New Year New Life – Lacto Ginger Beer Starter

It seems apt at the start of the new year with nice warm (if variable weather) above 20 degrees Celsius that I start a lacto fermented ginger beer starter 🙂

With the warm weather on the way being able to produce some natural ice cold drinks is also a good driver 🙂

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I have done lacto fermented starters before and they have worked out well but died off over winter due to neglect.

I am starting this one a bit differently to the other one less water and the addition of some molasses to add some trace elements to the mix after some conversations with friends.

To make start with.

  • 2 – 3 tablespoons of grated organic ginger (if you are not using organic soak it for a few days to get the chemicals out that can stop the fermentation process).
  • Equal amount of unrefined sugar to the amount of ginger you are using.
  • 1 teaspoon of molasses
  • Filtered or boiled and cooled water to room temperature about twice as any table spoons as the sugar (a bit less a bit more no issue)

The biggest trick is to make sure you sterilise everything as much as you can for me this means a kettle of boiling water and making sure that you don’t put things like teaspoons on the bench top between uses, or forgetting to sterilise the knife used to cut the ginger. It can seem a bit excessive but it will help in the long run.

Mix it all together and leave for two days in a nice warm spot in your kitchen where you can keep an eye on it then add a ½ table spoon of grated ginger and a ½ tablespoon of sugar each day for 5 days. Should be bubbling nicely well before then 🙂

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Time to get out and enjoy the garden on this new years day 🙂

This is why you do not get a real post tonight…

Sorry all.  It is 11pm and I have just finished bottling 6 liters of elderflower cordial after foraging a few items of hard waste I noticed on my walk home for a new wicking bed.

So the photo below will have to do for now. More interesting stuff tomorrow.

And the taste. One of my best batches according to A. 🙂

elder-cordial

Elderflower cordial

So now the equinox is gone and daylight savings will not start till the end of the week I am finding I am up at 5am and it is light enough to see and move around the garden in.

For those who do not know the best times to pick elderflowers is early morning and dusk. The perfume of the flowers is at its best and the flavour as well. Although I have picked them at other times and the flavour seems fine I try to go by this tradition.

This morning I found myself awake and wandered out on the front porch and noticed the elderflowers had ripened and there would be enough to make a batch of elderflower cordial.

bowl

flowers

I started the kettle up and went out and picked about 30 flower heads and quickly put a batch together to start the infusing process. The cordial is great mixed simply with iced cold water or soda water it is a light refreshing drink in the heat of summer or a favourite is to add a shot Gin to the mix and then you have a great little mixer to sit back and enjoy looking at your garden in the evening.

cordial

So the mix was done in a few minutes and then it was the daily chores of cats and chickens and then off to work.

bucket

There is something satisfying to me that I can do this before heading off to my corporate day time job. It somehow makes me feel more alive, even though most of my day will tied to this work culture  just a little bit of me is still out there enjoying the path less trodden.

Elderflower Cordial

  • 5 litres boiling water
  • 30 Elder Flower Clusters (I don`t wash them – aroma gets lost)
  • 3 kilos sugar
  • 10 lemons
  • 125 grams of citric acid

This amount makes 6 litres of syrup. You only need about 1 – 2 cm per glass.

Put all the ingredients in a clean bucket, cover it with a tea towel and stir it every day with a sterilised spoon so that the sugar dissolves with time. I cut the lemons in half, squeeze them out and throw the peels in as well. After one week, sieve it through a cloth and fill it up into bottles.

That`s all. Have fun.

The original recipe I got from my family is to use cold water but as the elderflowers have natural yeast (handy for making champagne) that ferments I try to kill this off with hot water. It saves the bottles exploding or getting a hard liquor version of syrup.

A trick to fix the cloth in place over the bucket is to take enough twine to almost go around the bucket then tie both ends to rubber bands. That way I can easily remove the string no nots nothing to worry about and makes sure the towel or cloth stays in place.

rubber bands

Elderflower Season

We often look at harvesting as autumn pass time. Laying down goods for winter.

To me this is a lot less important in the temperate location I live as there is regular growth in all but the worst of mid winter and even then greens are available, but there are times during the whole year when a particular food comes around.

Some like asparagus are enjoyed as part of the cycle some like mushrooms are both enjoyed and stored for the rest of the year.

Elderflowers are one of these. They are only around for a short period of time but to me they are well worth putting down a store of for as long as they last.

elderflower

I have a number of sources but there is one in our court that I get to and hit pretty hard in the flower season knowing that this will impact on the berries I get. I do this as my experience is that this one tree is flogged by the birds and few elderberries are left for me to pick. My source of elderberries is up country and well worth the trip to collect them when I need to get them.

Elder has some great properties. The flowers and berries when properly prepared have antiviral properties and this year I had elderberry syrup each day over winter and avoided the usual bout of illness.

So the first batch of the season went straight into the dryer. Elderflower fresh or dried with a little honey makes a great tea and if you are feeling a bit like something is coming on it is seems to help to avoid it turning into something serious.  This will keep me going till the berries are out and I can make up a new batch of elderberry syrup.

bowl of elderflowers

The second batch I will pick tomorrow morning and make 4 -5 litres of elderflower cordial. Then onto the good stuff the champagne J

All through the season this year I will really be focusing in on these little harvests getting the larder ready and keeping things stocked. Each year I try to get a bit further off the stupid go round and this is great example of that.

Elder flowers are also easy to find in most places so start to have a look around and learn to identify them from a good resource. Start to work out where your own larder and medicine cabinet are to be found before you actually need them.

Good luck foraging.

Cordial and Summer Days

This is another story of community as a bit of bad luck would lead me to. For those getting sick of this subject there is a nice recipe for a orange, lemon and honey cordial and you can bypass the rest of this post  🙂

So we decided to head up country for couple of days and visit my parents. Get out of the city and lets the kids spend a couple of days with their grandparents running around in nature.

Given the luck we have had with anything related to automobiles it was perhaps a given that we would have some trouble and sure enough about an hour from home and an hour from my parents place, we had a blow out that destroyed a tyre on the hired trailer and damaged the wheel arch very badly.

So what does one do on Sunday of a long weekend with a blown tyre and trailer on the side of the highway with an old bath in it for dad’s aqauponics system 65km from home and 65km from the destination?

Well I decided that no one was driving with that trailer any time soon so I made it safe on the verge of the road and headed to my parents home wondering how I was going to sort this all out.

Should have known to relax. Within an of hour of getting to my parents place my father had sourced 2 tyres of different sizes, tools for the removal and tools for the repair for the trailer. All in a town of 400 people on Sunday afternoon of a long weekend…

I probably couldn’t do this in Melbourne a city of 3.5 million and certainly not that fast.

Small towns are like that the neighbour who supplied me with a spare tyre said don’t worry use it for as long as you need it no rush. And we did need it as in the end it was the tyre that fitted. This is not a wealthy man but actually a person on a disability pension. This is what community looks like it is helping out each other knowing that they will be helped if needed. I remember this from when I was a kid and my mother had a bad accident and casseroles just appeared from neighbours to help out das when mum was in hospital for some time.

Animals just got locked up, fed watered all sorted while dad was away with mum. And in return dad has probably helped these people or people who have helped these people. And so the circle goes around and so it does up to and including today.

We have kidded ourselves that we can purchase the services we need. Operating as islands and purchasing being free of the commitments and we can get anything we want, which we probably can at a cost to ourselves but it does not replace that helping hand that we need and it disempowers us. We used to rely on each other and it is not always the people that fit in our click or we fit in who are the ones who help us.

So dad and I collected the trailer replaced the wheel, bashed out the wheel arch (a little knowledge of metals and their craft is a handy thing) and got home to find the kids having a ball with their nana.

The neighbour advised me that I could have the tyre for $20 as he has enough of them. But he will get a couple of six packs of good beer to go with it as well. That level of helpfulness can’t be bought off so cheaply, and is not ever expected but doesn’t need to be as in the end the gift of the beer is just part to of that circle we discussed.

The day finished with a simple meal in the cool evening outside in my parents orchard. Homemade passatta  with lots of beans and fresh veg and small amount of meat and lots of pasta. A couple of beers and great evening had by all.

dinner When we checked out dads triffid like sunflowers in his garden I noticed bees hard at work in them and was reminded I needed to post a recipe that I was going to post last night till the homebrew got to me.

is that a triffid dad

sunflower with bees

So below is a very tasty and refreshing little cordial that takes a few minutes to make and works really well in the hot humid conditions we have at the moment.

Brew a batch and sit in the garden with family and friends and just enjoy life and remember that you are not an island and can’t be if you really want to be part of society.

Orange, Honey and Lemon Cordial

  • 3 cups of freshly squeezed orange juice (or frozen home squeezed juice works as well)
  • 2 cups of freshly squeezed lemon juice(or frozen home squeezed juice works as well)
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of honey

Combine it all a stainless steel pot stirring in the honey so it dissolves properly

Bring to a gentle boil then drop the heat and simmer for 5 minutes stirring to make sure the sugar and honey are combined and not sticking to the pot.

Pour into sterilised bottles. Should keep in the bottles for up to a month but better stored in a fridge and if you open the bottles definitely put in a fridge. There is not the usual amount of sugar that preserves most cordial for long periods of time. You could also add some tartaric acid to help with preserving it but in our house hold this does not last long enough for that to be an issue 🙂

Serve with ice and mixed to your preferred strength.

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My what a busy year you have had.

My what a busy year you have had.

Well it has been a very, very, very busy year.

As I am sitting here having eaten a nice meal home cooked with my family and knocking back a nice cold elderberry champagne I must admit I am pretty content.

Not complacent just content. I wandered around my back yard this evening thinking I need to do this. I need to do that but I reminded myself of the many things I have done.

In some ways the approach I am taking to lighten my step on the earth is working but it is still way too heavy. I am not the worst or the best and if the whole world lived like me we would be in trouble. Conversely if the whole of Australia lived like me we would perhaps be starting down a better road (just my opinion here).

So where to from here? Well for me I intend to keep going. I have a number of things I would like to do this year as listed below but one of things I will do is take more time to spend with my family.

While I was always interested in the world and the long term living of within means, my children bring home why I have to continue to change.  For anyone reading this it is a long term thing. Each day you look at the world a little differently and hopefully a little better.

Achievements this year.

  • Garden more productive than last year.
  • Passive solar changes for the house underway
  • Front yard full of idea’s (most would call it full of junk)
  • 87 posts on this blog (some of them readable)
  • Lots of good meals with friends and family
  • Some bartering for services.
  • Lots of plant swaps.
  • Most of my seedlings self grown (or bartered)
  • New skills such as salami making, meat curing and stone carving learnt
  • A lot of booze brewed (some of it even drinkable – cheers)
  • Foraging skills for plants, materials etc  increased.
  • Bees in the back yard
  • Started a few people on the road to growing their own gardens
  • A reconnection to local food through the garden, the ceres box, and the cheese and tofu coop.
  • And mostly two happy little kids who love the world.

It is short list but there is a good number of things to be happy for I think.

For next year

  • Shed move
  • Retaining walls.
  • Retro fit the house for energy saving
  • The new plot in the community garden
  • More garden beds
  • Cellar space
  • Harvest Honey
  • Hot house
  • More time with my family and of course…
  • two happy little kids who love the world 

This list is shorter as more things will creep in and the last two items will be a strong focus. Time spent smelling the roses and enjoying friends and family more.

I still had to work tonight and again tomorrow, a reminder of the bad old days for me in the corporate world but I am starting see that there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Happy to be working at the end of the day and working towards the rest of my goals

May you all have a great new years and safe break (if you are having one) see you all next year (yes that is tomorrow)

New Years Eve Dinner (yes it can be a food blog at times)

Chicken

  • 3 or 4 chicken thighs (you can use breast fillets but thigh are better flavour and will not dry out so much)
  • 2 table spoons fish sauce
  • 1 table spoon of soy sauce
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Table spoon of water
  • 3 cloves of garlic crushed
  • Teaspoon of fresh chilli
  • Walnut sized piece of ginger grated
  • 4 or 5 spring onions sliced up.
  • 1 teaspoon of brown sugar (or coconut sugar)
  • 1 table spoon sesame oil

Put the chicken breasts in foil and pour over the rest of the ingredients you have mixed in a jug. Wrap up and seal the tin foil and cook in an oven at 170 degree Celsius for around 30 to 45 minutes (breast fillets 30 minutes, thighs longer)

Meat will fall off the bone and both children where getting right into it.

Salad

  • 1 cucumber sliced on grater slicer
  • 1 zucchini sliced on grater slicer
  • 1 carrot peeled and sliced with a peeler in long strips
  • 1 tablespoon of flaked almonds (I ran out tonight)

Mix vegetables together and season with macadamia/olive oil, vinegar salt and pepper  leave for a while then toss in the almonds prior to serving.

Works very well mixed together on a plate with chicken meat, and steamed rice.