Tag Archives: Preserving

Citrus chips ahoy!

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I may have finally harvested the last of the Tahitian lime tsunami and the inaugural Rangpur limes but the rest of the citrus is just getting underway. Parrots cheekily taste-testing the sweet-tart Navel oranges that hang on the tree herald their ripeness. The white grapefruit tree is the only citrus fruit we don’t especially like and, of course, it is far and away the biggest, healthiest and most abundant of all the trees. Late harvest Valencia oranges are still a way off, the lemon tree was a fizzer this year and the mandarins are losing the last of their green bottoms and should sweeten up to be ready any day now.

So I wanted to find another large-scale use for all this beautiful fruit. I had an idea for citrus chips. I wasn’t sure if they were a “thing” or not, but it turns out they are dead easy to make and ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS! My google searching revealed a smattering of recipes but after trying a time-consuming oven-baked version, I ended up doing my own thing and put my trusty dehydrator to good use again.

I recently purchased a deli slicer, primarily for slicing bulk meat, but it worked a treat on the citrus, slicing them into uniformly thin rings. I dusted the limes, lemons and grapefruit with icing sugar and left the sweet oranges unadulterated. About 10 hours later (overnight), we had crispy citrus chips that hit you with a sweet sour tang and have a wonderful crunch.

Beyond being a simple, healthy and delicious snack, they look sensational as a garnish floating on the surface of a Rangpur lime gimlet and as a cake topper. I took them to a recent Hills Permaculture pruning workshop where they were a hit with adults and kids alike.

I love discovering new ways to use my garden gluts because for me, my favourite type of cooking always starts in the garden.

The Preservation Society

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“Father: It’s been nine months since my last confession.”Nah, I’m not religious but Holy Moly has it been a long time between drinks on this blog!

Busy, busy, yeah you’ve heard it all before…work, kids, life. Doesn’t matter; here we are. And just this week life presented a lovely little window of garden abundance and time: two sweet things that rarely coincide so I grasped it with both hands and my pantry and fridge are slowly filling in its wake.

First, let me just say: TOMATOES.

And, oh what a glut we’ve had! However, I’m proud to say I’m learning from years past and this time I’ve succession planted. So while we’ve had a tremendous short-term haul of Black Krim, Mortgage Lifters, Tommy Toe and others I can’t even remember, they’re still coming! Green Zebras are ripening (although it’s hard to tell with that variety) and the orange Jaune Flammee and stripey Tigerella too. I planted six different varieties of cherry tomatoes that grew to such gargantuan proportions it was almost a little scary how much fruit we were harvesting. Reinforcements were called; it was all hands on deck!

One of the pleasures of growing so much food is giving it away to grateful friends, family and neighbours who rarely, if ever, experience the superior flavour and quality of homegrown produce. But that said, I  would still rather keep as much of it as possible to feed my own family. And so began the wave of preserving, a joyful yet time-consuming necessity.

Here’s a taster of what I’ve made so far:

  • 14 bottles of tomatoes made in my Mum’s old Fowlers Vacola system, which I subsequently overheated and broke. Ugh!
  • Tomato Ketchup (3 bottles)
  • Tomato and Eggplant Chutney (6 jars)
  • Dried cherry tomatoes (3 bottles) sprinkled with garlic salt and dried basil and marinated in virgin olive oil
  • Slow-cooked oven-baked tomato sauce (2 bottles). This is a recipe from Stephanie Alexander’s “Kitchen Garden Companion” cookbook.

This is, of course, in addition to gorging on fresh tomatoes for breakfast lunch and dinner. Eggs poached in chopped tomatoes for breakfast, bruschetta for lunch, Tray Baked Salmon with Olives, Green Beans, Anchovies and Tomatoes for dinner (thank you Jamie Oliver).

img_3692But it’s not all tomatoes. The cucumbers are starting to assert themselves in the pecking order of the vegie patch with a tidy harvest of 14 cucs in an afternoon (right after I’d just bought one from the shops – what was I thinking?!) So I thought I’d turn my hand to pickling given my son’s penchant for dill pickles. And this was the result: Bread ‘n Butter Pickles. It’s another recipe from Stephanie Alexander’s “Kitchen Garden Companion” cookbook and I’ve got to say: absolutely delicious! Surprisingly so. I’m not usually the biggest pickle fan but these are incredibly moreish and the kids we’re in there with forks, shovelling them into their mouths. So there’ll be more of them to come.

What else? We’ve made Decadent Chocolate and Beetroot cake and Beetroot Relish with all the beetroots coming out of the garden (one of my all-time favourite vegies for its versatility.) Basil pesto is next on the agenda. I do this at the end of summer every year and freeze it in ice cube trays, then bag ’em. They’re great for popping into your spaghetti bolognaise sauce, as a pizza sauce base, adding them to fresh pasta with parmesan and olive oil for the laziest mid-week meal ever (my kids love it!)

Ah yes, I haven’t had this kind of time for ages so it’s just dumb luck that it coincided with harvest. I’ve changed my work situation (for the better I hope) as there are new business ventures to explore. Stay tuned for more on that later.

Sunday Mango Magic

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I can’t believe that I once hated the funky taste and slimy texture of mangoes. Now I think they’re divine! So when we went to the Kalamunda Markets last Sunday and saw a stall selling the most ENORMOUS mangoes I’d ever seen, well, we couldn’t resist. They had large boxes of second grade R2E2 mangoes for $20 – BARGAIN!

Despite a few black spots on the skin, which I assume is caused by Anthracnose, a common fungus affecting mangoes, the flesh was flawless and absolutely superb. And jeepers, there was a lot of it! The R2E2 mango has a sliver of a seed, unlike the Kensington Pride variety, which I have planted at Edgefield, so the amount of meat we got off these ginormous fruit was impressive.

We got home and set to work preserving them because they weren’t going to last much longer fresh. Needless to say, we gorged ourselves on fresh fruit but we chopped most of it up and put it into large ziplock bags to freeze. Mmm, mango smoothies. We also thinly sliced a couple to dry in the food dehydrator and I then made a double recipe of Jamie Oliver’s “Black Rice, Hazelnut and Mango pudding”  for breakfast during the week. I could barely keep the kids hands off it!

Preserving takes time but when you can get your hands on in-season gluts like this or better yet, grow your own, then it’s SO worth doing. We actually went to the market to see if we could get a couple of boxes of end of season tomatoes in order to bottle them for the winter but we were too late.

Turns out it was Sunday Mango Magic instead!

 

Sunshine & love in a jar

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We simply couldn’t eat them fast enough, those soft, scarlet globes of goodness. Something had to be done because there was no way I was going to watch the mountain of gloriously ripe tomatoes slowly sink into a mushy, fetid puddle and I didn’t want to give them all away just yet.

However, ripe, organic tomatoes I’ve found also help grease the wheels of commerce with a little welcome baggy given to Nigel Thompson from Earth and Water who we called back to fix the pump YET AGAIN. We gave tomatoes and cucumbers to a mate who had lent us some camping gear for our recent holiday and received rapturous appreciation. A heavy bag was given to my favourite neighbour whose daughter Niamh goo-ed and gaa-ed over the tomatoes and scoffed the lot.

It feels great to share the love.