It’s almost the end of summer, at least from a calendar point of view. In Sydney, the heat lingers for a couple more months. Cricket is almost done – both No1 and No2’s teams made the semi- finals this season which is very exciting for them. It gives us a few more sunny mornings lying in the local park reading the paper, drinking coffee and watching them. “Mum, did you see that shot I did?” “Yip.” “Mum, you have to watch every ball. There are no replays!”
The end of summer, traditionally, was a time of creating preserves and it served two important purposes. To prevent all the excess summer produce being wasted, and to ensure the family had vegetables to eat during the winter. In a modern society with our food coming from all over the world, we have lost that sense of seasonality. There is no need to preserve food for winter. We only do it for the taste.
I like the taste of preserves – they are the taste of summer re-invented for winter. They are a clever way to preserving the memory of summer. All that wonderful produce, kept in jars, ready to be used in those long winter days, reminding you of warmer times.
Every week we go to the local swimming pool so that No3 and No4 can have their lesson. In summer No1 and No2 play in the outdoor pool under the guise of practicing their swimming. A couple of weeks ago, I was trying to extract them from the pool so we could go home. A random mum said to me “I love watching boys play. They are like puppies, just wrestling all the time!”
This triggered a fun memory for me. I have a fabulous friend who has a cute toy dog, and a couple of years ago, he told me a story about Louis playing which reminded me of No3 who was a toddler at the time. It sparked a rather long comparison about how toddlers are like dogs. We found that the best way to start the day with toddlers was to go out for exercise. If we took them to the park for a run and a play in the morning, then they’d get all that crazy energy out and wouldn’t be able to use it for madness. Like chewing on the chairs, or wrestling each other, or fighting.
Dogs and toddlers are both messy, fun, need toilet training and are (mostly) non-verbal.
The comparison is obviously simplistic and amusing. No4 took it to an extreme when she was three years old, telling us “When I grow up, I want to be a baby dog.”
Now there is some toddler logic for you.
If the thought of peeling 3kg of onions brings to mind 3kg of tears, never fear. This recipe includes a neat trick. By putting the onions in brine with their skins on, the skins will loosen and the liquid removes the acidity that creates tears. The second stage, peeling, can then be done sans-tears.
- 3kg pickling onions (which are just normal onions, but quite small)
- 200g salt
- Boiling water
- 2 litres vinegar
- 20g peppercorns
- Handful mustard seeds
- A few cloves
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 bay leaves
Put the onions into a large non-metal bowl. Pour the salt over them, then cover with boiling water. Leave for 24-48 hours. If you want, you can weigh the onions down with a plate to ensure they all brine evenly. The water will eventually turn brown from the skins. The skins will soften and loosen, and you will be able to peel the onions in the next step without tears.
Combine the vinegar, spices and sugar in a pot and bring to the boil. Once boiling, turn it off, cover with a lid and leave for 3 hours to infuse. During that time, drain the onions, rinse with cold water and peel. Pack the onions into sterilized jars (you can sterilize them by putting them through a dishwasher cycle).
Pour the spiced vinegar into each jar, ensuring that the jar is completely full with no air pocket at the top. You can also scrunch up some baking paper and put that at the top of the jar if that helps get rid of air pockets.
Seal the jars and store in a cool, dark, dry place for up to 6 weeks before using.
Zucchini Southern style chutney
- 4 large chopped capsicum
- 6 cups grated zucchini
- 2 large onions finely sliced
- 1 litre apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 Tablespoons sea salt
- 2 Tablespoons mustard seed
- 1 teaspoon fennel seed
- 1 teaspoon cumin seed
- 1 small red chilli
Wash jars in dishwasher to sterilize.
Grate the zucchini and squeeze out all the liquid. Finely chop the capsicum and onions. Place together in a large bowl. Add salt, cover with water and allow to stand for 1 hour.
While the vegetables are soaking, in a large pot, add the sugar, vinegar and spices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer.
Drain and rinse the vegetables, then squeeze out all the liquid. Add them to the pot and bring to a boil before reducing the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Pour the relish into the sterilized jars, ensuring that there is no air gap at the top. Tip them upside down so the jar rests on the seal which will keep the seal tight. Let them cool for 24 hours before keeping in a cool, dark place.
Bearded Conversations: Autumn Beer
Homebrew is Bismarck’s territory, and this recipe is one of his – Beerded. It was named for the bearded hipster who happened to be in the homebrew shop at the same time as Bismarck was buying the ingredients for this beer. Bismarck overheard him saying: “I tell you, man, we are going to have so many conversations about this.”
- 1.5kg Coopers light Malt Extract
- 1.5kg Briess CBW Munich
- 1.5kg Briess CBW Pilsen Light
- 100g Cascade hops pellet
- 100g Nelson Sauvin hops pellet
- 10g Mangrove Jacks
- US West Coast Ale Yeast
- 22 litres of water
Sterilise fermentation vessel (pour boiling water on all internal surfaces). I don’t bother with the sterilisation chemical as this has always been sufficient for my hard core yeasties.
Add Cascade hops to about a litre of cold water. Boil for 10 minutes, then throw in half the NZ hops and boil for 1 minutes.
Tip the boil into the fermenter and add more water until there’s about 3L of warm/hot hoppy liquid. Add in the concentrated wort and the rest of the hops and stir until it has all dissolved.
Add cold water to fill remainder of fermenter up to 22L. Add dry hops to the fermenter as per notes.
Add yeast powder sprinkled on the top of the liquid.
Close lid and ignore for 2-3 weeks. Monitor for appropriate temp, but usually fine under the stairs at around 18-22 degrees (the ideal temp is different for each yeast, but I use ale yeast which is generally good for this temp). Lager yeasts work in much colder temps (8-14 degrees) so not ideal for casual Sydney brewing.
Bottle and cap – store for as long as it needs. Up to six months for more complex flavours like this beer. For session ales (low to normal alcohol) consider adding a fermentation drop to the bottle to kick along a good head. For this recipe, this is unnecessary and will create a beer fountain. Fun to watch but overall an undesirable outcome.