Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Pickled Young Ginger

So you know how I was going on about Anthocyanins and Quinces the other day - well the former made a delightful re-occurence - In ginger!
I dug up some young ginger the other day from our wee garden (it loves Sydney - put it in some pots now!),  as I had some extra left over from my soup (gingery pumpkin yum!) I realised I could have a go at making the japanese style pickled ginger
This little yumminess you have with sushi etc , aka Gari is horrendously easy to make  (at least how I made it is!).  After slicing it finely just pop some vinegar in (white vinegar so you don't add in any extra flavours) and the lovely pink colour will develop as the anthocyanins are formed.
Easy Pickled Ginger!
Other recipes (here and here) make a pickling solution with vinegar, sugar and water- But I don't think it needs the extra sweetness as it packs a refreshing punch!

Thursday, 24 April 2014

I don't think your ready for this Jelly!

After making (and now finishing) the Lillipilli Jelly, I've done a bit of research into the process of making jams and jellies, and by jove - I think I've got it.
Lillipilli Jelly - go HERE to see how I made it. 
It all revolves around three main ingredients that are needed to be added in proportion to one another.
Pectin: Is a complex carbohydrate found supporting the cell walls in the rind/skin and core of certain fruits.
Sugar: It has two roles, the firstly its involved in lowering the water activity of the solution (this simply means decreasing the amount of free water in the solution by making it associate with the sugar molecules). By lowering the water activity, it forces the pectin molecules to associate with each other (agglomerate) and form a matrix. The second role of sugar is that the dissolved sugar molecules are incorporated into the pectin matrix (acting to suppress the repulsion between pectin molecules forming a strong matrix)
Acid: At a low pH the hydroxyl and carboxyl side groups of the solubilised pectin molecules are charged, this encourages Hydrogen bonding between charges on different molecules.  The repulsion between the molecules is over come by the high concentration of soluble sugars, allowing crosslinking and the formation of a matrix.

Have a squiz at my handy dandy infogram.
Jelli-licious methods.
So now that you know the gellation mechanisms - you can make any jam or jelly! Have some more questions? Read on.

Why is choosing fruit/combinations important?
Different fruits have different Pectin contents, this is why you see combinations of berries and apple or rhubarb and orange, so that the pectin rich (apples and oranges) substitute the pectin poor (berries and rhubarb).
When the fruit ripens the pectin is broken down by enzymes (Pectinase and Pectinesterase) - this action is seen by the softening of the fruit. So if you want to use really ripe fruit - typically you will have have to substitute some extra pectin (from under ripe to ripe fruit, or from powdered pectin)

Why you can't skip the sugar.
If you are making a traditional jam or jelly you can't get away from the sugar!  Typically jams/jellies using pectin extracted from fruit will need greater than 55 wt% solids.
If you add too much water to the fruit you are going to need to add more sugar to make up for it and cross your fingers the fruit had enough pectin to set- therefore Less water to start with is safer!
It also tastes yummy :)

Why Boiling is a balance. 
Heat plays a very important role, firstly its needed to break down and solubilise the pectin from the fruits cell walls.  Secondly, it concentrates the solution (by evaporating the water - this is why large diameter pots are commonly used) and allows the gellation to occur.  BUT if you boil for too long it can taste cooked or in extreme cases the pectin molecules can hydrolyse (read break down) then it will never work unless you add more.A rule of thumb is that if the solution isn't gelling (as seen on a spoon removed from the pot) after 10 minutes you will need to add some thing...

Why fancy equipment would make troubleshooting easy peasy!
In an ideal world we would all have fancy equipment in our kitchen
pH meter - the ideal range for pH is 3.1 to 3.3 , greater than this and  it won't set well - less than this and it will set tooo well and form weird chunky streaks BUT If you don't have a pH probe and you are worried you pH is too high - chuck some tartaric acid as your solution is boiling (its strong be careful 1/4 tsp at a time) and see what happens! (Adding either citric or tartaric acid straight rather than lemon juice can be easier to control and won't introduce unwanted flavours).
Refractometer - You can infer the sugar content with these babies BUT if you don't have one - if the sugar content is high enough (> 55wt%) it should be gelling and happy! (If not- chuck some more in as it boils)

If all of the proverbial hits the fan: You can always take the pot off the heat - cover it - and pop into town to buy some JamSetta (the sachets not the jam sugar).  Heat the pot again and stir in the little sachet and bring to the boil again - It definitely will set now.  (If it doesn't you are on your own!- or just keep adding sugar until A). It gels, or B). You have created a delicious taffy type substance.

What's with the calcium? 
If you frequent fancy cooking stores, or read molecular gastronomy books (or are obsessed with low sugar jams) you may have encountered LM pectin.  This is simply a pectin molecules with less methoxy groups than the pectin recovered from fruit (referred to as HM pectin). To promote gelation,  rather than sugar, divalent ions are used - Most commonly calcium. The ions bridge the polymer chains, encouraging crosslinking and then agglomeration.  Using such pectin is handy as less sugar is needed (MUCH LESS!) and also it sets at a much lower temperature, meaning less heat is needed.

Want to read more? This is a good reference.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Quince Vodka

In light of the haul of quinces from Easter, I have been trawling the internet for interesting recipes as there is a definite limit to the amount of stewed one you can eat (its a high limit, but a limit all the same).
Enter good ol' alcohol...
There's a couple of recipes for Quince vodka (Here and Here) that looked horrendously simple so I grabbed some cheap vodka and started grating away.... then I was done - as easy as that.
I'll tell you all how it tastes in a couple of months!
I'm making quince flavoured alcohol!

<You'll note it isn't the rosy red quincey colour we have come to love - that's because they were grated raw, this keeps the fresh smells and flavours we all love but doesn't give the colour that comes with cooking>

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Quantities of Quinces

I love the smell of quinces - its quite insidious how it seeps into everything, the car now smells like Quinces, evidence of our magnificent haul from the Easter weekend in Orange.
Not the most beautiful fruit (but definitely one of the most fragrant!)- Quinces!
We always seemed to get out hands on these beautiful fruits growing up- I can't remember who in the neighbourhood had a tree, but it only takes one of these delightfully prolific plants to keep everyone well stocked.
My parents have two trees - the branches are so weighed down with fruit that they rest on the ground and when you pick the fruit they spring gratefully back up!
Even with mums prolific preserving, and the local wildlife there is more than enough quinces for everyone.

As those who have been tricked into eating these raw- they are tongue-curlingly rich in tannins (and hard!), whilst some varieties have been bred so you can eat them raw ( or when they are very very ripe), the traditional varieties are useless unless cooked.
Qunices are known as Cydonia oblonga  with the rather fitting species name (oblonga) being a testament to is knobbly and odd shape.
In the cooking process the phenolic chemicals in the flesh (responsible for the astringency, e.g tannins) break down into subunits which can easily form anthocyanins in the presence of oxygen.  Its these anthocyanin compounds that given the rosy to deep red colour typical of cooked quinces.  (Read here for more). Due to the nature of anthocyanins, to get a deeper red colour a bit of acid can be added to lower the pH (However some cultivars produce a deeper red than others - so don't worry if yours are pinker rather than red).

Quince paste has been made throughout history (known as membrillo in spain!), its probably accompanying a cheese platter that most people have been exposed to Quinces, its ridiculously easy to make (and much cheaper than buying it!).
Its also commonly stewed (delicious for breakfast, dessert, in cakes - anytime or place really!). My mum stews quinces (in a light syrup) with vanilla and cardamon- delicious!
The internet has a great variety of recipes using quinces - I'll test out a couple over the next few weeks!
Do you have any recipes using quinces?

Monday, 21 April 2014

Easter Excursions

How lush is the central west at the moment?
Driving through the Bells line of road we were amazed at the change a couple of months (and a WHOLE LOTTA RAIN) makes to the landscape. 
We (predictably) headed west for the Easter long weekend to the land of autumn colours, fresh produce, fresher evenings and cute animals. 
How relaxing is playing in the garden. 

Autumn raspberries and blue skies
Cut flowers from the garden
Disappointingly boring homemade dried chorizo
Mounds of Salvias
Horned Cucumbers (un-ripe as it turns out!)
Rosy roses
Eye catching rose-hips
Yummiest tomatoes on earth
Can you guess what was planted here?
Piles and Piles of Preserves!
I can't stop thinking about recipes for quinces since getting home.

Wild apples (and pears)  - Freshly picked and delicious

What did you get up to for the Easter weekend? 

Friday, 18 April 2014

Inspiration: Painted Pots

How much of a time suck is Pinterest? I was pondering some ways to jazz up our little garden - how about a splash of paint?  
<From left to right>
TOP: Painted PlanterDipped Neon PotAir Plant Cube Planter,  DIY Terracotta Plant Pots
Bottom: Crafted Life Painted planter DIY Painted Planters, Myers Maison PotsColour Dip Pot

I've already cracked out my white spray paint! Fingers crossed they don't turn out horrendously tacky! (You will never know if they do! A Lady Never Tells...)

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Indie Stitches

Look what I found in my internet-ing last night: and even more exciting! They are based in AUSTRALIA !
I have been seriously lusting over the By Hand London patterns, however my dislike of waiting for international post and the fact that they only sell printed patterns, means I hadn't got my mitts on any of them. 
Thanks indie stitches for enabling my pattern habit... They have a cracking collection so pop on over and have a look!
Look what I got! 
The new FLORA pattern - looks like I got the last one as its now sold out at indie stiches - Yey!
The glorious ANNA pattern - there are some seriously lovely versions floating around the sew-o-sphere!
Now to continue my procrastination and think of what material to make these beauties up in!

Monday, 14 April 2014

Circle skirt sessions

You might remember the other week that I mentioned I had been making circle skirts? Well the pics have finally been taken! What do you think?
They certainly fill a definite gap in my wardrobe (lots of pencil skirts in there) and best of all are so uber easy to make!  They can be really really long, or really really short - I went for the more work friendly options!
All you need is some geometry, a zipper, lots of thread and patience for the hem, and your done!

Turn Turn Turn

Studying hard
More twirling!
Its soooooooo Big!
 Have you been sucked into a similar circle skirt making frenzy?? Have you escaped yet??

Friday, 11 April 2014

Inspiration: Geometric quilts

I was thinking of making some placemats the other day- of course they would either have to be floral or REALLY colourful as its me.   Floral might be a bit tooooo tacky (and the boy probably wouldn't approve)-So I set off into the internet aether with lots of colours on my mind!  Only to be shipwrecked by Geometric Island - <Okay I'll leave the metaphors alone now>
How prettttty are these ?? 
Images sourced from: Main Image, One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve.

I have never tried quilting! It seems to be such a huge commitment (let alone having to be soooooo neat!) that I've never psyched up to start one!
The fact that my Mum is an amazing quilter and that if you drop some (very unsubtle) hints - she has a tendency to give them to loved ones has nothing at all to do with it! 
Maybe some little quilted place mats would be a nice project? 
Have you succumbed to quilt madness? 

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Winifred Dress

So I'm definitely having a frenzy for collared dresses at the moment - See here and here!
When I first saw this pattern - I loved it - but was scared off by having to do a SBA. (Bluegingerdoll patterns are sized for a D cup - great for those bigger busted gals who are regularly left out from the big 3 pattern companies)
However I was following the Facebook sewalong group and I saw that Abby had uploaded a pretty awesome bust adjustment tutorial- So of course I changed my mind immediately and bought the pattern pdf!
What followed next was 3 hours of frustration - (that could easily have been avoided if I had thought about what I was doing!)
I found what size I was based on my bust measurement - an 8 ( first mistake), however I'm a B rather than a D so I decided to do a 5/8 inch small bust adjustment.
All went smoothly the pattern looked good- then I tried on the Muslin. I got it on (just) but literally had to cut my way out of it!  Because (as you all would have worked out instantly!) you can't pick your size based on your bust if your going to adjust it smaller!  
Next approach was to pick my size based on my bust size + how much I was going to take out in the SBA (as it obviously should have been done in the first place!). 
Armed with a size 12 instead, SBA was completed, muslin fitted perfectly and 2 hours later the dress was sewed up and done!!
Moral of the story.... Think think think about the adjustments before you start! But at least now I know how to do a SBA! Thanks Abby! 
Winifred dress and me squinting into the sun!
What do you think? This fabric is tonnes of fun! I wouldn't normally be drawn to the pattern and colours- but my housemate bought it (and 30m of other fabric home from her travels ) - best housemate ever- and it seemed perfect!
If you look close enough - the belt matches the spots!
What a nice and perky collar!

Back waistline shirring!
An awesome pattern, and awesomely comfortable dress to wear - Bluegingerdoll I am a fan!

Thursday, 3 April 2014