Archive for the 'Experiments' Category

Sunflower Living Playhouse – Demolition Free Zone

I thought I would forget for a moment about the demolition at the house and have a look around the garden – OK I will have to ignore the fact that the garden is currently being used as a dumping ground with excuses such as ‘burning pile’ and ‘dirt for fill’ and ‘yeah – about that’ being bandied around – but I am trying not to note the rising of blood pressure and focus on the pretty things – like my Sunflower, Sweet Pea, and Borage living playhouse that I made/grew for the bubs.

The living playhouse - in the beginning...

The living playhouse is about the burst into life!

Sunflowers, Sweet Peas and Borage - living playhouse a la Pump house cottage

Sunflowers and Sweet Peas in the living playhouse

Stars of the living playhouse

OK, so the fact that the bubs are completely disinterested in playing in it is not going to put me off doing it again. Next time I will plant my Sunflowers out earlier and plan a reinforcing system so the wind doesn’t win.  Have to say that the Sweet Peas using the Sunflowers for a climbing frame is awesome, and fragrant and inspired! And the Borage was free-range but seemed to fit the bill. The overall affect was quite ‘dense’ so if the kids had been into it there would have been some awesome playhouse-o-rama action!

Before you ask – if you are dying for some graphic renovation pics – watch out for my next post – it is going to be full on carnage….. promise!

Advertisements

Jam Off! Elderflower Marmalade Mania….

The Jam Off on Tuesday was great fun! CFD convinced me to bring my elderflower marmalade – and I am glad she did!

Turns out the elderflower marmalade had an appreciative audience and scored the ‘fruitest blend’ award! Awesome! Check out the Jam Off Aftermath… And there is a great after match analysis on the Xero site too…

The feedback has been great – and pressure to produce the recipe immense. Unfortunately it is a top-secret family recipe – yeah right!

It is no secret –  it was completely made up one balmy summer evening in an attempt to reduce my ‘carbon footprint’ and not let the cast-offs of elderflower cordial making go to waste. So here is…

The Pump House Cottage Elderflower Marmalade

40 Elderflower heads –  Rinse and de-bug and place in a large container/bucket (4L or bigger).

4 Oranges & 10 Lemons, pare off zest, cut up the remainder and add all to the elderflowers.

Combine 1.25 kg of sugar with 1 Litre of boiling water – stir until sugar dissolves.

Pour the boiling sugar solution over the unsuspecting elderflowers, zest etc.

Combine 50g of citric acid together with a cup of boiling water, stir to dissolve, and add to the elderflower party.

Stir, stir, stir… a good 10 seconds of industrious stirring should do it.

Cover the container with a tea towel – and leave for 5 days.

After the 5 days of steeping, sieve through muslin – keeping both the elderflower/citrus mulch and the liquid – Viola! You have now made elderflower cordial & have the ‘pulp’ for your elderflower marmalade!

Bottle up your elderflower cordial – it will be good for a couple of months – and is excellent diluted with a dolop of Gin & a splash of soda water…

Take the elderflower/citrus mulch leftover from the cordial straining and remove the elderflowers (thanks but we don’t need you anymore!)

Cut the zest and pulp up (I don’t like to have great lumps in my marmalade so I cut it up as finely as I could).

Place in a saucepan & ‘just’ cover the pulp with some of your elderflower cordial. Cook gently until a test piece of zest is tender to bite.

Weigh the mixture and add 75% of this weight in sugar i.e. if it weighs about 800g, add 600g of sugar (mine is usually around this…). Cook until suitably jammy. My setting test was pure guess-work (i.e. hey man it looks like jam now!) You may want to use a more scientific method.

Pour the hot marmalade into jars and ta da! Elderflower marmalade – Yum!

Unfortunately it is a seasonal recipe as elderflowers only make a 6 week appearance in october/november time here in NZ – so mark your calendars and plan to make a big batch next summer. I know I will be!

See you next year at Jam Off 2011!

Elderflower Cordial & Marmalade!

Hey man! I have turned all domesticated! I have made elderflower cordial and marmalade. It was easy! Any Ex Engineer turned domestic goddess could do it.

We have 10 elder trees at the pump house cottage (and counting) so it seemed appropriate to make use of the produce. Apparently elderflower season is a mere 6 weeks so I took advantage of this transient time and sent the IT guy up a ladder picking flowers – lovely!

Pump House Cottage Elderflower Cordial

40 Elderflower heads – beautiful fresh ones, not a hint of brown, smelling intensely like a cats toilet, collected on a sunny day at midday, turn around three times and touch your toes before plucking, rinse off bugs and place in a big bucket.

Acquire 2 Oranges & 5 Lemons, pare off zest,  cut up the remainder and add all to the elderflowers.

Combine 2.5 kg of sugar with 2 Litres of boiling water – Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble until dissolved.

Using the appropriate face of intense concentration pour the boiling sugar solution over the unsuspecting elderflowers, zest etc.

Quickly whip 100g of citric acid together with a cup of boiling water to dissolve and add to the elderflower party.

Stir, stir, stir… a good 10 seconds of industrious stirring should do it.

Cover the bucket with a tea towel – and leave for 5 days.

At this point the elderflower aroma was quite intense and got me a little bit scared of the potential product – but over night the smell matured and became quite a pleasant background for activities at the pump house cottage. To the left is the mix brewing…

After the 5 days of steeping, sieve through muslin. Keep the elderflower/citrus mulch to the side and bottle the cordial in sterilised bottles – Dilute to taste with water, lemonade – or my favourite – soda water – and enjoy!

The elderflower cordial has been popular – even Auntie Ann took home a bottle – watch out tea lady rellies – there is going to be elderflower cordial all round for christmas presents.

Now for the Marmalade:

Elderflower Marmalade – The Pump House Cottage Recipe.

Now before we begin – a few disclaimers – I am not a jam maker and kinda played this one by ear – but the result was not bad….

Take the elderflower/citrus mulch leftover from the cordial straining and remove the elderflowers (thanks but we don’t need you anymore!) 

Cut the zest and pulp up (I don’t like to have great lumps in my marmalade so I cut it up as finely as I could).

Place the pulverised mess in a saucepan & cover the mixture with elderflower cordial. Cook gently until a test piece of zest is tender to bite.

Weigh the mixture and add the same weight of sugar. Cook until suitably jammy – picking out stray bugs and lemon pips as you go. My setting test was pure guess work  (i.e. hey man it looks like jam now!) You may want to use a more scientific method.

Pour the hot marmalade into jars and ta da! Elderflower marmalade – Yum!

Now the IT guy has caught the bug – and has been brewing elderflower champagne – watch this space to see if he is a fermenting success or all ends in a bomb squad call out.

Is the a Serious Vege Garden I See

Ok, so! Labour weekend is the big gardening weekend of the year – pre summer – and seeing I am telling all in sundry that I am going to grow my own veges I thought I better get on to it….

When we signed on the dotted line the agreement to buy the pump house cottage the first thing I went out and did was ransack the mitre 10 vege seedling section, how naive I was, the poor little seedlings then spent 6 weeks languishing in their crowded little pots before I managed to dig a small plot to plant them in.

The Vege Garden - Stage One

The 'Old Tea Lady' Garden

So I suppose we could call that my “old tea lady” garden –  I have moved on in my mentality now – I am all about the seeds…

So over the last week in perparation for the big planting weekend, I cleared and chopped and hacked and dug and excavated, and managed to clear an area for the vege garden.

Here is another before shot so you can get an impression of just how much digging chopping and hacking took place! I even cut down a tree! And the blackberry is all gone from the bank (don’t worry – it got its pound of flesh – literally!)

The Vege Garden - Before

Some things disturbed me during the whole process. Firstly that a previous occupant of the pump house cottage (who owned a horse) used the garden as a rubbish tip – or a Midden to put it a bit more nicely (in time team speak). Cultivating the garden is a bit more like an archeological dig then a mere dirt turning activity. The novelty is wearing off – there is only so many bottles, bricks, horse bits and spoons that are interesting before they are just a shovel stopping pain the arse.

So I spent the weekend digging in compost, cultivating, throwing out objects of national significance and pretending I knew what I was doing. 

And then- drum roll please! I planted seeds! Parsnip, carrots, spring onions, potatos, corn, beans, cucumbers, basil, and corriander! Sometimes the archeological elements won and I had to plant around deeply entrenched artifacts – But in all I am a happy camper! Check it out!

The Vege Garden Post Labour Weekend

Will they grow? Do I really know what I am doing? Watch this space.

The Wind! The Wind!

The wind today is doing my head in – good thing I am distracted – slightly – by feijoa trees. The IT guy got given two feijoa trees for fathers day – one from each of the bubs, and now I am wondering if he wouldn’t really miss one if it turned into a granny smith apple tree as if by magic…… I mean, feijoas are pretty gross, so who needs two trees? I am sure the rumor that they make more fruit if there is two of them is just some urban ledgend – or maybe feijoa trees mate for life – who knows – maybe if I split them up they will both wilt and die? Well at least it would be an interesting experiment.