Archive for the ‘environment’ Category

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.

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Guava swaps 2017

This is what the poor guava tree looks like right now:

Guava tree 2017

The birds… and the bats… have told their friends. So I had to double exclusion bag the fruit, because they had worked out that they could still bite the fruit through the netting and suck the sweet goodness out. This meant I had half the number of bags available. My partner saw a magpie fly past, and then hang *upside down* from a fruitfly exclusion bag, then swing and peck at the fruit within. No photo!

I ran out of netting, and fruit exclusion bags. The local hardware store had 4 x 4m netting for $25. Instead, I went to the local haberdashery store and bought gauze curtain remnants – about 3 pieces for the same price.

Gauze remnants

So I promised you last time, that I would tell you about my guava swaps.

In previous years I have made jelly, jam, guava butter, guava bread, guava nectar, dehydrated guava (failed – don’t do this), guavas in sugar syrup and then just frozen guava with dots of butter, ready for my next pie. Then I changed jobs and lost access to incredible amounts of freezer space.

So this year, I decided to swap them. I have no idea how many kilos have fallen off the tree, but it’s at least 10kg.

Swap 1: 1-2 kg guavas for 12 dozen backyard eggs
No photo.

Swap 2: 500g odd guavas for 1.5 pomegranate fruit

Guava swap 2
These were really very tart pomegranates. My co-swapper had been having them in cocktails

Swap 3: 2kg guavas for vegetarian kimchi from the intertwined foodie, preserved lemons and 6 passionfruit

Guava swap 3

I didn’t even realise that standard kimchi wasn’t vegetarian – it uses shrimp or fish sauce. The substituted seaweed added a really moreish yumminess that made me want more.

Swap 4: 1-2kg guavas for fermented honey & garlic and 3 seeds potatoes (royal otway, snow queen, royal blue)

Guava swap

Fermented honey and garlic is supposed to be a good health tonic, warding away colds and flu type things.

Swap 5: 1-2kg guavas for soapwort cuttings, dwarf peach seedling, broad bean seeds (for planting)

Guava swap 5

I planted the tripoli directly about a a fortnight ago, but still haven’t seen any shoots come up. This is against my better judgement, because I think broad beans are just *so* *much* *work*.

Swap 6: 4 guavas for purple asparagus seedling and pineapple sage cuttings. Some of the pineapple sage I then used to swap for a horseradish plant and a chinese veggie – White Mugwort.

Swap 7: 6 guavas for 3 x monsterosa deliciosa fruits (fruit salad plant/swiss cheese plant)

Guava swap 7

This fruit comes off a very common ornamental plant. The fruit is actually the “stamen” of the lily-like flower, and may take up to a year to ripen. You have to wait until the ‘scales’ start falling off (& ricocheting across the room) before the fruit is ripe. To me, it tasted like custard apple. Of course, once I had swapped this fruit, I started to see it *everywhere*, and got so excited when I managed to harvest three in short succession from a roadside ornamental garden.

Swap 8: 6 or so guavas for some “not too hot” chillies (Bishop’s crown chillies)

Guava swap 8

I still haven’t tasted them. My co-swapper was just happy to get rid of some, but he did promise that they weren’t too hot.

Swap 9: 6 or so guavas for a little butternut pumpkin and a few lilli pilli fruits

No photo.

Swap 10: 2kg guavas for 8 empty jars
No photo.

Swap 11: 6 or so guavas for cumquat & lime marmalade (big jar) and spicy plum jam (little jar).

Guava swap 11

The spicy plum jam reminded me of a spicy rhubarb pickle that I had made recently. At the end, I had a little of the spicy sugar syrup left over, so I added some plums, mushed it up and called it done. My co-swapper makes jams and jellies professionally, but only uses a little guava to make a jelly for one client. The rest is bulked out with apple juice (!?!).

Swap 12: 6 or so guavas for a ginger bug from kitchen adventures!

Guava swap 12

Ginger bug makes drinks fizzy. You start off with ginger, sugar and water; and the bacteria on the ginger ferments. When you feed the bug, you take a little of the liquid off and add that to tea in a sealed container. A few day later – fizzy!! The bottle of tea blew off the swing top lid because it didn’t get out of the way in time.

Guava swap 12

Swap 13: 1 kg guavas for 1kg homegrown mandarins

Guava swap 13

Some of the mandarins were a bit tart at first, but when they ripened up they were sweet and delicious.

I didn’t actually realise until I started writing this out, how many good things my guavas had gained me this year. Guava season started about mid May this year, and I’m now 3/4 of the way through June. Thirteen swaps!! Really?! That seems like so many.

Harvest Monday, June 2017

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

I gave in, and finally pulled out my hairy winter melon cross vines. The leaves had started to die back as winter and frosts had hit. Final lot of hairy winter melons:

Hairy winter melon

3 from one vine (the main producer); the fourth from a vine on its own. 346g, 700g, 664g, 900g. That’s a total 10.64kg from some random seeds that just popped up in the garden bed.

Banana.

Banana

Its started to rain – quite a lot. My second hand of bananas started to form in about April 2017. One of the bananas had started to split – probably because of the rain. The upturned ends had also started to rot. So I harvested it, with the hopes that being indoors and warm, my bananas would start ripening to yellow without deteriorating further. 1675g the hand. Perhaps I need a ripe banana to put with them, give off some ethylene gas and help with ripening them to yellow.

Planted:

The second lot of onion seeds took, so some of these I have planted. What is interesting is a little stalk grows up, and the onion seed (slip) is on the top.

I have planted out those seedlings I showed in the last garden update post – kohlrabi, snow peas, dwarf peas. I have also planted out some garlic – elephant, and some other purple type that I picked up from the organic food store.

I also ripped out the brussels sprout “tree” – which was infected with many aphids, and possibly white cabbage moth – lots of little white moths the size of the aphids, very hard to squash. There were a few sprouts which had rootlets on them, so I replanted them. I’m trying an alternate method of control – land cress seeds. Apparently if the white cabbage moth is around, it lays its eggs in the land cress, and the larvae eat it (in preference to the brassicas). This kills them.

Guavas:

Guavas 2017

Guava season has started. I haven’t really eaten that many this year, and I haven’t had much time to process them. I’ve been swapping them mainly, more on that next post.

Horta:

Horta

Looking good for a patch entirely in the shade! I’ve harvested from this once. Not quite micro greens, perhaps mini greens. I’ve actually been harvesting dandelion leaves, sweet potato leaves, malabar spinach leaves, parsley and mustard greens for my local greens boost.

Horta, June 2017

Harvest Monday and Garden Update, March 2017

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

February clicked over into March, and our stinking hot summer suddenly turned wet. It has rained and rained and rained. Couldn’t go outside because it was too hot; suddenly became couldn’t go outside because it was too wet. We lurched from an energy crisis (when industrial load had the potential to overlap with domestic “everyone gets home and switches the air-con on” load), to a severe storm and flood crisis.

The advantage of all this rain is that purslane has been popping up in my front lawn/dirt patch. Apparently, purslane grows in highly compacted soils (like mine) and is high in omega-3 fatty acids (this is new to me). Yay! I stir fried this with cabbage, and also added some to a cucumber salsa:

Cucumber salsa

Diced cucumber, pear, random herbs (parsley, chives, tarragon etc), s&p, apple cider vinegar & olive oil. Pretty simple!

I have never really understood the point behind a cucumber. Apart from turning it into a pickle, or eating it in a salad, what is the reason behind its existence? Then I found this salsa recipe in The Cook’s Companion, supposed to be an accompaniment to smoked fish… and I couldn’t stop making it, or eating it.

The armenian cucumber came from the February crop and swap event. I haven’t seen it in the shops before, I liked the taste, so I saved a few seeds to try and grow next season. The marigolds (edible flowers), also came from a crop swap event.

I checked on my bananas earlier in the week, and it appears that I had left them on the tree for too long. They’ve been forming since November, so about three months of ripening. After trimming the hand, clearing off the rotten bits, shooing away the cockroaches and the slugs, and cutting off the slightly nibbled bananas, here we have it.

Roll up, roll up, for the world’s smallest banana harvest!

World's smallest banana harvest

This is 1kg (including skins). Each banana was the size of your little finger, about 5cm or 2 inches long. They were very sweet. I couldn’t eat them all at once, and if I left them in the house unattended for more than a minute, he would throw them out.

Approx 400g tomatoes (no photo). I still have a few more left on the vine, but it is the last gasp of the summer crop. I must not plant tomatoes next year, I really need to give the beds a break.

Approx 10g random curcubit flowers.

The male flowers keep falling off the vine after they’ve done their thing. It seems a waste to let the snails get to them, so I have been adding them to stir fries like zucchini flowers.

Around the garden:

Random curcubit

My random curcubit is still going strong. I originally had three plants pop up in the full sun garden bed, and I transplanted two of the plants to the other two beds. They are taking over where the tomato plants are dying off. I still haven’t identified it, except that it is definitely not a cucumber or a pumpkin.

Random curcubit

I’m thinking winter melon or luffa. Any ideas?

I killed my two cherry trees, which makes me sad. I think over enthusiastic grass trimming killed the roots.

I killed the native raspberry (too much heat when I planted it), but hopefully I have a lead on raspberry or youngberry canes to plant.

I started putting in some seedlings for autumn/winter. I had a bet each way – kohlrabi (cold crop), okra (in case the hot weather continues), and red rosso onion (seeds slightly out of date, hopefully I get some germination).

I am also hoping that this plant:

Papaya?

is the germination of a papaya? There have been guesses for sweet potato, or papaya, but no firm consensus yet. Ignore the red stems, that purslane lurking underneath. What do you think, dear reader?

Crop and Swap Feb 2017

I haven’t attended a crop and swap in quite a while; one because they’re an 80km round trip for me, and secondly – I’ve run out of honey! I haven’t harvested honey since November 2016. The season has been a bit odd and a lot of colonies have failed around the Sydney basin due to infestation of small hive beetle overcoming them, or not enough pollen/nectar due to the funny weather.

Up until now, I have just been doing one-on-one swaps, and racking up an incredible number of kilometres on the car.

But for the last crop and swap for February 2017, I figured that I would make an effort to head to the proper event in Lane Cove.


Crop and swap – out:

Crop and swap - out

This is what I brought with me to the swap event. Two pots of thyme. Two jars of preserved guava – from 2015. I didn’t think it would be safe to bring or subject anyone else to my jars of unset seville marmalade (5 years ago), or various guava jams and guava jellies, made even longer ago! Two jars of kombucha scoby “jerky”.Two packets of native frangipani seeds, collected from my own tree. Beeswax (of course), some rendered as cupcakes, and some as it had come out of my solar wax extractor.

Crop and swap – in:

Crop and swap Feb 2017 - in

1.5litres of worm wee. Kale. Warrigal greens. Genovese Basil. Armenian cucumber. 2 cloves of garlic. 2 finger limes. 1 lime. Lemon balm (plant). 3 chilli peppers – one of them was a scotch bonnet. I love getting chillies, I love their shape, but I can’t eat them!

I had put in a special request for bee friendly plants, so I ended up with several kinds of salvia cuttings (black knight, hot lips, something with bluish flowers, one with lilac/blue flowers); Fruit salad sage cuttings and indian borage. There was a shopping bag filled with chocolate mint. I was debating whether or not I could try and and get a curry leaf branch to take as a cutting (since I had failed earlier in the month), and then another crop swapper offered me a seedling from her garden, I just had to pop past on my way home.

For the seeds I got some for crookneck squash, kohlrabi, dill, and ‘warpaint watermelon’ – which were a wonderful iridescent blue colour. With a name like that, I thought the watermelon would be similarly coloured, but a search for information on the seeds says not.

My drive home was in a scented lemon-ish, chocolate mint haze.

I then spent the afternoon potting my newly acquired cuttings in the glorious, glorious sprinkling rain, and playing “identify this cutting”.

I stir fried the warrigal greens as a side dish to dinner

I turned the fruit salad leaf cuttings (which I had had taken off to reduce transpiration loss) into a iced tea tissane:

Herb infusion

Harvest Monday, 12 Feb 2017

We are in the middle of a long hot summer. Bats, baby turtles are dying. Not joking. On one day the records were broken, and then we went and broke them again the next day. The cycle is of 4-5 days in the high 30’s (deg C or 95 F+), followed by a 1-2 days in the low to mid 30’s – whereupon it feels positively nippy; and then it repeats. Last weekend, it got to 45 deg C (113 F). It has been horrendous. My garden hates it. I’ve had to rig up shadecloth over the tomatoes; but every time a flower on my random curcubit opens, it keels over and the flower falls off the stem. So it is still a mystery plant.

756 g tomatoes, 200g basil

Harvest Monday 12 Feb 2017

They look pretty; but the taste, not so much. I tried to harvest them in the early morning, such that it was close to 24 hours since I had watered them. I originally picked them to give to a colleague who had been inspired by my tales of sugo making from the last batch, but she wasn’t at work on the friday. So.

My friend is a member of a community garden, and posted photos of her harvesting this amazing looking genovese basil. My basil is a tough mediterranean type that survives winter frosts, but is less green and leafy. It is always in flower, and I can’t bear to cut it back because the bees love it so much. I swapped a 500g jar of honey for the basil.

So I turned the tomatoes and basil into fresh tomato and basil pasta for dinner (using fresh pasta from the markets), and enough for lunch the next day. I didn’t have any balsamic vinegar, so I used a combo of apple cider vinegar and guava vinegar.

The next 100g or so of basil I turned into fresh pesto, with pine nuts and a little lemon juice to try and keep the vibrant green colour.


Curry leaves:

Curry leaves

Not mine, my neighbour’s. He was cutting back his curry leaf plant, and offered me some cuttings. I tried to plant them – but I mentioned this stinking hot weather, right? They didn’t take. So I am currently drying them for later use. They have (to me) an unusual peppery herbaceous taste. I’ve used some leaves to flavour kombucha, as well as make a “curry leaf pesto”. It’s got that peppery taste!

Harvest Monday

I have had 1-2 tomatoes so far, all with grubs, but this was the first time I harvested a big lot of them. Ok, so there was a caterpillar munching on one, and evidence of more caterpillar breakfast on another but here is 800g of grosse lisse:

Monday harvest

I had three of them in a slow cooked ‘shakshuska’ breakfast, except that I was so distracted, I forgot to add the egg.

I’m thinking of bringing out my inner wog, and turning the rest of the harvest into my very own passata.

Add various harvestings of thyme, lemon thyme, rosemary and mint.

The cucumbers (300g) are from my neighbour, she’s such a gem!

I don’t know if this is an old wives tale, but she says that if you harvest them in the full heat of the day, it makes them sour. Thoughts?