Honey Roasted Pecans

Half a Pecan

Back in April our Pecan nut shade trees on the farm produced their usual huge crop of nuts. Most of the nuts were eaten by our resident Cockatoos and time was short so we were only able to harvest a few bucket loads. This year we decided to try a new recipe. Honey roasted Pecans (hopefully one day from our own honey too).

This is how it went:

– Enough Pecan nuts were shelled and halved to fit onto a roasting tray, which was then warmed up to 120°C (250°F) for 10mins

– The warm Pecans were then tossed and coated in honey and a very small amount of salt was sprinkled in.

– The nuts were placed back into the oven and baked for about 45mins – 1.5hrs or until slightly caramelized.

– Once cooled the nuts were eaten/stored in an airtight container (once they cool they become crunchier).

“Yellow Box” honey sourced from the local farmers markets.

Pecan shelling equipment

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Sausage making

Only simple equipment and a little elbow grease is needed to make tasty home made snags. p.s. make sure everything is VERY clean and cold prior to starting food prep

Some time ago a mate of mine from work, Sean and I got onto the topic of sausage making. We both really like the idea of making our own hardy, home made food, which is both healthier and tastier than what you can buy at your local super market. So on the weekend we finally decided to take the plunge and make some sausages!

The idea was to use as many ingredients that we already had in the garden and the rest we buy from local food markets, game butchers and the supermarket as a last resort. All of the ingredients ended up being easy to find. Here’s a list.

– Minced meat: Kangaroo (game butcher), pork shoulder (butcher) and lamb and pork mince (supermarket) – Meats high in fat usually produce the tastiest sausages and 20-30% fat content is normal. Most of the sausages we made were probably a fair bit lower in fat, especially the leaner kangaroo meat, which may mean a slightly drier sausage after cooking.

– Natural sausage casings can be purchased from most local butcher shops and for around $5 you can grab enough casings to make 8kg worth of sausages so its pretty cheap

– Spices and flavours: Its all about what might go well with different meats. We chose 2 flavours for each meat (6 different flavours in total). Flavours like mint, rosemary and garlic for lamb sausages or chili and onion with kangaroo work well together

– Salt: helps to preserve and flavour the sausages properly, add it to all sausages. Ratios for different meats can be found on the internet

– Equipment: plenty of bowls, somewhere to hang the sausages (preferably in a cold place), hand wind/electric mincer with sausage fitting, sharp knife

After preparing all the spiced mince meat make sure it goes back into the fridge/freezer to remain very cold (it helps when running the meat through the sausage machine). Gather up the casings (photo above) and string out roughly what you think you will need to thread onto the sausage nozzle, rinse twice and run some water through the inside of the casings once. Try not to tangle the casings when you are handling them.

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Mincing with a hand grinder is not a quick job but they are cheap to buy and give you muscles 🙂
We minced up 1kg of pork shoulder in this machine and it took about 20 mins so it is probably easier to buy pre-minced meat and only use the mincer for filling sausages.

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Threading the casings onto the nozzle is easy and it feels really weird.

Feeding sausages is an easy job with two people. One to feed the mince and one to wind and control the width of the meat going into the casing.

Keeping the snags flowing

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Keep churning the sausage machine until you change meats or until you finish. We found that if you leave both ends untied until the end it helps to keep the air out of the casings, you can then tie the sausages without too much trouble.

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After hanging the sausages for about an hour to drip dry we poked any air pockets with sterilized needles. After this point you can refrigerate or freeze the final product

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The finished product, which left the kitchen smelling very meaty

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After 4 and a half hours, 42 freshly made sausages and a few beers we were pretty happy with the final results

Update: So far the lamb and pork sausages have been cooked and they were really tasty. The pork and fennel was quite strong and a fair bit drier than store bought sausages, which was a nice change from all that grease.

Chalk board fridge

The whiteboard marker wasn’t working for us.

Last week I started writing some of our cheese/dairy recipes on our fridge, however the whiteboard marker that I was using didn’t want to wipe off very easily (our fridge is pretty ugly and old anyway) so I thought I would turn it into a chalkboard. All you need is some fine grain sand paper (about 70c a piece) used to roughen the fridge surface, a can of chalkboard paint ($12), a paint brush, some sponge offcut, masking tape and mineral turps for wash up.

Cheap and Simple

Sponging the second coat

Happy New Year!

Buttermilk Pot Cheese & Biscuits

Fresh Buttermilk Pot Cheese

I still had left-over Buttermilk after drinking some and making Quark so I decided to try Buttermilk Pot cheese. Pot cheese is half way between cottage cheese and farmers cheese and is similar to Cream Cheese and Ricotta. I ended up using it as a base for an Avocado dip. Buttermilk Pot Cheese consists of only Buttermilk and salt and varies from Quark in that it is heated to a higher temperature, which seemed to separate the curds and whey to a greater degree than in the Quark making process.

Make it!

1. Obtain or make 2L (2 quartz) of buttermilk and a little salt and heat slowly to 93°C (200°F), stirring to ensure the milk doesn’t boil.

2. Remove from the heat and pour into a heat resistant clear tub (see photo).

3. Let sit for 2 hours until the curd has separated from the whey. The whey will look like a yellow watery substance and the curds will be kind of chunky and white.

4. After 2 hours pour the curds and whey into a double layer of butter muslin, draining the whey into a container to be used later. Let the Pot cheese sit and drain for 1 hour at room temp or 5-6 hours in a sealed container in the fridge.

Pouring into the butter muslin

It ended up getting late during the time I made this so I let it drain over night, which created a drier cheese. Hint: Dont over-drain unless you like dry cottage cheese ;).

5. Salt can be added at this point to reduce the risk of spoiling and to add flavour. Refrigerate and keep for up to 1 week.

Whey: Lots can be done with the whey that is left over from cheese making. I dilute it with some water and use it to feed my plants, in particular the tomatoes, which tend to tolerate a little acidity (lemon juice was used to make some of the buttermilk). Be careful if using whey from acidic sources (Any cheese making where acid was added to aid the curdling process) as some plants don’t like acidity. There are many other uses for whey and there is a great blog post by The Prairie Homestead that lists 16 of them.

Using whey to water pot plants

Buttermilk Biscuits (Cookies)

I STILL had left over buttermilk after making the Pot Cheese so I decided to make some Buttermilk biscuits. Buttermilk is great for baking. It has acidic qualities, which react with baking soda (an alkali) in a flour based batter. The reaction that occurs causes carbon dioxide bubbles. These bubbles give whatever you are baking a fine, moist, yet stable texture. These bickies are best eaten when they are warm straight out of the oven, however you can freeze them. This is a really simple recipe, it takes about 20 mins to make and yeah its a little unhealthy, but its not intended to be eaten all at once.

The Ingredients are:

1/2 cup butter (made during an earlier post)
1 cup sugar
1 egg (will hopefully one day come from our own chooks :))
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
1/2 cup buttermilk (made during an earlier post)
2 cups plain (all purpose) flour

Cook it !

Buttermilk Biscuits

1. Mix the sugar and butter together with an electric whisk

2. Add Soda, Vanilla extract and Egg

3. Mix in the flour slowly while adding small amounts of Buttermilk to keep the moisture up.

4. Form small dollops of biscuit mix onto an oven tray lined with baking paper. Bake at 180°C (350°F) for 10-15 mins or until lightly browned.

Dairy – Kefir

Kefir (pronounced Ke-fear) Ingredients. The green stick is an airlock for the culture sachet.

Kefir is a probiotic, fermented milk drink. Sounds kind of gross doesn’t it, but it is supposedly one of the healthiest cultured dairy products that we can make in our kitchen. Kefir originated in the Caucasus mountains in Russia where shepherds carrying fresh milk in their leather pouches would occasionally find a fermented beverage after their days work. It is prepared by inoculating milk with Kefir grains (small tapioca like grains that grow and produce additional grains during fermentation). Traditional Kefir was made in skin bags, hung over a door way and purposely knocked by passers-by to help with the fermentation process.

Let sit at room temp, in a dark place/dark containers for 24-36 hrs

The Process

I decided to start making Kefir with a Kefir culture rather than Kefir grains. The culture also reproduces and can be used up to 3 times per packet/half packet, etc.  I plan to use Kefir grains in the future to give the traditional way a go.

Note: All utensils should be very clean before use. That means either sterilized or washed in hot water with detergent before air drying.

1. Obtain Kefir grains or Kefir culture sachets.

2. Stir in the culture to the recommended rate or 1/4 cup of Kefir grains to 2 cups of milk.

3. Leave covered in a dark spot or a dark jar for 24-36 hrs at room temp depending on how strong you would like your Kefir. At the end of this time your drink should be thick and some whey may be present on the surface (just stir it back in).

Straining the thicker Kefir off for re-culturing.

4. I strained the kefir through a fine strainer to catch about 1/3 cup of thicker Kefir culture to re-culture the next batch.

5. Pour your Kefir into a clean/sterilized container and refrigerate for 12hrs before consuming. I used some old spice bottles (see photo) so we can have a small Kefir ‘shot’ each day. Mmmmm 🙂

Half a litre of Kefir was made for the first batch, but I found that 1 litre would have been better so I just used the thick Kefir that I collected and added it to another 1/2 litre of milk. It ended up re-culturing well (I kind of wasn’t expecting it to work) and it should be ok to use once more.

Re-using spice bottles for Kefir 'shots'.