Saturday, December 26, 2009

More on coffee

First of all, I hope everyone has had a joyful Christmas. Everyone around here certainly did.

Emily left a comment and some questions on the topic of coffee that I thought I'd answer as a post.
Six years ago we planted 10 coffee bushes. Three have survived. I think the main reason is that this area is pretty marginal in terms of growing coffee. Firstly, we are basically at sea level, and I gather coffee is happiest at altitude. Second, we often have high winds (due to sea breezes). Third, I'm not sure that our climate in terms of average temperatures and rainfall is quite right.

Of the three, only one has grown to a good size of over 6 feet. The other two are about 3-4 feet each.

Yields are improving every year, but drinking 1-2 cups of coffee per day, we are way short of self sufficiency in coffee, and never will be. Given the labour intensive process needed to get the beans from the tree to the coffee pot, I don't think I want to be either.

Growing coffee is in the "fun to do" category of our garden. We may not be in the ideal position to grow coffee, but we struggle through, and enjoy what we can, when we can.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Coffee processing - Part 2

Finally, Part 2 of How to Process Coffee.
Right, so the coffee has been in the sun for a week or so, and the slimy outer coating has hardened, so it looks like this:

The next step requires you go into a meditation state, or at least find a not-too-engrossing movie, in order to de-husk each and every bean individually. Yes, that's right, individually. No getting around it I'm afraid without some whiz-bang commercial machine. Actually, it's kind of fun a bit like popping the bubbles on bubble wrap. (I started to watch "Rabbit-Proof Fence" and found this movie so moving I forgot about the coffee altogether. Better watch the television news or something). This is what you are left with:

The beans have a papery covering, which you can remove by putting the beans into a tea towel and rubbing the fabric together. You may have to resort to removing the papery covering on some individual beans by hand (after which time you will be an expert meditator).

Here's the payoff - beans in a frypan roasting over a medium heat. It should take about 30 minutes or so to roast.

There you have it - home grown, home roasted coffee!
Although our three bushes will probably yield about a pound of roasted beans, they make the nicest cup of coffee we have all year.
Meanwhile, I apologise for intermittent posting after making such a thing about resuming the blog a few weeks ago. I'm still having trouble with our satellite internet connection. The upshot is that I only post on the occasions when I have a signal . For example, it's taken me three attempts to make this post today, as the signal keeps dropping out.

Welcome to the new followers of the blog, and all of you who have left comments.

Now I'm off to pack for the yearly camping trip to the beach, 45 minutes drive from here, at Jervis Bay. It's cool and raining today, not exactly camping weather, after an absolute scorcher yesterday. Somewhere between the two would be great camping weather. Jervis Bay has the most beautiful beaches ON EARTH, truly. Hope to post a few pics to help me convince you (internet service willing). Meanwhile, I hope everyone is having a peaceful run-up to Christmas.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Simple Christmas

NSW Christmas bush

Back in July, I wrote a post railing against the Useless Bits of Crap (UBC) that seem to accumulate in my children's bedrooms, despite my best efforts. Back then, I talked about how I was going to suggest that from this year, my extended family limit the UBC phenomenon by instituting a Kris Kringle for the children (we've been doing this among the adults for many years). Guess what? Everyone's agreed - hooray!

So instead of buying presents for my own children and seven nieces and nephews, we only have to buy for two children beside my own. Less gift buying = less stress.

Simplification has gone one step further, too. The adult Kris Kringle has been terminated. Instead, we are all going to contribute to making a donation to a charity. We just have to agree which one.

You've no idea how this has simplified things this Christmas. Instead of anxiety and stress over what to buy, there is calm. In fact, we are so calm around here, we are going on our yearly camping trip before Christmas instead of after. By the time Christmas Day rocks around, we will be well and truly relaxed.

Wishing you all a simple Christmas, in whatever guise that might take.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A lot of garlic

One of my pet hates is supermarket garlic. I don't know why, but in a country that can grow everything and anything, the major supermarkets insists on selling imported garlic from China. Why? I have no idea.

The only positive about supermarket garlic is that it is cheap (if you don't think about the carbon used to get it here). There are no other advantages. At it's best it is spongy and smells stale. At it's worst it smells rancid and sprouts as soon as you take it home.

Fortunately garlic is easy to grow. Just plant garlic cloves pointy side up and wait six months over winter. That's it.

Here is this year's harvest, drying out outside before being braided and put into storage. Seems a lot, but I'll give some away, keep some to plant next year and ...I love my garlic. I use it a lot. These should last about nine months or so before they too start to sprout. I think I'll investigate preserving some in oil this year to get me through the garlic drought.

BTW, I'm having trouble with my internet connection (satellite dish+tin roof+hot weather = constant drop outs. Remind me I live in a developed economy not 15 kms away from a major town). Anyway, this has meant that posting and uploading photos has become a trial. I'm not even sure this will work. Bear with me....

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Coffee processing- - Part 1

Time to pick the coffee, and start the process of getting it to the stage of roasted bean. Here are coffee beans straight off the bush. Aren't they a gorgeous red? This is the first wave of berries, there are still quite a few to pick over the next few weeks. The first thing to do is to remove the outer red covering. This is easily done with your fingers. The red covering goes to the chickens' bucket (they are quite edible, if a bit sour). The coffee beans inside are covered with a slippery, mucus-y grey substance. They go into a container and just covered with water to sit overnight. After a day or so, the beans are then drained and spread onto a tray to dry. This can take anywhere from a few days to two weeks depending on the weather.

Will post with photos to show you the next stage of the process...

Meanwhile, shhh...don't tell the physio, but I've been working in the garden. I wrote a two posts ago about my ongoing tennis elbow problem, and how that has stopped me doing any gardeing for months. It was all getting too much though. The thought of nothing growing at all, in this the peak season was beyond a joke. I rationalised that a little planting session wouldn't too much...would it? So today I planted lettuce, cucumber, tomato, basil, capsicum and pumpkin seedlings. And the elbow doesn't feel any worse for it....yet.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Christmas Pudding

A couple of years ago, Mum handed me my Nonna's pudding basin and said "How about you make the Christmas pudding this year?" So I did and have done ever since.
I've been waiting for two weeks to find 1) a day where I had six hours clear time to oversee a simmering boiler and 2) a day that was less than 30 degrees C. Yesterday was the day, and here is the result. I'm rather pleased.
It's harder than you think to find a good recipe for Christmas pudding - by "good" I mean one that does not include suet. Here is the recipe I use is my own variation of a recipe from the Australian Women's Weekly book "Kitchen".

Steamed Christmas Pudding

250g sultanas
250g raisins
150g currants
50g mixed peel
1/2 cup brandy
250g softened butter
500g firmly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon parisian essence (I used this, but have no idea what it is)
4 eggs
150g plain flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
300g stale breadcrumbs ( I whizzed up stale raisin bread in the food processor for this)
1 coarsely grated green apple

1. Combine the dried fruit and alcohol. Cover and store in the fridge overnight, or up to two weeks, as I did.
2. Grease a 2 litre pudding basin, line the base with baking paper.
3. Beat the butter, sugar and essence until just combined. Beat in eggs one at a time, beating in between additions. Fold in fruit, then stir in flour and spice, then breadcrumbs and apple, mixing well.
4. Spoon the pudding mixture in the basin. Cover with pleated baking paper and foiled. Fold tightly over the rim, the secure the lid.
5. Place basin in boiler on an upturned plate, with enough boiling water to come halfway up the side of the basin. Boil covered for 6 hours, replenishing water when necessary.
6. If not eating straight away, let cool to room temperature. Wrap well in cling wrap (eek!) and foil, then place back in the basin and put in the fridge until needed. Freeze leftover for up to a year.

We always have Christmas at my parents' house, along with my four brothers and their wives and girlfriend, and nine grandchildren, and sometimes one of my brothers' in-laws. Twenty one in all. This is a big change from previously, when up to 50 extended family members would sit down for lunch. It was a lot of fun, but a lot of work. Eventually, Mum decided she was over hosting such an undertaking, so 21 is the pared down version of Christmas - well at least as pared down as we can get.

The likely fate of the pudding is that half will be eaten late in the afternoon on Christmas, a few hours after Christmas lunch. Lunch is always cold - seafood, turkey and ham with salads. The pudding is the only thing eaten hot all day. From previous experience, about half will be eaten, and the other half will be frozen to be eaten on some blustery day next July.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Back to bloggin'

Yes, well.

It's been a while. First it was full-time work. Then we went on holiday for three weeks. Then the computer died. When we got that fixed, the satellite connection for the internet went awry. For the last week or two, I've had no excuses, but have been debating with myself. Start blogging again or no? Part of me was glad not to have the blog demanding my time. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised I missed it. Specifically, I missed the way blogging forces you to look around you and really think about things going on in your life. So, I'm back. If you are one of the small band of readers this blog attracted, thanks for sticking around!

Truth to tell, the title of this blog has become a bit of a misnomer, especially the "spades" bit. The garden is a non starter this summer. Time has been an issue, but the main problem has been tendonitis in my left elbow (aka tennis elbow). I've been battling this for at least three months and it is taking it's time to improve, I tell you (yes, physio, I've been doing the exercises religiously!). This has made digging, lifting and weeding ie. most gardening, impossible. Meanwhile, Action Man is living up to his nickname and has taken up triathlons, and spends half of Sundays with our son playing junior golf (a sport he loves and took up before Tiger Woods visited our shores), so he has been out of action too. There is nothing growing in our veg garden except leeks and silverbeet left over from winter, and rhubarb. That's it. And doesn't our weekly shopping bill show it!

Never fear though. My enforced rest from gardening has meant that I've been busy in the sewing room. Really, this blog could be renamed "Needles and Spoons" if it didn't sound like the title of a blog dealing with nefarious activities involving illegal substances!

Over the last few weeks, I've made some knit tops, and yesterday I muslined a blouse. Last night I made a sample of a collar with a collar band for the first time, and it turned out really well. Slowly, slowly I am getting out of the realms of the beginner sewer into more complicated stuff. The me from twenty years ago would be amazed to think that I would ever get this far, and find it so satisfying, but I do. Having kids taught me patience and being in the moment, both skills I use a lot when sewing. Twenty years ago, I would never have sampled anything before making it. I had to have instant gratification. Then, if something didn't turn out well, I chucked it in a huff. Now, I have the wisdom to know that sampling new patterns and techniques is well worth the time. Still, I get wadders, which don't faze me at all. It all goes down to experience.

As for the "spoons" or cooking and eating bit of life, that never, ever stops around here!

It's nice to be back....