High five! St Johns, Alexandra

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Recognition where it’s due.

We’d like to high five the ladies at the St Johns Anglican Church fete in Alexandra, Victoria. They made a delicious Raspberry and Blood Plum Jam.

I have been waiting to open this jam since March because of the the 2 jam rule.

The 2 jam rule is, not suprisingly, that we are only allowed to have two jars of jam open at any one time. It’s not weird.  Things get out of hand quickly otherwise. Fridge space is very important real estate in our house. There have been murmurs to adapt this rule for chutneys… but that dog won’t hunt, monsignor.

A day off work, some of rigoniman’s fresh bread, some fancy French butter (naughty), and this jam. Happiness.

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Everything You See I Owe To Spaghetti

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One of the many benefits of having chickens is fresh eggs and there’s no shortage of uses, but one of Sophia Loren and our favourites is fresh pasta. For each person your going to need about one hundred grams of fine flour, we use the same flour I bake with (The aptly named – Bakers’ flour), you can substitute with plain flour but your pasta will be a little heavier. You will also need one free range egg. For each additional person add another hundred grams of flour and an additional egg. Here I have covered two methods, one is beautiful and authentic, the other is much quicker but more realistic,  you should definitely try both.

Option one

Lightly sprinkle the pasta length with flour and fold loosely in half, repeat and repeat taking care to keep it loose until you have a roll you can easily handle. Then with a sharp knife cut across the roll creating whatever pasta width you like, skinny for spaghetti, fatter for fettuccine, my personal favourite is a mix.

DSC_0052Pour a glass of red wine and consume; you need to get your head in the right place for this. Now sift one hundred grams of flour on your bench and make a well in the middle then add an egg into the well. With one finger or a fork start mixing in the flour, a small amount at first then continuing with your whole hand. You are looking for a light doughy consistency that’s almost sticky. If time permits, rest this dough in the fridge for an hour.

Option two

Add one hundred grams of flour and one egg to your food processor and pulse until the mix forms small grains. Test the consistency and add a small amount of water or flour if required.

Then

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Sprinkle some flour on your bench and divide your dough into halves. If you have a pasta roller then great, if not then pour another glass of wine. You could easily use a rolling pin but somehow the wine bottle feels more involved. Using the wine bottle roll your dough into long lasagne sheets adding an extra sprinkling of flour if it starts to stick. continue until your pasta is no more than one millimetre thick.

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DSC_0087Half fill a large pot with water and add a good pinch a salt. Bring to the boil, but DON’T add any oil, many people do this and it’s a big no-no. The oil clings to your pasta and prevents your sauce and her beautiful flavour from coating and infusing its delicious flavours. Once the water has come to the boil add your pasta and stir occasionally until cooked, this takes less than five minutes so be on your guard.


Test your pasta, and once you’re happy it’s cooked, strain it and let drain for about thirty seconds, then after it’s dry pop back in the pot with a ladle full of your desired sauce and combine, serve (or pop the lid back on until you’re ready).

bon appétite.

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The Salami Test

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Some six weeks back Gian Carlo and I attended Salami School. Fine tuning our charcuterie skills was the aim of the day, but Gian Carlo was certain that getting his hands dirty would bring those long lost salami secrets flooding back to him from a childhood as a junior charcutier back in Italy. The day was incredible and a real culinary sensation, James our host not only welcomed us into his home but was more than happy to share his wealth of knowledge and if that wasn’t already enough he then organised a near 100 kilogram pig for for our own salami day the following weekend.

DSC_0604Our Salami day was also a massive success and our curing room is now bursting at the rafters. But with everything we produced still curing, we still have a couple more weeks before we can try our handy work. But the salami from Salami School requires no more waiting, which is good because we are only becoming more and more impatient, also a little hungry.
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The first test was done by Gian Carlo last weekend: a success he proclaimed. The second test was done by friends at the local brewery and as the whole salami was consumed in about twenty seconds I’m claiming this as a success as well. And the final test, I call it “The Pizza Test” – Excellent!

Bev Perkins’ Ginger Apple Jam

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A good friend of ours, let’s call him Anthony Bianco (pictured eating sandwich), came up sandfor a visit last weekend and with him about twenty file kilos of apples picked fresh from northern Victoria. It seams he has stumbled upon a tree close enough to a fence line and ripe for the picking, and so helped reduce the terrible burden to the tree’s owners. Now I love eating apples as much as the next guy, but the more opportunist side of me started thinking of what to do with our bequeathed bounty.
Yesterday morning before work I found myself perusing our kitchen library for ideas. The obvious option is apple sauce, and I will make some soon, but today I felt like something new. Tucked away in the pages of the Country Women’s Association Preserve Cook Book I found this little gem, thanks Bev Perkins from East Launceston.  
To make jam thick you need pectin, most fruits contain this and turn the jam to the correct consistency during the cooking process naturally but some require a little more tweaking. The pectin in apple is found in the core and skin and so these need to be saved for use during the jam making process and later discarded before bottling. 

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Most jams are equal parts fruit to sugar with any additional ingredients added for flavour, In this case a small amount of fresh grated ginger gives it a tart kick that really sets it off. So after peeling and coring the apples I diced the fruit and placed it in a covered bowl with a muslin bag containing the skins and cores, I then sprinkled the sugar over the mix. Letting the mix sit overnight I combined it with the fresh ginger to a pan and slowly boiled it for about an hour before bottling.

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The next cold morning I get it’s Bev Perkins’ Ginger Apple jam on toast with a strong black coffee, can’t wait. This recipe is worth trying, as with any CWA recipe and I can strongly advise purchase of their preserving cook book. 

Balmy for Salami

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In Italy many years ago, dispatching and sorting the pig into curable meats was the job of my father’s family. The brothers would go from home to home assisting the villages in turning la porcetta into whichever salami they liked best. In our region of Veneto, located at the very top of Italy, they called it Salami Veneto. Not the most creative name I admit, but what the northern Italians lacked in creativity in name they also lacked in spice, in a good way.

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The Veneto salami is as un-enhanced as it comes, the pork has very little in the way of spices or other flavours and so the quality of pork we use must be perfect and the very freshest. This year our pig was supplied by James Mele of The Meat Room, who hosted us for the salami sessions a couple of weekends back.
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So this weekend past we set up shop Gian Carlo’s home and with knives sharpened and benches sanitised we awaited our sow. We set to butchering early Saturday morning and by that afternoon had turned a near 100kg pig into its parts there of. Minced then graded, we had various piles of meat around the room, the fat ratios are just as important as spice, Gian Carlo exclaims.
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Now days we don’t just have one style of salami, no matter how delicious it is. This year we made several including, Veneto, Calabrese cacciatore, Sopressa, Salamini and Cotechino, The first of which should be ready in four or five weeks.
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I’m not here to claim we have the best recipes and nor will I publish them, but we are certainly happy to help with advice and instruction. If you are interested in or about to start making salami or any charcuterie then fantastic, what you’re about to create will turn you off store bought small goods forever. Home made is best made. Please stay tuned for the results.
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weird condiment #1

This one harks back to our Tassie travels, again. Rigoniman has already described the lovely St Andrews Inn and his biscuit experience there… but it bears mentioning again because it’s the same place were were introduced to Tomato Jam. Honestly, I can’t remember actually eating the tomato jam there, but we must have, because otherwise why would we have bought two jars of it to take home? Seems like a strange punt to make on a weird sounding condiment.

tassie - st andrews inn - jumpOf course, it’s very good. We ate both jars pretty quickly, and found it to be delicious on cheese or charcuterie platters and on such things as bacon and egg sandwiches.  Yes it’s sweet, yes it’s savoury. But it works.

There was a sad period of time between finishing the second jar and discovering a recipe for it. Oh happy day to flick the pages and see the simple heading TOMATO JAM! You may already have guessed where we found it. Sally Wise’s A year in a bottle. Yeah.

Our crazy bumper tomato crop this summer meant we were almost overwhelmed,  and as such we managed to make two batches of tomato jam. The mini romas contributed a really sweet and intense flavour.

photoAnd now we live in the delicious world of tomato jam again, and life is good. The recipe includes an optional ingredient of ginger. It’s gives a subtle result and I’m just as happy without it, but go ahead if you are keen on it. I recommend dumping the tomatoes in the food processor (after washing them) and giving them a quick whazz, because, well it’s so much quicker and easier than chopping them, and they break down super fast, which means, you reach a set quite quickly. Totally different to large tomatoes, which have more water content.

You can find the recipe here, however, it’s not quite the same as the book (hint: use less sugar, and round up the lemon juice). We strongly urge you to give it a go (in fact this post was spurred on by a text yesterday from a friend asking how-to (hey mards!)). And then you can tell us what else this weird condiment is good with…

Salami School

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The mornings are getting colder and I’ve pretty much made the switch from beer to wine, that’s a good sign that winter is just about here. The heavy yield garden crops of the warmer months are all but gone and so now we look for something different to preserve. Around the start of winter, usually the Queen’s birthday weekend most Italian families lock themselves away and convert their garages, sheds and kitchens into home butcher workshops; it’s salami season.

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The weekend just past was something of a test run and real treat, Giancarlo and I were able to attend an amazing day of butchery, cooking, charcuterie and most importantly coffee. Hosted near Kilmore, just north of Melbourne, in a converted stone building that anyone would be happy to have in their backyard we kicked off early and with an espresso in hand, James, our host proudly led us on a tour of his home, garden and backyard butchery. WOW!

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Organised by the Home Make It crew and the Salami Board (hosts of the massively successful Melbourne Salami Festa) we were in great hands and in my opinion they really nailed it. The day consisted of meat boning lessons – a guide on how to butcher a pig, mincing, mixing and spicing – getting the texture right is just as important as the spice mix and then a guide on filling and hanging salami.

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During the day we were treated to an amazing spectacle of food, wine and hospitality by our host, true to form from any Italian, and when it was time to go we were all sent off with our own salamis to hang as well as a few kilograms of pork sausage to cook. Most of us stayed well after the course officially finished, enjoying that day’s produce cooked in our host’s wood-fired oven all the while quaffing his chianti.

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From our new friend made this weekend we have already secured our own 130kg free-range sow and are planning our own full scale weekend of butchery and curing soon, stay tuned for the result.

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