Tuesday, July 31, 2007

One Local Summer - Week...eh...what?

I've been neglecting my blog even more than usual although I have managed to eat quite locally over the last fews weeks. My sister is home from France for two and a half weeks so I am spending almost all of my free time with her, chatting and playing with the kids. This is the shortest time they've been over (they started with about six weeks and every year it seems a little bit more difficult to find somewhere to rent and arrange trains/boats/flights and they end up coming for a little less time) and I had to go away for a weekend to a friend's wedding so I took three days off work to have a bit of extra time with them. Had a great three days and visited Newgrange on one of them, which is one of those places everyone expects you to have visited but I never had. The centre there is great and well set up to keep the kids interested (although I do have very interested nieces and nephews, especially these three) and then you get a bus up to the site itself. It was very interesting to see it although I didn't feel as much atmosphere as I expected to. I think I'd like to go back sometime when it's not peak tourist season.

My local meal for this week (it was on Sunday, what week is that?) will be one I don't have a photo of as my batteries were recharging. Hamburgers and homemade tomato ketchup. As simple as anything really, bought mince from Coolanowle and made the burgers purely out of the meat. Lovely salad to go with it from the wonderful McNally farm and my own homemade tomato ketchup albeit not entirely local - I used Irish non-organic tomatoes, French organic onions, garlic and spices from the cupboard and German white wine vinegar I think, the bottle has a German label on it, forgot to check provenance althoug it could be Alsace. And organic French mustard which I bought the last time I was over there so that counts as local. Still haven't been able to find any Irish onions, organic or otherwise, will have to look into growing my own I think. I was delighted with my homemade ketchup and can't wait to make more. This was my second batch, the first was a bit vinegary but tasted great all the same (my brother: "tastes like tomatoes instead of tomato-ketchup-flavouring") and didn't last long. This batch is nearly gone as well. My sister heads back to France at the weekend so when I've a bit more time to myself I plan to buy as many local tomatoes as I can and try my hand at bottling them as well as making more ketchup. I've already cooked down a large pile I had left over and frozen them but my freezer is small and freezing large quantities isn't feasible.

I made the ketchup using the recipe in Rachel Allen's Favourite Food at Home. It's very simple - for my second batch I added a bit more sugar (forgot about the sugar, hmm, that wasn't local either but for this batch it was organic, fairtrade raw cane sugar) to offset the vinegar and was also more careful with my vinegar measurement (only needed 75ml and my smallest measure was 100ml so I used two jugs, put 200ml in one then poured 125ml from that into the other and used what was left. Felt very clever - this is the kind of maths they should teach in school!). Next time I might let the tomatoes drain a bit before starting as I did find it a bit more liquid than I like. karl left a comment on my last post and I linked to here from his blog which was lots of food for thought on further variations. I think I prefer the recipe I used which doesn't involve skinning and deseeding the tomatoes although I suppose I'll have to do that when I just want to bottle tomatoes on their own. I have to say I really enjoyed making ketchup and best of all was the bit when I tasted it and it tasted like ketchup. Because I really wasn't expecting it to. Which may sound odd but then odd I am at times.

Anyway, enough rambling for now, I have lots of work to finish before I can get out of here but I'd already nearly posted this all day yesterday and today and it would never have gotten done if I hadn't put work aside for a few minutes.

Oooh, one last thing, I used old jars (ones that had salsa in originally I think) to put the ketchup in. I boiled them and their lids in water for five minutes and then left them drying in a low oven until the ketchup was ready, about fifteen/twenty minutes. I just ladled the ketchup in and put the lids on (note to self to remember that jars and lids coming out of oven are HOT!!!). This time it was all eaten too quickly for correct preservation to be an issue but I was delighted when we opened one jar after a few days and I heard the safety seal pop. That means I did it right doesn't it? Still trying to get my hands on a decent book on bottling/canning through the library, all suggestions for good books welcome but in the meantime will take any advice anyone wants to offer. Especially want to find out about re-using jars and lids that I've bought something in and particularly about if there is a certain type of lid you're not supposed to use.

I will be attempting next week to cook one local meal every day as I really want to get back into the swing of things once the summer holiday hectic is over.


Anonymous said...

Hi, I noticed you said you wanted some suggestions for good books about canning and preserving? Well, I have found several at my library that are good, but the best ones I have read so far are
"Preserving" by Oded Schwartz, and "Clearly Delicious" (don't know the author, but DK Publishing)...Hope that might help...Don't forget, if your library doesn't have it, they can probably find them for you on loan! (Had to post that last, I'm a librarian myself!).

Moonwaves said...

Thanks for that. My local library doesn't have an online search facility and I've never found anything using their in-library database. However, I've recently discovered www.borrowbooks.ie , which is the inter-library loan service in Ireland. I was looking for four books which I hadn't been able to find in my own library. Found them all on borrowbooks and requested the inter-library loan. Three of them were refused on the grounds that they were already avaiable in my area and would be reserved for me. Can't figure out why they didn't just show up when I searched for them in my library but there you go. I also prefer to use borrowbooks because it's free of charge whereas if I look up a book in my library, it's not there and I want to reserve it, it costs 50c each time. Not a lot but every penny counts.

I'm off to check out that book now, thanks for the tip.