Bubble Bubble – a start on fermenting

This Autumn I have made sauerkraut, kimchi and indian lime pickle for the first time, and ginger beer several times.

Sauerkraut

The idea of making sauerkraut intrigued me – sprinkling thinly sliced cabbage with salt to provoke the juices, and leaving it on the bench to start fermenting seems so counterintuitive to a lot of kitchen hygiene ideas! The sauerkraut came together pretty quickly – smelling sauerkrauty and producing the slime bloom on top of the brine that is normal. From a large cabbage we got about 6 jars of sauerkraut and I need to buy some more pork sausages to eat with it. I had several lunches of cold chicken and sauerkraut which was delicious. I’ve got red savoy cabbages planted now, and cabbage moths willing, will try some red sauerkraut in winter.

Kimchi

This was inspired by a meal I had in Canberra back in January – pork and kimchi stirfry. And Tigress in a Pickle had a recipe which I’d seen when getting distracted. The final piece fell into place with a beautiful chinese cabbage at the Farm Gate Market.  And I finally found a use for the large No 65 Fowlers jars (capacity 2.25 litres) we sourced in February. Once fermented, this turned out spicier than it tasted when first mixed together. The brine filled bag sits on top to make sure the cabbage stays under the surface and ferments rather than rots. I added some finely chopped to a batch of corn fritters, and gave away a jar to Mum. When we get our pork (yum yum yum, a whole side is coming) I will try to re-invent the stirfry I ate a couple of months ago.

Kimchi made 11th April

Indian Ginger and Lime Pickle

Indian pickles recently came to my rescue at a residential event where the food was rather bland – a quick walk to the nearby supermarket gave the perfect pick-me-up to the dull food.

Again, Tigress provided the inspiration with the recipe. I found a bargain 2kg bag of perfect limes. Eumarrah, the local wholefoods and organic store, had the most gorgeous ginger – pale pink skin which could be rubbed off with a finger tender flesh and full of juice.

Gingery Lime Pickle #1: Ingredients

Gingery Lime Pickle #2: Ready to Sit Around in the sun

 

After mixing it all together, filling a No 65 Fowlers, and then quickly finding another jar, the pickle began its 6 week sojourn on a sunny windowsill. Over the past few weeks the large jar has sunk down and is now about 3/4 full. It gets the occasional stir and sniff test. Can’t wait for this to be ready. The small jar (small? 950ml) went to try the sun in Sandy Bay.

 

 

 

Many fermenting recipes suggest using a stoneware crock with a closely fitted lid which sits inside the crock to push down the cabbage under the brine. I really like using the glass jars as I can see what’s happening and the brine bag solves the submersion issue. Next year – sour dill pickles done as a lacto-fermentation rather than pickling vinegar. Must plant cucumbers!

Quinces

This year I scavenged about 20 kilos of quinces – most of which came from Jack’s family across the road who have an old tree in their sheep paddock. I picked those ones back in early March before my trip away – bottling about 18 jars before I went away to NSW. And eating a few.

Fresh quinces

Fresh quinces

Quince and Pear Scavenging

Quince and Pear Scavenging

In the past I’d never quite cooked quinces enough. The hand-me-down slow cooker from Robin’s sister made all the difference. The quinces turned the most amazing maroon overnight, fragrancing the whole house. And begging to be scattered on muesli, warm and juices dribbling, at breakfast time.

 

Bottled Quinces

Bottled Quinces

 

I came home from my trip to a kitchen smelling of quinces – Sheila, Jack’s Mum, had dropped over another large bag full so I bottled some more, made some quince paste by accident, made some quince-cardamom-orange marmelade and also two delicious cakes, one of which worked it’s way over the road as a thank-you.

Quince Cake

Quince Cake

Quince Cardamom Orange Marmelade

Quince Cardamom Orange Marmelade

Quince Past by Accident Recipe – prep quinces as for bottling but do a few too many. Put those in a saucepan and cook at higher heat. The quinces will go fluffy instead of holding their shape. Add sugar to taste and cook until the right colour. Set in a silicon muffin tray lightly oiled.

Quince Paste

Quince Paste

 

The final batch included some from a family friend at Kettering. Inspired by Christine Ferber’s book Mes Confitures, I made some quince juice ready for later addition to apples. And bottled some with both grated fresh ginger and crystallised ginger as a delectable dessert. This was an adaptation of a jam recipe from the same book but we eat more stewed fruits than jam. Still debating whether to tell Robin there is a pot of this in the fridge or quietly eat it myself. Let’s see how quickly he reads this post!

Quinces with Ginger

Quinces with Ginger

Quinces with Ginger

Quinces with Ginger

And I thought I’d dealt with all the quinces. Then this morning I found the puree made from the quinces I’d turned into juice – the gently stewed fruit still had some good flavour so I’d pureed it, and popped it in the fridge to make paste later. This morning I made another 6 blobs of quince paste, and …

A sheet of quince paste about 5mm thick for cutting into rounds and putting in the middle of macarons. Sigh :-)

And that is the end of the quince harvest, I think.

The pressure’s on

bubbling away

bubbling away

With a boiling water bath, or Fowlers Vacola preserver, it is easy to preserve many fruits and tomatoes for 1-2 years storage at room temperature – basically the high acidity levels combined with the high heat kill the bacterias and moulds that would destroy the food. Jams and chutneys have the benefit of high sugar or acid levels making them even easier for mid – term storage. This limits the range of things you can safely store for later, without chewing through power keeping a freezer going or having everything loaded with vinegar or sugar. Also, we don’t have a microwave so defrosting means planning ahead which we don’t always do.

But as soon as you start considering lower acid vegetables (anything really unless you want pickles), beans, meat,  fish or soups, then you need to keep in mind botulism toxins - nasty and potentially fatal. To avoid this, the foods need to be heated beyond the boiling point of water, and it seems for much longer, to make sure everything inside the jar gets superhot for long enough to stop the botulism spores multiplying and making the toxins. Heating the jars under pressure achieves this.

Thanks to some very useful forum posts and articles scattered on the web, and the US government sites with detailed information and guidelines, it actually seems practical to ‘pressure can’ some alternates to the apricots and tomatoes that I’ve preserved in the past.

Pressure Canner arrives

Pressure Canner arrives

The cheaper Australian dollar also made it quite feasible to buy in the requisite toy device from the US.

First Experiment

In doing my research, I’d found a simple looking recipe that ought to suit our tastes: Many Layered Chili. Expecting delivery this week I’d bought the ingredients in preparation. And decided that if the jars exploded or spewed their contents everywhere I wouldn’t be too surprised and I wouldn’t have lost hours of work in prep!

Before pressure canning

Before pressure canning

Many Layered Chili

Many Layered Chili

I did a test run first just with water bringing the canner up to pressure, no jars or ingredients to worry about. That all went smoothly, so I prepped up the jars of chili beans and meat.

After loading up the canner, and getting it up to pressure I realised that I had not put in the bottom rack for the jars to sit on, using instead the jar lifter contraption. So at that point I figured if the jars didn’t explode from the beans swelling up, they’d crack from too much heat on their bottoms. Sigh.

Milly and Ruby

Milly and Ruby

I then realised just how long 90 minutes can be, ducking in and out to the garden, and filling in time with small jobs and pushups so I wasn’t too far away from the kitchen. The kittens just slept.

Success!

After Processing

After Processing

They didn’t taste bad either. We had some for dinner on Friday night to see if we liked the recipe before doing a big batch. Definitely worth repeating with a touch more spice. It felt mighty strange to leave the jars sitting around the kitchen for two days. ‘Shouldn’t they be in the fridge’ asked a little voice in my head. I told it to shut up and ate.

On Friday I did baked beans using Mum’s recipe and referring to the USDA site for timing, and also some chickpeas – much cheaper than buying tinned. Buying dried beans and cooking them ourselves is a lot more efficient in terms of transport – the organic tinned versions I can buy easily are from Italy. I can buy organic dried beans here, cutting down on transport costs. Every so often I’ll cook dried beans in bulk then freeze them but much prefer the convenience of tinned, or now, home canned.

I can see foods like this that are standard meals in our house being brilliant to have in a jar for dark winter evenings, or lazy summer ones.