is really simple, so if you haven't already tried it, why don't you give it a go.

Cheers from Jembella Farm kitchen, where I can be found every day this week, working at expanding  those spaces in the freezers.


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