If anyone was ever tempted to think that preserving is only a summer activity, time to think again. It can easily be almost equal to summer in the preserving of earthy winter vegetables plus zesty, tangy citrus fruits and many more besides.
I’ve just made a tub full of sauerkraut with fresh, organically grown, crispy cabbages bought from BIg River Growers Market in New Norfolk, Sauerruben which is similar but made with turnips, and sour beets, both of the latter made with produce from our garden. We are having a sausage making day here at the school in July and I am hopefully that they will be ready to eat by then. These vegetables, preserved by the fermentation method, are traditional and perfect accompaniments to the sausages we will make.
The cooking school tables and benches are covered in the fruit and vegetables of winter waiting to be preserved – apples, quinces and cumquats and pink peppercorns, all which came at the best possible price – free! Such is the abundance of produce here in the Derwent Valley and the generosity of the people of Tasmania who are always happy to share any excess produce from their gardens.
Then to be found are the unusual bits and pieces from alongside the river or going to waste in fields. Long before the term “foraging” became such a popular term, for decades as a family we sought out what the fields, river banks and abandoned or neglected orchards had to offer. We met some amazing characters, salt of the earth farmers, happy for some-one to use the fruit falling from the trees, and only too pleased to tell the stories of when that particular tree was planted, how its fruit had been used to make preserves and puddings in their earlier days.
I’ve been given jam melons as well, a treasure not so appreciated in recent times. Of course you can make melon and lemon jam, or melon and ginger, or melon and pineapple for that matter. However, a year or two ago our Courtney invented melon cheese, made exactly like quince cheese. It is extremely delicious, perfect served with a soft cheese like camembert. Only a little remains now. I so with I’d made more. The melon made a really good cordial syrup as well. exquisite colour ond soft fruity flavour.
And then there’s the onions. Winter is time to pickle those of course and I was fortunate enough to find a 10 kilo bag a few days ago. They are now pickled and settled in their jars, ready for the eating in a few weeks time. I’ve trialled 3 different vinegar mixes this year just by way of comparison when it comes to the tasting.
By now I’m thoroughly in a pickling mood and have just boiled up a pot of eggs and used my remaining malt vinegar to make English pub style pickled eggs.
Later today I’ll play with those cumquats – some marmalade of course, but cordial syrup is always good. Brandied too of course, and then a little experimentation with steeping them in vodka to make a singularly cumquat liqueur. The brandy is lovely, but I’d like to capture just the flavour of the cumquats, free of the taste of such a strong flavoured spirit. Then there’s preserving them in a strong sugar syrup, but the amount I have may not stretch that far. Never mind, the tree is just down the road and can easily get some more.
And then there’s the medlars from our tree, and soon to be joined by more from our friend’s tree. These are quietly bletting on straw platters, waiting to be made into the specialty of the house – Medlar Liqueur.
Our lemon tree is thriving with a huge crop of lemons steadily ripening, with a promise of plenty of preserving of those in the weeks to come. It’s incredible to think the tree is doing so well, given the frosts here at Molesworth. Limoncello is high on the list of priorities, and lemon cordial, sparkling lemon and salted lemons.
So although the wonderful berries and stone fruits of summer are past, look a little closer and you will find so much in the environment, in gardens, at Farmers Markets and beyond that can still be captured in a bottle, perfect to enjoy in the months to come.