Where there is a will there is a way

Friday, April 13, 2018

Preserving tomatoes and chillies this summer - plus the quest for green Mexican chilli sauce!

My garden this summer

After returning to my life, where I actually had a life - I planted my garden to the best of my ability, even planting companion plants like basil between tomatoes - trying to establish herb areas, etc.  We also added pine needles as mulch to the tomato plants - which did wonders!  The clay heavy soil of our garden was balanced with acidic material.  The chilli plants also did really well (also it was a very hot and dry, long summer).  

Anyways, I then had to preserve the abundance, like tomatoes, and chillies.  

A walk through my garden in February:

Preserving tomatoes - the easy way

Preserving is a huge amount of work!
I tried a fancy recipe by Wellness Mama, with fresh herbs, and boiling for hours, carrots, and putting a carrot in and removing it later to remove acidity.   Although it was delicious, I just didn't have the energy to do that every time I had a bowl of tomatoes!

Wellness Mama pasta sauce!

Later on, a few friends had said they oven roast cut up tomatoes with garlic, onions etc.  Then just freezing it.  So I started doing that!  Sometimes with fresh herbs from the garden, whole sprigs.  

180 C for about 45 min (until done).  

It was so much easier!  I did freeze it usually before blending due to not having time - but when I needed to use it I could blend it.  It was so delicious, and made it possible to preserve with far less energy.

Some of my tomatoes were the yellow type!

Fresh herbs from the garden - that I added, and also shared at work.  I learned how to grow and harvest oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary...all things I actually wanted to use.  No more growing things I don't actually use.  I even was able to harvest some funny but useful carrots for some roasted sauces!

Preserving chillies

Shane and I went to a Mexican restaurant, and loved the green chilli sauce!

By far the most fun and exciting - addition to our lives, chilli sauces!  Not hard to make either, just panfrying up cut up chillies, garlic and onions, and spices.  USE GLOVES TO CUT UP THE CHILLIES by the way.  I went without twice and not right away - became in extreme pain.)  

I kept trying recipes for chilli sauces, starting with Green Gavin chutney sauce involving lots of spices like cumin and turmeric (and not blending it up after).  They were all really good - but in the end although the heavily spiced sauces were amazing, realised that the green chilli sauce was probably not very spiced (I'm talking cumin, turmeric, ginger, coriander).  I would still use the garlic and onion though!  Going to try this later today, and will post up the results.

Here are a few versions I created, with a photo of how the cut up ingredients looked.  One well liked one at the end was SPICE TRUCK that I did not photograph.  (We named them so we could remember what worked better, what we liked, etc.)  Basically I followed a basic recipe, amounts of chillies and garlic and oil roughly the same, and experimented with the spices.  

Hot chilli chutney - from the Greening of Gavin blog.

But it involved frying for 15 min, and these ingredients:  450g chillies , 1 onion, 6 cloves garlic, 2 T ground cumin (was 4 but I reduced it), 2 T turmeric, 25g grated root ginger, 1 T salt, 3/4 cup olive oil, 3 T sugar, 1 1/4 cups white vinegar.

How it looked before frying.

How it looked after bottling!  This sauce was VERY spicy and hot.  Was amazing added to mayo - but extremely intense straight.

After this I realised I could blender it, and it would be more pleasant to use as a sauce - on cheese and crackers, or in cooking.

Nonnie's experimentations with chilli sauces, first one -

I carefully recorded what I did with this one, put alot of energy into it.  We named it Beauty as it was delicious.  This is what it looked like before we cooked it.  After it was cooked, we blendered and bottled it and used it right away (in a sterilised tall bottle).

It is easy to share with you now as I recorded each version directly onto a new Google Slide, duplicating and changing the relevant details each time (well actually after scribbling on scrap paper with a vivid the changes and adding later).

Fry - 15 min
450g green chillies
1 onion
6 cloves garlic
1 t ground cumin
1 t coriander
1 T salt
3/4 cup olive oil

Boil - 10 min
½ cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups white vinegar

Boil hard - 1 min
¼ packet pectin

  • Sterilise the jars and lids in an oven 120C
  • Finely chop chillies, remove seeds as much as possible.
  • Mix together the first lot ingredients (chillies etc).
  • Transfer to a heavy based pan and fry for 15 minutes, stirring often to prevent sticking.
  • Add sugar and vinegar and bring to the boil. 
  • Cover pan and boil for 10 minutes stirring occasionally.  Then add ¼ packet pectin and boil max heat for 1 min
  • Cool down for 20 min, then blend
  • Pack into jars, then seal.

Nonnie's experimentations with chilli sauces, second good one -

Lots of spices and kick!!!  Looked much like Green Gavin.  The turmeric is for health, also the garlic, onion, ginger, and cumin and coriander for taste.  And apparently black pepper helps activate the health benefits of turmeric!  Which needs to be cooked to be activated as well...

Fry - 15 min
3/4 cup olive oil
480g green chillies
1 large brown onion
8 cloves garlic
a few chunks ginger
1 T cumin seeds
1 T coriander (ground)
2 T turmeric (ground)
Black pepper, sprinkle over
3/4 T salt

Boil - 10 min
½ cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups white vinegar

Boil hard - 1 min
¼ packet pectin

More detailed method - as above (Beauty recipe).

Last entry to come - hopefully regular Mexican green chilli sauce....the quest could be closer to its ending (the quest never truly ends as you never stop learning...)

green mexican chilli sauce (my version)

The traditional version had pork stock, and flour to thicken. Still searching for that amazing recipe I had at a restaurant - but this one I made was really good! Used pectin instead of flour to thicken.

--Fry - 15 min--
olive oil - cover pan 1 cm
370g green chillies (hot)
1 green capsicum
2 small brown onions
8 cloves garlic
Ground cumin, sprinkle over
Black pepper, himalayan rock salt, sprinkle over
--Boil - 10 min--
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup white vinegar
--Boil hard - 1 min--
1/2 packet pectin

  • Sterilise the jars and lids in an oven 120C.
  • Finely chop chillies, remove seeds as much as possible.
  • Mix together the first lot ingredients (chillies etc).
  • Transfer to a heavy based pan and fry for 15 minutes, stirring often to prevent sticking.
  • Add sugar and vinegar and bring to the boil. Cover pan and boil for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Then add ¼ packet pectin and boil max heat for 1 min.
  • Cool down for 20 min, then blend.
  • Pack into jars, then seal.

Sihouette dyes - fabric method - so fun and creative (and stores a sunny day in an interesting way!)

Posting this activity I did after I first left my full-time city job - on a hot summer morning in 2017 (February).  I posted it on my fb page, but not on my  (public) blog.  I really want to share this for the record?

Last year I tried Silhouette dyes from CCG Industries (we had been in the shop to get materials for our  terracotta style firepit).  The man in the shop told me they use it in Rarotonga - they lay out fabric in the hot sun, and place stencils on the fabric, which leave silhouettes; "sun masks".

I had to try it.  Then I realised I could place even leaves on the fabric and it would leave outlines of the leaves.

I shared this activity with children, but they were more involved in the dye process in general than the sun masking.

Finally shared it with the right folks, an group of adult creative women (Sharron Erbacher's local quilting group).  They had fun, I had fun.  They will be able to harness this method's full potential!

A butterfly landed on the fabric while sun was processing it. 
Now if he had stayed, he too would have left a silhouette.

Japanese recycling

Thursday, April 5, 2018

2018 - Chi the turtle, NZ fantail, Plasmo the elasmosaurus, Starry Sky Dolphin, and Amulet bags

Chi the turtle - next generation from Isadora

Created for a lovely teacher friend who works very hard, helping children who need that boost in life.  Her young daughter renamed it Myrtle and sleeps with it every night.

Piwakawaka (NZ fantail) - for Kohanga friends

Recorded the pattern exactly - like everything else - a work in progress!  Created for a Kohanga friend.  

Plasmo for Lucan. 

He is an Elasmosaurus (water dinosaur) which really once lived on Earth as nearly complete skeletons have been found. I like this dinosaur because it was the perfect size that in an imaginary world a child could have it for a friend and ride on its back. Elasmo was a kind of plesiosaurus with a super long neck for catching fish.  Made with lots of love. 


Starry Sky - for a newborn (and named by a 2 year old)

For a baby of Shane's work friend.  

See the smile?

Knitted crystal amulet bags - to wear round necks

Because crystal's don't like metal wire around them!  To hold the vibration near, when life becomes dear...

Isadora - Knitted Sea Turtle (for Fynn).

Design as it came to life, from scale to finish.

Side project from October 5 (scale) and finished just before Christmas so over 2 months.  She became so alive, like a Jim Henson creature, that I took a little while to let go and mail her!  But rather a child to enjoy her than me.

Step 1 - one scale at a time

Create 1 scale, idea to sew all the turtle scales together.  I studied images of sea turtle shells, it was all about the shell to start.

Step 2 - redesign to knit shell as one piece (using superior planning)

However, the result was a mess, with the different wools I chose not pulling perfectly together, so I started again.  I drew up a plan to knit it all in one piece, basing my knitting graph paper on the dimensions of one scale I had knitted, creating the most natural shell based upon a real sea turtle's shell pattern (on the computer using a graphics program).  The scales and the graph lines were kept separate in Photoshop - leaving me the possibility to scale down the shells size for later (baby) turtles!

It was beautiful, after all the work was done in planning, just to follow it and have the shell turn out perfectly.  Very fun to knit.

Sewing the rim scales to the main.

Step 3 - quilting shell

I quilted the shell, with some quilt batting inside - but it did take away a little from the beauty of the design to have it look again sewn together - but was the right choice for this creation.  (Later with smaller ones choosing not to...) 

Step 4 - knitting turtle

Making the turtle, headfirst.  My first go did not have the top and bottom separated, no open mouth, but it looked just like a nipple - so redid it with top and bottom parts.  I left large "buttonholes" for the fins to start from, picked up stitches round these gaps and knitted each fin.  Though turtle was knitted by eye, had to record stitches for fins exactly and then repeat for second appendage as repeating exact symmetry by eye impossible.

Step 5 - shaping and personality 

Not looking great - due to no eyelid - shaping etc!  Personality later to be added with sewing overtop using same wool.

Step 6 - putting shell onto turtle 

Final design decision - how to attach shell to the turtle?  My friend Diane suggested this solution, where it can be removed (like a jumper) and a hook at either side of the tail fastens it on when she wears her shell - for cleaning reasons (and fascination of children and for play).