Tag Archives: food

Homemade stock – a heavenly thing

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At some point during the last couple of years I decided that I did not want to keep using store bought stock. It is full of salt, taste enhancers and chemicals and I wanted to do something else. So I started looking at making my own stock and I thought it would be a lot more difficult that it is. But it is really not. I have even found that it helps me use more of the scraps that you get in a normal household. I use my freezer to save scraps from preparing and carving meat, bits of bacon, vegetables gone soft, spinach and herb stems from my garden and so on. All good things that you can use.

Homemade stock

Actually you can use a wide variety of ingredients but these are some of the ones I use.

Ingredients:

For 4 pots giving about 1.5 liters after reducing.

8 carrots – two pr. pot

4-8 onions including peels – 1-2 pr. pot

1-2 leeks – 1/2 pr. pot

Pork or beef scraps – as many as you have and evenly distributed among the pots

Spinach stems

Asparagus gone soft

Bacon scraps – as many as you have and evenly distributed among the pots

Ginger

Herbs

Garlic

Peppercorns

No salt – I don’t use salt as I prefer to add the salt to the dish the stock is going into. It also prevents that your stock gets too salty when reducing.

Some of the ingredients for stock
Some of the ingredients

You start of by searing the meat scraps and then you add the rest of the ingredients chopped into chunky pieces except herbs.

After searing add rest of ingredients exept herbs.
After searing add rest of ingredients except herbs.
The stock looks good already.
The stock looks good already.

After searing the ingredients with the meat for a bit add the herbs.

Add herbs to the stock.
Add herbs.
A good amount of parsley helps any stock.
A good amount of parsley helps any stock.

Add as much water as the pots can hold and bring to a boil. Leave at a slow boil.

Add water to the stock.
Add water to the stock.

When the stock is boiling remember to skim of the foam. There is a lot of grit in the foam and it is not nice to eat. So at regular intervals skim the foam into a bowl and throw it out.

The no good foam.
The no good foam.

It is looking good and you just have to wait for it to reduce. This is the part that takes time but it is something that can more or less mind itself. You just need to check on it once in a while.

Good stock.
Good stock.
Really good stock.
Really good stock.

As it reduces I empty the pots into each other. I try to keep as many of the ingredients but at some point they will not fit any more. At that point drain the liquid through a strainer into a pot. There is no more use for the vegetables unless you have pigs or chickens you can feed them to. If you make vegetable stock you can put it on your compost but if there is meat it has to go in the bin.

You now need to reduce the liquid until you have a stock with an intense flavor. For me 10 liters become about 1.5 liters of good stock.

1.5 liters of reduced stock.
1.5 liters of reduced stock.

Then the big question becomes – how do you save it in a way that allows you to use it over time. Some use bottles and keep it refrigerated and that works well if you plan to use it in the near future. I need it to keep longer than that so I use ice cube bags and put it in the freezer. I can then take the cubes I need for the dish I am doing.

Stock in icecube bags.
Stock in ice cube bags.
Frozen stock.
Frozen stock.

I make stock 3-4 times a year and I find that it is time well spent because it tastes great, helps me use scraps and helps me avoid some of the nasty  things in store bought stock.

I hope I have inspired you to experiment with your own stock – enjoy Sara

 

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Final harvest update 2014: Mid August to mid October

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It is getting well into autumn and the summer season is well over for most os us gardeners. There is still a little to be found in gardens at this time and if you are a winter gardener, you will be harvesting through winter as well. I don’t have any plans for winter gardening this winter except for the herbs I have brought inside to shield them from the winter frost and to use during the dark months here in Denmark. The sun comes up at 7.50 and it gets dark around 16.30 and the day has shortened by 9 hours. The day will get even shorter with just 7 hours of daylight at winter solstice.

I had a pretty decent harvest with most things this year. For some reason my tomatoes only did alright and not great or maybe we just ate them to quickly and it just seemed like that. This is what my 7m2 balcony garden has yielded from mid August to mid October.

August

August was a lot of tomatoes, herbs, spinach, peppers and apples. I used a lot of time this season to nuture my small apple tree. I gave it a bigger pot in spring, played bee with a small brush to spread the pollen around, removed 2/3 of the apples that came as the tree can’t support that many apples. In the end I got about 50 apples or more from my 2 meter tall tree so a great success. I will be repeating the success next year to get a good yield of apples.

Spinach and herbs
Spinach and Herbs
Apples from my small apple tree.
Apples from my small apple tree – a good harvest.
Tomatoes, herbs and salad.
Tomatoes, herbs and salad.
Tomatoes, peppers, salad and spinach.
Tomatoes, peppers, salad and spinach.
Spinach, tomatoes, pepper, salad and apples.
A harvest of spinach, tomatoes, pepper, salad and apples.

September

September was about harvesting the green tomatoes for ripening inside, harvesting spinach for the freezer and enjoying what is rapidly becoming the last produce and harvest of the season.

Tomatoes, peppers, salad, spinach and herbs.
Tomatoes, peppers, salad, spinach and herbs.
Tomatoes.peppers, salad, beetroot leaves, apples, spinach and oregano.
Tomatoes, peppers, salad, beetroot leaves, apples, spinach and oregano.

On the 23 of September I went through my tomatoes and picked almost all of them as the frost was peaking its head through. Ironically that was the only frost we would see for a while and now in November we are having one of the warmest Novembers in a long long time. I used apples and bowls in the sun to ripen my tomatoes. I have heard that only tomatoes just on the verge of going red can be ripened inside. I have found that to be false. All the tomatoes on the table ripened fine with the use of apples and bowls in the sun. The apples give of a gas that ripens the tomatoes, you can use organic bananas as well. So remember to harvest your green tomatoes as well both for ripening and for pickling.

Lots and lots of tomatoes.
Lots and lots of tomatoes – harvest of the green tomatoes.
The tomatoes look so beautiful in their different colors-
The tomatoes look so beautiful in their different colors-
The tomatoes put in bowls make you realize just how many there are.
The tomatoes put in bowls make you realize just how many there are.

My New Zealand spinach got really big this year as it does every year. I always seem to forget just how big and this year was no different. I brought it inside to harvest the leaves, seeds and stems to use at later date for cooking broth. I only harvested half in this go but I got 7 bags for the freezer.

The New Zealand spinach before the big harvest.
The New Zealand spinach before the big harvest.
Harvested about half of the spinach.
Harvested about half of the spinach.
7 bags of spinach for the freezer and stems for cooking broth.
7 bags of spinach for the freezer and stems for cooking broth.

October

October has been about getting the last of the produce out of the ground and of the plants before getting the garden ready for winter. That means saving the last of the salad seeds, getting the beetroots and carrots out of the ground and picking the very last tomatoes as I chopped down the plants into small pieces and put them in bags.

Salad seed pots for drying.
Salad seed pots for drying.

As the weather stayed mild it turned out that there was a lot more tomatoes on the plants, than I though. Yummy as you can’t harvest enough tomatoes-

The very last tomatoes on the plants.
The very last tomatoes on the plants.
The rest of the green tomatoes.
The very last of the green tomato harvest.

The beetroots gave a really good yield this season. At the start of the season I transplanted the seedlings that stood to close to spaces where there were none and I wasn’t sure it would work. It worked really well and I had harvested some of the big ones during the season. The end yield was still more than 800 grams. I decided to harvest some of the leaves for the freezer as well as they are taste and good for you.

The rest of the beetroots.
The rest of the beetroots.
Just over 800 grams of beetroots.
Just over 800 grams of beetroots.
Beetroot leaves for the freezer.
Beetroot leaves for the freezer.
About 200 grams of beetroot leaves.
About 200 grams of beetroot leaves.

The carrots did better than expected though they generally don’t get that long and the peppers were a surprise. I did not expect them to yield so well. I did find that you have to start picking your peppers as early as you can. The plant can only support a certain number of fruits, so if you want it to keep flowering and setting more fruit, you have to pick the peppers.

A god yield of carrots.
A god harvest of carrots.
The rest of the pepper harvest.
The rest of the pepper harvest.

Happy growing – Sara

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From garden to dinner 2014: Pork meatballs with spinach and feta

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Sometimes it doesn’t take much to enhance a meal. This time I harvested a bit of Thyme, Lemon Basil and some spinach from my 3rd floor garden. All of it is going into making pork meatballs with spinach and feta.

Pork meatballs with spinach and feta

Recipe:

  • 500 grams of organic ground pork
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Fresh Thyme
  • Fresh Lemon Basil
  • 1/2 onion
  • About 50 to 100 grams of spinach
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning
The lovely ingredients.
The lovely ingredients for meatballs.

Chop the onion, spinach, herbs and feta finely and add to your ground beef in a mixing bowl. Add the egg as well as salt and pepper.

Add all the chopped ingredients.
Add all the chopped ingredients.

Mix well. I always use my hands both to make sure everything is mixed well but also to add a little love.

After mixing well.
After mixing well. Meatballs ready for the pan.

Shape the meatball in the size you want. I like to use a tablespoon; it gives a good size meatball. Make sure they are all roughly the same size so they cook evenly. Cook in a pan with melted butter.

Cook meatballs in melted butter.
Cook meatballs in melted butter.

Cook until done. You can check the meatballs by pressing down on a meatball with a fork. If the liquid is clear they are done, if it is still cloudy they deed a little more time.

Finished meatballs.
Finished meatballs.

All done – serve with any side dish. I made a lovely salad to serve with these lovely meatballs.

Enjoy – Sara

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Cordial: Elderflower, Chocolate Mint and Lemon Balm

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I really enjoy making cordial and Elderflower cordial is my favorite. I use an old recipe from my grandmother and the flowers this year made for a fantastic cordial. But alas it is almost gone and the Elderflowers have turned to Elderberries. So what to do?

This is my cordial dispenser I keep in my fridge
This is my cordial dispenser I keep in my fridge

I found that I had quite a lot of Chocolate Mint and Lemon Balm and thought maybe I could make cordial from these lovely herbs. So that is what I did and this is the recipe. I have added the recipe for Elderflower cordial at the bottom as well.

Chocolate Mint and Lemon Balm cordial

The base of the cordial consists of water and sugar at a 1:1 scale, so you can upscale or downscale as needed. By using the 1:1 scale between sugar and water you also ensure that it will keep.

I wanted to use some lemons along with the herbs and decided on 4 different combinations. Mint with and without lemon and Lemon Balm with and without lemon. I always use organic citrus fruit as to avoid the pesticides in the skin of the fruit.

I found that the Lemon Balm without lemon didn’t taste of much so I mixed all of it with lemon. So I ended up with 3 combinations of cordial and I though the Mint would be my favorite but the Lemon Balm turned out surprisingly delicious.

My next experiment is to use Stevia as a sweetener and see how that turns out. There might be some issues about how it is going to keep without the high sugar content but it might be sorted by bringing the strained cordial to a boil just before pouring it in the bottles. We will see…

Chocolate Mint/Chocolate mint and lemon recipe

  • 1 liter of water
  • 1 kg of organic sugar
  • A good handlful of Mint stems – I use them with stems, flowers and everything
  • 1 organic lemon ( if you are making the lemon variety)

Lemon Balm with lemon recipe

  • 1 liter of water
  • 1 kg of organic sugar
  • A good handful of Lemon Balm stems – with flowers and everything
  • 2 organic lemons
  • a pack of either citric acid or vine acid for use in cordial and jams

I recycle these fantastic bottles that use to contain a really good French lemonade. You do need to use a bottle that can be closed securely. I prefer to use glass to plastic a plastic has a tendency to react to hot substances and some even leak nasty things into the content. So I use glass.

Recycled bottles
Recycled bottles – 0,75 liter

You need to clean your bottle well and I use preferable coarse salt for my initial cleaning. Salt is disinfectant and if you use coarse salt it has an abrasive quality that makes it easier to clean in the hard to reach areas of the bottle. It is really good for cleaning a thermos as well. After a good cleaning I scald them with boiling water.

Cleaning with salt
Cleaning with salt

I picked a good portion of my Chocolate Mint and Lemon balm to go in the cordial

Chocolate Mint and Lemon Balm
Chocolate Mint and Lemon Balm

I slice the lemons finely and add them to the water and herbs

Herbs, lemons and water
Herbs, lemons and water

The Mint looks so lovely with the flowers

Chocolate Mint
Chocolate Mint

There is a liter of water in each pot and 1 kg of sugar has been added to each.

Add sugar
Add sugar

Bring everything to a boil.

It looks pretty while you cook it
It looks pretty while you cook it

Leave to simmer for a good half hour.

Simmer away
Simmer away

Strain the herbs and lemons out of the cordial.

Strain the cordial
Strain the cordial

Fill your bottle with your liquid gold.

Fill bottles
Fill bottles

End result: 2 bottles of Chocolate Mint, 2 bottles of Chocolate Mint and lemon, 4 bottles of Lemon Balm and lemon

They will keep for at least a year if your bottles are clean.

End result
End result

Elderflower cordial

Recipe

  • 30 large Elderflowers in full Bloom – you can use a couple that are just before blooming to get the lovely stuff inside the flowers before the bees do
  • 3 organic lemons
  • 6 organic oranges
  • 2 kg of organic sugar – you can use brown sugar, but I prefer my cordial a bit lighter and fresher
  • 1 pack of citric acid for use in cordial and jams
  • 1,5 liter of water

Put the flowers in a big bowl large enough to contain all of the ingredients. Don’t wash the flowers as it will wash away all the good stuff. There will be bugs in the mix but you will sift them all out before bottling, so don’t worry.

Slice the lemons and oranges and add to the bowl with the citric acid. Boil the water and dissolve the sugar before pouring it into the bowl. Leave the bowl covered for 3 days. I usually use a plate and something to weigh it down. Both to keep the surface area exposed to the air to a minimum but also to keep the lemon and orange slices down.

Elderflower cordial
Elderflower cordial

Strain the cordial to remove all the flowers, slices and the occasional bug. I like to squeeze the lemons and orange slices adding the extra juice. You can make 3 different kinds from one batch by straining all the cordial and then take a liter of the cordial and add the lemon juices and another liter where you add the orange juices. That gives you Elderflower cordial, Elderflower cordial with lemon and Elderflower cordial with orange. That is maximizing your output 🙂

End result: 3 bottles of Elderflower cordial, 2 bottle of Elderflower cordial with lemon, 3 bottles of Elderflower cordial with orange

Elderflower cordial
Elderflower cordial

Enjoy – Sara

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2 Harvest update 2014: potatoes, beetroots, carrots, peppers, spinach, onions, herbs, zucchini, strawberries and lots and lots of tomatoes

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This is the second harvest post and my oh my the balcony garden has yielded a lot since the last harvest post. This is the most productive period of the garden and I am able to harvest something almost every day.

I had a friend over a couple of days ago and we made a lovely salad out of the produce from my garden. She was very amazed that the produce from my garden has its own smell. The different tomatoes smell different; some have a sweet smell, others have a spicy smell and even the pepper has its own smell. She had brought a couple of store bought tomatoes and a pepper and she commented that they don’t smell. I thought that was quite fantastic.

Harvest: lots of tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, beetroots, peppers, spinach, beetroot leaves, strawberries, onions, zucchini and a lot of herbs

23rd of Juli

Harvested potatoes, beetroots, carrots and tomatoes for a steak dinner with potato salad and a beetroot, carrot and tomato salad. It was very yum… You can see the recipe here: From garden to dinner 2014: Steak with potato salad and a carrot, beetroot and tomato salad 

Potatoes for potato salad
Potatoes for potato salad
Beetroots and carrots
Beetroots and carrots
Purple beef tomatoes
Purple beef tomatoes

1st of August

Harvested lovely tomatoes of various sorts; a couple of Black Russians (large dark ones), Brown Beery and Chocolate Cherry(drop shaped ones), Tiny Tims (small red ones), Yellow Currants( small yellow ones) and ‘Costoluto Genovese’ beef( large red ones). This is the first big harvest of tomatoes this season. Despite the very warm weather it feels like the tomato season has started late. I started the season planting inside in early spring but on the good side the season will last longer.

They made a fantastic salad.

Tomatoes of various sorts
Tomatoes of various sorts

3rd of August

I have 2 window boxes with forest strawberries. I managed to kill of one of them by overwatering, but the other one is producing well. About once a week I collect a handful of berries; sometimes more and I am collecting them in my freezer to make something of when I have enough.

Forest strawberries
Forest strawberries

5th of August

Some of my peppers are finally ready to eat. I have been watching them closely and waiting for them to turn red. They finally have. I have 2 sorts; ‘Alma Paprika’ and ‘Sweet Banana’. There are a good number of tomatoes, mostly the cherry varieties. This is Tiny Tim, Yellow Currant, Brown Berry and Chocolate Cherry

2 sorts of peppers
2 sorts of peppers
Tomatoes
Tomatoes

7th of August

Harvested a bit of Basil, a couple of purple beef tomatoes and Spring onions. If you leave spring onions they will grown into a bulb like normal onions. They have a lovely flavor and are very pretty for an onion. All this went into the chopper to make a sort of relish to use in homemade burgers. Another yum…

Spring onions, beef tomatoes and Basil
Spring onions, beef tomatoes and Basil

 8th of August

Harvested a good bunch of my chocolate mint and Lemon balm to make into cordial. I will make a separate post with the recipe at a later date.

Chocolate mint and Lemon balm
Chocolate mint and Lemon balm

I also harvested a good deal to make into a lovely pasta sauce. I will make a separate post with the recipe at a later date. This is ‘Costoluto Genovese’ tomatoes, a zucchini, spinach, peppers, Basil, Lemon Basil and Oregano.

Ingredients for the pastasauce
Ingredients for the pasta sauce

12th of August

Harvested tomatoes; Brown Beery, Chocolate Cheery and Black Russian with a Little bit of Lemon Basil and Spinach for a nice salad.

Tomatoes, Lemon Basil and Spinach
Tomatoes, Lemon Basil and Spinach
More tomatoes
More tomatoes

14th of August

Harvested Tiny Tim tomatoes, peppers, beetroot leaves, spinach and spring onions to use in pita pockets with ground organic pork seasoned with curry. Yum yum.

Ingredients for pita pockets
Ingredients for pita pockets

What am I waiting for?

There are a couple of things I am watching and waiting for:

1. More peppers – there are of lot of yellow ones just waiting to turn red

Peppers waiting to turn red
Peppers waiting to turn red

2. More tomatoes of the cherry variety

Tomatoes on my tomato wall
Tomatoes on my tomato wall

3. Beef tomatoes – most of them are just now starting to get color and I can’t wait to use them

Beef tomatoes
Beef tomatoes
Beef tomatoes
Beef tomatoes

4. Edemame beans – I am waiting for it to flower. They have to be planted late in the season when the ground is warm and only 3 of 20 survived a downpour a couple of days after I planted them.

Edemame beans
Edemame beans

5. Harvest New Zealand spinach – it has grown so much and is taking up a lot of space. It is seeding and I need to collect them.

New Zealand spinach on my balcony
New Zealand spinach on my balcony
New Zealand spinach on the walkway by my front door
New Zealand spinach on the walkway by my front door

 

Happy growing – Sara

 

 

 

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