Thursday, August 15, 2013

Stuff I've been up to lately

Yes, it's been a while, so this is a bit of a compendium post.

The emphasis around here during winter is on the "Spoons" bit of "Spades and Spoons". The vegie garden goes into a bit of a hiatus in winter, apart from growing garlic, potatoes and a few lettuces due to the aspect and layout of our land. Our vegie patch is shaded by our rather large shed for much of the day during winter, so not much grows.

Anyway, here's what's been going on lately...
My parents, and some of their friends, established an Italian social club in Sydney 47 years ago, the Fogolar Furlan. Going there was a big part of our lives as we were growing up. Now the original members are grandparents, and they had a "cooking with the nonnas" day at the club during the school holidays just past. About 50 kids made and ate some great gnocchi that day...
My son was inspired to have a crack at making gnocchi at home. They were dee-lish. Using desiree potatoes is the secret, or something similar like Dutch creams. They aren't as wet, so require less flour and are consequently lighter. If a recipe for gnocchi calls for Sebago potatoes, feel free to disregard this advice...

Vegetarians, feel free to scroll quickly through the next few pictures!

We had a family sausage making day a few weeks ago, at my uncle's place. We've been doing this for about 15 years, with our parents taking charge. This year, though, I noticed that my generation, my brothers and cousins, took the running. The oldies looked over our shoulders, sure, but were content to let us go to it.

The mixture for blood sausage. Believe me, everything was used. Everything, but the oink.

My brother and cousin mincing meat for salami. The mixture for fresh sausages in the foreground.

My brother Laurence manned the sausage stuffing machine.

 Cousin Mark ties up a salami
Natural casings (read, sheep intestines) steeping in water, garlic cloves and lemon halves prior to stuffing.

Mark ties another round of sausages onto the rack. That day we made sausages, cotechino, salami and blood sausage.
We do this yearly as a bit of family bonding and because the resulting sausages are damn fine, but my mother told me a story which underlines how important sausage making and pig raising was to my grandparents in Italy. Mum told me she remembers that as a little girl just after WW2, the pig they had been raising fell sick and had to be put down. My grandmother apparently cried for a week, unsure what and how she was going to feed the family that winter, so important was sausage making to how they sustained themselves. (My grandfather was already in Australia, and eventually was able to send a bit of money to her, so she could buy in meat, something highly unusual.)
Although things are quiet in the vegie patch, it's been full-on with the citrus trees. We've been juicing tons of lemons. This rubbish photo is of lemon cordial in the saucepan, and a batch of tomato chutney (using frozen tomatoes from last summer) in the jars.

This batch of lemon and lime marmalade is the best I've ever made. Even if I say so myself.

And now, for the weird wildlife section of this post. We have a wood stove for heating in this place, so wood-gathering and chopping is one of our regular chores. We often come across these fellas - witchetty grubs. The chickens make a beeline for the woodpile whenever we head there, because they know they are in for a good feed. Anyway, in this particular block of wood we found these guys, and hidden in the corner you can just make out what was the biggest witchetty grub we've EVER seen.

He was hard to coax out, but here he is in all his mammoth glory.

And to put it in perspective, here he is next to a 20cent coin. Yep, he made me feel a bit squirmy. He's still living in the same block of wood just outside the back door. Erk.
And now, to bring us back to things more pleasant - a batch of oat and raisin cookies :) Baking always makes me feel better!


africanaussie said...

Oh I bet those sausages and salami are awesome. Multiple generations in the kitchen must be a wonderful feeling. The witchety grubs you can keep... I didn't know they live din wood. were he chooks too timid to try the big one?

Tracy said...

Looks like you have been busy Paola. My winter garden has been relatively productive during this rather mild winter. No potatoes for us yet though.
Great pictures of your family gathering. What wonderful traditions.

Cabbage Tree Farm said...

The sausage making sessions have me really envious! What a fantastic thing to do with your family. I recently tried making my own sausages and really enjoyed it. Would love to make the blood sausage and salami too, shame I have no-one to show me how to do it. I've never tried making gnocchi, should give it a go, I think my 6 yo would like making/eating it too. Thanks for the tip about which potatoes to use. Enjoy your marmalade and other homemade goodies!

Linda said...

I love the 'togetherness' of your gnocchi/sausage making! How wonderful!

Jan said...

Wonderful to read about your close family.
Witchety grubs,cannot face them!