Things have been a bit quiet this week because I’ve caught myself a nasty case of bronchitis. It’s the same deal as Elena had last week. We like to keep things in the family around here. Anyway, my doctor has prescribed lots of sleep and not much of anything else – and that’s why I’ve not been around. I know I’m sick because I can’t even face picking up my knitting! Fingers crossed it all improves soon.
Before I got sick, we had a pretty quiet but good weekend, with a lovely first birthday for a friend’s little one, a fun dinner out with girlfriends (my first in waaaaay too long), the arrival of our chickens and scoring a Fowler’s Vacola preserving pan on gumtree.
I picked up our three new chickens on Sunday morning and they’ve settled in well. I haven’t taken lots of photos because I don’t want to stress them out. They’re red/brown Rhode Island Red x New Hampshire. One is a little larger, but the other two are pretty much identical so I want to spend more time with them (and learn to tell them apart!) before we go naming them. They are around 20 weeks old and the breeder says we should expect eggs any time soon, so we’re keeping our eyes peeled.
They were (quite understandably) a little scared of us when they first arrived, but are quite happy around us now. They’re calm and seem happy in the run, scratching around. They’ve worked out the automatic drinker we’ve made them, and haven’t been spreading their feed too far. I’ve been popping green treats and vegetable scraps into them every afternoon to compensate for being locked up for the first little while.
They’ve not quite worked out how to put themselves into the coop for the evening yet, so I’ve been going out and catching them each night. They don’t mind, and even let me give them a bit of a pat without struggling or stressing out. I have high hopes of having affectionate chickens, so this is a pretty good start.
Two of the three did manage to escape the run yesterday evening – which was entirely my fault. Alex helped me, though, and we got them back in without too much trouble. They actually walked themselves back into the run when they found it so I don’t think we’re too far from being able to let them out safely. Maybe we’ll give them some supervised free-range time on the weekend and see how we go.
The children are entranced – Elena likes to chat to them, and Hugo just squeals with excitement and waves.
The other excitement of the weekend was scoring myself a vintage Fowler’s Vacola preserving pan on gumtree. I was a bit hesitant to spend the $35, but it was just too good of a deal to pass up (and two have since appeared with asking prices of $50 and $90, so now I’m extra happy about the price). It was a good week for Fowler’s stuff on the classifieds – I also managed to snag some (ummm…40…) jars for $2 a piece.
I’ve emailed Fowler’s with the sterilizer’s serial number to see if they can give me any idea of its manufacturing date.
The preserving pan arrived just at the right time. Our tomato plants have been producing well and we had several kilograms of ripe tomatoes to deal with. We’ve been growing a heritage variety, Rouge de Marmande, which is very firm and fleshy with few seeds. They have been growing in rather weird shapes but taste very good!
Wanting to make some tomato relish, I found a promising looking recipe online. I peeled and chopped the tomatoes by hand, but ran the 1.5kgs of onions through my food grinder – I just couldn’t face the tears! I took this photograph during a break in the rain – this is what three kilograms of chopped peeled tomatoes looks like…
I didn’t have the time to leave the chopped tomatoes and onions sitting overnight, so I reduced the salt to half a cup (and probably could have gone as low as one third of a cup – I suspect a lot of the salt is supposed to be lost when you pour off the liquid) and cooked the mixture down slowly for about three hours.
I ended up tripling the corn flour too – I thickened it until it was just slightly runnier than I wanted, on the understanding that these things continue to thicken in the jar. My only other variation to the recipe was to process the sealed jars in the Fowler’s pan for 15 minutes to ensure they were sterile and to lengthen their shelf life. The recipe made a huge amount – I ended up with 13 jars worth and even had to pour the last bits into an unsterilised jar for the fridge (so, if you’re a Canberra friend and like tomato relish, be sure to let me know…). I think I’ll halve the recipe next year!
We have more tomatoes on the vine, so I suspect I’ll have more preserving to do in the coming weeks. I think I’ll put up some more whole peeled tomatoes, and maybe a jar or two of pickles. Food in Jars has some lovely looking tomato sauce recipes too, so I’ll have to make sure I try out a few. We’ll see.