Tag Archives: preserves

Poutu-te-rangi / March

Dry maize rustles musically in the breeze

From Sweltering Summer to Temperate Autumn

The maize along the fenceline is ready for harvest. It’s a visual reminder that summer is over. The days are slow to lighten and early to darken, and the grass is thick with dew when I make my way to the barn in the early morning. The gravel road is dry and whenever a large truck rattles by, great dusty clouds drift across to settle on our solar panels.

It’s been several weeks since I’ve written about South Head. Or about anything, for that matter. It’s been difficult to knuckle down to writing after taking time off over the Christmas/New Year period.

While it’s been a very long and hot summer, we’ve also had a decent amount of rain, which of course has meant that everything has just kept on growing. We’ve created enough gardens here to keep us busy every daytime hour, and for the first time I’ve been wondering if it’s too much. What with the dead-heading, the trimming, the watering, the sowing, the harvesting… not to mention the tying, the squashing (caterpillars), the sampling, the digging and the weeding, always the weeding. (It’s making me exhausted all over again, writing about it.)

Kumeu A & P Show: curious alpaca & disinterested rooster

So… we’ve mostly been home over the weekends slaving away in an attempt to keep everything under control, with a couple of diversionary breaks visiting the local A & P Shows – I like to check out the poultry while Ben looks longingly at the tractors. ūüôā

 Bounty from the Garden

A selection of home preserves, from left to right: Beetroot; ‘Look Alike’ Lemon Curd; Spicy Tomato Sauce; Zucchini Pickle; Greek Tomato Paste

Since I last blogged we’ve harvested a parade of fresh produce, including grapes, lettuces, carrots, rhubarb, cannellino beans, sweet basil, garlic, cucumbers, peas, beans (green, yellow, purple), main crop potatoes (Agria), beetroot, silver beet, shallots, buttercup squash, tomatoes, butternut pumpkins and LOTS of of zucchini.

A selection of produce, from left to right: white table grapes; cannellino beans; Rhubarb Tarte Tartin

To use up the rhubarb and zucchini I’ve made several Rhubarb Tarte Tartin and a few jars of Lemon Curd Look-Alike, as well as some zucchini pickle. But the neat thing about this year is that we haven’t had too much of one particular vegetable. Everything we’ve grown we’ve either eaten fresh, or I’ve cooked up, preserved, frozen or baked into something.

Tomatoes and Zucchinis

toms and peppers
Left to right: tomatoes & onions ready to be cooked for Tomato Relish; red and yellow habanero slices, arranged for drying

The tomatoes have been great, but I picked the last one yesterday and I know I’ll miss having them on hand at meal times. I’m glad that I preserved a good amount this season (Spicy Tomato Sauce, Tomato Relish, Greek Tomato Paste) and that I also froze about a dozen packs of frozen skinless tomato flesh for use during the cooler months.


One of the easiest salads to throw together involves mixing chopped tomatoes with a handful of fresh basil (made into a paste), a generous squirt of extra virgin olive oil and finely sliced or diced zucchini or cucumber. I read somewhere that raw zucchini helps you feel ‘more full’ than some of our other salad vegetables, and it’s lovely and light when sliced thinly.

I love cooked zucchini, too. It’s such a versatile vegetable. My favourite quick recipe involves slicing the zucchinis thickly, then saut√©ing them in a small amount of olive oil along with crushed garlic and sage leaves. The sage leaves turn crispy and add a delightfully fragrant ‘crunch’ to the dish.


3 stages of habanero peppers – fresh to dry

Our habanero chiles are ripening as I type, so I’m picking them each day, drying them, then nuking them in a small food processor. We’ll use the chile powder all through the year to jazz up our meals. One of my favourite uses is to sprinkle a liberal amount into cheese toasted sandwiches. Yum!! (It’s very hot, though – not for the chile uninitiated.)

I’ve also raised a pink variety of habanero this year. It’s currently at the flowering stage, so, no fruit, but I can’t wait to see what they look like!


Autumn pears & the finished product

March in New Zealand is the month for pears and melons. Our old pear tree has produced a good amount of sound fruit this year and yesterday I bottled a small sample in a light syrup. Not sure why I haven’t processed our pears this way before – I usually freeze them for desserts – but I do like to see the finished product in our pantry. And it’s so easy to preserve them using the water-bath method.

I didn’t remember until after I’d finished that you’re supposed to pack the fruit tightly into the jars to avoid having them float to the top of the syrup… oh well… next time!


Melon, ‘Collective Farm Woman’ (Cucumis melo)

I sowed seeds for a different melon this year, Collective Farm Woman. It’s a small Ukrainian melon from the Black Sea area, about the size of a honeydew, with pale flesh, the flavour delicately sweet and slightly evocative of bananas.


Our new bantam hens (left) and Charlie

We picked up a trio of Bantams at the recent Helensville A & P Show. They’ve settled in well and having Charlie (the rooster) crow loudly at 5.15 am hasn’t been too much of a shock.

When we first let the bantams join the rest of the flock, they kept to themselves, but they’re now walking around alongside the others. They choose to sleep outside¬† – the rooster up high in a branch of one of the feijoa trees, and the two girls on the fence below. Not sure if they’ll ever voluntarily join the hens in the barn. Perhaps we’ll have to manually move them there in Winter when it gets cold at night.

That reminds me… feijoas! They’re growing plump on the trees. And just now I can see two fat kereru perched up on the yellow guava, eating the first of the golden yellow fruit. The kereru started visiting again a couple of weeks back – I guess our garden is part of their seasonal food cycle, too.

Autumn: Looking across The Kaipara at dawn





Pickled Beetroot

Freshly pickled beetroot
Freshly pickled beetroot

Beetroot Preparation

This recipe requires about 5 – 6 medium-sized beetroots.

Prepare the beetroots by washing off any soil, and trimming the stalks back close to the root.¬† Leave the long ends of the roots in place so that the beetroots don’t lose too much colour while being cooked.¬† Cook in water until just tender.¬† Drain and allow to cool.

Set aside the sliced beetroot in a bowl.
Set aside the sliced beetroot in a bowl.

Once cool, remove the skins Рthe easiest way is by hand, under slowly-running water.  Slice the beetroots evenly and set aside in a bowl.

Pickling Liquid

Combine the following ingredients in a pan and bring to the boil.

  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon plain salt
  • 1 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
The pickling liquid simmering on the stove.
The pickling liquid simmering on the stove.

Simmer for five minutes then strain through a sieve or muslin.  Bring back to simmer heat.

Pack the beetroot into hot, sterilised jars and pour in the pickling liquid until the beetroot is covered.  Seal.

Pickled beetroot can be kept for some months stored in a cool place, but once opened should be kept in the refrigerator.  If finished using the water bath method, it will last longer.

Sun, surplus veges and soy cheese

Summer at South Head
Summer at South Head

It’s radiantly sunny again today, but we did have a couple of hours of rain for part of Sunday.¬† It fell heavily which was a welcome boost to our water tank, as well as providing much needed moisture to the various gardens.

Left to Right: Plum Chutney, Corn Relish (Southern), Beetroot Chutney, Cilantro Corn Relish, Plum Sauce, Pickled Gherkins, Pickled Zucchini
Left to Right: Plum Chutney, Corn Relish (Southern), Beetroot Chutney, Cilantro Corn Relish, Plum Sauce, Pickled Gherkins, Pickled Zucchini

I was very busy preserving more surplus food over the weekend, including beetroot, zucchini, corn, cucumber and gherkins.

For the beetroots I tried out a Nigella Lawson recipe for Beetroot Chutney.  The resulting chutney set very well due to having apples included in the recipe.  It is very sweet and spicy and was pretty yummy straight from the pan, but will also improve with age.

I also experimented with a new Corn Relish recipe from a Southern Foods website.  This recipe included tomatoes, green pepper and cucumber, as well as the corn, but I ended up adding a wheat flour paste (1/2 cup flour / 1/2 cup water) to thicken it.

Ricotta Salata, day 2 of salting process.
Ricotta Salata, day 2 of salting process.

On Sunday I made a batch of ricotta cheese, which I have pressed into a mould and am now resting on a rack in the fridge for a week, lightly salting the outside each day, with the aim of turning it into a cow’s milk version of a Ricotta Salata.¬† After the salting period, the cheese will need to be aged further in the refrigerator (for approximately 2 – 4 weeks).

Freshly-made soy ricotta.
Freshly-made soy ricotta.

This set me thinking about the vegans in our family and whether I could do the same with a litre of soy milk.  So using the same method, I made a batch of soy ricotta last night.

It actually turned out very well, considering that it was an experiment.  The soy milk I used was Soy Milky as this is our favourite drinking soy milk, but I think that the added sugars and flavours have had an impact on the flavour of the soy cheese.

1/2 cup dried soy beans soaking in 2 cups water.
1/2 cup dried soy beans soaking in 2 cups water.

So, today, I’m soaking some soy beans to see if I can make some soy milk from scratch, and then use this to make the soy ricotta.

It would be great if I could go on to convert this to a soy version of the ‘Ricotta Salata’, as a harder cheese is so much more versatile.¬† The soy cheeses available from specialty vegan shops are very expensive so I’d love to make an edible version of my own.

Bay tree in our garden.
Bay tree in our garden.

I suspect  that the addition of a bay leaf to the milk during the heating process would provide an interesting dimension to the flavour Рespecially as bay leaves can enhance both savoury and sweet recipes.  Our two bay trees (Laurus nobilis) are very valuable members of our home garden.

Two juvenile turkeys sneaking through our property.
Two juvenile turkeys sneaking through our property.

Finally, when I was working this morning I kept hearing an unusual chirping sound Рwhen I went into the living room to see if I could identify which bird was making this sound, I saw two young turkeys walking across our front lawn in the direction of the pumpkin patch.  I only just manage to take a photo before they disappeared out of sight.