Welcome to 2016! 2015 was a brilliant year and one that I will never forget. The support and encouragement from the people of the Macedon Ranges has been outstanding and I feel very fortunate to be here.
So lets get enthusiastic about new projects, new skills and new tools in the kitchen. This year I will be introducing a new project or topic each month - something that will hopefully give you the encouragement to try something new. Something you thought may have been too hard or take too much time.
Our first project for 2016 is "Summer Fruits". We are very lucky to be surrounded be gorgeous fruits and most of us have a crop or two bursting in our backyard. If you have ever been to the Kyneton Show or the monthly Farmer's Markets you know we have some local people who make some beautiful jams, preserves, cordials, chutneys and sauces.
If you want to give it a go, here are the tools you need.
// Pot or Maslin Pan - a large heavy duty pot with a pouring spout and helper handle to help you lift it.
// Thermometers - reaching the right temperature will ensure your jams and sauces will set.
// Muslin Cloth - for smooth and clear jellies and jams. Muslin Cloth comes in a variety of sizes, it is inexpensive and can be washed and reused.
// Jars or Bottles - make sure they are good quality - you don't want to go through the whole process only to be let down in the end.
// Small jug and/or funnel - to make bottling easier and if the jug has measurements it will allow your jars to be filled consistently.
Nicole Carracher is amazing, she has a huge library of jam, chutney and pickle recipes many of which she has entered into the local country shows and won! I think she's an expert so I asked her to share one of her favourite recipes.
Nicole's Favourite Plum Jam: Plums are everywhere at the moment, so give this a go:
// 2 kg of fruit - washed, chopped and pips removed
// 250ml of water
// juice of 3 medium lemons
// 1.5 kg of white sugar
Add fruit and water to a large pot - you have to add other ingredients to the pot so give yourself plenty of room. Bring the pot to the boil, and stir regularly to ensure it doesn't stick - approx. 10 mins.
Place washed jars on a tray and into a hot oven to sterilise and place jar lids in a pot of water and bring to boil.
Add sugar and lemon, again stir regularly - it is important to keep stirring often to ensure the jam doesn't stick to the bottom and burn. Cooking time will be approx. 1 hour - this will vary batch to batch, year to year depending on the size of the fruit and how sweet they are. Use Nic's Tips below to check if it is setting and adjust your cooking time accordingly.
Get hot jars out of the oven, lay out hot lids on paper towel close by, remove your pot from the heat and let them both sit for 5 minutes.
Scoop hot jam out the pot with a small jug and pour into hot jars - Nic's Tip: Wear gloves because jam burn hurts!!!
Fill up the all the jars at once, then fasten lids quickly and tightly and let them sit. As the jam cools it will create an air tight seal and you should hear a "pop" indicating that the seal is tight - approx. 1 hour later.
Label and enjoy!
// Always add a little bit extra lemon - it adds more pectin and brings out the flavour of the fruit.
// Have your jars cleaned and old labels off before you start. When the jam is boiling away then you can pop them into the oven for sterilisation, and boil the lids in a pot on the stove top.
// Jam is setting when is starts to thicken up, the colour deepens, and the bubbles in the pot appear to 'softer'. Or you can use a thermometer - jam sets at 104C Degrees.
Something else to consider - if you have a tree full of apples, or too many zucchini's check out the Woodend Farmers Market Produce Swap Table. The idea is that you bring your excess produce to the table and then you can swap for whatever maybe available!
The swap starts at 10am on the first Saturday of each month.
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