I don't think there has been many days in the past few months when the preserving pot hasn't been in use. In fact, I'm about to order a second one along with another jelly straining bag - hopefully then, it won't be such a juggling act!
Madam Secretary gave me a garden diary around xmas time (probably to write notes about the garden in!) but it has been repurposed into writing what I've made each day - looking back I've even surprised myself!
January - Jamaican Pineapple Jam (heaven on fresh bread with cheese and pickled onions)
February - bottled Black Doris plums, Plum & Rum jam (I hate the smell of rum - it all went in the jam!), Black Doris Plum chutney, Rhubarb and Orange jam, scoured charity shops for Agee jars (along with lots of other people - you can never have too many), picked blueberries with my daughter (which became a competition to see who picked the most - she won!), Blueberry jam, preserved 36L of peaches (from our trees), first honey extraction, Damson Gin (from damson plums) - I have to wait until August to break into this :(, Damson plum paste (tasty but too sticky), more Jamaican Pineapple Jam (everyone who tasted it wanted some)
March - Peach, Honey & Vanilla jam, preserved more peaches (getting sick of peeling peaches), picked quince and figs, Quince paste, Fig & Apple chutney, preserved 1L jar figs, first batch of pickled onions (anyone who knows my good husband knows this is dangerous!), Blackboy Peach jam and jelly, Quince jelly, Pear & Walnut chutney, pruned the plum trees with my good husband (heartening they had grown enough for a prune!)
April - Spiced Pear paste (learnt some lessons about pear paste not to be repeated!), preserved pears, put in a test batch of Ploughmans chutney, Feijoa chutney (smelt delicious cooking), preserved feijoas (for my mums breakfast), bottled Ploughmans chutney, my good husband broke open the first batch of pickled onions (a success he said), second test batch recipe underway, Quince chutney (after finding juniper berries)
... and I've still got some quince and feijoas to do something with...
Anyone who cooks knows that in any kitchen there is a certain element of trial and error - some recipes sound fabulous but they just doesn't turn out like the picture - let alone taste like they say!, other recipes turn out better than expected.
Most importantly, cook what you, and people you know like and will eat! With four boys in the family, there is never a shortage of tasters - let alone a number of friends who like to peruse the larder for new offerings (you know who you are)...
My goal is to produce food straight from our farm to the jar. My daughter is always saying "can't you just make plain strawberry jam!", well yes next year I will I say, when my strawberries in my vege garden are ready. Lucky for her the vege garden is progressing and Madam President has sourced me a lot of healthy looking strawberry plants.
For the next little while I'll be out on farm duties, helping with thistle control, working on getting some of the nursery plants in the ground, psyching myself up for lambing season (a crazy crazy crazy sleep deprived time) and waiting for the grapefruit to ripen. Whiskey marmalade is a favourite in this house. Hopefully the lime trees will produce a few fruit for me this winter so I can experiment with some lime marmalade.
Things I've learnt so far - I have a love/hate relationship with quince (mostly hate). I love to eat it but I hate making it, although jelly and chutney is almost a pleasure compared to paste and jam. It spits like molten lava - literally everywhere! and I still have the scar on my face from two years ago from misjudging the next "plop" - if only it didn't taste so good. If you do decide to have a go yourself - make sure all skin is covered, you have long dishwashing gloves on, a splatter shield in action at all times and biceps that can stir for more hours than you could think possible (ps. a full glass of wine or two and a comfy stool helps to pass the time).
Plum jam is my favourite to make.
Old Agee jars are hard to find, a must if you want to preserve your own fruit (and vege). I'm constantly on the hunt at charity shops and the like trying to find them. They can range in price from $0.50 each to $8.00 each. New screw caps and seals can be bought from most supermarkets - there is a difference on some old jars (rim thickness) which dictates whether you use the green or gold screw - so check what you need before you buy. I now have a good supplier of new jars (albeit in Wellington) which arrive within a few days of ordering.
I'll write shortly about the bees, but as I've booked a table at the Awhitu Country Market on 4 June - its all planning and preparation for what will be on offer at the market. Hope to see you there...
Quinces waiting for action !