Archive for March, 2007

Tomato Adventure

Friday, March 16th, 2007

Finally, here is the update on my tomato preserving adventures. As a novice preserver, I’m pleased (relieved, even) to report that the tomato canning exercise seems to have been a success. Special thanks are due to Mum and Auntie Linda and that trusty Kiwi classic, the Edmond’s Cookery Book!

Preserved tomatoes

To date, I have canned seven quarts of tomato puree in glass preserving jars with dome seals, using the “overflow method.” These 7 jars are the result of boiling down some 14 kilos of tomatoes.

This is what I did:

*Cut up the tomatoes with skins still on, and made a puree using a stick blender.
*Filled a large stock pot with the puree, and simmered it for a couple of hours to reduce.
*Added a little salt.
*Heated the preserving jars in a 120 degrees celsius oven for 30 minutes.
*Put the seals in boiling water for 5 minutes.
*Took hot jars out of the oven one at a time to be filled with hot puree and sealed.
*Added 1/2t of citric acid to each jar to ensure sufficient acidity to inhibit growth of bacteria.
*Filled each jar to the very top (almost overflowing).
*Placed hot seal on top of jar, using tongs.
*Wiped off any excess juice, and fixed the seal in place with a screw band.
*Checked the jars after 12 hours of cooling to see if they had sealed properly.
*Removed screw bands and labelled the jars.

I’m sure we will value the taste that the tomatoes will add to our winter fare. Since sun drying (and even storing dehydrated products) can be problematic here due to the high humidity, and freezing uses so much energy, canning some puree seems like a good way for us to preserve our tomatoes. Fortunately, canned tomatoes do not require added sugar for successful preservation. We opted not to add other ingredients to the puree, in order to keep it as simple and versatile as possible.

There is so much going on here at the moment, and lots of posts I’d like to write for the Farmlet website. My brother and sister were visiting here for about ten days, so we took lots of time out to have fun with the family. We had a wonderful time, and I miss my brother and sister now that they are gone. Still, it’s good to be getting back to the regular work schedule around the Farmlet — not to mention a more regular blogging schedule!

All Steel Shovel

Saturday, March 10th, 2007

I used part of this month’s contributions to buy my last shovel: the Made in New Zealand, Atlas Trade, All Steel, Round Nosed Shovel which cost an insane NZ$99 at Mitre10. (This shovel was so expensive that, when I went to pay, the woman at the register couldn’t believe the price.)

I’ve written about broken shovels before, and my search for one I could rely upon. I thought it would be worth noting that this quest is finally over for me.

I’m confident that I’ll give out before this Atlas shovel does, and that’s the way it should be! To choose a tool like this is to be through screwing around. While someone might note that I could have bought 6.6 crappy Warehouse shovels for the price of this single Atlas all steel tool, the peace of mind is worth the extreme price.

Note the weld between the blade and the handle:

Atlas all steel shovel with close-up showing the blade welded to the handle

I’ve been using this shovel and it’s a pleasure to work with. It’s rigid and it feels damn strong.

Thanks to all contributors for making this strategic purchase possible.

For those of you in the U.S., the Fiskars Long Handle Digging Shovel seems like the closest match to the shovel I got, in case you’re interested. “Shaft is welded to the steel blade,” are the seven words that should jump out at you.

Summer Goodies, Winter Planting

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

We have harvested the Austrian Hull-less Seed Pumpkins, freeing up more garden space for autumn planting. Most of the pumpkins are stored in the back room, awaiting our further attention, but we cut one open immediately to try the seeds. They are plump and delicious. We soaked them overnight in brine, then dried them in the oven to make them nice and crispy. What a tasty snack!

Austrian hull-less seed pumpkins

Pumpkin seeds ready for the oven

Neither Kevin or I had ever encountered this kind of pumpkin before we found it in a heritage seed catalogue in the spring. They have proved easy to grow, and we think they are beautiful looking pumpkins. The flesh is not very tasty. Beyond adding a bit of it to soups or stews, I can’t imagine that we’ll want to eat it very much. Kevin tried feeding some to the cows, who were unimpressed! Perhaps it would be popular with chickens or pigs. Because the seeds have no hulls, special care needs to be taken to prevent excessive moisture and rotting during germination. Once started, the vines are rampant, and the plump hull-less seeds are delicious. We would like to grow these pumpkins again next year.

The tomato harvest continues. At last we have the the joyful abundance of far more tomatoes than we can eat. Today it is my mission to bottle some of them. I plan to make a puree, reduce it, add some citric acid to ensure safe preservation, and bottle it in quart jars using the “overflow method.” This will be my first attempt ever at making preserves, so I’ll be sure to report on the results — favourable or otherwise!

Can you ever have too many?

As we harvest the summer vegetables, we are working on preparing the newly emptied potato and pumpkin beds for autumn planting. This involves breaking up remaining clods of clay, spreading lime and gypsum to condition the soil, adding cow manure, and mulching with loads of dry kikuyu grass. I am already starting seeds for many of our autumn crops: beets, swiss chard (silver beet), red cabbage, mustard lettuce, fenugreek, collards (Dalmatian cabbage), two kinds of kale, salsify, turnips, leeks, shungiku (chrysanthemum greens), peas (flour peas, sugar snaps, and shelling peas), carrots and radishes. We have direct-seeded the radish and carrot seed. The rest have been started inside and will be transplanted into the garden.