Growing, storing and Using Pumpkins

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Pumpkins would have to be one of the cheapest and easiest vegetable we grow, though they do spread out taking up alot of room they are great for those areas not alot else can be grown in. This past Spring we planted them on a pile of compost created over winter and on top of an area of lawn that allowed for plenty of growth. Pumpkin scraps and seeds are just thrown on top as we discard them, they don’t really need starting in pots and alot of TLC babying them along.

The only problem we ever experience with them may be powdery mildew which is (usually) easily fixed with milk sprays. Homegrown pumpkin is so much better than store bought, they are hardy both in growing and storage. We harvest after the plants have died off and we leave most of them to get a couple of good frosts…this gives a deep dark orange flesh and a rich, sweet flavour. Pumpkins should be harvested with a two cm stem on the fruit and stored, not touching each other, in a cool and dark airy place. They generally last up to 9 months but do need to be checked.

This week I have been going through our stored pumpkins and removing any that are showing signs of deterioration. Offending areas can be cut out and the rest used. Any excess can be just cut and frozen raw in bags. They won’t lose flavour but the texture is affected, they break down quicker on cooking.

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I also cook pumpkin in salted water and mash it, freezing the puree in 1 cup quantities to use for baking. I also tend to make vegetarian lasagne, or a mixture of beef and vegetable, when I have the pumpkin already cooked and on hand to use.

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In New Zealand pumpkin is used alot as a vegetable, eaten either roasted, boiled or mashed. My son’s new wife is from Indiana, USA, and she was surprised by this, telling me her family have bought pumpkins to hollow out for Halloween but the flesh has always been thrown away !! We don’t really celebrate Halloween here but pumpkin is a common fresh vegetable in meals. Canned pumpkin has never made the shelves in supermarkets here (as far as I know).

I have tried roasting pumpkin seeds a few times but have never got them quite right, I don’t know that I will try again. Pumpkin flowers, like zucchini, are delicious fried in batter and both the vegetable and the flower can end up on a platter of Beer Battered Tempura Vegetables.

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We also use pumpkin, often leftover roasted, in vegetable quiches. Our absolute favourite though is this Pumpkin and Silverbeet Quiche

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Though Roger isn’t much of a soup eater I could live on it. Pumpkin soup with a little bacon, Pumpkin and Sweet Potato and Roast Pumpkin and Carrot soups are all very yummy but my favourite is the Spicy Pumpkin and Lentil.

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Pumpkin and Vegetable Bake (a terrible photo I have forgotten to sort!) and variations on Pumpkin Chickpea Patties are both good!! We also enjoy Roast pumpkin Hummus.

A recipe for Pumpkin Walnut and Raisin Bread here

Two things I still have not tried is the famous pumpkin pie and these yummy looking pumpkin pancakes at the wonderful Chocolate Covered Katie site.

Pumpkin, Walnut and Raisin Loaf

I just ended a three month baking hiatus and this was a yummy way to end it 🙂 I will put the original site I got the recipe from but I did change it just a little, increasing the amount of butter, walnuts, raisins and spice and I made the method easier. Served hot with butter it’s very delicious, on day 3 it still has a nice and moist texture.

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4 oz (100 g) butter

1 1/3 cups sugar

2 eggs,

1/4 cup water

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 2/3 cup flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/3 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1 cup walnuts

3/4 cup raisins or sultanas

Preheat oven to 350 (180) deg and prepare 1 large or 2 small loaf pans.

Soften butter and cream with sugar. Add eggs and beat, add pumpkin puree and water and beat well. Add sifted dry ingredients – the flour, spices, salt, baking powder and soda. Fold in the walnuts and raisins, pour into tins and bake a large one 55 – 60 minutes, smaller ones around 35 – 40 minutes.

The original recipe was found at About.com – submitted by Diana Rattray

 

 

 

Feijoa season – Chutney, freezing, ice cream etc

There are plenty of feijoas coming off the trees this year. I understand in some countries these are called Pineapple Guavas, they are one of our favourite fruits.

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What we are doing with them!

A very good friend of mine, the very lovely Diane :), sent me this recipe for Feijoa Chutney. I had been going to try another recipe but used this as it has alot of dates rather than an awful lot of sugar for sweetening. Its delicious and comes from Digby Law.

1kg feijoas
500 g onions
300 g raisins
500 g pitted dates
500 g brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 teaspoons salt
4 cups malt vinegar
Wipe the feijoas, trim ends and finely slice them by hand. Finely chop
the onions and coarsely chop the raisins and dates. Combine all the ingredients
in a large saucepan, bring to the boil and cook very gently for 11/2 – 2hrs, until
the chutney is thick. Make sure the chutney doesn’t catch on the bottom of the
saucepan.
Spoon into hot clean jars and seal.
Makes about 3 litres.
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Feijoas freeze really well, simply scoop pulp out and freeze, I freeze in 1 cup and 11/2 cup bags for use in smoothies or baking.
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Banana, Feijoa Ice Cream
Freeze 2 bananas and one cup of feijoa pulp till frozen. Remove and put in bowl of food processor. Leave 5 minutes to soften then add 3 tablespoons yogurt, 2 tablespoons cream (optional) and 1 tsp vanilla. Process till thick and ice-creamyish. This is so delicious I forgot to  take a photo before we ate it!
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Fejoa and ginger jam recipe here I made it last year but have not made it again yet. It’s very nice.
Feijoa Cake recipe I make which came from Joan Spiller, this is delicious and I heartily recommend it!
Last year we tried drying feijoas but didn’t much  like them ourselves so haven’t done them this year but they were nice additions to things like Homemade Muesli, with figs and walnuts

Dark Chocolate and Beetroot (Beet) Mudcake

I have tried chocolate and beetroot cakes in the past but this one is by far the best. This is not too rich, heavy or sweet and both the texture and flavour are perfect. This recipe is by Gretchen Lowe and Homestyle Magazine, April/May edition.

This uses 250 g of pureed beetroot and I will be cooking some up to keep in the freezer for future cakes. The icing I used was a normal chocolate butter icing (a cheaper option for me) but I will give the recipe for the chocolate ganache she used.

200g Dark chocolate (at least 62% cocoa)

4 tblspns hot espresso

200g butter

135 g flour

1 1/4 tsp baking powder

3 tbsp cocoa

5 eggs, separated

250 g cooked and peeled beetroot, pureed

190 g castor sugar (this can be made by putting normal white sugar through a blender)

GANACHE:

400g dark chocolate

400ml cream

ALTERNATIVE CHOCOLATE ICING:

50 g butter softened

1 tablespoon cocoa

little boiling water

1 tsp vanilla

approx 2 cups icing sugar

Preheat oven to 180 deg C. Line a 20 cm cake tin with baking paper.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan. Then pour in hot coffee and stir in the butter, leaving till softened. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Meanwhile sift flour, baking powder and cocoa into a bowl.

Separate the eggs and whisk yolks until frothy. Stir the yolks through chocolate mixture then fold in pureed beetroot.

Whisk whites till soft peaks form. Fold in sugar. Fold into and through the chocolate mixture then fold this mixture into the combined dry ingredients.

Pour batter into prepared tin and bake 35 minutes. Do not over-bake.

When cooked leave to cool before turning out of tin to decorate. When cold the cake can be cut into two layers.

CHOCOLATE GANACHE:

Place chocolate into a bowl. Heat the cream till nearly boiling then pour over chocolate, stirring gently till combined. Leave a room temperature till ganache has reached a spreadable consistency. Smooth generously between the layers and around the sides of cake. Cake can be topped with fresh berries or figs.

CHOCOLATE ICING:

Melt butter, add cocoa and vanilla. Add icing sugar and beat into a thick cream, adding boiling water as required to make a soft consistency. Icing will firm on cooling.

I made in a larger tin so only had one layer. Nice served with whipped cream.Image

 

 

 

Settling into Autumn

We are well and truly hitting Autumn. We have had the fire going quite a bit, the nights and mornings are chilly, the garden is on it’s very last legs. Just in time for fellow blogger Anthony and his family (from Australia) to visit tomorrow, the garden has exhausted itself!! But we are very excited and looking forward to meeting them 🙂

Either dead or dying

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When your garden looks like this on a very large scale there are several reactions all at once. Glee for one, lol. Things will slow down now and we can get to enjoy some other aspects of life and hopefully paint our lounge! Sorrow because we do love summer and horror, because that’s one grizzly mess to clean up!

But we do have sunflowers and we are still waiting on fruit and pumpkins to ripen.Image

There is still plenty to preserve. I have continued buying sauce tomatoes for pulping, cooking till concentrated and freezing. I did 7 jars of pickled garlic.

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A lovely fellow blogger 🙂 sent me a link one day for an easy way to peel garlic that was on You Tube. It was bashing it to break up then putting in 2 stainless steel bowls and shaking it rapidly for 5 minutes. If anyone ever tries this and gets it to work please let me know HOW? because it didn’t work for us!

Still pickling beetroot

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Roger picked me some peaches to do…..Bless him she says, between gritted teeth 🙂

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Capsicums are still coming and being frozen, as is, for stuffing with whatever over winter

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We have plans now for our marrows. I got given a recipe by a friend for Marrow Rum (Fran?)

You take the top off, de-seed it, and fill it with good brown sugar and let it ferment for 2 months in a cool place. Apparently it makes very good booze! I hate rum but am keen to try it, I am sure we will find takers for it.

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A large batch of apple sauce was made and frozen and another batch of cider vinegar is on the go.Image

You could be mistaken for thinking we either a) had a white telly-tubby call in or b) we were visited by martians – Roger’s first visit on the bees 🙂

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He is really enjoying them and we are both becoming quite fascinated as we read more about their community living, work, and lives.

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Our kitchen window is the most used window in our house. Roger will often appear at it, grin, tell my to hold out my hand and pass me the first fig, strawberry, tomato…bird’s nests he has found etc. All sorts come through that window, or get passed out of it, often a beer or a fresh baked something. Twice in one week he bought these to show me 🙂Image

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AND FINALLY!! A source of great excitement arrived.

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Last year I inherited by Mum’s new oven when she went into a rest home. A year later it’s arrived via my sister and hubby on holiday. It was a 3.5 hour ferry trip and over an hours drive away but was bound to get here sooner or later. The decrepid old thing we had was near it’s last legs, half the elements no longer worked and the racks caved in occasionally. You have no idea how welcomed this appliance was!!! It will make preserving and drying a whole lot easier that’s for sure.

Many of you are heading into Spring, I wish you a long and productive two seasons!!

Growing our own food – frugal food, self reliance and the learning of new/old skills.

Things are so tough for many out there right now and it heartens me to see so many young ones returning to the habits of older generations, growing some of their own food. This may end up a long post for regular readers who have heard it all before but this is for those who are thinking maybe they would like to try for a garden, or grow on what they are already doing.

When we moved here there was just lawn and we shopped like everyone else. This was 3 months after we moved in, a wee vegetable garden had been put in (bottom corner) Excuse the dead branches by the house, this was Roger thinning out a dead vine!

IMG_0033 Our garden has grown over the years but it was only last summer we decided to really go for it and see how far we could go with “eating from our section”. This has been a journey of learning self reliance….one thing leads to another and formally frugal habits have been replaced by simple living, making our own cleaning mixtures, less chemical exposure, an appreciation for nature and our environment, searching for more free foods, the trading and sharing of our excesses and helping others.last summer

So, here where we are now (actually taken last summer).

We are fortunate that Roger works on a farm and can get meat – for those of you who can’t work in farming though it’s all relative, he earns a low wage, the meat is counted in with it. I don’t eat alot of meat and basically no-one needs to eat alot of it. Much of our diet can be grown at home with eggs, vegetable, fruits and berries….nuts if you are lucky enough to have a large section. Our diet comes from a garden that’s probably 1/8 acre. This is why we do it, this was my shopping last week for two people.

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I already had 2 bottles of milk in the fridge bought the week before on special. The avocados were cheap so I got 10. The spices and seals were for preserving. The wee tins of fish are for me. We can’t grow bananas. Roger prefers this brand of softened butter opposed to the butter/olive oil blend I make sometimes. Dates, raisins and raw peanuts are healthy additions to our diet. Basics like sugar, flour, vinegar etc are bought in bulk. The bread is Rogers favourite. Few of these things are necessities, but desires. I also had cheese already, and a little coffee I bought up on special. Just about everything I buy is bought in bigger quantities when on special eg the avocados here. I also don’t show the pet food here.

Seeds and buckwheat are bought from the bulk store and I will go every week or two and stock up on stuff like this…coconut, brown rice, dried beans, baking soda etc.

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This is basically our shopping for the week…things like toilet paper and soap are purchased in bulk when cheap. We spend on average around $40 – $60 per week on our food and some weeks all we buy is milk. A few years ago our Health Dept put our a brochure for shopping on a low income and it was estimated $70 per person is the least a person could live on foodwise in NZ and this would be for a very basic diet, nowhere near as healthy as we eat.

Garden produce is either frozen, pickled, bottled or made into sauces, jams, chutneys…or boozy drinks! An old disused laundry has been crudely converted into a store room, a would be larder…(note the earthquake proof shelving as last year alot of bottles and jars just slid off shelves)

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I still have a couple of months preserving to go then the majority of our food is stored for the remainder of the year. In fact, we could survive from our food stores and garden etc until next summer (9 months) if need be…and still be healthy.

I sometimes also make white bread for Roger and freeze some, three loaves can be made for $1.80.Image

Every few weeks I am tempted to buy something like this – a deli pack the supermarket sells cheap. This all cost $7.95 and their are foods we don’t get…salami, ham, quiches so I don’t have to cook tea a couple of nights. All of this can be frozen. Served with salad they all make a good meal for those nights Wendy doesn’t  be bothered  cooking / making her own quiche or Roger would just like toasted sandwiches for a change.

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 Again these are just desires.

Truly we could survive from our garden if need be. We preserve summer fruits and vegetables to eat through winter. We preserve nice things to eat because we can, because they add variety, nutrition, a taste of summer through the cold months. If we wanted we could just freeze everything but we make our preserves because we appreciate the flavours on what could otherwise be quite a limited winter diet.

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 Sharing food with others means they share in return. These pears and oranges came from friend, lemons we pick from an unowned tree down the street. These apples came from a wild tree by the farm.Image

At present I am doing a juice, salad and soup detox so am living on vegetables from the garden, along with dried beans/legumes and feeling good for it on the third week. I am not starving to death and am surviving well 🙂

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Eggs supply alot of nutrition and with eggs and vegetables you always have a meal.

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We also just got bees to get our own honey….this lasts forever, is a healthier alternative to sugar and the bees will help pollinate the fruit etc.

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To put food, our shopping habits and what we really need to survive into perspective, I like this. The healthiest and happiest looking people I think are those from Mali who have (by comparison to western diets) a very basic diet sitting in front of them.

What people eat in different countries around the world

We grow herbs in the garden too, these can be used fresh, dried, used for skincare or remedies. I am still learning about the use of herbs and do not get enough time to really get into it but herbalism really interests me, I have a whole lot of learning to do in this area!

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Rose and Calendula Hand Cream

Rose and Calendula Hand Cream

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I recently bought a book on foraging in NZ and what wild weeds, herbs, fruits etc can be used and the making of medicines etc. This I found at a secondhand book store for $2.50, a quick flick through tells me I will be reading this avidly over autumn and winter to learn from. Besides personal interest in this sort of thing I have to say this – I am not convinced the economy will pick up any time soon, things could get alot harsher for everyone, us included. We believe it is our responsibility to be able to fend for ourselves if need be. Basic necessities in life are food, warmth and shelter…you have to add water. Many are living now on social security and benefits because of the high unemployment rates and existing poverty by the new working poor, so many in fact it is not sustainable.

Another depression or war would force so many to find food where they can. W want to learn how to survive if the need be. Sounds terribly pessimistic but I’d rather be knowledgeable than naive or ignorant if the “shit should ever hit the fan”.

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This month I have been doing an e-course I won through another blogger, Lois, at Living Simply Free . The course has been really interesting and was offered through Handcrafted Travellers. This young couple are very inspiring and have a great ethos, that of living off the land. I am ashamed to say I have not finished the reading but have it all stored to do so, I have just simply been too busy but I feast off their site!

In this course we have learned about embracing simplicity, experiencing quality v quantity, resistance and learning to say “No”, chemical free cleaning, getting rid of plastics, herbal beauty, handcrafted and natural clothing, learning new skills, earthing, the importance of Vit D, limiting technology for your health and wellbeing…in general self reliance and living in harmony with nature. They have a beautiful site and have much of interest to say, they also run many courses.

Another blogger I follow and whose post I recommend here is Rohan from Whole Larder Love. Read here how he jackhammered through concrete slabs to start his garden and honestly, this guy has a lovely blog…he lives off the land, fishes, hunts, runs classes and sells his vegetables. Also very inspiring.

We also practice self reliance in other areas too, which will be the subject of another post to come, this is already too long!

And so, after 15 – 18 months, this is where we are at 🙂 I will stress here, we are not feeling we deprive ourselves of anything. If we want it we will buy it, we enjoy the food we eat, I cook really nice meals and we like the fact it costs us so  little.

Plum Jam

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When making plum jam either the plums can be halved and stones removed before cooking or you can remove them with a slotted spoon while it’s boiling (they float to the top). If the stones come away easily I would recommend doing that…the other way can take ages.

Plum Jam:

1 kg plums

1 kg sugar

250 mls water

Wash the plums and de-stalk if necessary. Sterilise jars by heating in a slow oven for 1/2 hour at least. If using metals lids sterilise these by boiling in water for 10 minutes.

Put plums in a large pot with the water and cook about 30 – 45 minutes (lid on) till pulpy. Stir in sugar and boil gently until thickened and test a little in a saucer in the fridge, if it comes out with a skin on top it will set. Makes around 7 – 8 smallish – med jars. IMG_3317