Spicing things up for winter

Principle 12: Creatively use and respond to change

With 5 days in a row of heavy frosts over the solstice period winter has well and truly set in. We've not needed to run the fire during the days though, as it's been sunny most days which has been heating up our solar passive living space beautifully. On occasions the house has remained so warm that we haven't even needed to light the fire at night - though hot water bottles are a must for the kids. With so much sun around we've often been using our electric kettle over the gas alternative, figuring that our solar PV system would be generating an excess. When the fires going that's our first choice.

Winter preserving - Black Olives, Kasundi and Chilli Paste
We bottled the black olives that we harvested at Murrnong after only 18 days of rinsing with water. This was less that what was recommended to us, which was a minimum of 21 days, max of 40. The olives were more ripe, some being quite soft and I did slice each of them which would help leach out the bitterness more quickly. We'll have to wait and see how they go.

Yesterday I pulled up a bunch of green tomatoes that were getting hammered from the frosts. They looked okay though and I got about a third of a bucket. I'd been thinking of making a Kasundi for some time, which I love - and use the green tomatoes in it. We also have the last of the fresh chillies that I picked recently and garlic that was starting to sprout. I figured that I could make the most of this produce by preserving it as a spicy relish. After a quick search I discovered this recipe by Karen Martini. While I didn't have all of the ingredients, I used it as a base and improvised the rest. It sat on the fire for a few hours last night to reduce down, soaked clean jars and lids in a nearby pot boiling water and bottled them. They vacuum sealed nicely.

We had a good harvest of chillies this year and Kunie was keen to preserve them. I dried a heap in our solar dryer and we used these along with fresh ones and garlic. Removing the seeds and chopping them up was a time consuming process, about 4 hours work - and dangerous too. It takes many washes of the hands to remove the heat, and you know about that when you touch sensitive parts of your body. Kunie even used gloves - though they did get a hole in them.

The chillies and garlic were left for a month in a brine solution, and retained their colour beautifully. The brine was a bit whiffy,  so it was poured off, they were rinsed a few times and some more salt and vinegar was added before the mix was whizzed. I washed a number of small jars with hot soapy water and rinsed with boiling water. I then carefully poured the mix to the jars and a layer of olive oil and screwed on the lid. Storing 3 of the four potent jars in the fridge and one in the pantry to see how it goes.

Fermenting Chillies with Garlic in a brine solution for one month
We decided not to sterilise the jars after reading a section in Sandor Katz's book 'The Art of Fermentation' -  and thinking about it I support with his motto "cleanliness, not sterility". My thinking was that bottling fermented food is different from preserving other foods. Most of the sugars are fermented out during the process, and the salt and vinegar produce an unfriendly environment for the fermentation process to continue. Any surface scum or mould that does form can be removed and the contents should still be fine. It is important however to use clean utensils to remove the food - pouring into a smaller vessel being the best option. Sandor suggests that reducing the surface area helps the ferments last longer, as it's the contact with air that causes the reaction. He suggests moving the contents to smaller jars as the need arises.


Linda said…
Gorgeous! Pretty and practical food!

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