2017 Review Thingy part 1

Questions taken from Shauna Reid, because the actual reverb thingy appears to have stalled on the interwebs.

Previous editions can be found:

2016
2015
2014 part one, part two
2013
2011
2010

The question list is a bit too long to tackle in one sitting, so I’ve divided it into two.

1. What did you do in 2017 that you’d never done before?

Um. Zumba! I tried a zumba class, managed not to trip over my own feet, and liked it enough to go back again. and again.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for this year?
Once again, I’ve forgotten what my resolutions were. Luckily I have last year’s reverb to check.

mindfulness – yes. Sort of. I participated in a program called power of presence, then mindful in may, then mindful in may continuers. I did get into a bad habit on the train though, of thinking I could multitask, and use both my phone AND meditate at the same time.
being present in the moment – sometimes.
Being grateful for the little things – like a wave, I did it lots at one point, and then not much in others. Sometimes I would stop, look up, and appreciate the lovely blue sky above.
Stop buying stuff. Yes. And no.
Start decluttering. No. I just collected more and more plants, seeds.

This year.

Gratefulness.
100%
Me time.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Why hello there, Chloe.

chloe

4. Did anyone close to you pass away?
Not close to me, but two colleagues passed away recently. It was a bit of a shock, because one of them had just retired early so that he could enjoy time with his family.

5. What countries did you visit?
Taiwan.

6. What would you like to have next year that you lacked in this one?
More travel.

7. What dates from this year will remain etched upon your memory?
I had think about this one. Perhaps the date that I logged into my university website and found out that I had passed my last subject, and as a result …

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I finally finished my post-graduate degree. Woot!

9. What was your biggest failure?

Procrastination. I’m really good at putting things off.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Just niggles associated with getting a year older …

11. What was the best thing you bought?
I can’t remember one thing that stands out. I did buy a recently discontinued solidtecknics Cast Iron “Deepan”, whilst I was overseas. Probably bit of an impulse buy

12. Where did most of your money go?

Remedial Massage! My physiotherapist left me (he got a new job), and after finding various massage therapists not suiting me, I finally found a good place. Such a shame it’s on the other side of town.

13. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Home fermentation. I got some milk kefir grains via the crop swap sydney group, and have been trying them out again. If I make small quantities, it is manageable, and I like having a milk fruit “smoothie” (or a fruit lassi) in the mornings. Then I split the grains 50/50, and have been making both milk kefir and nut milk kefir. Nut milk kefir makes really fluffy pancakes, particularly if you have the patience to make the batter the night before. Then there was my kombucha, and water kefir. Oh yeah, and I made miso.

14. What song will always remind you of this year?

Not my “song”, but my soundtrack to the latter half of this year was anything zumba:

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder?

Can I be both happier and sadder? That’s about different aspects of my life.

b) thinner or fatter?
Much of a muchness. Certainly a little stronger than last year; but not as strong as the year before that. When I changed jobs, I lost access to onsite bootcamp/yoga, and it’s taken a bit of effort to put exercise back into my routine again.
c) richer or poorer?
Marginally poorer, because I keep spending on stuff that “I really really need”, then once I get said stuff, suddenly don’t need it any more.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Time with friends. I think I said that last year.

18. How did you spend Christmas?
Christmas lunch with the family on Christmas Eve. Flew out overseas on Christmas Day.

19. Did you fall in love this year?
No.

20. What was your favourite TV program?
I had a bit of a noir thing going.

Midnight Sun (loved it so much, I watched it back to back, twice), followed by Witnesses, then followed by Dicte episodes back to back until she annoyed me with her pigheadedness. All courtesy of sbsondemand. Love it.

21. What was the best book you read?
Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly. I’m sure I’ve read others, but this one resonated with me, and was read most recently.

Oh!Oh and Gut. Fabulous. I then turned into a microbiome preacher, and how I have little bacteria in my gut that crave donuts, so intuitive eating probably isn’t a good thing.

22. What was your favourite film?
Um. I picked three tv shows!

23. What did you do on your birthday
Didn’t go to work. Had lunch with my mum.

24. What kept you sane?
Lunchtime swimming, and then when the pool shut down (*sob*), lunchtime yoga. Putting in regular exercise as part of my weekly schedule.

25. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Um.

26. Who did you miss?
Still miss my mother in law. I also miss the camaraderie of my old workplace, but looking to build camaraderie at my new(er) workplace.

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Pineapple Tepache

Fermenting using fruit scraps.

First encountered through a facebook homebrew group – recipe from Mary Izett’s Speed Brewing.

Comment was that the brew was left for too long, and the end result was like a bad homebrew. The advice was to “brew on thursday, drink on saturday”.

A few months later, I bought a pineapple. Rather than compost or put into the landfill the outer skin, I decided to try my hand at pineapple tepache. Recipe is based upon Sharon Flynn’s Ferment for Good cos I’m lazy.

Skin scraps of one pineapple
2 tablespoons of golden syrup
1 tsp tamarind paste
1-2 star anise (whole)
1/2 cinnamon stick
Water to cover (approx 1.5 litre in my jar)

This was brewed in my house with an average ambient temperature of 25 deg C (77 F).

Tepache at 0 hours:
tepache 0hours

It smells sweet, like pineapple.

Tepache at 24 hours:

tepache 24hours

There is some fizz action going on. At 24 hours it tastes like a ‘dry’ mineral water (like a champagne can be ‘dry’), with a pineapple nose.

Tepache at 48 hours:

tepache 48hours

Wow, look at that head! You can see by the watermark that the fizz has been at a higher level in the brew vessel and then subsided. At 48 hours it has more fizz and a more alcoholic aftertaste. The brew has started to attract the vinegar flies.

Tepache at 56 hours:

tepache 56hours

I started to decant the wine at this point. Forgetting that it takes ages to separate through my coffee filters, decanting/separating takes another 8 hours. So total brew time got to 64 hours.

I gave up at this point, and switched to using a metal tea ball – that keeps most of the bits out. I’ve added a little more golden syrup to my bottle and a piece of pineapple to “keep it real”. It’s starting to taste on the sour side. It’s probably beyond saving, but I’ll add a little more sugar to the bottle and keep in in the fridge.

Next time if I brewed this again (and why not, it was so much fun!), I would stop the fermentation at 24 hours and use more sugar in the original mix; alternatively let it go all the way to vinegar. Pineapple vinegar!

What about you, dear reader? Have you got an innovative way to reduce your food waste and make something tasty?

Harvest Monday and Garden update, October 2017

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things Harvest related.

October* has been all about the mulberries.

Not mine, just ones foraged off the street. This is the perfect arrangement, as I don’t have to deal with purple stained driveways or washing.

I found two trees on my way to the train station, which I had been foraging from at first. The berries were a little on the small, dry side. Then I found two off a freeway on my way back from a parkrun event which yielded me a 400g reward (all my giant takeaway coffee cup would fit). Finally – my most recent source has been from the carpark at the local pub. I am sure that the mulberry tree has been “very well watered & fertilised” from the patrons, but these berries are super fat and juicy.

The various berries got turned into jam:

Mulberry and Paddy Melon Jam

Paddy melon and mulberry jam. I bought the paddy melon at a street side stall in the Mangrove mountain area, with the intention of eating it and saving the seeds. When I actually looked up “paddy melon”, my melon was the wrong size (too big), and hopefully not of the poisonous variety. So perhaps it was a pie melon (or a jam melon), which feature in a Country Women’s Association (CWA) cookbook.

As well as scary Eye-Pies for a halloween event at work:

Eye Pies

The recipe I got from NotQuiteNigella, but with the mulberry pie adaptation from Allrecipes with only 1/2 cup of sugar to 3 cups of raspberries. Some people seriously have a sweet tooth – my proportions were perfect!

Attack of the lettuces:

Attack of the lettuces

These butter lettuce seedlings were obtained via crop swap. I can see that they’re now bolting to seed, but just before they were ready for my heavy handed harvesting, I got a lot of lettuces and salad mixes from various other crop swaps. Now, the caterpillers and snails love hiding amongst the leaves, so I have to check and wash them quite thoroughly before using. These generally go into sandwiches, but I may have to make a few more salads in the next few days to get the most out of my crop.

Parsley.

I didn’t realise that tabouli is *so* easy to make. With my neighbour, and current tablouli expert away, I used a recipe from the Almond Bar cookbook. I have made a giant batch for a sheep roast BBQ, and a smaller batch for a picnic. The secret? Lots of lemon juice, and a pinch of salt and ras el-hanout in the dressing.

I also plan to use the next harvest as a pesto green, another idea I got from the crop swap group.

Honey:

Honey Harvest Oct 2017

We have had a very dry winter, and so the bees have been having a field day. I had two swarms in a fortnight in September (does a bee swam count as a harvest I wonder?), one which I kept, one which I gave away. I nadired three hives (all were full of comb to the bottom), and harvested on frame from the third hive (lilli pilli swarm) which was 3/4 capped. This gave me about 2kg of honey.

Dwarf beans, broad beans:

Harvest of Beans

Three dwarf beans, about five broad beans. I think the broad beans were “early harvest” from Mr Fothergills. I haven’t gotten anything from the tripoli. All my broad beans were planted in May, and had serious attacks of the aphids on the as-yet-unopened flower clumps. I think this has affected the production.

Pomegranates:
Pomegranate

I didn’t grow these. I foraged them off a tree down the road. Alas, I dropped one beauty into the overgrown grass *ahem* on the wrong side of the fence. The fruit is very sweet, definitely worth harvesting again.


Coffee bean seedling:

coffee bean seedling

I told you about this in September I have had one germination out of all of the green coffee beans that I soaked in seaweed solution prior to planting.

Planted/seeded:
– Water chestnuts (I ate two, and have “planted” the other four in water. They are amazingly creamy and crisp, almost like fresh coconut, but without the heaviness. I already have two little shoots poking out)
– Purple tomatillo (cos it’s PURPLE)
– Purple chilli (see above)
– Cape Gooseberry
– Tomatoes, mainly received as part of a swap. The most interesting one I am looking forward to is the blue jasper.
– glass corn/ gem corn. I had 3 seedlings, an attack of the caterpillars, then it’s down to one. Hopefully I can get enough pollination from one plant to be able to grow this more succesfully next season.

Seeds Saved:
– Mustard Greens
– Yellow mustard (the only thing that really grew as part of my Horta mix)
– Rocket
– Pak Choy (Bolted to seed almost straight away, no eating).

So dear reader, what have you harvested and what have you planted this month?

* I am 100% aware that it is now November. Life, exams, got in the way of the timely publication of this post.

Making me some miso

I don’t actually eat that much miso at home, but having gone to all the effort of obtaining my koji inoculated rice, it seemed a shame not to. In any case, I figured that once I had my home made miso, perhaps I could use it as a swap item at future crop swaps; or that I would use miso more frequently.

The recipe I used was based on Sharon Flynn’s “Ferment for good”, and I was aiming for a sweet white miso. Miso keeps fermenting, so I thought that if I started with the sweet white, as it kept fermenting it would settle towards a ‘red’ style miso.

Mistake one: Don’t plan on making miso on your yoga weekend away.

You are supposed to be relaxing. Attendance at all activities is compulsory. And you’ll end up getting super stressed watching your soy beans alternating between refusing to cook and boiling over.

Mistake two: check the batteries in your kitchen scales. Bring a spare set of batteries. Or raid all the kitchens at your yoga retreat for any other sets of scales available.

Otherwise ‘guessing’ the weight of salt ends up with astounded comments of “you put HOW MUCH in?!” when you ask about the progress of your miso in an internet forum.

I ended up with…
500g dry rice koji
360g soy beans
185g salt (Note: Use LESS if you want a sweet white miso)

Pinch test:
Soybean cooked yet

I was supposed to cook the soybeans until the point that I could squash the bean together between my fingers. At this point, I figured “that’ll do”, plus I had one hour to finish this before the next yoga session, lunch, and packing up to go home.

After mushing the soybeans up (very hard to do manually), I then mixed it with the dry rice koji, salt, 2 tbs “starter miso” and soy bean cooking water.
This was formed into balls and then “thrown” into my cookie jar fermenting vessel – to remove the air pockets, and once again “squashed down”.

Capping layer

I put a thin layer of organic genmai miso on top as a protective layer, and then fine salt into a zip lock bag ontop as a weight. The lid on the cookie jar with its rubber seal was placed on top, and then the ‘seam’ sealed with some plastic wrap, and my concoction stored under the house.

Seven weeks later… well I was supposed to ‘turn’ my miso one month in, based upon discussions with another Australian miso maker. I forgot. Also I was busy.

The jar smelled amazing when I opened it up:
Miso - open jar

The miso has expanded above the salt weight during the fermentation process. Or perhaps the action of pushing the lid down has pushed the stuff below up.

After removing the salt weight:

Tamari

I’m pretty sure that the dark coloured liquid is tamari. This is confirmed later on by the internet forum. I excitedly decant this off – later on I smell this again, and it smells a little more alcoholic than tamari like. Apparently this is a problem in smaller batches.

Stirring:
Miso layer

I break the crust, and I can see the top 1cm has darkened in colour. This is definitely a thicker layer of the darker colour than the protective miso layer that I smeared on top originally. I stir the whole lot through, then replace my salt weight and reseal my jar.

So my sweet white miso was only supposed to ferment for up to six weeks. I’ve let it go past that, plus I have no fridge space to slow down the fermentation, so it’ll probably keep on going until I can use it. Under the house is the closest I can get to ‘fridge’ I tasted a little of the tamari – and it tasted yummy and moreish, or perhaps I was just craving salt.

Finding Koji in Australia

I’m not quite sure how this happened. I read one fermenting cookbook that mentioned nukkado, then another, then I found an article that mentioned using Koji to inoculate meat and give it a funky unami taste. So of course I was interested.

I was trying to find a source of Koji and sake lees in Sydney. Mail order and shipping in Australia starts at $11 (2017 prices), but I was trying to reduce the amount of packaging and food miles I’m using.

The Fermentary (Daylesford, Victoria), stocks dried Koji rice and frozen sake lees.

Rice culture (Gold coast, Queensland) sells dried Koji rice that they have made themselves.

Jfc Australia claims to sell frozen sake lees and Koji rice from Japan but I wasn’t sure how to order, how much it was, and if I had to order wholesale quantities.

The Go-shu sake factory (Penrith, Sydney) sells a limited quantity of sake lees and shio koji. Availability is dependent upon the brewing cycle.

Vision brewing (Western Australia) sells Koji kin, the actual spores, for $16.50 USD.

Grain & Grape Homebrew (Yarraville, Victoria) onsells vision brewing’s Koji kin for $19.95.

Finally, I remembered Tokyo Mart in Northbridge. This place used to be the only place in Sydney you could buy Japanese Plum Wine, so I’m not sure why I didn’t think of it sooner.

So finally, here we have it, my stash of koji in three stages:

Three stages of koji

Koji Kin or aspergillus oryzae spores ($19.95), inoculated koji dry rice ($16.75), sake lees ($5.45).

Now let’s make something!

Post-post edit:
After visiting Brisbane and Melbourne recently, I figured that I needed to add a few extra koji related product availabilities.

Rice cultures (Gold Coast, QLD) has multiple stockists of its non-pasteurised miso, generally in the Queensland/Sunshine Coast area. Fundies wholefoods, Paddington QLD, stocks the miso.

Alice (Sunshine Coast, QLD), sells her own homemade miso.

Tang Emporium (Melbourne, VIC) sells a liquid from Japan called “shio koji”. Alchohol is one of the ingredients.

Hinoki Japanese Pantry (Melbourne, VIC) sells Inaki Miso (Chunky rustic style miso that includes bits of the koji), shelf stable shio koji (looks a lot like the stuff in the fridge @ Tokyo Mart, Sydney); and shelf stable amazake.

Taste Organic (Newtown and Crows Nest, Sydney NSW) and About Life (Sydney, NSW) sell shelf stable amazake.

Alfalfa House (Newtown, NSW) sells organic genmai miso. It is probably shelf stable, as it is not stored in the fridge.

[not checked] Saskani Kobo (Brisbane, QLD) sells fresh koji rice (white rice, brown rice); Shio koji, tamari koji, Gochujang Style shio koji, miso (brown rice, white rice, barley), and amazake. All products require refrigeration.

Yoshiko Takeuchi (Sydney, NSW) sells the raw ingredients to make miso, as part of her “power of miso” cooking class. This class is only run during winter.

[not checked] Soramame (Sydney, NSW) sells Ama koji (amazake), shio koji and tamari koji at the Kings Cross markets. They claim that there is no alcohol in their product – which doesn’t make sense at it is a by-product of the fermentation process; unless it has been pastuerised.

Southern Wild (Tasmania) sometimes sells fresh shio koji at the Sunday farmgate markets.

Harvest Monday September 2017

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related.

Salad mix:

Salad mix

Various things, gathered from the garden, for this week’s salad mix for inclusion in sandwiches. This includes mustard greens (plant obtained via a swap), horta, butter lettuce (swap), curly kale, parsley (self seeded), rocket (arugula), land cress, beetroot greens.

I finally have some broad bean flowers showing. I planted six broad beans directly into the soil in the planter box. Two months before I got any shoots – only one for the direct sowed, and two shoots for the ones that I soaked in seaweed solution.

Spring Seedlings 2017

Other stuff obtained in the past two month via swaps:
– yellow capsicum (pepper) seedlings
– tomato seedlings (black krim & yellow something)
– pak choy seedlings
– bitter melon seedlings (I planted two, will onswap the other. I don’t eat it.. so not sure why I planted it!)
– dwarf bush bean seedlings
– random lettuce seedlings (red oak, cos, butter)
– kabocha seedlings
– mushroom plant (I killed it by not planting it)
– pomegranate tree
– 2kg of cumquats
– Yacon, some to plant, some to eat
– Seed Potatoes (Otway red, snow queen, royal blue)
– coffee chaff & coffee bags (hessian sacks)

Other stuff still growing in the garden/seedlings:
– celery
– onion
– garlic
– kohlrabi (getting a bit late in the season)
– beetroot, grown from seed
– potatoes (pontiac, snow queen, royal blue)
– brussels sprouts (took a cutting from my infested brussels sprouts earlier in the year)
– land cress (as a sacrificial lure for the white cabbage moth)

I have planted some green coffee beans that I found in the hessian sacks, after first soaking in seaweed solution. I hear that germination rate isn’t high. But hey, free coffee beans. Fingers crossed!

Learning to brew

When you “make” honey (after you extract the honey from the honeycomb), you are left with a sticky mess of wax and honey. I then wash this wax mixture so I can then refine the wax from the propolis and other bee related items. It feels so wasteful to then throw away this honey water (honey washings), that I tried several times to make mead. But each time, I made vinegar. I then went out and bought a bottle of mead to see the end product that I was aiming for: and I did not like it .

Oh dear.

Now what?

Then up popped an ad for a beer brewing workshop at the cornersmith picklery. Sold!

The beer brewing kit that is readily available in Australia is kind of like mixing cordial. Add substances A, B, C to water, let sit (brew) for 7 days then decant into your bottles, adding a carbonation ‘drop’ (dextrose sugar tablet) to each bottle.

The brewing method at this workshop was the next step along, where you might select the hoppiness of your brew by selecting the type of hops, and how long your brew your mixture for.

We were guided by Chris Sidwa of Batch Brewing in the method of extract brewing, which is a little more hands on than cordial brewing.

He ran through the importance of sterilisation, the difference that the type of hops makes to the flavour profile, as well as how long it is boiled and when it is added to the mixture.

Working in groups of 3, we got our 3 litres worth of water per person boiling, before adding the light malt extract, stirring to prevent the sugar burning on the bottom, or the foam exploding out of the top.

malt:

Malt

Cascade Hops:

Cascade Hops

These hops were developed by Oregon State University, and is one of the few freely available non-trademarked variety of hops. We added these at the -30 minute mark, and at the -5 minute mark. Everything is measured in terms of “time from ending the boil”.

You pack your hops into a double muslin bag, so that you can remove it from the brew when you put into the fermentation vessel.

Wrapped in muslin:

Hop bag

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble:

Brew

The process of boiling is to drive off unwanted flavours and remove bitterness. The reason the second lot of hops is added is to add the hoppy flavour back into the brew.

After adding the second lot of hops, we divided the mixture into our brew buckets, and enjoyed a small taster of Batch Brewing’s American Pale Ale, sourdough, cucumber pickles and capsicum (sweet pepper) relish.

We got to take our fermenting buckets home with us, and issued with a second set of instructions.

I didn’t think this one through:

Public transport

After carrying my brewing and decanting buckets home on the train (Luckily I didn’t have my pushbike, unlike one of the other attendees), we were instructed to add 3-4 litres of cooled boiling water and let brew for 7 days.

Recipe (makes approx 5 L):
3 litres boiling water
840 g malt after the ‘hot break’
1 x 30g hops @ -30 minutes
1 x 30g hops @ -5 minutes
Place mixture into your brew bucket.
Cool to approx 20 C
3g yeast (US-05)
3L chilled boiled water*.
Let brew for 7 days in a constant temperature environment, about 20 deg C, away from sunlight
35g dextrose into sterilised bottling bucket
Decant from brewing bucket into bottling bucket, leave yeast cake behind
Decant from bottling bucket into each bottle – gently – you don’t want the yeast to get all excited and foamy
Leave a little headroom (equivalent to your bottling wand)
Cap the bottles.

I had trouble capping the bottles with the supplied ‘hand capper’.

I left the lids on top of the bottles for a day to keep contaminants out, whilst I looked around to borrow someone else’s bench capper. I ended up buying one second hand.

Capped (L), Uncapped (R):

Capping

Considering the amount of force required to push the cap onto the bottle even with the benchtop capper, there is no way that I could have made the hand capper work. No wonder they are known as the deathstick in the industry!

Buy one bench capper, receive microbrew kit for free, BOGOF:


Bench capper


This was not my intention, to gain the equivalent of three home brew kegs in the space of 8 days! I’m going to have to try this recipe again, because instead of the second lot of chilled boiled water, I added honey washings which I had boiled (pastuerised). Note to self – if you do this, the beer may need to ferment for a longer period of time. This style of beer is called a braggot.


Braggot

A few months later, I did try my beer. I was left with 1/4 in the bottle, as the other 3/4 ended up all over the kitchen walls, floor and counter. Yep, it was still fermenting in the bottle. I was lucky it didn’t explode! The result was very tasty, but highly alcoholic.

The class was attended and paid for anonymously by A Sydney Foodie.