Christmas, the New Year & Preserves

ImageThe beautiful vermillion-flowering gum, Corymbia ficifolia is in full bloom along our fence-line.  Every time I catch sight of it I am amazed by the blaze of colour it produces.

Christmas and New Year

The days leading in to Christmas and the New Year were filled with all the tasks associated with having 13 family members arrive for Christmas dinner.  This involved a large amount of cooking and tidying up, right from when we knocked off work on December 20th.  It’s only now that I feel I can relax a little and enjoy the remaining 5 days of my summer holidays.

The early Summer weather has been extremely changeable – very warm and humid, with summer showers on most days.  Not the gentle kind, but rather, heavy downpours that move on as quickly as they have arrived.  This time last year we were experiencing the beginnings of a drought that lasted for several months.  The rain may be annoying on days when we want to lie in the sun or take a dip in the pool, but it’s been amazing for the garden.

Preserving our sanity

With all the vegetables and fruit ripening around us, I’ve been itching to fill our shelves with preserves.  We tend to freeze a lot of produce, but there’s nothing quite as satisfying as cooking up a range of jams, sauces, chutneys and pickles.  I didn’t do anything about this last year, but was determined to not waste any scrap of food if I could help it, this year. I had come across reference to electric water baths for preserving produce, and this seemed a much better alternative to that of boiling jars in a big preserving pan on the stove top.  I searched and searched online to see if such an appliance could be purchased from anywhere in New Zealand, to no avail.

In the end, I had to spread my net wider and look to our neighbours across the Tasman for this very desirable piece of equipment.   We ordered a Kensington Food Preserver from Ozfarmer just prior to Christmas, and it arrived within the week.  This was surprisingly good service, given the distance and the fact that it was the Christmas period – a time when the mail service is already disrupted.

I have now used the preserver three times!  It’s so much easier to just load it up with my filled jars, turn it on, set the temperature, then leave it for the requisite amount of time.  I’ve been startled at the cost of the preserving jars and lids, however!

Since Christmas I’ve made batches of Plum Sauce, Plum Chutney, Corn Relish and Zucchini Pickle.

Corn

Our back paddock is rented by one of our neighbours (David) and used to grow sweet corn for the Christmas market.  What usually happens is that the pickers come through prior to Christmas to harvest the best and fattest ears, after which we are allowed to literally ‘help ourselves’.  Last year we froze several kilograms of corn, which lasted us well into the winter.  We scrape the kernels off the cobs and freeze them free-flow.

Yesterday, Ben picked 85 ears and plans to pick at least the same amount tomorrow.  Fortunately, a sunny day is forecast, as I like to think that our solar panels are producing lovely free power while we are boiling away water on the stove to blanch the kernels.

ImageI took the above photo earlier this evening – it was around 7.00 pm with the sun low in the sky to the west.  The amount of weeds growing up around the corn can be seen, but these are mostly grasses.  David has been experimenting with reducing his use of weed killers this year, which has relieved me greatly.  There is now a good deal of overseas data published to alert us to the  issues around the ongoing use of glyphosate.  Glyphosate is commonly used in New Zealand to ‘clean up’ pasture prior to planting crops and resistance to glyphosate has now been observed in New Zealand, as well.

Maize growing over our fence.
Maize growing over our fence.

Across the road there is a dairy farm, but our 3 acres is surrounded on all the other sides by fields of maize.  This year the maize seems to have grown incredibly tall and is so densely-planted that you can barely walk between the rows.  The maize won’t be harvested until April, by which time the kernels will have dried to the colour of rich gold.

Leila and Lottie thinking about sampling the corn
Leila and Lottie thinking about sampling the corn

Leila, Lottie and Lulu are a bit slow on the uptake.  When Ben threw them some cobs of corn that had been scraped, they just looked at them suspiciously.  It was some time before one of the hens decided to stab a cob with a tentative peck.  Even now, they aren’t that keen – unlike our previous three girls.

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