Monday, March 31, 2014

Focus on Franklin 2014

I loved the format of this year's Focus on Franklin festival. No food stalls on the oval. Instead, the entire length of the main road of Franklin had stalls, shops, food, car boot sales, displays and more. We started by having our car washed at a fundraiser for a local who will be riding the Gibb River Road in WA for charity in July. There was a Franklin History Group display in the new Jane Franklin Memorial Museum and Gallery, cider judging in the Apple Delights competition, music by Steve and Marjorie Gadd in St. John's church, curry at the Living Boat Trust, more music in the supper room of the Palais. On Sunday there was the St. Ayles Skiff Regatta, the Franklin Market and more music that was so special I'll save it for a separate post. I know I've said this before, but how lucky we are to live in the village of Franklin.

Jane Franklin Memorial Museum and Gallery
Cider judging
Naomie Clark-Port of Frank's Cider conducts a tour and tasting
Franklin Market on Sunday
The inaugural St. Ayles Skiff Regatta

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I scream

I finally succumbed and ordered an ice cream maker online last week. Some of them require you to freeze and re-freeze the metal bowl during the process, but we don't actually have a freezer in the house. We have a deep chest freezer up in the garage, and it wouldn't be very practical to be running up and down the stairs with half-frozen confectionery. So I bought a fancy machine with a compressor that does its own freezing during the process.

The first batch I tried was strawberry, made with a punnet of fresh local Huon Valley strawberries, milk, cream, sugar, salt, vanilla... that's it. We took it to our friends' place on the weekend to eat after dinner and it was delicious. The next batch was vanilla bean, made with much the same ingredients plus five egg yolks. The mixture needed to be refrigerated overnight as it had been heated during preparation. Also delicious! Now I need to get onto the flavours I am most excited about making: honey, green tea, pistachio, coffee, lemon sorbet... mmm.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Cheep cheep

As I type, a fourth little chick is trying hard to break out of one of the eggs kindly donated by friend-down-the-road Pauline. It's amazing how loudly the chicks can cheep while they are still inside the egg, with only the beak protruding. The three pictured above have been moved from the incubator to a plastic box where they are now huddled under the heat lamp. Down in the garden, the last batch of ten chicks, now more than eight weeks old (current guess: four hens, six roosters) are living happily in the chook tractor. And the four grown hens are free-ranging while they moult and drop feathers everywhere. There are chickens everywhere and the feeding routine is getting more complex. Meanwhile, I've had to buy eggs from the supermarket!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Best ever sauerkraut

At the Taste of the Huon on Monday, I ate a delicious pork sausage on a bun, that was badly let down by the sauerkraut accompanying it. Now, I LOVE sauerkraut, but this was clearly fresh from the tin, and hardly warmed. So I decided to share my recipe for the BEST EVER sauerkraut. Well, in my opinion. It will be like potato salad - every German will have a better one. When I say sauerkraut, I'm not talking about making it from scratch by fermenting the cabbage, though I am keen to try that. The stuff in a tin, a packet or a jar is fine, home made better of course, but it's how you cook it that makes the difference.

It's not my recipe, just an adaptation. Many years ago, I visited Bavarian Smallgoods and Butcher, a small shop on a suburban street in Ermington in western Sydney. This place smelt incredible - mainly of smoked ham - like walking into a little piece of Bavaria. Unfortunately it has closed now. That day, David and I were shopping in preparation for our annual Oktoberfest that we host at home, so I bought many kilos of the fantastic sausages, some cold meats, mustard and several large jars of sauerkraut. As I handed over my money, owner Ricky pointed at the jars of sauerkraut and asked me, 'how are you planning to cook this?'. I told him I normally added a cup of white wine and simmered it for a while. No, no, no. All wrong. Here's what you need to do to guarantee the tastiest sauerkraut.

You'll need:
  • Speck (smoked bacon - ideally both a fatty and a leaner piece), finely diced
  • Small brown onion, finely sliced
  • Cans or jars of sauerkraut
  • Some riesling
  • Caraway seeds
  • Two cooking apples such as Granny Smiths, peeled and grated

First, fry some fatty speck in a large saucepan. Add the sliced onion. Once the pan is glazed with fat and onion is browned, add about a third of the sauerkraut and heat through. Add the grated apple, a few teaspoons of whole caraway seeds (a German friend of mine swears they are fart-retardant!) and another third of the sauerkraut. Stir and heat through. Add a cup or two of riesling, the remaining sauerkraut, the non-fatty speck and stir. Put the lid on and simmer for at least two hours, stirring occasionally. Fertig!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Kent Beach, Dover

Our last visit to Kent Beach in Dover was not long after we moved to Tasmania and we were investigating local dog exercise areas... and discovered that in the main they are pretty uninspiring. This one is different. It is an absolutely beautiful spot, as you'll see in the photos below. The only challenge for people with more exuberant and easily distracted dogs and those who like to chase is that it is very close to a road. On Saturday we visited with a group of people and their pooches from the Huon Valley Dog Walking Association. Everyone played nice and enjoyed themselves. Even if a few owners did have to pursue their dogs as they headed towards Kent Beach Road.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Mt Tongatabu

This morning our social walking group walked up some forestry trails on Mount Tongatabu, south of Geeveston. At 573 metres, it's not a very high peak, but it can be seen clearly from the Huon River at Franklin: you can see it in this photo behind the remnants of this morning's fog lifting.

One of our walk leaders works at a local school and had asked a few people who live nearby if they knew how to get up to the summit. We drove along Hermons Road past the 'waste transfer station' (tip) before turning onto forestry roads. About half way up we parked the cars and walked from there. We didn't get all the way to the top, as it was quite overgrown in places, but I think it would be possible to reach it. It was a perfectly sunny day, about 30 degrees so warm for autumn.

I wondered how a mountain or hill in southern Tasmania came to be named after the main island of Tonga. Tasmanian place names expert Wayne Smith who appears regularly on ABC local radio wasn't sure who had named it or why, but it seems there are several places named Tongatabu/Tongataboo/Tongatapu around Tasmania so one of the early surveyors must have been keen on it. I had thought perhaps there was some link to Abel Tasman who did travel through Tonga on one of his voyages around the Pacific. But I'll stop speculating. There is probably someone living around here who can enlighten me!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Cherry slug

These horrid little critters like inhabiting our two young pear trees towards the end of summer each year. The best (chemical free) way of getting rid of them is by picking them all off the leaves. It's not difficult, but not pleasant either. They have this sickly sweet smell... it will take a few goes to get them all, but better that than allow them to continue eating all the leaves. You can see below the damage they have done.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The annual moult

I ordered another dozen fertile Barnevelder chook eggs from a local breeder with the hope of hatching a second batch of chicks before summer is over, but received a message over the weekend saying that her hens had gone into an early moult and stopped laying. Apparently other local breeders are saying the same thing. So no more eggs for at least a month, by which time it is too cold in Tasmania to think about raising chicks. My own two Barnevelder hens stopped laying more than a week ago and the two black Australorp girls (see one of them below) have slowed down to just one egg every few days. It's usually due to weather patterns... but I'm not exactly sure what it is this year that has caused an early start to the annual moult.

In anticipation of collecting the dozen eggs from the breeder, I had also collected a kind donation of nine extra eggs from a friend down the road. Not wanting to waste them, I have set them in the incubator over the weekend and we now start the egg-turning routine again in the hope of boosting our little flock. We are down to only two eggs for eating and it looks like we will have to BUY eggs again soon. Shocking! But I guess the hens deserve a rest while they grow new feathers for winter. Meanwhile, the chicks hatched in January are now five weeks old and at the "ugly teenager" phase - weird bald heads with tiny combs emerging, long gangling legs and feathers sprouting all over. We'll transfer them from the garage to the outdoor chook tractor soon.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Zucchini glamour contest

February normally marks the great zucchini glut as I have written about before... well this year, 'someone' (we know who you are) came up with the idea that everyone should bring a dressed up zucchini to the monthly movie night at the Palais Theatre in Franklin on Sunday. The judging took place during the half time supper break between the reels of film. Below is my favourite entry. It didn't win... an 'Elephant Man' themed zucchini with a paper bag over its head won, followed by the cleverly named Houdini Zucchini tied up in ropes. Last night's movie was an Aussie film called 15 Amore. Despite featuring some familiar faces, I had never heard of it before. It was a pleasant little film about life in wartime in regional Australia, but it must be said that the zucchini beauty contest was almost as entertaining. Oh dear.