Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Connemara Kapusta

This is a Ukrainian style preserved cabbage.
But this method is the same as for Zuurkool, Sauerkraut, Kimchi and other fermented veg recipies.

You will need a fermenter or a very large crock, glass or enamel container

Non iodized salt
Sterilised bottles, filled with water
Sterilised plate to fit container

A sterilised tealight if you want to copy this method.

The basics are salt and cabbage.
I used 2.3 KG of cabbage and 4 tablespoons of sea salt.
You can make as much as you wish as long as you use the ratio of 5 lbs. cabbage to 4 Tbs. salt.
If you plan on refrigerating and not jarring use 3 tbs of salt, not 4.

I added:
Half a cooking apple, grated - the sugar speeds up fementation.
Half a teaspoon of Juniper Berries
Half a teaspoon of Carraway seed
Some tips here to prevent problems with your sauerkraut:

Never use aluminum utensils! Absolute cleanliness is necessary for a good result.

I made a fermenter with the help of Home Brew West to make my sauerkraut. But you can use a glass or enamel coated container or a large crock.

Clean and scald the container well!  I washed everything in Milton Fluid first, then rinsed by pouring boiling water into the container and swishing around for no less than 30 seconds

To prepare the cabbage, remove and discard the outer leaves. Wash and drain and then cut the cabbages into halves or quarters while removing the core in the process.

1) Shred Cabbage - I use a food processor for speed and ease. If you shred by hand, make sure the shreds are no thicker than 2 Euro coin

2) Mix, with wooden spoon or very clean hands, 2.3 KG / 5 lb of shredded cabbage with 4 tablespoons of non iodized salt like seasalt, maldon salt or Kosher salt - do not use regular table salt.

Toss and mix thoroughly until salt dissolves.

Step 3) When juice starts to form on cabbage from tossing - Pack the cabbage firmly and evenly into a clean crock, glass or enamel container. Press firmly to encourage juice formation.
You can also give it a bit of a pounding, I use a rolling pin, the blunt end.

Leave it for an hour or so to let the liquids seep out of the cabbage.

Step 4) Make sure the liquid covers the cabbage completely!
This does not always happen unless the cabbage is fresh from the garden, and red cabbage seems to have less water than green.
You can prepare additional extra brine by putting 1 1/2 Tablespoons of salt into 950 ml of boiling water. Dissolve salt and cool brine to room temperature before adding to the pot of cabbage.

Step 5) Once cabbage is immersed in brine water, place your sterile plate and weights on top

I used sterilised bottles filled with water but you cab use a large food grade, plastic bag filled with brine water and lay on top if cabbage.
Use 2 large bags, one inside the other with a couple of litres of cooled brine water inside.
That way if the bag breaks it will not water down the cabbage into a tasteless mess.

The cabbage must be well sealed all around with the bag, so no air can get in and contaminate the sauerkraut with unwanted yeasts or molds!

Step 6) If using a fermenter the put on the lid and wrap clingfilm round the edge.
If you dont have a lid first seal off with clingfilm, then a heavy towel or cloth tied securely into place.
Do not remove this until fermenting is complete!

It really does need to be airtight as it is oxygen that spoils the food.
Now, one little trick I came up with for the fermenter was to remove all oxygen is very clever, straight out of intercert physics, even if I do say so myself, and easy - but you need to be careful.

I took a but a lit Tealight candle into the fermenter before closing.
I then closed the lid and sealed off with clingfilm as above.

On the first attempt the candle created a new unplanned "observation" window that I had to seal again with clingfilm and silicone.

But the second attempt worked. The trick is to keep cold water running over any hotspot the candle creates.

21% of air is oxygen, so that got burnt off by the candle that extinguishes itself when the oxygen runs out - and also creates a partial vaccum in the fermenter. Doing this burt off approx. 2 litres of oxygen.

In addition to getting rid of O2 there is another benefit. You can see this on the s-bend airlock that I got from Home Brew West, that difference of level on both sides confirms that I have an airtight seal.

I am actually happy to have an observation hole now and will incorprate that into my next fermenter, but get some plexiglass or glass instead, the clingfilm repair job will do for now.

Step 7) Put in an area where the temperature will not be above 25c degrees. Fermentation will begin within a day, depending upon the room temperature.

Step 8) Fermenting does not take long, but this is
If room temperature is 24c degrees allow 3 weeks for fermentation.
If room temperature is 20c degrees allow 4 weeks for fermentation.
If room temperature is 18c degrees allow 5 weeks for fermentation.
If room temperature is 15c degrees allow 6 weeks for fermentation.

NOTE: If temperature is above 25 degrees, the cabbage may not ferment and could spoil.

Step 9) Once fermented taste to see if your required tartness exists. Tartness will weaken as you process by jarring so make sure it is a wee bit more tart than you like!
If you refrigerate only rinse and toss with cold water to attain the tartness desired.

This is a great staple for the cupboard. I love it with smoked sausage, I guess its because I really liked rookwurst and zuurkool in the Netherlands.
There are good smoked sausage available in Ireland at the supermarkets, Lidl in particular.
Another one that I get locally is delicious, made by McGeough's in Oughterard 

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Making a cheap sterile anerobic fermenter for Zuurkool, Sauerkraut, Choucroute, Kiszona Kapusta, Kimchi etc.

One of the things I set out to do at the start of the year was make Zuurkool - Dutch Sauerkraut - and a Ukrainian type of pickled cabbage. Sauerkraut is made by a process of pickling called lacto-fermentation. I wont bother going into details here.

Fully-cured sauerkraut keeps for several months in an airtight container stored at or below 15°C.

Neither refrigeration nor pasteurization is required, although these treatments may prolong storage life. However, pasteurization will destroy all of the beneficial digestive enzymes and lactic acid bacteria, as well as the valuable vitamin C content, so it greatly diminishes the nutritional value without any significant benefit.

This type of preservation is something you find right across Europe, and it has various names.
In Alsace and Lorraine in France it is generally called Choucroute. In Germany Sauerkraut, in Holland it's Zuurkool. You will find Kiszona kapusta all over Eastern Europe.
Even in Asia this type of preservation is popular, perhaps the most well known being Korean Kimchi.

Recipes for Zuurkool will come later, the first thing we need to do is prepare the equipment.

Basics, airtight food grade container with an airlock and bung from homebrewwest

The Sauerkraut types we get in Ireland are frequently just pickled in vinegar and filled with preservatives. Real Sauerkraut is very tasty and very, very healthy.

Captain James Cook always took a store of sauerkraut on his sea voyages, since experience had taught him that it was an effective way to fight scurvy, even they did not understand vitamin C fully in those days.
This allowed Cook to map the world and bring most of his crew home safe - quite a feat in those days.

German sailors continued this practice even after the British Royal Navy had switched to limes, earning the British sailors the nickname "Limey" while the Germans became known as a "Kraut's".

The rebranding of French Fries as Freedom Fries in recent times in the US is not a new idea.
During World War I, due to concerns the American public would reject a product with a German name, American sauerkraut makers relabeled their product as "Liberty cabbage" for the duration of the war.

The main problem we have here in making it is the equipment required. It is easy to make, but we Irish are used to buying it in jars or having it with hot dogs.
We are not quite sure how its made - and from the taste we assume it is pickled in vinegar. It's actually fermented.

There are several specialist crocks available on the continent specially made for this with an air tight water lip seal, the best known being the Harsch brand from Germany.

However, the cost of shipping such heavy and delicate items to Ireland from the continent is prohibitive.
So, I had to figure out a way to create anaerobic fermentation  without the costly equipment.
To create this type of fermentation, you need to allow for the release of CO2 while at the same time prohibit the intake of O2 - much easier said than done.

Thats where comes in. A small Irish company, based in Barna, Connemara.
They provide a great service and free shipping, and great advice even for madcap customers who turn up out of the blue asking for advice on how to ferment cabbage.
I knew that brewers are experts in fermentation, and so with their help and advice, I came up with a plan.

If you go to a chipper or a restaurant, they will normally have catering sized food grade containers for things like Mayonnaise, Curry powder etc. - You are going to have to blag one.

So, once you have a food grade plastic container and an air tight lid - your half way there.
It's then a question of bodging together your anaerobic chamber.
First, use a pen to draw the narrow end of the bung on the bucket lid and centre it up.

The centre the wide end over the initial circle. Draw around it - this will give you minmum and maximum diameters.
Cut between the circles, always staying closer or even on the inner one. Insert the bung with the airlock fitted.
Insert the bung with airlock already fitted.
Now, you will see that the bung pushes down the plastic, making it proud on the inner side of the lid, pull it back a little to make that area recessed.
That allows the silicone to settle on the inside of the bung sink and sit easier.

Then use some silicone to seal it fully on top and on the bottom.

It is not only cabbage you can ferment in the chamber, it can be used for other veg like turnip, gherkins etc. It can also be used for curing meat - not sure about fish - and fermenting mash to make into beer or spirits.
Each use will be explored in due time, but if others use this design - please comment here or let me know

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Setting up for winter

There's more to a kitchen garden than just summer salads.
You can have good, fresh food through the year and reduce the food miles.

I have started cleaning up the beds, and trying to keep the cats out.

Leeks have been transplanted, as these can stay in the ground through the winter.
I'm also growing modules for winter and spring cabbage, Kale's and cauliflower.

Transplanting the leeks also allows me to earth them up further.
They are slow growing, but well worth the wait.

My Paris Silverskin pickling onions have not grown all that well - too crowded or overshaded perhaps, so I transferred them to a new bed with the leeks.

Its also time to start crop rotation, so putting in the leeks starts next years onion patch.

As well as that there is just general cleaning and tidy-up. The squash that I grew went out of control, so a couple of planks and nails with a length of old telephone wire has been set up to provide a trellis of sorts, rough and ready but it gets things back in order.

Over the weekend I will clean up the pathways and I have a few more bits and pieces to pickle or preserve.

Some of the broccoli have bolted, so its time to keep an eye on the others, if they look like their going to bolt, then it is a case of blanch and freeze I think.

I will need to trellis up a few other bits and pieces, but over all there's not that much to do other than prep work for the winter vegetables.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Warm Goats Cheese Salad

Last week in Lidl there were special offers on goats cheese and Spanish vinegar. There were two types of goat cheese on offer. One was a Portuguese Queijo de Cabra, the other was a French Chevre. This is a great salad, based on a typical French Pyrenees dish, but with a bit of a Spanish twist.
Its very quick and cheap, and tastes absolutely lovely, the main theme is the salty bacon offset by the clean, cool taste of the cheese, the sharpness of the mustard dressing and the warm crunchy croûton's.
I would not use Cheddars, Gouda or Edam types.
Any decent mild cheese will do the trick, if you have the cash, Roquefort is the classic, but I find it a little too strong for my taste in this dish.
What I really like is that you can have a full meal or light snack in about 5 minutes

I used the Queijo de Cabra in this meal.
For the bacon I just used offcuts from rashers that I used in another meal, so it was using up leftovers.
Streaky bacon is the perfect type, essentially it is the rendered bacon fat that you get into the bread.
The lettuce is homegrown.

To give this meal a more Irish flavour, use croûton's made from rebaked, dried and decrusted Soda bread or even Potato Soda bread that I will post here at a later date.

2 Rashers of bacon, diced up
2 slices of toasted sourdough, diced.
50g Diced Queijo de Cabra.
50g Chopped walnuts
1 Tsp Wholegrain mustard.
Half a head Raddichio type bitter lettuce, Spinach is an alternative.
Half a head of your favorite lettuce, I used Butterhead. 

140 ml good olive oil (I added a little wallnut oil)
30 ml White wine vinegar
30 ml Spanish sherry vinegar
Two tsp Colman's English mustard
clove of Garlic
Pinch of ground Pepper
Pinch of salt (I like to use Maldon salt for salads)

Put a little oil in a heavy based pot.
Fry the chopped bacon in the base of the pot, rendering out the fat.
Add the croûton's and the wholegrain mustard, the croûton's soak up the bacon fat.

Meanwhile chop the lettuce rougly, wash and dry.
Put into a bowl with the cheese. and mix

Add the croûton's, bacon and chopped wallnut's

Pour over dressing, mix well and serve.

An ideal side salad or by increasing the lettuce content it makes a great meal in itself served with a chilled Rosé or a white, maybe a Chardonnay.

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Curdish Revolution Connemara Blackberry Curd

Like my Blackberry Chutney, this is another way to use blackberries.
The final result is a stunning lemon and blackberry flavour with a creamy, buttery texture

It tastes really nice, perhaps a little too sweet, so in future I'll just reduce the sugar content a bit, and maybe use a little carrageen, I just need a little more tartness.

I think it would make a really nice filling for a tart.
The only pain is the straining, but it is really worth the trouble.

Before you start I would recommend reading Val Harrisons advice on curd making

Its just a nice thing to have a bit of variation on the staple blackberry jam, which cant be beaten - but this comes close.
It is advised that you use unsalted butter, but I used a really good butter from a small Mayo based family company who make a really nice butter, far better than anything else I found in the supermarkets over the years.
Cuineog have deservedly won several awards for their traditional, great tasting product. It's great to see a small family business doing so well.
Once you have tried Cuinneog, I can tell you it's hard to back to the mass produced kerrygold types.
The flavour is rich, and if your going to the trouble of making this curd, just for the flavour, I'd recommend it fully.
The good news is that Cuinneog's distribution and availability is increasing all the time.

1.0kg blackberries
350g peeled and cored apples*
150 ml water
110 g butter
Yolks of 2 fresh eggs
900g sugar
100 ml fresh lemon juice

I added 20g Ginger and two tsp lemon rind to give a little more zing to the original recipe that came from the wonderful John and Val Harrison at

Vals method is a little different to mine, but they both work.

(*I added 100gm of rhubarb in lieu of apple)

1.Put blackberries, apples and sugar in a large saucepan with the water. Bring to the boil over a high heat. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes until the fruit is is soft and near setpoint.

2.Remove from the heat and push the fruit through a strainer into a medium-sized mixing bowl, pressing down on the fruit with a wooden spoon.

3.Put another heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water or bain maire and melt the butter.
Beat the eggs lightly and stir into the bowl with the lemon juice and pressed blackberry and apple.

4. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes or until mixture thickens, stir frequently.

5. Remove the bowl from the heat and pour the curd into clean, dry, warm, sterilized jars.

IMPORTANT TIP: Filling curd jars is different from jam, you leave as little headspace as possible because Curds shrink.

6. Seal and cover a per previous posting.

7. I Water bathed the jars for 10 minutes

8. Don't forget to cool them sitting on a cloth, this gives more even cooling.

Keep the jars in a cool, dry place. Curds will last about 3 months if kept in a refrigerator, 6 weeks in a cool, dark place but only about a week once they are opened.

I hope the waterbath may push out the shelf life to about 5 months

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Paprika Pollack Almondine with Sephardic style spuds

OK - its been a while since I did a meal plan, having been stuck doing jams and pickles.
Becuase the fish was caught locally, and nearly all the veg came from the garden, this cost very little to make.

Serves 4 people.

Pollock is a great fish. Its very versitile, abundant and cheap at fish shops, or in my case, free off the rocks.
Whiting, Pouting and Coley can also be used for this recipe.

When we get a recipe we stick to it as if it were some sacred text rather than experiment or adjust for the seasons.

You can eat what you want all year round - and that is sometimes a great thing, but we need to draw the line somewhere.
When I go to the supermarket in Ireland there is Garlic from China! In Holland there were Onions from New Zealand !!!!!
What has happened to Irish and EU prduction for such basic staples. One of the primary reasons I set up the kitchen garden was to reduce food miles, not because I am super Green, but just as a damn point of principle, I think it is insane to buy something as simple as garlic from China.
Good examples of sustainale fish are Pollock, Whiting, Pouting and Coley that can also be used in place of Cod in most recipes, and a lot of restraunts label these fish, haddock and ling as cod.
At this time, we are wiping out stocks of cod.
Our ability with electronics, engine size, winch strength and net size means we have far outstripped natures ability to replace what we take.

When I look at what is happening in fishing, I do worry - I like fish as food, and like having them around.

And the plastic pollution from fisheries is utterly out of control. The first Nylon net that went into the oceans in the 40's is still there, it breaks up but des not degrade so we are turning the seas into a toxic plastic soup.

Nearly 75% of the world's fisheries are either overfished or fully fished.

As I have said before, I am not a religious person, but there are passages in several religious texts.
A lot of free market, christian right wing capitalist groups are also self declared 'people of faith'.
I think they would do well to remember that according to Genisis that we have dominion over the seas and the fish, but having dominion is not a licence to destroy all and sundry.
With what some claim as a god given right, as with all rights, comes responsibility.
One of those responsibilities must surely be to harvest the oceans in a sustainable way.

Governments can do it, especially here in the EU by limiting engine size, net size, incorporating square mesh panels in the cod end of nets, having strictly enforced zones that are not exploited, stopping bottom trawling, bio degradable plastics, pot escape panels and other simple measures in co-operation with the fishing industry.

But we can change ourselves, by selecting sustainable fish types. There is no pont in demanding that fisheries policy changes if we do not start to change our own attitudes.
We can eat mackerel instead of blue fin tuna, pollack or whiting instead of cod

For an excellent guide to sustainable and non sustainable choices please click here for a handy print-off from the UK.

BIM do an excellent job, out here they just completed a free course for leaving cert students for entry into fisheries, but I would really like them to produce something of this nature.
The good news on the cod front is that here in South Connemara they are beginning to farm them, sustainable cod, good thinking.
Anyway, on with the food
Paprika Pollock Almondine
2 lb. Pollock, filleted
1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. seasoned salt
1 tsp. paprika
1/4 c. butter
1/2 c. sliced almonds
2 tbsp. lemon juice
5 drops Tobasco
1 tbsp. chopped parsley
1 tbsp. chopped fennel leaf

Cut fish into 6 portions. Combine flour, salt, and paprika.
Coat fish in mixture and place in single layer, skin side down, in well greased baking pan.

Tip I find the best way to flour coat anything is put the flour mix in a palstic bag with no holes, put in meat, fish, poultry or veg to be dusted and give it a quick shake

Drizzle 2 tablespoons of melted butter over the fish. Bake 10-15 minutes or until fish flakes easily.

Meanwhile, saute almonds in remaining butter until golden brown, add fennel.
Remove from heat. Add lemon juice, hot pepper sauce and parsley.

Pour over fish and serve at once.

Sephardic style spuds
After my disastrous attempt to pickle turnips to a sephardic recipe, I was determined to make a go of something with a sephardic theme.

This recipe for potatoes, if not strictly a sephardic one certainly has all the right elements, horseradish and lemon.

At Seder, or Passover, horseradish is chewed - this is to symbolize the bitterness and harshness of the slavery which the Jews endured in Egypt.

I like the idea of the Seder plate, where you have bitter herbs and sweets - it is used as a way of explaining to children that in life you have to take the bitter as well as the sweet.

Lemon is used during rituals in the Yom Kippur fast, often as a kind of posie to smell, apparently this helps while fasting.

Of the potatos I grew this year, my pride and joy are the Mr. Little's Yetholm Gypsies, a rare old English variety that were very hard to get,
But thanks to JJ in Coventry I got them and they grew reasonably well - even if the yield was a little disappointing, but I put that down to the dry early part of the summer.
They are a waxy potato that are a riot of colour, the skins being 3 tone.

It was developed in the Border Village of Yetholm, which is the Gypsy capital of the borders, by the Little Brothers.
It is unusual because it is the only potato to show red white and blue skin. It is best boiled, steamed or baked with the skin on ,the colour remains , and the flavour is quite delicious.

1/4 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh horseradish
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 pounds small new potatoes, unpeeled

I always throw in a pinch of Rosemary and Caraway seeds

Preheat oven to 175 degrees C.
Melt butter in a casserole dish in the oven.
Stir in salt, pepper, horseradish and lemon juice.
Place potatoes in dish and toss to coat with butter mixture.

Cover and bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, or until potatoes are tender.
I was going to have it with broccoli and hollandaise sauce, but ran out of lemons (hazard of our climate) so I served it with a really nice French style warm goats cheese salad

Make sure the oven is set up to take the potato's in the centre, and fish on top.

00:00 Put dish and butter into pre-heated oven, prepare lemon and horseradish
00:05 Remove dish from oven, put in potato's, lemon juice, horseradish, salt and pepper - stir and coat
00:07 Return dish to oven
00:10 Prepare fish
00:20 Prepare fish coating, melt some butter, have a glass of wine for yourself, relax
00:35 Coat fish in flour in a plastic bag - place fillets on baking tray
00:40 Put fish in oven top shelf
00:45 Saute almonds and fennel - prepare lemon juice, Tabasco and parsley
00:50 Remove almonds from heat, pour lemon, Tabasco and parsley mix over almonds
00:55 Plate up fish and potatos - pour Almondine sauce over fish fillet
00:60 Serve and enjoy

This way of doing spuds is also great with beef.
Steak on a bed of caramelised onion with Sephardic spuds (Kerr Pinks)

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Carrageen Conserve - Rhubarb and Blackberry low sugar jam

Served here with goats cheese and crusty bread

Sugar in Jam does two things, it preserves and it gels.

I am not one that worries too much about food intake, sugars, fats etc. but I was so shocked at the amount of sugar that goes into a preserve even I knew that had to be bad for you

But in my attempt to reduce the sugar content of the jam I decided to give this a go. Its an experiment.
How it turns out in terms of shelf life I have no idea, but I am fairly confident that it should last at least 4 months after proper waterbath processing.

Something we have in abundance all along the shore of the Island is Carageen moss.
This is a natural gelatin. It free and available, so I decided to go with that.

Adding carageen to the mix will force it to gel, so that is one aspect of sugars contribution.
Rememember - when you pick carrigeen, put it on the draining board and pour boiling water over it before you dry it.

Pectin will also do the same thing, this can be bought in stores or you can make it at home.
The rcipe for that is later on

The less ripe the fruit, the more natral pectin, so I went with about 10% of unripe (red or green) blackberries

In a recipe for carrot jam (which will come later) Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management 1861, she added brandy at a ratio of 1 tsp per pound of mix to a preserve to make sure it would remain good for months. The alcohol, just another sugar really, in her recipie is what keeps the preserve.

The obvious problem is with its low boiling point, the alcohol cannot be added durning the cooking process, so it goes in at the last possible moment - just after filling up the jar before the lid and liner go on.

So, I decided to do a Blackberry and rhubarb jam, but reduce the sugar content drasticly, to half the normal ratio. Its still a lot of sugar, but at least it is a start.

As far as I know, looking on the net, this is the first time someones written about making a conserve in this way, so I am a little proud of that - Delaney must have inspired me.

750gm sliced rhubarb
500gm Blackberries (at least 50 gm underripe)
150 gm cooking apple peeled and chopped
(total fruits 1.4kg)
600ml water
3tsp lemon juice
100 gm Demerera
100 gm Rich dark brown
400 gm White sugar
75 gm honey
25 gm Carrageen (a.k.a Irish Moss)

1 tsp brandy per jar filled
(or any other strong drink with a volume of about 40% volume/80% proof e.g. slivovitz, rum, whiskey, vodka, gin, you know what you like)
Put the sugar, water, honey, apple, lemon juice and honey to a large pot, mix, bring to the boil.
Reduce heat and let it simmer on a low heat to reduce.
Soak carrigeen in cold water in warm water for 15 minutes, squeeze out excess water and add to the pot.

Now, because of the reduction in sugar this needs to be reduced more than normal, your looking at 30% reduction at least. Because of the energy requirement I just did it very slowly on the Morso, so timing will differ.
When the mix has reduced do the gel test.

Some people like to remove seeds, carageen bits etc. using a cheesecloth or jam strainer, but you should be able to fish out the carigeen f you dont want it, I left mine in.
But if you want to strain out bits, hit the mix with a handblender first

After filling to the mark add a teaspoon of alcohol - (the mark is just below the thread - take a look at any full commercial jar for an indication, thats where the fill should end

Dont forget to leave headspace in the jar.

Store in a cool, dry dark place.

If waterbath is done properly, I estimate a shelf life of at least 3 months -
probably about 6 months I would say.

I ended up with a mix that was just a little too runny, but next time out I will just keep reducing a little longer and increase the amount of under-ripe fruit - maybe just a little more sugarthat should solve the problem.

I would really like it if others that gave this a shot gave me feedback on their results, that would be great

The mixture sets reasonably well, and is very sweet already, tastes divine.

It is just that little bit different because of the seaweed, so I think that by a few minor adjustments we may be on to something.
Mr Spider owns this one

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Delaney's dual delivery

I have a good lifelong friend, Mikey, to whom I mentioned one evening that I needed something to keep the furze on the farm down.
He said he might have an idea.
I thought nothing of it until the next day with a hell of a headache I was woken by what sounded like the gates of an old testament Hell being ripped asunder.
Actually, the din described by Dante would not have begun to have the same effect on me.

I don't know if readers have ever heard an Ass' roar at point blank range, but Shock and Awe do not even begin to describe its effects.

Mikey had a fairly surprising solution to my problem, and his as it turns out.
His problem was a young jack who was surplus to Mikey's Donkey requirements.

Deciding to kill two birds with one stone (and nearly killing me in the process) Mikey had delivered Delaney to my doorstep.
Delaney is named after a childrens song and a horse called Fr. Delaney (coincidentally the name of the local parish priest here years ago)

After my eardrums stopped reverberating like bass speakers I decided - for want of a better expression - not to look a gift horse in the mouth.

I walked Delaney, who was easy to handle because of a beautiful old bridle he had, down the farm to see his new home.
Released through a gate he seemed pleased and also seemed to get on with the cattle that a neighbour grazes there occasionally.

That evening he seemed content, but I did find out he does not like cabbage.
The next morning, despite the departure of his bovine field mates he seemed happy enough.
That evening when I got home I went down to see him.
Delaney had deserted the farm.

Enquiries of an equine nature the next morning started to explain the sudden Donkey departure.

A neighbour, Con, informed me he had seen Delaney the previous evening in a flight to freedom, racing down the road at a speed that would give Sea the Stars a run for his money, ears pinned back, a smile on his face and an occasional backward glance.

But I located the absconding Ass.

He was staying at a neighbouring farm, a real one, about half a mile away, run by two expert Stockmen.
The two brothers, Tom and Paudie, are really brilliant with farm animals.
They had no problem letting Delaney stay and advised me to leave him there a few days to settle down.
During his dash to freedom,Delaney was diverted by an aptly named young L-ass.
He was safe there and had the company of other Donkeys, in particular Delilah, a jill, who had become the object of Delaney's affections.

Delaney's field and board cost me several of my prized Tipperary turnips, pickles and a few jams.

They felt that if Delaney was lonely he would wander, and very kindly decided that Delilah would stay on our farm to keep him company.

I went over this morning as instructed and Tom got the two new best friends ready.

I was really impressed by the way he could handle the animals, taking a simple rope and tying up a bridle for Delilah in seconds.
Delaney has lost his, probably an antique, so we are still looking for that.

Tom assured me that Delaney would follow me and Delilah home and he did in his own way - the scenic route.
I had to tie Delilah to telephone poles and go down every boreen to get Delaney back on the road.
Much to the amusement of every house on the road and the photo opportunity to half the tourists in Connemara the half mile walk feels like it took at least an hour as Delaney inspected every side road and flower garden en route.
Con's loud encouragement to Delaney to 'run boy, run' was an added distraction.

Finally I stooped being a traffic hazard and delivered him - for a second time - to his new home with his new friend Delilah.

I'm not quite sure what I have let myself in for, but it seems like it is going to be interesting, One thing I am sure of is that in future I will be careful when speaking to Mikey, and if he ever reads this, mate, a petrol strimmer may have been a quieter solution. I am also sure at this stage Niall and Caroline who I believe read this blog on a regular bases are on the floor in tears laughing at my assinine adventures.

But whatever I say about strimmers, Delaney is a dote, as is Delilah.

I just hope the two stay put there will be no more meandering Mule or deserting Donkey stories from this blog
Even in a time of recession, a young couple make a start in a new home

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Rusheen Rhubarb and Blackberry Preserve

The first of the Jam recipes. This is the first jam I have made myself. I think the last time I even helped make for that matter, was 1984! My Grandmother made it, as did my mother, but with boarding school, work and other things I have not had anything to do with it since.

Blackberries are coming into season now, a lot of readers who aim for even a little self suficiency have been emailing.
So, my advice would be now is the time to start building up a winter larder - make hay while the sun shines so the saying goes.

A few hours picking, a bit of bartering and a little imagination gives months of satisfaction and good home made food.

just an excuse to show off the new Kilner jars on the right

My neighbour Judah was a great friend of my Gran. She has fantastic rhubarb plants. They must have been established back in the 1890's and whatever variety they are, they are delicious.
When we get a gift of them in early spring each year, they have no stringiness and make great crumble.
I cant wait to get a few crowns for transplant come November.

We save on bin charges here in a very easy way. What ever food waste we have the cats don't want goes to Judah's chickens, and we get eggs - pretty fair deal.
And trust me - you will never get a shop bought egg as good as something fresh off a farm. Just boiled and served with soda bread is a breakfast fit for an emperor, never mind a king.

So I decided the first batch should be something for her.

Even in this first attempt I am determined to reduce the amount of sugar, I used a little honey (10%) in place of sugar

Another tip is to use a small percentage, say about 10%, of under ripe berries, also helps the jam to set.
And even with the sugar reduction it worked out fine.
For the standard procedure in preserve making, please see the production made easy posting.

250 grm. Rhubarb, sliced thinly
200 grm Blackberries, washed, steeped in slightly salty cold water for an hour (to knock off any little nasties) then rinsed
200 grm granulated white sugar
150 grm granulated Demerera sugar
50 grm rich dark sugar
50 grm honey
1 Tsp lemon juice
150 ml water

This will yield about 500ml of preserve

Dude, You cookin'?

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Friday, August 6, 2010

Preserve production made easy

Its jam, but preserve sounds posher. Anyway, I am getting glutted by blackberries out here, a nice complaint to have this time of year
What really horrifies me about jam is the sheer volume of sugar that goes into the mix in most recipes, so I will be experimenting with honey, apples and other variants in the near future. I have what I think is a pretty good idea, but I'd better prove the concept first.

This is the first jam I have made myself. I think the last time I even helped make for that matter, was 1984! My Grandmother made it, as did my mother, but with boarding school, work and other things I have not had anything to do with it since.

What strikes me about fruit preserves is that it is all about ratios.
It is the one thing apart from cake baking that does require a good set of scales, most things I cook are done by smell, taste and feel as opposed to measures, I take them as advice.
When I post recipes detailing measures, I work it out as I go along to make it easier for readers of this blog.

For regular readers as with the Malt and Mustard pickle, this posting will be the basic one on fruit preserves.

In the case of jam it is a pretty much exact science. In essence it is sugar, fruit and water that are reduced, loaded into sterile containers and waterbath sealed.

The basic ratio for preserves is as follows
3 parts fruit
3 parts sugar
1 part water

That is the basic advice, but again, I will be working on a lower sugar content in future.

After the ingredients are combined and reduced it is then a question of judging when the blend is ready to gel, if it is at set point.

This is not all that hard.

Get two small side plates and put them in the fridge. There are a range of jam thermometers etc - but the plates are already in the house and are just as good.

Take a shop bought jam or marmalade and spread out a spoonful of the jelly part of the jam on a plate - this is the consistency you are aiming for.

The reason to use two plates is that when sampling, you will always have one and hand that is clean, cold and  available.

As you approach the set point you will need to check every few minutes

When you have reduced your jam, mix it - get it as even as possible in terms of the fruit blend as possible, I use a whisk to do this this.

Using a small spoon, take out a sample and spread it on the cold plate.

Wait at least two minutes to let the sample cool to a normal temperature on the plate, check to see if it looks right. turn the plate to its side, it should cling on fairly well - no harm if it runs a little.

This sample was solid, and gelled well

Some people can tell looking at the back of a cool spoon, but while waiting for the plate sample to cool I check the whisk to see did the jam cling, did it set, or does it drip.

When it looks right and acts right then it is right.

Sterility is key to a good preserve or pickle.

First thing I do is boil the jar for 10 minutes in the waterbath with their lids.

A waterbath is simply a large pot with boiling water you can fit the closed jars into and cover

note lid on bottom

As you get ready to pour the jam, move the glass jars to an oven.
The lids remain boiling in the waterbath.

Turn the oven heat to 110 degrees centigrade
By the time the oven reaches this temperature, the jars will be dry and sterile.

Decant the jam into the hot sterile jars, always be mindful and act sensibly, use oven gloves or kitchen towels at all times when handling hot glass.

After loading into the sterile jars, make sure the lip and threads are spotlessly clean.
Give them a good wipe with kitchen towel.
Use wax paper or clingfilm over the jar to create a barrier between the lid and the jam.

At the last moment, remove the lid from the boiling waterbath
Put the sterilised lid on hand tight and waterbath for ten minutes.
Remove the jar sealed jar from the waterbath and store in a cool dry dark place.
It should keep for about 6 - 8 months.
If you can, try to hang on to old jars with the pop-top / anti tamper type lid (the one with the tin nipple)

If you have followed the procedure correctly, this should depress into the safe position as the jar cools, giving a secure air tight seal.

Its actually a really nice sound to hear them click and ping into position as the jar cools, sound of a good seal and a job well done.


Part of the concept of the garden plot is the reduction of food miles. I was going to urge the use of Irish products i.e. Siucra or Gem, but now would advise Fair Trade brands
Sadly, no sugar has been produced in Ireland since 2005, so its hardly guaranteed Irish, but the brand name is.

That means we have no idea where the sugar or its beet or cane comes from originally. I don't even know if it is GM free.

The Irish Sugar Company/Greencore sold their Sugar business overseen by Tainiste Mary Coughlan, who was at the time Minister for Agriculture, to Nordzucker in Germany. The sale closed the last remaining sugar production companies in Ireland. This also means that in the future, due to short sightedness, we are way behind if there is ever to be sugarbeet ethanol production.

The Siucra brand is up to 30 cent dearer than other imported brands and more than likely all the sugar is coming out of the same packer. Hence my advice to go with fairtrade. At least that way you will have an idea as to where and by whom the product is made.

The Irish Shopper is being fooled to pay extra for a trusted Irish brand name that sadly has no links to the country.

Its a very good example of what Naomi Klein wrote about in her book No Logo. It is the brand itself that is important, regardless of its production methods, location, economic benefit or inherent value, the item itself means very little, be it a product or person.

Greencore and Nordzucker kept the deal as quiet as they could so as not to draw notice to the change as many people believe the brand Siucra is still Irish.

There is also the factor that many of the big UK sugar companies started out in the 17th century using slaves on Caribbean plantations, so I'd rather not reward the inheritance of that shameful legacy.

Random cats to end on a happy note

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