Category

Preserves

Sometimes you end up with veggies languishing in the bottom of the fridge crisper. It’s a part of life for most of us. When you participate in the community supported agriculture model, there’s no doubt that, unless you’re a dedicated vegetarian, food can start to build up.

That’s not so much a problem with locally grown food, because it stores for a hecking long time, but yep, there can be times when some of it gets past its prime. So what to do with it?

Definitely don’t throw it out. In fact, you don’t even have to compost it. Not straight away, anyway.

Make your own vegetable stock! It’s probably the easiest thing to do ever, each batch brings its own character to your dishes and — best of all — no additives, no powdered this or emulsified that. Just veggies.

Some great advice I read is to not just chuck out the bits of veg that you chop off as you cook, but keep them in a bag in the fridge until it’s full, then make stock from that! Great idea! You can still chuck the veg in the compost after you’ve made stock from it. No waste plus you’re getting even more value from the food.

Veggies good for making stock: onions, leeks including the tops, carrots, celery including the leaves, fennel including the tops, mushrooms including the stalks, parsnips… that sort of stuff.

Veggies NOT good for making stock: zucchini, potatoes, turnips, broccoli, beans, beetroot… that sort of stuff. They’ll overpower the flavour, or might make it cloudy, and some add an unwanted bitterness.

You can add garlic or spices or even salt to the stock, if you like, but I prefer to have the option of adding those extras when I cook the meal itself.

Vegetable stock

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Serves: 10 cups Prep Time: Cooking Time:

Ingredients

  • odds and ends of suitable vegetables, in roughly equal quantities
  • 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2.5 litres water

Instructions

  1. Rinse and chop the vegetables into large chunks and plonk them in a large soup pot.
  2. Let the vegetables sweat on a low heat for about 10 minutes, just in the residual water from rinsing. Stir them a few times.
  3. Add the water, peppercorns and bay leaf and increase the heat to bring to a low boil.
  4. When it reaches boiling, reduce the heat to a very low simmer.
  5. Leave it just at boiling point for at least an hour, occasionally stirring gently.
  6. Remove it from the heat and strain the vegetables through a colander, catching the stock in another pot or bowl.
  7. Let it cool a little, then strain the stock once more through some cheesecloth or a clean cotton/linen tea towel.
  8. Once its completely cool, freeze the stock in useful portions (I had a bunch of jars that hold 1 cup, so I used those).
11 June, 2018 0 comment
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I had to do a huge harvest of the silverbeet in my garden. It was starting to get a bit out of control and it looked like some disease was setting in, so I gave it a massive prune.

Even with just a few plants, I haven’t been able to keep up with their production and my kids and I are feeling a bit “silverbeeten”. So what to do with it all? Save it for later, that’s what! It’s so quick and easy to freeze silverbeet, or kale or beetroot leaves or chard… any of that sort of leafy green…. it would be criminal for any of this easy-to-grow, cheap-to-buy, super-nutritious food to end up in the compost (guilty as charged).

LocalTable subscribers span the spectrum of cooking knowledge and ability, some are very accomplished and others are more like me: still working things out. That’s why I keep things simple. Firstly, because that’s about all I can manage or have time for, but mainly because those who know what they’re doing don’t need help from me.

So rather than come up with another leafy green recipe for you, I’m going to answer the question I’ve been asked a few times about how to preserve silverbeet (or kale or beetroot leaves or chard or [insert leafy green here]) with some simple illustrated steps.

Frozen leafy greens

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Serves: varies Prep Time: Cooking Time:

Ingredients

  • all the leafy greens you can't fit in your bellies

Instructions

Give it all a rinse in case there are any little spideys or snails.

Chop roughly, including the stems! Don’t waste them, they’re delicious. But don’t bother with tough kale stems.

Boil the kettle and pour over the chopped greens. Swoosh around for a couple of minutes.

Drain into a colander and rinse with cold water.

Allow to dry out almost completely. I press it between some clean tea towels.

Pack into zip lock bags (use the salad bags you get in your box!), squeeze out the air, seal and freeze.

Notes

There are variations on this method, like using iced water and vacuum sealing the bags, but I think that's over engineering things. This method works just fine and is low fuss. I preserved the equivalent of two big bunches of silverbeet here and it made 2 x 250gm bags and 1 x 350gm bag. A bag that size is about right for a frittata, but use two or three for a pie or lasagna. Easy!

5 April, 2018 0 comment
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I seem to start most of my recipe preambles with a tragic food story.

I studied German for 5 years in a private girls’ secondary school in the 80s (yeah… so useful). Anyway, the text books were stuck in the 70s and the teachers were stuck in the 50s. Probably the best thing about German was that I wasn’t in a science or maths classroom. Something I now regret, but I was one of those kids you couldn’t tell anything. The other good thing about German was the giggle factor. That language just IS funny (mein Vater *snigger*). It sounds funny and depending on how you interpret some words, you can get some pretty funny translations. “Sauer”, for example, is really what it sounds like (sour), but you can also interpret it as “angry”. “Kraut” refers to the cabbage, but it can also be a herb in a broader sense. Angry herb? HAHAHAHAAHAAAAAAA… no? Maybe it’s just me.

I remember one teacher bringing in some German food from time to time and it was all, without exception, awful. Pfeffernüsse? What the…? This is a biscuit?? And sauerkraut… I can’t even… The stuff we ate came from the supermarket and looked, smelled and tasted gross. I think it had a lot of vinegar in it.

As a result, I’ve never really been keen on making sauerkraut, even though I’ve since eaten sauerkraut and it was really yum. No vinegar, for a start. Just salt. That’s it. Salt. And not much salt either.

I’ve had some veggies backing up in my crisper lately, so I’ve finally taken the plunge, put aside my fear of botulism and made some angry herb. As I started googling around, I realised it doesn’t just have to be cabbage. You can whack any old thing in there (just about) and so I did.

I used up my last watermelon radish, half a bunch of carrots, a whole Sugarloaf cabbage and then some and even one of the beetroots I’ve had loitering at the bottom of my crisper for weeks. Man, they keep well. The beets meant my sauerkraut salad is very red and I would have liked the pretty colours of the carrots and radishes to show through, but what the hey. It still looks great. Just very red.

I won’t know the results for another week, so this recipe isn’t fully tested. But I hope it will encourage you to give fermenting a go at home. It’s super easy. Just don’t poison yourself.

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Serves: 2 x 550ml jars Prep Time:

Ingredients

  • 1.5 - 2 Sugarloaf cabbages
  • 1/2 bunch of carrots, scrubbed
  • 1 watermelon radish, scrubbed
  • 1 beetroot, scrubbed
  • 1 tablespoon Murray River salt (or any salt, I just like using Australian salt)

Instructions

First, sterilise the lids and jars.

  1. Wash the jars in hot soapy water, rinse thoroughly in hot water, drain a bit, then put upside-down in a cold oven. Heat oven to 100ºC. When it reaches temperature, leave the jars in for about 10 minutes, then carefully remove. They need to be completely dry. Turn off the oven when you remove the jars.
  2. Wash the lids in hot soapy water, then boil them in a saucepan of water for 5 minutes. Drain and let dry. You can put them in the cooling oven for a bit to make sure they are completely dry.

While the jars and lids are drying, prepare the vegetable mix.

  1. Peel off the outer leaves of the cabbages, wash and set aside.
  2. Cut the cabbages in half, remove the heart and thinly slice. Place in a large bowl.
  3. Grate the carrots, radish and beetroot and add to the bowl.
  4. Sprinkle the salt over the vegetables.
  5. Make sure your hands are clean and massage the vegetables and salt until they are soft and very watery, about 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. When the jars are cool and the mixture is quite mushy, tightly pack them with the mixture and pour the liquid evenly between the two jars, leaving a small gap at the top.
  7. The liquid should completely cover the mixture. If there isn’t enough liquid you can top up the jars with a brine made with a ratio of 1 cup water to 1 teaspoon salt.
  8. Fold up the outer cabbage leaves you put aside and squish them on top of the vegetable mixture to help it stay tightly packed and covered by the liquid.
    Wipe the rims (with something clean and dry, like a fresh tea towel) and loosely seal with a lid, so the air can escape as it ferments over the next few days.
  9. Leave the jars on a shelf somewhere cool and away from direct sunlight for 7 days. Check periodically to see if you need to release some air from the jar as fermentation progresses.

After a few days, the cabbage on top might start to look a bit erky. If so, remove it and replace with fresh cabbage leaves (or something else vegetable-y, like carrot or beetroot tops) to keep the mixture pressed down and submerged in the brine.

If you see any scum develop, remove it with a spoon.

After a week, you can eat it! Remove the cabbage leaves (or whatever) on top and keep in the fridge. It should last a few weeks.

1 March, 2018 0 comment
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One of the LocalTable subscribers, Susan (we have a few Susans), once mentioned that she wasn’t a big shallot eater, but when faced with more shallots than she knew what to do with, she consulted the great Google oracle and made spring onion jam. Nice one!

When I ended up including a big load of red onions in the boxes last week, I remembered Susan’s idea and thought I’d give it a go with red onions. My first attempt ended with red onion toffee, but my second attempt was a winner! Super duper yummy with a stinky, hard cheese I bought at the SAGE Farmers Market on Tuesday.

Who knew a jam made with onions could be so good? And it also meets one of my key recipe criteria: it’s easy-as (as long as you don’t over cook it).

Red onion jam

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Serves: 1 small jar Prep Time: Cooking Time:

Ingredients

  • 2 red onions, halved and sliced
  • 2 generous blobs of butter
  • 1/2 cup raw sugar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (get the real stuff, it's worth it)

Instructions

  1. Gently heat your favourite frying pan.
  2. Once it’s at temperature, throw in the butter. It should quietly sizzle and not smoke or go brown. If it does, turn it down, clean the pan and start again! Don’t burn the butter!
  3. Chuck the onion in the melted butter and gently sautée until it’s very soft, about 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in the sugar and cook over a low heat for about another 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  5. Tip in the vinegar and cook for about another 15 minutes. Keep stirring occasionally.
  6. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool a bit.
  7. Spoon the onions into a jar or dish, then pour as much of the liquid in as you like. It will thicken as it cools, so don’t worry about it being runny. You might not want to use all of the liquid.
  8. Let the jam cool to add to a cheese platter, or serve slightly warm to top meat dishes.

19 January, 2018 0 comment
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This is LocalTable‘s first recipe for preserving food! I don’t know about you, but as a non-cook, the idea of preserving food seems a bit intimidating. I remember my mum bottling fruit and it seemed like such a massive undertaking. We had a prolific apricot tree and she also bought seemingly tonnes of stonefruit in summer that she preserved. We ate bottled fruit for dessert almost every night. Every. Night. All. Year. Pardon me if I don’t get excited about apricots. The cherries were my favourite, though. They were awesome.

But LocalTable‘s entire raison d’être is to eat what is available, whatever that may be. That means we must develop (or reconnect with) our culinary skills to ensure we are getting the best value out of the food we receive and avoid waste. Preserving also means that we can still have summer foods in winter, if we can resist that long, just in a different form.

Cucumbers are one of the big producers of summer, so they’re first cab off the rank for a preserving recipe. Play around with the spices used. It’s really up to you what you put in the jars. Include garlic, or don’t. Just add what you feel like… maybe chilli, for example. I didn’t, because children.

Being in Moruya, I get all my dry ingredients from Rustic Pantry Wholefoods, so I can buy only the amount I need. They were happy to measure out my teeny quantities of spices for me: a total sale of 80 cents and no packets of spices sitting in my pantry forever going stale.

Apparently, thin cucumbers are best, as they have a lower water content, but we are going to use whatever we get.

Pickled cucumbers

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Serves: 4 x 375ml jars Prep Time: Cooking Time:

Ingredients

  • 1kg (about 5 or 6) cucumbers
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 500ml white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar (but I think it would be interesting to try other sugars)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 250ml water
  • 1 red onion, quartered, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons brown mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dill seeds
  • 8-12 peppercorns

Instructions

  1. Wash (don’t peel) and slice the cucumbers into thin rounds of about 2mm.
  2. Put into a bowl and sprinkle with the salt to leach out the excess liquid. Mix around a bit with your hands, then let sit for at least 2 hours. Overnight is good, especially for larger cucumbers.
  3. Tip the cucumbers into a colander and drain thoroughly.

While the cucumbers are sweating, sterilise the jars. Make sure you use jars with thick glass, not the el cheapos from discount stores. I use jars I’ve saved from eating Bliss Honey.

  1. Wash the jars in hot soapy water, rinse thoroughly in hot water, drain a bit, then put upside-down in a cold oven. Heat oven to 100ºC. When it reaches temperature, leave the jars in for about 10 minutes, then carefully remove. They need to be completely dry. Turn off the oven when you remove the jars.
  2. Wash the lids in hot soapy water, then boil them in a saucepan of water for 5 minutes. Drain and let dry. You can put them in the cooling oven for a bit to make sure they are completely dry.

While the jars and lids are drying, make the brine.

  1. Put the vinegar, sugar, cumin and water into a medium saucepan over low heat. Use a stainless steel or other non-reactive saucepan, as cast iron, copper or aluminium etc will stain. Increase the heat until it boils, then let it simmer for about 5 minutes.
  2. While the brine is simmering, tip the well drained cucumbers into a large bowl and add the onions, garlic and the mustard, fennel and dill seeds. Mix well using your hands.
  3. Take the brine off the heat and let cool a little.
  4. When the jars are cool-ish, pack the jars with the cucumber mix. Make sure your hands are clean. Add a couple of peppercorns as you fill the jar with cucumbers. Almost fill the jars and don’t pack them too much.
  5. Pour the brine into the jars while still quite warm. Remove air bubbles by sliding a chopstick (or anything that will do the job) down the sides and giving things a bit of a wiggle and a poke. Tap the jars gently on the bench to dislodge air bubbles. Add more brine if necessary in order to completely cover the cucumbers. There should be about a 1cm gap from the top of the brine to the top of the jar.
  6. Wipe the rims (with something clean and dry, like a fresh tea towel) and seal with a lid, semi-tightly.
  7. Grap your biggest saucepan (a stockpot is ideal). Place a clean, folded tea towel at the bottom of the pan, then place the jars on the tea towel. Keep the jars clear of the sides of the saucepan. This reduces the risk of a jar cracking while the water is boiling.
  8. Fill the pot with water at a temperature that is close to the still-warm jars, so they don’t crack. The jars should be fully covered, or at least 3/4 submerged. Put on the lid and bring to the boil over medium heat (ie. slowly). Once it reaches boiling point, leave for 10 minutes.
  9. Carefully remove the jars from the saucepan and leave aside to cool overnight. There are special tongs for doing this, but I managed by very quickly grabbing them with a thick washing up glove and immediately transferring it into a thick, folded tea towel in the other hand. Please don’t burn yourself and please don’t drop a jar!

The lids should be slightly bulging. As the jars cool, a vacuum will be created inside and the lids will be sucked down, making a small pop. This is the sign that they are properly sealed and can be stored for up to a year. If they don’t seal correctly (if the lid isn’t slightly concave after they’re completely cooled), just put them in the fridge and eat them within a couple of weeks.

Notes

Don't worry if a jar cracks/breaks/explodes in the saucepan while you're boiling them. Let the process finish and just clean the jars that survive. It will be messy, but OK.

28 December, 2017 0 comment
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