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Thursday, 19 October 2017

Make your own Vanilla Extract from the Vanilla Orchid Bean from scratch





In the Tropics or the Sub-tropics where I live, it is possible to grow your own Vanilla Beans. It is just like growing an Orchid because that is what it is, a Vanilla Orchid. Vanilla Extract  is an essential ingredient in most cakes and if you also like making custards and ice-cream you can't do without it. I can' go without it, and the good news is that you don't need to use very much of it in most cooking. I like to cook from scratch when I can, and as I have a few extra vanilla beans on hand, why not make my Vanilla Extract from scratch as well. So easy. I have two vanilla orchids growing, one is climbing up our Golden Penda tree, the other one is clinging to the mesh on the inside of a covered raised garden, as protection from the Summer heat. The second one has a lot of potential, as it will be much easier to access the flowers and pollinate each flower individually. The Vanilla bean originated in Mexico and Latin America and to this day is the only Orchid that is edible. The Aztecs in 1427, in Central Mexico, were the first people to use vanilla in Chocolate drinks for which they are still famous. 

Vanilla extract on the first day of making.


I bought my first Vanilla plant at the Farmer Markets in Bowen just North of here, a couple of years ago and attached it to the large Golden Penda tree in our Rainforest garden section in the backyard. It is steadily climbing through the tree, and has sent a long root down the tree to the ground, which is what they do for extra nutrition and stability I suppose. The root should be fertilised every couple of weeks with an Orchid fertiliser. When the vine starts to grow out along a sturdy branch, I will need to let it hang down off the tree rather than let it climb further up the tree, so that I can access the pale lemon flowers for pollination.

Vanilla Bean Orchid
Yellow, fragile and waxy Vanilla Orchid flowers. Photo courtesy of Dan Sams-Getty Images

Image result for vanilla flowers
Two flowers waiting to be pollinated, and the other 6 withering on the vine after pollination. SBS photo.

 Roots from the vanilla vine growing on our sturdy Golden Penda tree and heading for Earth.


Below, Vanilla Vine, No. 2 is  growing on the front right inside the hutch. Galangal is growing on the other side of the hutch, and is enjoying the rain showers.


A close up of the Vanilla vine.


This second one was given to me by my friend Chris,  who also gave me the three home grown vanilla beans I have used in this Organic Extract flavouring brew. Chris now harvests an annual crop of Vanilla Beans from her vine, quite an achievement, and it is the vine that mine is a derivative of, which she then dries and processes herself to produce her high quality organic Vanilla Beans. Chris and her husband were away on holiday for a couple of weeks this past fortnight,  and Mr. HRK and I, after a "training" session, visited the vine early each day to pollinate the flowers. This needs to be done before 11am each day or they will wilt and drop off the vine before being pollinated. We don't have the essential bee in Australia to pollinate the flower so it needs to be done by hand, meticulously. The stingless Melipona Bee is native to Mexico and is the only insect capable of pollinating the flower. Hence, the high cost of good quality vanilla pods to buy commercially. So with our recent experience  with pollinating the Vanilla orchid flowers, we are ready for when our vines decide to start producing flowers, and ultimately pods, hopefully next year. However it could take another couple of years.

This is how the vine attaches and secures itself to the mesh.




Let's make some Vanilla Extract  from scratch




Ingredients:

Easy Vanilla Extract

3 Vanilla pods
1/2 cup Vodka, (or Rum or Brandy or Bourbon) (alcohol)
1 long, narrow bottle or jar (I used a sterilised capers jar)

Method:

Split the vanilla pods down the middle lengthwise.
Place them in the bottle, and cut them in half to easily fit if necessary.
Cover with the vodka, or whatever alcohol you are using.
Seal your bottle and give it a shake. Small pieces of vanilla seed will swim through the vodka.
Label your jar with today's date, so that you will know in 4 weeks that it is ready to use.
Find a dark place in your cupboard and store it there.
Remember to give it a shake a few times a week.
It will get stronger the longer you leave it and you can keep topping it up with . Keep adding more vodka as the bottle empties, or just add another pod or two as the flavour wanes.

After you use the vanilla pod seeds, you can add these pods to the bottle as well, in addition to adding them to your Caster Sugar for flavouring. Waste not, want not.

You may remember my last post was about the Ginger cake I cooked for the Mahjong ladies during the week. Well talking about recycling, we still have some of the cake left and it is Mr. HRK's birthday today, so we are about to have some Coffee and leftover Ginger cake. He loves the combined flavours of Tarragon and Ginger so I have decorated a large slice of cake with edible tarragon flowers and edible viola flowers. The flavours of tarragon and ginger marry perfectly together. Voila, it is now his Birthday cake, and this is all we really need to celebrate this morning when we have no family around. Let the celebrations continue.



Have a special weekend everyone.

Best wishes

Pauline


Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Ginger cake with Lemon Icing and Delicate Blue Bromeliad Flowers, and So the Day Goes


It is an amazing phenomena how a fairly ordinary Bromeliad plant on a tree, can suddenly transform into a bird attracting and beautiful specimen by producing these delicate blue and pink flowers. Yesterday morning during a garden meander I noticed these flowers, but I wasn't fast enough to grab the camera and snap the sun bird which was burrowed into the blue flower lapping up the nectar. I've learned from that as our garden is always full of wonderful surprises that I need to have my camera or phone on me at all times. It makes me realise how patient and prepared nature photographers must be. Birds don't hang around to be photographed. 


I think that a large part of my gardening enjoyment are  the memories of who gave me what. Mr. HRK's cousin Judy, who lives on a lovely property in Maleny in Southern Queensland,  gave me this bromeliad around 8 years ago.  I attached a piece to our Golden Penda tree, which it has now completely encircled and it is now flowering. We always called in to see Judy when we travelled through to Brisbane, and as we don't drive to Brisbane much now, we haven't spoken recently. When I saw the sun bird and the flowers I was so excited that I called Judy on the phone to tell her about it. She is a real nature lover and a keen gardener so she was really thrilled to hear from me. Communicating with like minded friends and relatives is just another dimension of gardening. Judy doesn't think this brom has an actual name, so if you know it and it has a name I would love to hear about it.



My day progressed into icing a cake that I made the night before, as the Mahjong ladies were coming that afternoon. I made my favourite ginger cake recipe, as it looked like rain and what is better on a wet day than ginger cake. This time I decided to ice it with a lemon icing rather than use a ginger syrup and that worked well. Here is the recipe if you haven't already seen it. It is such an easy cake to make and I always add about 6 chopped up pieces of crystallised ginger to the batter  for extra oomph.



The cake was delicious and so was the lemon icing.

Ingredients:

120 g unsalted butter
250 ml golden syrup
2 1/2 cups self-raising flour, sifted
2 heaped teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon mixed spice
220 g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
250 ml milk
2 free-range eggs, beaten
2 cups of icing sugar
juice of a large lemon

Let's Cook

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C.
Grease and line a medium sized square cake tin. Melt butter and golden syrup over low heat; remove. Sift flour, ginger, mixed spice, sugar and salt into a large bowl.
Add milk and egg and mix until smooth. Gradually add butter mixture and stir.
Pour batter into tin; bake for 50-55 minutes or until risen and firm to touch.

Allow to cool before icing.

I often make this  cake with a Ginger syrup instead of icing, less sugar, I wish.  This is a link to my original post with the recipe using Ginger syrup which is also absolutely delicious.

heps://happyretireeskitchen.blogspot.com.au/2015/05/ginger-syrup-cake.html




It is nice to eat cake with proper cake forks, especially when I have friends over so I cleaned them and some of the other silver cutlery I own. There are still droplets of water on the cutlery in the photo.

It is almost cup of tea time, it was an early start. I hope you find time to put your feet up today and enjoy a nice cuppa.

We are supposed to receive significant rain today so here's hoping. So far we have only had about 15 ml. Fingers crossed.

Best wishes

Pauline




Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Our Fraser Island Creeper flowers to celebrate Australia's inaugural National Gardening Week



This week is Australia's inaugural National Gardening Week from the 8th-14th October, 2017, and to celebrate it in my part of the world, I would like to share with you  a few photos of the first waxy pink, bell shaped flowers from our beautiful  Fraser Island Creeper, "Tecomanthe hillii".  We transplanted the plant from a pot last year to a strong trellis at the back of our property which faces North and now has a dedicated sprinkler system and it is flourishing. Location and water are everything. It is a native and quite rare plant, endemic to Fraser Island situated off the Queensland Coast, which is the largest sand Island in the world and World Heritage listed. Amazingly rainforest grows in the sand on Fraser Island and so does this spectacular woody climbing vine, which flowers along the length of the vine. The flowers are pollinated by native bees, insects and honey eaters and seem resistant to pets and diseases. It is also very suited to climbing up a well established tree. We are so thrilled that it has decided to flower, and each morning we visit it to check for more blooms.



National Gardening Week was launched at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show this year, to highlight the associated environmental, social and health benefits of gardening, and the improved mental and physical well being that gardening brings. Is it a coincidence then that it coincides with Mental Health Awareness Week as well? What a wonderful synergy that these two events can bring to a lot of people.



Most people who are avid gardeners will tell you that despite the physical benefits, they feel so much more relaxed and at peace with the world when they step out into their gardens and start gardening. I know that I do.

So that we can continue to enjoy our garden, and so that it doesn't become a burden, Neil and I are starting to be mindful this Summer of the need for low maintenance plants, water wise plants, plants that attract the birds and beneficial insects, and less vegetables which require a lot of attention. However I still need to have lots of herbs growing in Summer, as these are quite easy to maintain and with all the cooking I do they save a lot of money by being easily accessible from our garden. I also gain a lot of pleasure from flowers in the garden and they are also essential for attracting the bees so that they can pollinate our Passionfruit vine and other herbs and vegetables.

My tropical orchids are a nice interest and will still survive if left to their own devices for a while, as long as they are watered in the hot months, however I try to give them lots of TLC. An automatic sprinkler system is essential in that regard. I try to fertilise them every two weeks throughout the Summer months.





Just a couple of my orchids flowering out on our patio.


Dendrobium Farmerii Thrysiflorum "Colette"

Lots of the very old-fashioned Lilly bulb are planted throughout our garden so the flowers just explode at this time of year. They don't last long, so I enjoy them whilst we can.




This is Blue Salvia which the Sunbirds hang from daily whilst drinking in the rich nectar. I have just pruned the bush back and because it is such a strong plant, gifted to me by a very generous former neighbour, I have taken cuttings and  potted them hoping that some of them will strike. We fertilised it after pruning it, and already it is shooting.


Last but not least, this is the flower of the spring onion, or eschallot. I allow it to flower as it attracts the native bees which are so important for pollination in the garden. I hope that one day they will decide to build  a hive nearby.




This is a slightly shorter post as I am finishing here because our WiFi and Internet are off and on at the moment pending the imminent installation of the NBN. I really hope it all goes smoothly as we are all so dependent on WiFi these days and if it works at a faster speed as promised that will be wonderful.

Enjoy the rest of your week everyone,

Happy gardening,

Pauline

Monday, 9 October 2017

Sticky Chicken Legs with Brown Rice and Stir Fried Vegetables


Who doesn't love sticky chicken wings or chicken drumsticks that are finger lickin' good? The weekend is the time when I am really drawn to more casual meals that are easy on preparation, but definitely delicious, and can still be cooked from scratch. This is a good weekender meal. However admittedly the Hoisin and Soy sauces for this dish come out of a bottle. I think that is ok sometimes, don't you?

 I realised I still had a full bottle of Hoisin sauce in the pantry after making gyozas a few months ago. I had bought extra sauce at the time and thought I would try it in combination with other typically Chinese sauce ingredients this time to use it up and it worked beautifully. If you like more sauce, all of the ingredients except for the chicken can just be doubled. If you have the time and think of it, the chicken would be even tastier marinaded for 6-12 hours beforehand, however this is isn't essential.

Serves 4
Ingredients:

1 kg chicken legs, about 8,  or 16 wings if you prefer
1/2 cup Hoisin Sauce
2 tablespoons low salt soy sauce
2 tablespoons Honey
4 chopped garlic cloves depending on their size
1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger, peeled
1 teaspoon dried ginger or galangal as well for extra oomph, optional
2 cups brown or white rice

Method:
Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
  1. Mix together well the soy and hoisin sauces, honey, garlic and ginger in a medium sized bowl
  2. If you have time, marinate the chicken in this mixture overnight in the refrigerator
  3. Because this is a sticky mixture, I lined an average sized baking tray with two layers of alfoil to prevent any leakage and gooey sauces sticking on the tray
  4. Place the chicken pieces on the tray and cover each chicken piece with the sauce
  5. Transfer the tray to the oven and bake for 50-60 minutes depending on your oven. Turn the chicken pieces every 15 minutes to prevent burning. The chicken should be caramelised and cooked through.
  6.  I serve this with brown rice (for health reasons) although white tastes great, and  stir fried vegetables, such as capsicum, zucchini, broccoli or bok choy if you have it, and whatever else you have that is colorful, tasty and healthy.
There are lots of recipe variations out there on sticky chicken legs however this one is so easy with minimal ingredients required.

Dear friends, I hope your week is going well.

Best wishes

Pauline











Thursday, 5 October 2017

Stuffed Italian Summer Zucchini with Yoghurt Sauce



  Italian Summer zucchini, somewhat larger than desired,  found their way onto our kitchen bench, bequeathed  from a kind friend. So what do I do with these generously sized vegetables, I stuff them. That is what I have done, and baked them in a yoghurt custard,  and they are delicious. The zucchini are halved, hollowed out a little to hold some stuffing, and the scooped out flesh can be added to the stuffing to make more filling if necessary.



They should be harvested when they are still young and tender, however turn your back on them for a week or so and they can grow to the size of a football, begging to be baked. This variety is pale speckled green, more bulbous than the common zucchini, and are most often found in Middle Eastern cuisine.

When I did some research on them, I discovered they originate from the Cucurbitaceae family, an early Italian variety. "Zucca" is the Italian word for squash, which is why zucchini are sometimes called "Italian soft skinned squash". Whilst we call a pumpkin a pumpkin in Australia, and a spade a spade as well,  in many overseas countries they are called a squash,  a hard skinned Winter squash, and they are not always meant for human consumption, but are fed to the animals.

We don't have much luck growing zucchinis in our vegetable garden once the summer humidity arrives, however our friend has a hot and dry Northern facing garden which suits various varieties of squash. Home gardens and Farmer's markets are treasure troves for different types of vegetables not usually found at the Supermarkets, and I enjoy the opportunity to cook with different types of vegetables and fruit requiring some research into what I can best achieve with them. They might not look perfect like those in the supermarkets,  but looks are only skin deep.

These Italian Zucchini pictured below have been harvested when they can be eaten as a tender vegetable. I also have a couple which were picked early that look just like these, well almost.



These 2 Photos of Italian Summer Zucchini copied with permission from this website:
https://australianseed.com/persistent/catalogue_images/products/zucchini-italianlightgreen.jpg

Image result for australian summer squash

These plants also produce lots of wonderful and highly prized zucchini flowers

Below is the Italian Zucchini I was given weighing 1 kilo. It's a little battle scarred but still ok for baking.





Pictured next to two fairly normal sized ones from the same garden

Let's cook:

This recipe Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 or 2 large Italian Zucchini (Summer squash) or bush marrow, cut in half lengthwise ( or just any overgrown zucchini)
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons ground cumin
500g minced lamb ( or beef if you prefer)
1 large onion
1/2 cup Fine Bourghul
Olive oil, 1 tablespoon
1/2 cup finely chopped mint or parsley (I used mint)
Salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
(Next time I will add 1 tablespoon of currants for a piquant addition to the filling.)

Yoghurt Sauce

3 cups plain Greek yoghurt
1 egg white
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon dried mint, or 4 chopped teaspoons of fresh
salt
20 g butter

Let's cook:

Preheat oven to 180 deg. C.
Soak Bourghul in water for 5 minutes, then squeeze it dry.

Meanwhile make the sauce:

Whisk the yoghurt and the egg white. Then simmer uncovered for 10 minutes whilst stirring until it is rich and creamy. I don't cover it as one drop of water will spoil it.

Saute the garlic, mint and salt in the butter for 1 minute, and then stir it into the yoghurt mixture.

(I found this Yoghurt Sauce in Stephanie Alexander's book, "The Cook's Companion". Yoghurt will quickly separate when heated, due to it's delicate acid balance, so it needs to be stabilised before using, or stir it into hot, already cooked foods just before using. That is why I am adding 1 egg white and salt to stabilise it. Yoghurt should never be whipped without a stabiliser added as it will break up the curd, and cause the whey to separate out.

To make the Mince filling:



Saute the onion in olive oil until golden. Mix the onion with the remaining ingredients except the zucchini and fry up a small amount to test the seasoning.



Pack the mince mixture into the zucchini halves, then rest them in a large baking or gratin style dish.
Pour over the yoghurt sauce and bake for 45 minutes.



This dish can be served hot, or warm or cold, with some finely chopped parsley.



Have a great Friday.

Best wishes

Pauline

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Slow cooker Tomato Sauce, Rustic Tomato Soup, and a loaf of Sourdough Bread, perfect.


Rustic Tomato Soup
 At the beginning of the week I had tomatoes galore, needing to be cooked. So this week the theme in my kitchen has been mainly about the beautiful, ripe red  tomato, and lots of them. I became quite excited at last Saturday's Farmer's Market when there were quite a few different varieties of tomatoes for $2.00 or less a kilo in excellent condition, everyone was selling them,  so of course I ended up coming home with about 6 kilos of them, perhaps more. Very easy to do when they are bundled up in 2 kilo bags. Oops! Then I had to think of ways to use them up. In such a situation I  use my tried and true recipes and now have enough tomato sauces, soups and relishes to see us through for a few months. I'd like to share with you my Rustic Tomato Soup recipe  with White Pepper, which Mr. HRK really likes as his Mum used to make for the family. So I have tried to replicate that one. Also I filled my slow cooker pot with chopped tomatoes, sauteed onions and char grilled capsicum and left it cooking for 24 hours and am packaging it today into freezer bags..

I've been really surprised at how bountiful and inexpensive the vegetables and some fruit varieties such as bananas are at present. I rarely shop for fruit and vegetables at the supermarket if I can help it, preferring to support the local Farmer's Market, however even at the Supermarket this week I have noticed the broccoli and some varieties of tomatoes are around $2.00 a kilo, with other veges also markedly cheaper. The oversupply and low cost of Vegetables was a segment on the local news during the week, blaming the warmer Winter this year for an early supply of excess produce which in some areas is literally falling on the ground with not enough people available to pick or harvest it. This is devastating for the farmers, so whilst it is plentiful it is a golden opportunity to buy in bulk and cook or preserve it for later when the prices will certainly soar, and to also  support our local farmers. I'm not looking forward to paying $7.00 a kilo for tomatoes when the season finishes. We're having a break from growing them as our last lot of plants didn't do well because of nematodes, but at these prices it's easier to buy them for now.



The photos are of the chopped tomatoes in my slow cooker pot ready for long, slow cooking. When I was thinking of doing this I called my good friend Julia in Bowen, the tomato growing capital of Queensland, although Bundaberg is starting to challenge that reputation. My method here is based on what Julia does with the copious amounts of tomatoes and capsicums grown in Bowen that she ends up with.



I finely chopped three brown onions and sauteed these until soft and golden and starting to caramelise. Meanwhile I char grilled one red capsicum, placed it in a freezer bag when the skin was blackened until it was cooled and then removed the blackened skin. I would normally use about 3 capsicum though if I had them for extra flavour. I added the cooked onion and chopped cooked capsicum to the pot full of chopped tomato, gave it a stir and allowed it to slow cook for 24 hours. The end result had darkened in colour with the tomatoes broken down, and with some of the juices removed, and how long it takes really depends on your slow cooker. Overnight might be all that is needed so I would check it after 12 hours. The slow setting on my slow cooker is very slow, but I also have a Slow High setting so next time I think I will use that.

Allow the tomato sauce to cool, and then add two cups, equivalent to a can of tomatoes to freezer bags and store flat in your freezer ready for lasagna, bolognaise etc.

Rustic Tomato Soup with White Pepper (photo above)

Here is my Rustic Tomato Soup Recipe, which Mr. HRK's Mum used to cook a lot for their family apparently and I've tried to replicate it. She added milk to hers so that is optional in place of the wine or verjuice, particularly if children will be eating this. That is still how Mr. HRK prefers his.

Ingredients:

6 large tomatoes, very ripe yet firm (Roma tomatoes work very well)
1 kg brown onions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup (80ml) extra virgin oil, plus extra to serve
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped (optional)
Ground Himalayan Rock Salt to taste
White pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional), or to taste
1/2 cup (125ml) dry white wine or verjuice
1 litre boiling water

Method: 

Cut the core out of the tomatoes. This soup is meant to be on the rustic side so there is no need to peel or seed them. Cut each tomato into halves, quarters then eighths. Cook the onions over a low heat in a heavy-based saucepan for about 10 minutes using a wooden spoon until they are nice and golden and very soft. Add the garlic and salt to the pan and cook for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the sugar, which will enhance the flavour of the tomatoes and give a boost if they are not in perfect condition.

Cook for 10 minutes and then add the wine and water. I only added half the water so that it would be nice and thick, and the water can be eliminated  completely for a superior soup which won't go as far. This can then also be used as a pasta topping with some fresh basil or oregano added. Tomatoes are so versatile.

 Simmer, covered for 45 minutes before serving. Add plenty of white pepper to taste. (This is the secret ingredient.)  Ladle the soup into the bowl,  drizzle a little olive oil and enjoy. I add fresh chopped herbs and some grated Parmesan cheese as well to serve and a slice of my sourdough bread toasted.

 I also remembered yesterday that I still had a whole green cabbage from the markets in our second refrigerator as well, which was still really fresh and crunchy, so a quick sauerkraut ferment, and that is taken care of.

Naked Kraut:



By this stage after dealing with so many tomatoes I was ready to take a few shortcuts. So I grated the whole cabbage except for the outer leaves and the stalk  in the food processor, added 2 tablespoons of Himalayan Rock Salt  and allowed it to juice in a large bowl for 45 minutes. This made about 1800 grams of  grated cabbage which fitted nicely into a very large Moccona coffee bottle, the largest available I think, and found at the Incredible Tip Shop in Mackay. We don't drink instant coffee, although obviously some people do as there were quite a few there for sale for about 1 dollar each. There was a slight overflow of juices so I quickly sterilised another smaller bottle and filled that one up too.

Fermenting and bubbling away
That is definitely the END of fermenting for me for a while. I am calling this my Naked Kraut range, I saw that name somewhere and borrowed it, as this is just cabbage and brine and a few seeds thrown in. Nothing fancy but I like the taste. I think I have enough now to last us for 12 months unless I become inspired again early next Winter.




Sourdough Bread:

I try to keep to the routine of baking my Sourdough bread on Monday each week however for some reason that didn't happen this week. So while the tomatoes were cooking and I had sometime I made a loaf  yesterday. The sourdough yeast for the bread was ready for use last Monday so I put it in the refrigerator and just took it out early in the morning to bring it back to room temperature and it was ready to use. I think this is one of my best attempts to date. Like everything it helps to keep in practice, and every time I bake a loaf I learn something new. A slice of sourdough toast with a bowl of Rustic Tomato Soup was delicious for a light tea last night.

In the bread tin after the first rise on the patio in a glass bowl.



Ready for the oven after rising outside in the tin on the warm patio.

A nice large loaf of Sourdough bread, and smelling delicious. It needs to completely cool before slicing. 



So it's been quite a busy week and I am looking forward to a restful weekend. However Sunday will be packed with excitement as the Cowboys play the Melbourne Storm in Sydney in the NRL Grand Final, just in case you haven't heard, and as we are North Queenslanders, Go the Cowboys. Steak will be on Sunday's menu, in theme with the Cowboys, and we are looking forward to that. It should be a great day, particularly when we win!! LOL.

Have a wonderful and relaxing weekend and thanks for visiting.

Best wishes

Pauline

Monday, 25 September 2017

Chopped Vegetable Ferment in Lovely Layers - Fermenting Phase 4


 

I had some excess vegetables which were still fresh last week, so rather than let them go to waste, I decided to ferment them or you could call this pickling I suppose but there is no sugar or vinegar involved and it is employing lacto-fermentation using salt which preserves the vegetables. I layered the vegetables in jars with coriander, fennel and mustard seeds, added brine and hey presto another ferment starts to process. I have learned to leave the lids loose when using smaller jars  as in this case, to prevent an explosion, and I think I will be storing these jars in the refrigerator after 5 days or so as the weather is warming up during the day. Ferments are a very flavoursome condiment, adding kick to your salad, your leftovers, and anything else you think of to add it to. Vegetables are in such incredible abundance at the moment, so I wasn't afraid to experiment with this layered approach. I was also gifted some amazing, organic, golden zucchinis from his garden by our friend Paul, so a couple of those went in to adding the colour of Summer to the mix.



If you look carefully at this photo you can see the small bubbles at the top of the brine. This is a sign that the fermenting has begun.

As I watch it fermenting each day, the sliced radish in the jar is turning the brine a nice coloured pink, and the fresh dill leaves add a green feathery dimension, so besides the good bacteria doing its stuff, the contents are also starting to look quite attractive. I bottled these jars on the 21st September, and they are ready for tasting after a couple of days. I have just tasted a vege sample from each bottle and they taste tangy, whilst still quite crisp,  and the liquid has been a bit fizzy so I am refrigerating them to eat at a later date. The ferment is really active for the first 3 days and this type of fermenting with more liquid and a variety of vegetables seems to work much faster than the standard sauerkraut does, particularly in the warmer weather.

Method:

This recipe makes a 1 Litre Jar

Wash and prepare 3 cups of chopped or sliced seasonal vegetables (radishes, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, beans, capsicum), and beetroot can be used but be prepared for a red ferment with a stronger and more earthy flavour. Green spring onions and red onion will add some tang. As you can see from the photo, this time I used Cauliflower, Broccoli, Gold Zucchini, Radishes, and firm cabbage leaves as the weight to keep the vegetables covered with brine.

 Select a mixed teaspoon of  herbs and spices that you like, such as dill seeds, fennel seeds,  coriander  or caraway seeds and add those to the base of your sterilised jar. If you like some heat, add some chilli flakes and black or white peppercorns. I also added some fresh Dill fronds as I have Dill  growing but it won't last long in our garden once Summer strikes.



Add the chopped and sliced vegetables to your jar in attractive layers, and leave a 4 cm gap at the top of the jar.

The Brine:

I then added the brine so that the vegetables will ferment. To fill a 1 Litre jar, mix 2 cups of distilled water with 1 tablespoon of Himalayan rock salt and pour into your 1 litre jar, leaving 3 cm clear of the rim of your jar for any bubbling and effervescing that will occur.

As I have done in previous fermenting sessions, I add a couple of firm cabbage leaves to the top of the vegetables which fits snugly into the jar and weighs down the vegetables keeping them submerged which is essential for the success of the ferment. You can also use some kind of weight such as a cabbage stalk cut to size, or a small bottle, or a clean smooth stone, which fits inside the bottle rim. The vegetables must remain submerged below the brine. The vegetables need to be pushed down firmly in the bottle as they will also release some liquid and reduce in size creating more space in the bottle.



Leave the lid on the jar loose, stand it in a breakfast bowl and cover with a cloth, and wait for the magic to happen. I also use a tamper each morning to submerge the vegetables just to ensure they remain covered. If you can find a small Moccona jar they work really well for fermenting. Thanks to Chel from Going Grey and Slightly Green for that tip. I also found some large Moccona jars at the Mackay City Council Recycling Depot when I went there with Mr. HRK  on one of his "treasure hunts", which have been useful for fermenting Sauerkraut. Cover the jar with a tea towel and leave at room temperature for 2-7 days, depending on the temperature where you live.The colder it is, the longer it will take.

Sarah Wilson in her interesting book Simplicious where I first saw the layered ferment idea, suggests using fermented vegetables as you would a gherkin, diced and added to mayonnaise to make a tartare, or to a salsa for an extra tang and vegetable. Sounds delicious to me.

Are you are a fermentista? If so I would love to hear about what you are doing in the comments section at the end of the story?

Best wishes and thanks for visiting.

Pauline