January 27, 2014

Summer days

{The joy of being 5 and a half and riding your bike.}

{The joy of being 11 weeks old and lapping up the love.}

{The final harvest of our rosy red nectarines.}

{Shiny new blue sandals.}

{Lunch with wonderful long-time friends who I don't see often enough.}

January 16, 2014

Cumquat marmalade

Cumquat marmalade is my favourite, so I usually try to make a few jars each year. Can you even buy cumquat marmalade from the supermarket? I've certainly never seen a cumquat in the produce section of the supermarket - you have grow them yourself or know someone who grows them - so it somehow makes this marmalade all the more special I think.

As usual, making the marmalade involved consulting numerous cookbooks for a recipe. So, based on the combined wisdom of Cookery the Australian Way, The PWMU (Presbyterian Women's Missionary Union) Cookbook, Stephanie Alexander's The Cook's Companion and In The Kitchen by Allan Campion & Michele Curtis (if I could only have one cookbook, this would be the one), this is the method I used. (Which has resulted in near perfect marmalade in my personal opinion.)

Cumquat Marmalade

Start with a large bowl of cumquats.

Slice the skin off 4 sides and the top and bottom of each cumquat leaving the centre pith and pips behind (I decided this was easier than halving or quartering them and then cutting out the pith and pips as most of the recipes seem to suggest).

Weigh the skins and note this down (I had 800g). Place in a large saucepan and add cold water until just covered. Leave to soak overnight.
Place the cubes of leftover flesh & pips in a separate bowl and also cover with water (this is to extract the pectin from the pips so the marmalade will set). Leave to soak overnight.

The next day, strain the liquid from the flesh & pips and add this liquid to the skins. For good measure (to really make sure I had maximum pectin!), I then put the flesh & pips in a sieve and placed it in the saucepan so it was just sitting in the liquid but not spilling out.

Simmer the skins for 30 mins until soft and translucent (then remove the sieve). Add an amount of sugar equal to the weight of the skins (in my case, 800g). Simmer for approx 20-30 mins until the marmalade reaches setting point (testing a small blob on a cold saucer).

Pour into sterilised jars. (Makes about 4 jars.)

January 13, 2014


Firstly, no I didn't grow these. They're from our local farmers market - $20 for an 18kg of big beautiful romas grown in nearby Shepparton. At that price, I'm completely happy to give over my garden beds to other veg that are easier to grow in our cooler climate. I do have a few cherry tomatoes and other salad varieties growing but they're not even close to being ready to pick yet.

This is the first time I've managed to deal with the whole box of tomatoes in one day. Because this year I kept things simple. No blanching, peeling, onions, herbs. Just chopped tomatoes, cooked until soft, put through the mouli, bottled and sterilised.

So I now have 15 litres of beautiful tomato passata, from local tomatoes bought direct from the grower (courtesy of my wonderful neighbour Jenny), in recycled jars, with no additives. And that's a whole lot better than cans of tomatoes from the supermarket that have travelled halfway around the world from Italy (and who knows from where or how far the steel for the cans, or the trees or ink for the labels, has come).

Happy days!

Next up... these little guys, which have travelled all of 300 metres from Jenny's garden to our house. I do love living here!

January 11, 2014

Christmas Ornament Exchange :: Part 2

I've received 2 more lovely ornaments as part of the Christmas Ornament Exchange.

I adore this gorgeous stitched Christmas tree in a mini embroidery hoop, which came all the way from Rhonda in New Zealand.

And not only did I receive this sweet little Chistmas stocking from Gabielle but a bar of chocolate too!

Thank-you to all the lovely ladies who sent me beautiful hand-crafted goodies. I'm looking forward to doing it again next year!

January 6, 2014

We grew peaches!!

Can you tell how excited I am?

I've never really grown fruit before (not counting tomatoes and other things masquerading as vegetables). Fruit takes rather serious commitment and patience. A bit different to poking a handful of beans in the ground.

When we planted our small bare-rooted trees a few years ago, the prospect of harvesting fruit from them felt like something that might possibly happen in the far distant future. We diligently weeded, mulched and watered. We studied the branches of the peaches and nectarines almost daily in Spring to check for the new buds and endeavoured to apply the spray for leaf curl 'within one week prior to bud-burst'. And apparently we've succeeded in sufficiently nurturing them, oh yes!

Our trees are still just a couple of years old, not even as tall as me. So was pretty excited when I realised that we actually had a decent crop of peaches and nectarines coming along nicely.

 So we're all busily devouring lovely big, juicy peaches at the moment. There are 38 yellow ones and 27 white ones to be exact. There's also 50 or so bright red nectarines that should be ready to pick in the next couple of weeks. Happy days!

We're also enjoying all things green from the veggie patch. Tomatoes look to be at least a month away yet though. Summer, where have you gone?

I just need to keep the girls from wreaking too much havoc...

January 2, 2014

Our new arrival

Meet Lucy, our newest family member! She's an 8 week old mini dachshund pup. ('Dachs' = badger; 'hund' = dog. They were orginally bred to hunt badgers apparently, although the miniature one's were bred for smaller game such as rabbits.)

She is seriously cute. The kids are besotted and Kipp, our 2 year old dog (of unknown heritage - he came from the RSPCA), seems to have taken to her too. He's even willing to share his bed, which is a good sign. Hopefully they'll become best buddies!

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