Posts Tagged ‘winter’

Topping up

The snow peas I planted a month or so back have not done well. A combination of starting late, old seeds and neglect, I suspect. This weekend I topped up the bed with some indoor-sprouted seeds:

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They took a few days to germinate on the kitchen windowsill.

For either inspiration or demoralization, my dad’s snow peas look like this:

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Wine glass for scale and sustenance.

Winter garden 2014, part 1

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The beginnings of snow peas. Also on the left is Urtica dioica, the stinging nettle. Our soil was too dense, dry and low in nutrients to sustain then before, so I take their arrival as a good sign. If they grow well, I might try a nettle soup this year. To the right is a self seeded fennel plant. Getting a bank of edible plant seeds in the soil is a step towards a self-sustaining edible garden for us.

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These are broccoli and silver beet, chard, etc. The garden they’re in doesn’t get quite enough sun, so we’ll see how they do.

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Here’s the bodge greenhouse. It’s two discarded windows over a raised bed. The bed isn’t quite full of soil, so there’s a comfortable gap between glass and seedlings. It’s rocket and kale in here, which don’t really need coddling like this but I had the windows so why not?

Curing in 2014 part 2

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Curing progress: this is the progress on my second batch. A pork neck, in two pieces, which is now under the house, and a beef skirt, which is now in red wine. The cuts were two weeks in cure in the fridge.

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Hanging from a beam under the house. Looks a bit sinister, but in 6-8 weeks it will be porcine bliss. The beef will join them in about 4 days.

Mushrooms again

Today’s catch was a single saffron milk cap, Lactarius deliciosus. Most of the milk caps in the forest were very much past their best:

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The prettiest mushrooms by far were the poisonous ones:

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That one was admired but not picked.

One milk cap was in very good condition:

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I’m still eating as a way of confirming my identification, so I only ate two slices. However, so far so good.

The main event was actually harvesting pine cones for the kids to decorate for winter solstice, which will be upon us before we know it! Mission accomplished:

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Pork and fennel stew

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This is the pork and fennel stew I mentioned recently. I cook it in a slow cooker of 5 litres or thereabouts.

Pork neck sounds like a gruesome cut, but only the way I’ve found it for sale is as a fat, short cylinder of lean meat. No tubes, bones or other gruesomeness. Looking at it in a vacuum bag you’d expect it to make fantastic pork steaks. However, rather than one long muscle (like fillet) it has a bunch of different muscles going every which way.

Ingredients:
A pork neck (approx 1.5 kg), diced
A couple of hocks or trotters
Oil and butter for frying
1-2 fennel bulbs
1 tbsp carroway seeds

Optional:
2-4 carrots
1-2 onions
Cider

Method:
Brown the trotters or hocks in a pan in a little oil. Place them in a slow cooker. Brown the diced neck in batches and add to the slow cooker. Sprinkle the carroway seeds over. Deglaze the pan (I used water but you could use a little cider) and add the juices to the slow cooker.

If you’re doing onions and carrots, brown them in some butter and add them to the slow cooker at this point.

Brown the sliced fennel in butter until you get dark spots and delicious burned butter and caramelised fennel smells. Add a little water (depends on the size of your cooker, but I used about 1/3 cup). Pour the lot on top of the pork, then pop a layer of baking or greaseproof paper on top.

Cook it like this–layered–for a couple of hours, then stir gently, re-cover, and cook a couple of hours more. Before serving, disassemble the hocks or trotters, discarding any skin and bone. Chop up any meat and add it back in.

Serve with fresh sage cut over the top, with dumplings, mash, rice or whatever you’re in to.

This stew is very simple, and really showcases two cheap cuts. I get neck for around $10 per kilo, and hocks for $6 a kilo. It works with these cuts because the neck is a little too lean and not quite tendon-y enough on its own. The addition of hocks or trotters makes it rich and velvety. You can grow your own fennel, but I bought mine. It’s cheap at the moment because it’s in season (southern hemisphere, cool temperate).

Stay warm, little veggies

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It’s going to be a very cold night after what had been the hottest winter on record in Canberra. To protect or baby tomatoes, it’s stakes, plastic and bricks to form a makeshift temporary cloche. It should be enough to keep the veggies safe. Hopefully it defrosts soon!

Foraging: a step forward

I’ve taken a step in foraging if only a little one: I’ve eaten a bit of mushroom I found. Not just any old thing: this was a slippery jack.

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I went exploring in a pine forest today, with the expectation of encountering interesting fungi to view and photograph. But when I found these, I had to take a few home!

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clockwise from bottom left, here is:
-old ammonia test: started pink then turned blue
-whole mushroom
-fresh ammonia test (pink)
-raw slice
-cooked slice (fried in olive oil)

In the interests of caution, I ate precisely one slice. It was pleasant: mushroomy and nutty. We’ll see what happens. Hopefully I have many more years of exploring and blogging ahead though.

Edit: 3 days on and I’m still here! I dried the rest of the mushrooms, which has not affected the lemony, almost apricot smell they have. I’ll try a bit more again in a few more days.
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Hail!

We had a fairly heavy storm come through yesterday and it dumped a lot of hail on us. Here are a few pictures of our yard just after the storm.

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Thankfully the chickens were sensible and stayed in their house.

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Our broccoli seedlings were safe and warm in their little mini greenhouses (aka upturned plastic cups), installed the night before in the nick of time (good work MacGyver!)

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The silverbeet looks okay but this might be the end of the basil and mint for the season though – I’ve been expecting them to curl up and die for well over a month now, but so far they have stayed alive.

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This morning there was still lots of hail left on the ground.

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The chickens came out and braved the icy ground this morning and seemed quite perplexed by the cold white stuff.

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Splash was not amused by the cold stuff.

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The broccoli seedlings and mint (amazingly) look fine, but I think this is it for the basil.

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Our makeshift kafir lime greenhouse (aka a plastic bag over a tripod) has also done a great job of protecting the little tree.

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All very exciting really.  It’s rare for Canberra to get snow that sticks to the ground so seeing everything white was a big novelty for the kidlets.  Mme Four had a lovely time building “hail castles” after the storm had passed.

Winter Solstice preparations – orange pomanders

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orange pomanders

We spent the afternoon today making these beautiful decorations from oranges and cloves.  While it would be more awesome if the oranges were home grown, sadly we bought these.  They still smell delicious though and look very festive.  And Mme. Four had a lovely time helping to make them.  M. One, however, did not have as much fun – he found and ate a dropped clove.

The speed of Sprouts

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Mustard sprouts, two days on. Can’t wait to eat them! The Chia sprouts are starting to look sprouty too:

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Don’t mind their slightly odd look; they’ll grow out of it.

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