We have a fig tree in our back yard – just one. Every year it produces a lot of fruit through February and March. We are mindful that this is the bounty of nature. The fruit the tree produces is therefore meant for us and for the birds. The birds are Rainbow Lorikeets mainly. We often let our friends-visitors pluck the fruit and take some home. Figs are not everyone’s favourite fruit so there is often a good level of sharing between birds, home owner and the visitors.
This year we did not have a hot summer and the mildness of the temperatures may have slowed the fruiting of the tree. The tree was late and the first fruits were given over to the noisy birds. It could also be that I was feeling lazy, preoccupied or just waiting for the right moment. There of course was the fact that the grapes needed attention and I was addressing that by making my first Grape Jelly lot. You can see the Grape Jelly Recipe here.
There were a few people who helped with the plucking and so I ended up with about 8 kilograms of figs. Everyone will say make jam in small lots – it tastes better. I decided to push on make this jam in the large pot. Last year I had made jam with Jaggery and Indian Dark Rum. The people I gave it to had said complimentary things about that so I was going to go down that same route. Fig Jam made with cane sugar is quite the popular kind of Jam in France. Actually Jam of fresh figs (you can make Jam with frozen fruit too) and Cane sugar is the right name for this Jam. I also encountered Maggie Beer’s Burnt Fig Jam and was going to try that.
The Ingredients in this were:
Figs 8 kilograms
Cane Sugar (Gur) 3 kilograms
Juice and rind of 4 Limes
1/2 Cup of Dark Rum ( I uses Indian Rum)
I cut the figs small and put it in a large wide bottomed pan. The pan went on to the fire. I added the sugar and let the whole mixture bubble away. The bottles were washed in the dishwasher, boiled in water and put into the oven to dry. The lids stayed in the boiling water. When the Jam was ready I bottled the Jam.
Then I was not happy with the result – so a week later I emptied all the jam back into the pot and reheated the Jam. The result was probably half way to being Burnt-Jam. I bottled all that last night. In the midst of my jam making I got a call from Alberto in Milan. Which was quite lovely – indeed. I was a bit unhappy even after all this Jam making. My jam was a bit dark and I had seen images on the internet of this reddish fig jam. So this morning I made 1 kilogram of Fig Jam with white sugar – the images are of todays Jam making session – hence the white sugar.
This is a post about harvesting grapes from my backyard and then making Jelly from the grapes.
We have a single vine in our backyard and it throws up a profusion of grapes every year. One year, on black saturday, the heat dried all the grapes on the vine – we wondered if they had become sultanas. We pluck grapes, hand them out to visitors and there is a still quite a lot left over. Like the sole fig tree which generates two harvests a year the grapes too needed a processing activity. So I approached the vine yesterday, a sunny saturday (which later turned violently stormy), with a basket and a pair of clippers. When I had finished I had 10 kilograms of grapes. Which was now a problem. I would have to do something with them – the option of giving them to others is not available because these grapes have seeds (first barrier to eating them for people who have grown used to seedless grapes), plus they have thick skins (which are good for protecting them till we want to do something with them) another negative.
I went online to find what else could be done with grapes. There was the grapes in the casserole recipe that looked interesting. Eventually I settle for the Grape-Jelly option. The recipe is simple:
1 Grape + 1/2 Sugar + some Lemon + some source of pectin.
So here is the GRAPE JELLY making process that I went through:
I had some jars I had picked up on a trip to Bright over summer. Put jars to boil in water, put the lids into the water. I gave the jars about 20 minutes in the water, then transferred jars and lids to baking trays. I put the baking trays into a pre heated oven (180 deg C) possibly for 10 minutes, then left them in there with the oven off.
The grapes went into a big pan onto the gas (no water – though some recipes say add water). The grapes possibly took a while (45 minutes) because I was processing about 7 kgs. At the end of this period I mashed the grapes with a potato masher. Then poured the lot into a muslin draped over colander. The experts say they leave this for 24 hrs for all the juice to be extracted. I was in a hurry – so I got as much out as I could and discarded the leftover in the muslin into the compost.
The juice then went into a pot, I added the sugar and boiled the mixture. I then added the pectin I had picked up (Jamsetta – 50 gms for each 1.5 kgs of grapes – so I added 200 gms of Jamsetta). The mixture came up to boil. I skimmed off the scum.
I pulled out the two saucers I had cooled in the freezer. Onto them I poured a tiny bit of the mixture from the pot. This was to check that I had the consistency right.
The the bottled came out of the oven, the jelly mixture was spooned into the jars and I capped the jars while still hot. That was 12 jars in all.
Now the process had a glitch the first time I did it: I had used less pectin in the first iteration. So the jelly did not set – it was a cordial at best. I had to go to the shop to get more pectin, then empty out all twelve jars into the pot and run the dishwasher with the bottles. The bottled went into the oven again and the test was run again too. The jelly firmed up nicely on the chilled plates. Now I have 12 jars in the studio – cooling and hopefully of the right consistency.
This is another post in the Preserves section of the slow food journal.
I heard Varoufakis on the radio this morning. Then put on this TED talk of his and sat watching it with my daughter. “When someone is insolvent will you give them a huge loan” he asks. This is exactly what EU did to Greece with the collusion of the Greek’s politicians. He then goes on to ask – if you are saddled with a loan that is huge and that you cannot hope to pay it off -what is the solution? The people giving you the loan write off half the loan (Germany post war) or you tie the repayment to the growth of the GDP (Australian student loans). He is brilliant and I nominate him as a person to follow, listen to and read-up on.
“One of the great ironies of the eurogroup is that there is no macroeconomic discussion. It’s all rules-based, as if the rules are God-given and as if the rules can go against the rules of macroeconomics.
Re Shepard Fairey – he designed the Obama Poster. Today Michael (who I sat next to at dinner a couple of years ago, plus who is the father of RJ Nina Las Vegas) was featured in the Age – for his poster in Sydney. He has made an Abbott poster.
The large majority of people reading this post have seen this image before. This iconic image of Barack Obama, adorned on posters, stickers, clothing and more, was created by Los Angeles-based, contemporary street artist Shepard Fairey. This image has become a pop cultural phenomenon and an important symbol in the political landscape of 2008 and beyond. How did this image spread virally so quickly? Who was involved in making that happen? More
This is a saturday post that connects to projects in the garden. It also connects to a joy in making, watering, seeing plants grow and engaging with sustainability (albeit in a desultory fashion – but thats okay). We have been composting food scraps for two years and today it was the day to remove the compost bin enclosure and reveal the compost. Of the three bins, the top of one was still fresh, another had a few plants growing (a pumpkin and some money-plants). The base was rife with earthworms. When you see earthworms in compost you feel thats healthy compost. If you like to see images of compost there are some good ones below. This post bean its life as a desire to share images of compost with my project collaborators from the past (O P Singh and Ashish Jain). Then an acknowledgement of the fact that I am still carrying on some form of the recycling work. At a small scale, alone. Which matters too. Below is the image of the compost – covered with older compost. The dark wet part contains many earth worms which have swiftly burrowed in (you would think they are slow – but you should have seen these chaps – they have been honoured with the title of this blog post). The kadahi is for scaling. Is that all the compost you got from a years worth of discarded food scraps?
The plants that came out of the compost. Now in another veggie box.
I also took images of the summer bounty in our backyard. These tomatoes (from a plant that Chris Ryan gave us) are delicious. Importantly the plan seems to be doing well even without a huge amount of water.
The mint plant was plucked, a few years ago, from a pavement where it grew happily. It has grown into a bush. In summer it looks like this – a bit flowery and a bit spotty. In winter the mint puts out big leaves and looks more robust. It behaves like a weed and has captured a tract of the backyard for itself.
The lawn before the mower arrives can throw up these yellow beauties. Also a weed, but these will go into a tiny vase in the house.
The Bamboo chimes took some getting used to. Melbourne can throw up some mighty storms and it took some time to work out an ideal location for these noisy fellows. Under the pergola they are sheltered from the worst of the wind and can keep putting out their gruff grunts every so often.
The figs are almost ready. I have to gear up to make jam again next week. I am thinking tuesday night may be a good time to do this. The parrots live on this tree and feast very randomly on the fruits. So many fruits pecked and only a few fully eaten. I imagine there is a possibility there will be two harvests of figs this year.
The dusty Delhi air is now a problem. When we lived there we blamed the loo, and the cold that trapped the dust. Wonder how much to Delhi’s dust is natural and how much is man made?
Delhi’s dust/pollution rises in winter – Diwali to Holi – as per the graph. Living there we knew this. So its a dusty city next to Rajasthan. What about Delhi versus Jaipur/Agra/Ahmedabad/Nagpur?
Of course it needs fixing – by watering Rajasthan? – but would be good to get more nuanced reporting too.
Or am I being romantic?
And this image: Gurgaon?
Indeed, there has not been a single 30-day period in Beijing over the past two years during which the average PM2.5 level was as bad as it was in December and January in Delhi.
Worse yet, the numbers tell only half the story because Delhi’s PM2.5 particles are far more dangerous than those from many other locales because of the widespread burning of garbage, coal and diesel fuel that results in high quantities of toxins such as sulfur, dioxins and other carcinogenic compounds, said Dr. Sarath Guttikunda, director of Urban Emissions, an independent research group based in Delhi.
“Delhi’s air is just incredibly toxic,” said Dr. Guttikunda, who recently moved to Goa to protect his two young children from Delhi’s air. “People in Delhi are increasingly aware that the air is bad, but they have no idea just how catastrophically bad it really is.”
I woke this morning at 6 AM. Brewed fair trade coffee, made some oats, fed the cats, woke my son – and then headed off to the local bakery. At the bakery I bought a fresh ciabatta roll, and some ricotta cheese.
Back home I mixed some frozen spinach with a portion of the ricotta. Wrapped it in puff-pastry and put it in the over for 20 minutes. As I sit posting to this blog, I have a fresh mug of coffee next to me, my son is doing his home work, the cats have gone back to bed, and the rolls are cooling down.