I forget if I told you that I'm having a two week break from my voluntary job. It's been really hectic there all year with our move to the new building, setting up new systems, volunteer training and the rest of it, so when my friend and co-worker, Fiona, said she'd cover me for a couple of weeks, I jumped at the chance. Fiona is our Community Development Worker, she watches over all the hinterland neighbourhood centres. I really appreciate her kind gesture as she has so much other work to do. But I needed time away from there to clear my head and I decided to use the two weeks to write. I've been doing that but as you all know, life never stops and there are many home tasks that need my attention as well.
I'm still working to my regular routine with bed making, bread, floors, washing up and all the other tasks that make a day here but I've also spent time in the kitchen, yesterday putting up pickled beetroot and on Monday making passionfruit sauce for the freezer. In the midst of our summer here, when I make ice cream, there will be no passions on the vine, so the next best thing is to have homemade topping for ice cream in the freezer.
We had a bumper passionfruit crop this year with our delicious black variety really going overboard to impress us with abundance and taste. For this simple topping I just made a weak sugar syrup, added just picked lemon juice to a lot of passion pulp, and froze the litre jar. That will do us all summer and is a good example of how you can manipulate garden produce to be available when you want it, and not only when it's picked (or bought). If you don't have a garden, be on the lookout for seasonal fruit when it's cheap and fresh. I make my annual peach jam from a box of bought peaches, not peaches we have grown. Making these sauces and toppings is a simple thing and takes little time but it's yet another thing we can enjoy from our garden and another thing we don't have to buy. Homemade topping on homemade icecream in the middle of summer will be a nice treat and I will be very pleased then that I took the time in Winter to make it.
Yesterday I picked the beets in our garden, cooked them straight away and pickled them in the afternoon. This type of preserving is so simple. It relies on the highly acidic medium of vinegar and sugar to preserve the vegetables and if it is stored in the fridge, it requires no water bath processing.
I use different ingredients every time I make this. It relies entirely on what spices are in the cupboard at the time. Yesterday I used peppercorns, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, celery seeds and bay leaves from the garden, along with the white wine vinegar and sugar. This concoction is heated up to not quite boiling point, I turn off the heat and let it sit there for half an hour for the flavours to infuse into the vinegar. It's strained to remove the larger seeds and bay leaves before adding to the sterilised jars.
While it is infusing, I slice the cooked beetroot into a couple of jars and then pour the hot vinegar mixture over the beets to cover them entirely. Lids on. Wait till they cool and put them in the fridge. Job over.
I even had a small jar of spicey vinegar left over to use in salad dressings.
And I've been baking as well. Walnut biscuits on the weekend and an apple and pecan cake which Hanno asked for after seeing an apple and blackberry cake made on TV.
Like all sweet treats, they taste better when they're shared so we sent a plate of these biscuits over to our neighbours.
And the apple cake, which was rich and moist, was served as dessert last night. Apple cake, when the aroma of baking apples, nuts and spices fills the house, and when it is being enjoyed, is one of those home made foods that always reminds me of the nurturing role food plays in our lives. It can be a plate of biscuits passed over the back fence or a favourite cake made because someone saw it on TV, or even the daily bread. Taking the time to bake them, using fresh wholesome ingredients and then sharing, make us stop to appreciate what we have and brings us all together again around the kitchen table.