Sunshine in a jar

I LOVE preserving fruit!  Being able to bottle that fruity, sweet goodness when there is a glut of gorgeous growth to be enjoyed in the cold, dark months of winter (or any other time throughout the year!!) is wonderful.

We have friends that live amongst 100 fruit trees.  Their house is literally surrounded by an orchard of pears, apples, peaches, plums, loquats, citrus, nashi and a grand old mulberry tree with its gnarled form looks over the landscape from the hill above.  It’s a veritable treasure trove of fruity goodness.  But they didn’t plant it and after buying the property, they don’t use much of it either.  They welcomed us to take as much as we wanted.  We didn’t need to be asked twice!Mulberry tree

Fruit, glorious fruit.  Our own fruit trees have struggled with such a terribly hard existence that none of them are bearing fruit yet.  But here, we had all the fruit we could ever want!

Each week over summer we headed over to collect car loads of buckets filled with fruit. We ate lots, sold some, cooked with some, gave some away and I preserved and preserved so that we’d have lots to enjoy long past the season’s end.

Peach tree

Preserving is such a lovely way of bottling sunshine in a jar. On those chilly winter mornings, there’s nothing better than a slice of freshly baked sourdough bread with a generous helping of Peach, Pear & Ginger jam or lashings of Mulberry jam with its deep burgundy colour to chase the winter blues away.

Peach preserves

I was invited to teach a few preserving workshops at the Clunes Community House.  It was a great way to bring together the community, a glut of fruit and get our preserving on! We made jams and preserved whole fruit for enjoyment later in the year.  I love being able to pass on these time-honoured skills so that people can better learn how to utilise the produce they have access to and extend the life of the seasons for good health and vitality.

Teaching preserves workshop

You don’t have to own fruit trees to enjoy preserving either!  Often friends, family, neighbours or colleagues have a fruit tree up the back corner of the backyard that drops prolific amounts of delicious fruit.  I used to get bucket loads of plums and kiwi fruits from my colleagues at work that had already had their fill from the huge amount that came from the tree.  Ask around in the warmer months, see what’s out there.  Check your neighbourhood – is there a heavily laden tree up the road that is the bane of old Betty’s existence now that she is in her 90’s?  Help her out while you help yourself (ask permission first of course!).  She’d probably love a jar of jam as part of the deal. Who knows – she might even make you jam tarts with the jam! Now there’s a win-win situation!

Homemade Jam tartsAnd if not, here’s the recipe below…

Easy Jam Tarts

110g plain flour
50g unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
1 cup jam
Chilled water
Icing sugar, to dust

Preheat oven to 180°C. Sift flour into a bowl and add a pinch of salt. Rub in butter until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add 1 tablespoon of very cold water and use a fork to mix together, then add a little more chilled water until the mixture forms a smooth ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll out on a lightly floured surface and use a round pastry cutter to cut out 6 circles.

Grease a shallow muffin tin. Cut out circles in the pastry to line the pans.  Line the pastry shells with baking paper and fill with rice or pastry weights. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the paper and weights, fill the tarts with jam and bake for a further 8 minutes. Allow to cool before dusting with icing sugar. YUM!


In the Ground this month: Garlic!

Ah, Garlic planting season once again!  When we moved in during Jun-July last year, it was manic as we needed to hastily plant all of our organic garlic cloves in between doing renovations and trying to discover garden beds and planting space under grass and weeds.

With some wonderful help from our family, we rescued derelict garden beds and some designated planting areas and got lots of bulbs safely planted into various parts of the garden.  Garlic in the front garden bed amongst the roses, garlic along the side of the house, garlic in other random garden beds between ornamentals, garlic in rows along the fence.

The bulbs were planted carefully and tended, sending green shoots soon after planting and surviving the frosty winter.

Through spring they matured, growing taller and stronger until in summer they began to transfer all their energy to the bulb in the dark depths of the soil.  In December we decided them ready to harvest – later than usual but due to the slightly later planting season we wanted to give them enough time to nourish the bulb and produce great garlic!

Continue reading

The Tale of the Tomatoes

When we first moved in, it was a demanding race of time and energy towards renovations to make the house more liveable and planting our first crops to be ready in time for summer.

With a heap of wonderful organic tomato seeds that we had collected and prepared, Stace busily went about planting them in pots in his greenhouse.  And before we knew it we had a plethora of seedlings demanding daily watering and attention.  With Stacy in Melbourne most days, I took this on alone.  A single parent to my many tomato babies.

My mornings were filled with the careful tending of over 40 tomato plants.  Hand watering them and all of our other thirsty plants was a time-consuming labour of love.

Suddenly our Solanaceae babies were getting cramped feet as they outgrew their pots. Stace prepared a spot for them all – an enclosed veggie patch that we discovered under long grass and weeds and our new kids got a secure, new home.

Continue reading