An autumn weekend….ending with a bath tub full of grapes!

The big clean up in the garden continues – what is so beautiful and productive in summer becomes a whole lot of work in the autumn doesn’t it…in harvesting, preserving, removing huge spent plants and finding the weeds you couldn’t see before! The garden is mostly empty now, we harvested the rest of the pumpkins, pulled out the tomato plants to hang in the basement while the remainder slowly ripen. Roger asked me if I wouldn’t like to make Green Tomato Chutney and no sweetheart, I wouldn’t! Over chutney making 🙂Image

What’s left of the beans are being left to dry out for next years seed and cooking, there’s still alot left on the plants.

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So, while Roger hauled out dead plants and transplanted some currant bushes I got the easy? job of pulling apart a massive bale of half rotted peastraw and wheelbarrowing it to the garden and spreading it on. Slimy, stinky as hell and verrry heavy…..gosh, what a lovely job! I was soo looking forward to a bath after that one but never got it, I’m sure I smell ok this morning though I did get to wash over the sink 😦 Our bath is full of grapes. Sitting there sore and tired after a rather long few day we got a phone call to ask if we still wanted to try making our own wine – a local vineyard owner Roger knows still had plenty on his vines after the harvest. So, without really thinking; we have no idea how to make it, do we have the necessary equipment, how can we store it etc etc we take off to collect around 130 kg (or more!) of red grapes.Image

6 rubbish sacks, 1/4 – 1/3 full sitting on the back of a truck means alot of juice already by the time we got home so the only place really for these was the bath I was so desperately needing. THEN, we look on the computer to find out what we need and how to do this. Quite involved….ay?! We bought two food grade 200 lire plastic barrels that we had on our watch list on an auction site (we were still considering buying for next year) and today I am off to the library for some information and to the wine making supply shop for advice and some chemicals and equipment. When hubby comes home from work he needs to drive 55 km to get these barrels, and this afternoon I will start de-stemming and mashing. Roger has made a wee bit of wine in the past, at boarding school he and some friends made a still in some empty lockers they bashed the walls out of….so he feels he knows a little bit about the process, I am not so sure we can handle such a great quantity in our first attempt but…..watch this space I guess!!

I managed to locate some cheap walnuts, an elderly lady we know was selling them for the local Guides, so I finally have the bin full as I try to do each year. Today I will be making museli with walnuts, dried apples, figs and feijoas and seeds. I have not bought any muesli for months so am looking forward to this.

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And, with the cold weather the chooks have stopped laying so we are having to buy eggs. My son took this photo a couple of weeks back when my granddaughter went down to collect them as she always does. Rather than lay in the hen house our chooks prefer the big nest my husband made from branches cut down from the garden, he built a little house for them under the gum tree which they love. It needs either a little person or a very flexible one to collect these!

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So, today my jobs are sorting out the grape problem we have created for ourselves and making muesli and doing another batch of dried apples. I’m actually a bit worried about going into town fearing I might smell still of rotten peastraw, I just won’t look at people’s faces I think…. they say ignorance is bliss!!

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Barbecue Sauce and Quick Summer Gnocchi

I had never made either of these before but a glut of tomatoes means trying to find as many ways as possible for using them.

Barbecue Sauce: Recipe makes 1 x 500 g bottle (I doubled this to store)

1 kg tomatoes

1 onion

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic

60g brown sugar

4 tbsp malt vinegar

2 tbspn worcester sauce

1 tbspn each of tomato paste, mustard powder and curry powder

1 tsp honey

Saute chopped onion in the oil in large pan till soft, add tomatoes and cook until soft and mushy (Do not add water). Cool and put through whiz or blender and process till smooth. Return to pan and add all other ingredients and simmer till thick (about 30 mins) stirring occasionally. Image

Quick Summer Gnocchi:

I cheated and purchased ready made gnocchi because I wanted a really quick meal for me (my husband doesn’t like gnocchi)

Fry cherry tomatoes, capsicum and chopped onion in olive oil. Add torn basil, salt and pepper. Cook a packet of gnocchi, drain and add to pain. Stir in a splash of cream (or yogurt) and sprinkle with grated parmesan.

Easter weekend jobs……and I do love my dehydrator :)

This weekend has been flat out. My husband decided to go ahead with a job he has been putting off, extending the fern garden. So, I helped with that and weeded the vegetable garden.

I picked a pile of tomatoes, figs, the last of Black Boy peaches, zucchini and some herbs. I bottled figs (4 jars) and peaches (5 jars), made barbecue sauce, baked a yummy cake.

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And I dried “stuff”…a whole new world has opened up! This has to be one of the best $60 I have ever spent – my secondhand dehydrator has been going flat out since I bought it 5 days ago 🙂 I never realised how many tomatoes you could get in a jar when dried, or figs!

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The reason why the petals is, I wanted to save the sunflower ones before they die off, had no idea what I was going to do with them so looked on the net for inspiration. I think I may have found a new hobby….soap making 🙂

I saw this photo and read the instructions, this just looks beautiful. Calendula Soap ( http://slowlivingessentials.blogspot.co.nz) I have calendulas. I have lots of flowers and a new toy so that started me off on a tangent around the garden!

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Who can afford such luxury from shops but the cost of making it is not great AND it would make great presents. In my spare time I have been checking out soapmaking blogs 🙂

I found a pile of marshmallow in an unused corner of the garden, around the back of the fig tree. Marshmallow is good for asthma and dry cough, so picked that and dried it.

So, a busy weekend, a productive one. I just realised though…I GOT NO CHOCOLATE, not one single mouthful. Or a hot x bun. I best do something about  that tomorrow!

Eating from the garden – Jamie Oliver’s Minestrone

I am just showing for a week what our daily diet is from food out of the garden, our chooks and meat my husband gets from the farm he works on. It’s only this year that we decided to be as self reliant as possible in food and that whatever we had to buy would be done so as frugally as possible. Born half out of necessity to trim our budget and half out of desire just to do things for ourselves, it’s actually working out ok. We are looking at our food more as the saying goes “Eating to live, not living to eat” 🙂 The decision for my husband to work on a farm enabled us to do what we are doing….we can’t afford our own lifestyle block, much as we would like to!

The foods we can grow, have preserved or have access through work are shown in bold.

Breakfast was smoothies again, 1 1/2 large glasses each. These were made with milk, eggs, bananas, raspberries and figs.

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Lunches taken to work were sandwiches (no photo, early morning rush!) My husband takes huge ones, mine alot smaller. Bread, cold meat, chutney, lettuce, cucumber, tomato; and fruit was peaches

Afternoon tea for me was crackers and cheese, chutney, tomatoes

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Dinner was Jamie Oliver’s Italian Minestrone D’inizio Autumno (with some adaptions for what I had)

7 oz canneloni beans (I used dried chickpeas, cooked)

1 bay leaf

1 tomato, squashed

1 potato, cubed

4 rashers bacon, chopped

2 small red onions, finely chopped

2 carrots, finely sliced

2 sticks celery, sliced

1/2 head of fennel

small bunch basil, finely chopped

800 g tomatoes (or two tins)

a glass of red wine

2 courgettes, chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

7 oz chard (silverbeet)

1 pint chicken stock (I used water)

I added 1 large leek, Parsley & tomato paste

2 oz dried pasta, broken into smaller pieces.

Salt and pepper

Didn’t use Jamie’s instructions really. Sauteed onion, bacon and garlic in olive oil. Added all vegetables, herbs, salt and pepper and water, cooked until all soft and broken down a bit. Added chickpeas, cooked around an hour then added pasta and cooked till pasta done, checked seasoning. Serve with a little parmesan cheese and basil on top. This was delicious and made enough to freeze for another night as well.

I buy dried chickpeas from a bulk food store, cook in a large pot and freeze so they are on hand. Much cheaper than buying tins.

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Dessert was fig crumble (recipe in recipe category) with a little yogurt.

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Polenta Crusted Fried Green Tomatoes

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I live in NZ and fried green tomatoes is not something I had tried before, it’s not usual fare here. But, given we had so many in the garden I thought I would give them a go. This recipe is similar to one I found on 120dollarsfoodchallenge.com, which is a great site by the way!

1 cup fine polenta

1/3 cup parmesan cheese

few leaves basil, finely chopped

Salt and black pepper

2 eggs

flour to coat

Combine the polenta, parmesan, basil  & seasoning in a dish. Cut green tomatoes in 1/2 cm thick slices. Coat in flour, dip in beaten eggs then coat in polenta mix. Fry on each side till golden.

Nice 🙂 However, next time I think I will season the tomatoes before coating. I served these with cold meat and chutney, baby betroot and tossed salad.