Posts from the ‘Food’ category

Charcoal & Cheese

As the seasons turn, we are changing our cheesemaking.  Over winter our outside “cheese room” (rodent proof metal cage with a towel over the top) worked quite well.  But as the weather warms, the hard cheese wants a cooler life and have migrated to the fridge. We’re now finding that our home is the perfect temperature for making soft cheese, including a few types with a funky white fur coat.

We’ve been turning a basic curd or a long acid set Chevre cheese into these fluffy little pillows of joy  (they call these Crottin in French , another name for little turd).  And to up the anty, they are coated in our own charcoal from this years fruit tree prunings… lets see what we did.

The Curd

We make cheese from our goat’s milk and are making this particular cheese like our feta (see here for details).  We are also adding some white cheese culture Penicillium candidum as the milk ripens.  After the curd has set, ie reached the “clean break” stage, we ladle the curd into little moulds.  The remainder of the curd we turn into feta or whatever cheese we are making.  The P. candidum will only thrive in the correct moisture, temperature and Ph, so it wont effect other cheese styles

The curds are turned a few time as they drain.  This takes around 24 hours and 4 flips/turns.  The more they are turned, the less likely they are to stick in the mould.

Each little cheese is covered in 1 teaspoon of salt and air dried for another 24 hours

The cheeses are covered in a thin layer of charcoal (often referred to as ash, but really its charcoal).  The charcoal is sifted over the cheese.  Its purpose, once upon a time was to stop flies, but nowadays it adds a funky stripe in the finished cheese, a pinch of crunch and some smokiness to the flavour

We then cover the cheeses in a glass bowl and leave in a shady part of the house for around 3 days.  Over this time you’ll see the white mould (P.candidum) colonising the cheese.

The Charcoal

Here’s how we prepared some nice, even and tasty “food grade” charcoal.  The first step was collecting some wood.  We used our fruit tree prunings because (a) they are fruit trees (b) they were handy and in a clean pile of relatively same sized year old growth.  The wood was chopped with secateurs’ into a “camp oven” (that’s what they call them around here anyway).  It’s a cast iron pot with a close fitting lid, used for cooking dinner or bread over an open fire

We used some varied sizes, but in the future I will try to stick to branches of a consistent dimension, around 7-10mm diameter works well

Then I put the whole pot in the fire place before going to bed.  As you can see the coals were well burnt down.

Overnight the wood undergoes a process called “slow pyrolysis”.  That is the wood is heated in a “low oxygen” environment and all the water and volatile organic compounds are removed in the process.  The end charcoal is close to pure carbon.  This process is the same as making biochar, and this simple method could make those winter fireside evenings a little bit more productive if I made 10L of biochar an evening

As you can see the charcoal still has the wood characteristics, shape and even growth rings and “carbon buds”

To make the cheese ash we smashed it in the mortar and pestle.

And sifted out the chunky bits and then stored in a dry jar for later use.

The cheese

Here’s one crottin in the photo to the right about 2 weeks old (with our friend Thea’s home made salami).

These little nuggets get eaten pretty quick.  Fun fact:  The standard curds develop a runny center like a brie cheese.  Those made with a Chevre (acid long set curd) stay smooth and creamy.  Enjoy this cheesy magic!

 

 

 

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How To Make Bees Wax Wraps!

We’ve been using beeswax wraps for quite a while now and like them so much we decided to start making our own.  We’ve tried two approaches, the first just 100% beeswax from our beehives and the second with beeswax, pine resin and olive oil.  The wax and resin makes a  better wrap, albeit with a bit more work… Tally ho, here’s what we did.

Beeswax is harvested from our bees.  We melt the harvested wax with water then sieve through a sieve then muslin.  Let set and drain off the water, This leaves fairly clean beeswax. You can also just go buy some.

That yucky wax and cappings and occasionally dead bee turns into clean wax, ready to be grated.

Frida – getting in on the action 🙂

100% Beeswax Wrap

We experimented with simply grating beeswax on some cloth and putting it in the oven.  Simple, a beeswax wrap.

This works, however it’s as sticky as we’d like it, being unable to mould and stick to complex shapes.  That said its good enough to keep a blue cheese in a carefully colour-coded blue wrap.

The Pine Resin (rosen) Wrap

Enter the beeswax and resin wrap.  Mixing beeswax, pine resin and a bit of olive oil creates a superior wrap.  The method is fairly strait forward.

  • 5 parts beeswax
  • 5 parts rosin
  • 1 part olive oil

Pine Resin is  the sap of pine trees that is used as part of its healing process.  You can harvest your own which we tried by visiting various pine trees in the hood and scraping dried globules of wax.  It was pretty slow going for me (not that many pine trees around here) and harvested around 50 grams in an hour.  At some point, I decided to go and buy some from the art supply store for $50 for 500 grams. Enough to last us a loooong time.

The wax, resin and olive oil is is placed in a jar or saucepan in a double boiler (another saucepan of water).  It takes a few hours for the whole mass to incorporate.  The pine resin forms a toffee like texture for a while before dissolving into the wax.

Once the mixture is melted and combined it can be used immediately or stored for later, simply re-melt at a later point.

Fun Fact – beeswax and pine resin makes ….pine salve, apparently good for wounds and abrasions

The fabric.  We searched the material box and also scoured the tip-shop for nice cotton scraps (thanks to our friend Tom who works there).  We washed the cotton and dried each piece of material.

To apply the wax mixture we used a paint brush to paint onto the cotton.  Under each section of cotton we put some greaseproof paper to stop it sticking to the table.

On some materials the wax mixture did not penetrate the material.  We placed each wrap in the oven at 100 degrees C for around 5 minutes.  This let the wax mix fully into the wrap.

Afterwards we trimmed the rough edges of the wraps to clean them up a bit

How cool is this stuff.  Its tacky, its sticky, it moulds to shape and holds in place.  Oh, it smells kinda nice too, a bit like a sauna 😊  Maybe we should make some for christmas presents?

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How To Make Goat’s Feta

We’re lucky enough to have a milking goat on our property – a splendid toggenburg called Gerty and her daughter Jilly Love Face (who we don’t milk). You can read about our urban goat system over here. When you have milking animals, thoughts rapidly move to….what do I do with all this milk.  For us (and most others) the answer is cheese.

I’ve (Anton) only been seriously making cheese for around 6 months and finally feel comfortable about sharing our approach to making feta – watch this space for other cheese recipes in coming months. We use raw goats milk as we believe it’s healthier and definitely tastier than anything the shop can provide. Gerty currently milks around 2 litres per day.  So over a week we drink/make yoghurt on around 5 litres and the remainder we transform into cheeses.  Currently we alternate between making a batch of feta one week and then a batch of a harder storing cheeses the next week.

Here’s how I make feta…

Clean the kitchen and get materials together

We try and clean the kitchen before starting.  This gives you access to surfaces to put stuff on, as well as reducing the chance of contamination.  The key utensils I use are a saucepan, large spoon, thermometers, measuring spoons, muslin/mesh, kettle.  I also use milk, rennet, culture, and acid sanitiser.

Clean the pot

We clean all the materials that will be touching the milk and cheese.  We use both boiling water and/or acid sanitiser.  The acid sanitiser is pretty handy because you don’t need to re-boil the kettle all the time.  It effectively kills the bugs from 2 minutes of contact.  I generally mix up around 1 litre of sanitiser (uses around 1 ml of the acid solution) and it is enough for the days cheesemaking action.  I get mine from the local homebrew store.

Measure the milk

Its good to know how many litres of milk you are using, as this effects how much culture to add as well as how much coagulant you use.  This batch uses 11 x 750ml bottles of milk – around 8 litres.  From this 8 Litres of milk I get around 1.4 kg of Feta.  If I was making harder, pressed cheese the yield would be lower, between 800g-1kg of cheese from this much milk.

Add the culture

Cultures are used to “ripen the milk”.  Effectively it acidifies the milk and makes it ready for the effect of the coagulants. I have experimented using natural aging and pre-packaged cultures.  As a beginner cheesemakers we have had more success with the prepacked cultures but look forward to learning more about using natural cultures.  That said, we use raw milk and there is undoubtedly a lot of extra microbial action occurring, which helps on improving flavour and aging.

In this case we are adding two “dashes” of “Flora Danica” culture.  We stir it in the milk with a clean spoon.

Yes we have funny little spoons with words like “dash” and “pinch” written on them.  Handy when you are using measurements like 1/8 of a teaspoon.

Warm the milk

The milk is heated up to around 32 degrees C.  To do this, I put the saucepan in the sink and add very hot tap water to the sink (around 60 degrees C).  Over the next twenty minutes this tends to bring the milk up to around 32 degrees and reduce the temperature of the sink water as well.

Use any pot you have, it doesn’t have to be a particular type of pot. 

I keep the milk in the sink at 32 degrees for 30-60 minutes.  I add or remove hot water to the sink to keep the temperature moderated.  It helps to have two good thermometers.  I have one in the milk and one in the sink.  I can monitor the temperature difference and add the right amount of hot water.

Add the coagulant

I use calf rennet, mainly because we were given a jar of rennet to use (waste not want not).  Maybe in the future we will try some vegetarian DIY coagulants such as thistle or fig.  I carefully measure the rennet using a little 1 ml syringe and some cooled boiled water (to remove chlorine).  For the 8l of milk we use 1 ml of rennet.

The rennet/water mix is added to the milk.  I gently add the rennet and stir with a “gentle up and down motion”.  This is so the milk and rennet gets mixed, but does not maintain momentum.  This will stop the curd tearing as it forms.

Clean break

After around thirty minutes the milk starts to coagulate.  This is the classic “curds and whey”.  At a point where the curd cleaves in a sharp line is called “clean break”.  How long it takes to achieve the clean break will depend on how acidic the milk has turned and how much and fresh the rennet is.

Cut the Curd

The curd is cut into as even sized cubes as possible (around 1.5cm cubes).  This is done by cutting into strips, then columns.  Finally the knife is turned diagonally to cut sideways.  The curds are very delicate at this stage so take it slowly and gently.

Curd “strips

Curd “columns”

Curd “diagonals”

 

Rest

The curds are left to rest for around 10 minutes.  As this happens whey drains away from the curd and the curd shrinks a little.

Stir

The curds are gently stirred for around 15 minutes and rested for another 5 minutes.  Any curds that are not “cube” shape can be broken with the edge of the spoon.  I am trying to make the curds a fairly even size.  As I stir the curd it will shrink to around half of its original size.  Many hard cheeses use a similar process up to this point, however the curd is slowly heated and stirred for some time (maybe another blog)

Strain

Pour the curds and whey through a muslin mesh or a cheese cloth.  I use “grain bags” that are also used for homebrewing.  They have a tight effective weave, perfect for this job.

The curds are hung to strain for 6-10 hours.  If I am making the cheese at night I leave it overnight, and during the day I drain until just before bed.

Brine

The cheese is now cut into strips around 1 inch thick and placed in a saturated brine.

The Curd strips and then placed in a saturated brine.  A saturated brine has all the salt it can absorb in suspension.  I salt the cheese for around 4-6 hours, any exposed pieces are sprinkled with course salt.

Storing

The cheese is then transferred to a container with around 40% brine and 60% whey.  The container is stored in the fridge and pieces are removed as desired for eating – yum!  The cheese can be stored in the fridge in brine for months, although each batch lasts us around 2 weeks

Texture

The texture of the end feta is influenced by many of the steps taken along the way.  For a smoother “Danish style” feta, I stir the curd less, drain for shorter periods and salt with a less salty brine.

Want to know more?

  • We have been reading Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking by Gianclis Caldwell, Chelsea Green Publishing  (Thanks to our mate Sam Cramer for the lend).
  • We’re looking forward to reading “The Art of Natural Cheesemaking  by David Asher!
  • We have purchased materials and cultures from Teros.eco in Hobart and cheesemaking.com.au
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How To Make Ravioli

Home made ravioli is wonderfully simple. Ignore anyone who tells you that you need fancy equipment or ingredients – seriously. They are not helping you live your best life.

This is how we make ours. 

First we make a pasta dough – read how we do this other really simple process here. 

Pasta dough is simply eggs and flour – these days we use 100% buckwheat flour. 

While the dough’s resting in the fridge we make the filling. This can be pretty much anything you like. For this batch we made the filling from roast pumpkin, goats fetta and wild greens – all from the garden.

Importantly, we whizz the ingredients all up together as this helps them bind and the whole package is less likely to fall apart.

Some people do a meat based filler, others vegan – anything will work as long as it has good moisture content and isn’t too bulky (hence whizzing it up).

Put the mixture to one side while you get the pasta dough back out of the fridge (where it’s been resting for at least 20 mins).

Roll the dough out until its around 2mm thick (or thinner if your dough can handle it). You can roll it through a pasta machine if you have one, or just roll it by hand with a rolling pin (a wine bottle also works brilliantly).

Lay the sheets of pasta out on the table and cut them into rough sections with a butter knife. They don’t have to be exact at all – in fact the roughness of the shapes is part of their beauty.

Next up, put a big teaspoon’s worth of filling onto each section as shown below.

Have a cup of water nearby so you can dip your fingers in and gently moisten the edge of the pasta around the filling – not too much otherwise it’ll desolve into a bad mess.

Then you can fold each pasta section in half and press down the edges with a fork so it binds together – and looks pretty.

Now you’re ready to cook them. Bring a big pot of water to the boil and plop them all in. They’ll automatically sink when you first put them in, once they float (after a few minutes or so), they’re ready, Strain the hot water off them and eat immediately with your favourite tomato or herb sauce.

And that’s it!

Yes, it does take a bit longer than buying instand pasta or ravioli, but the taste will ensure you never go back. Life is too short for crap food.

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How To Store Potatoes When You Have No Space

We don’t have have a shed (yet), or a basement, cellar or even a room that’s cool enough in our house to store bulk potatoes. In the past we’ve lined our loungeroom floor with boxes of potatoes with blankets on top, however inevitabley they get too hot and end up sprouting too quicky and/or go soft before they should.

Potatoes like to be stored in a cool, dark place whereas we only have warm, light spaces available in our house. This year we grew around 60kgs of potatoes and would like them to last longer than previous years. So after asking our very kind social media community for ideas, we’ve settled on the no-frills recycled filing cabinet!

Our requirements were that it had to be rodent proof, weather proof and compact – the humble filing cabinet does all these things. After a trip to our local tip shop, we collected two filing cabinets and set them up near our back door which has juuuust enough space and eave coverage to make it ok for them to last there for a season or two.

Before storing the potatoes, I made sure they had at least a few days in the open air drying – you really don’t want to be putting in damp spunds into a small space – bad things will happen. I just had  them in stacks of old milk crates with a blanket over them for a few days.

Back to the filing cabinet… Before loading them up with potaotes, I added some cardboard sides to prevent the spuds from falling out the sides and added a layer of paper on the bottom.

I also sorted through all the potatoes and removed all the ones with “wounds” from my garden fork – we’ll just eat these ones first.

I then started layering in the spuds….

After each layer, I added a sheet of paper to help absorb any moisture – just in case.

Finally, I added one apple per drawer on the top layer. Thanks to members of our social media community, I now know that apples emit ethylene gas which apparently prevents spuds from sprouting. Slightly counter-intuitive as ethylene gas is known to aid ripening some fruits. But after some research across the internet, I’m convinced to give it a go.

The last stage was to place find them a home near our boots, raincoats, bike helmets and pumpkins. This is the coolest microclimate we have for them. It faces south, gets no direct sun at all and is mostly weather proof (sometimes we get sideways rain).

All up, we’re feeling pretty good about the whole thing and will use this system for the next season or two while we build our multifunctional shed with great food storage, including a large cool cupboard.

Special thanks to our friendly social media community for helping us out when I was scratching my head about what to do!

 

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How to preserve tomatoes using the fowler vacola system

There are *many* variations on how to preserve tomatoes, this is how we do it using the fowler vacola system. If you have a better way, we’re very happy to hear about it :-).

We don’t have enough space to grow all the tomatoes we would like to preserve in our garden as we prioritise growing a diverse range of crops, meaning the tomatoes we do grow are for eating fresh only. So when Autumn comes around we buy a big stash of tomoatoes from a local grower (it’s different every year). This year, I got a little carried away and bought 60kgs worth – cause being able to crack open a jar of tomatoes in the middle of winter or spring is one of the better things in life. I have my priorities right.

First step in the whole process is get a mate (or mates) over and start chopping – it’s a great way to catch up with dear friends.

The second step involved us realising/remembering we could just use the fancy food processer my sister recently passed on to me. While a bit noisy, this was infinitely quicker – we loved it.

Because our tomatoes were a bit on the funky side, we chose to put them in a large pot and bring them to the boil to get rid of any unwanted bacteria.

If you’re using fresh tomatoes you don’t have to cook them before putting them into the jar. You can chop or whiz them up and place them directly into the jar you’re storing them in. You can see how our friends over at Milkwood do it here.  

UPDATE: (April 2nd, 2018). A community service announcement from our expereince of whizzing them up in our food processer and NOT cooking them before we put them into our jars. We’re not 100% sure why, but around a week or so after they were completed the jars that hadn’t been pre-cooked popped their lids and started going mouldy. The tomatoes we whizzed up and pre-cooked before putting them in the jars are currently fine – however they’ve seperated into liquids and solids within the jar so look strange. I opened one to see if it was going funky and it was fine, but we’re keeping an eye on them. Our conclusion is that whizzing them up in our particular food processer seems to have given them a strange consistency. Maybe if we used purley sauce tomatoes this wouldn’t happen? We’re not sure – but felt we had to tell you. For now, we’re back to chopping, pre-cooking (just bringing them to the boil) and THEN putting them into tjars and water canning them as outlined below as we knoe this works fantastically…

After we had bought it to the boil, we took it off the heat, let it cool down (so it was easy to handle) and filled the jars. The fowler vacola lid involves putting a thick rubber preserving ring on the glass rim, then the metal lid and finally the two clips to keep it all together.

Once you’ve filled your jars, put them in a large pot. We hapen to have a fowler vacola pot (from the op shop), it has an inbuilt false floor so the glass jars aren’t directly touching the bottom of the pot. If you don’t have one, you can use any large pot – in the past I’ve put a whole bunch of cutlery on the bottom of the pot to act as a false floor and sat the jars on top of them – this works fine.

Once the jars are all tucked in, fill the pot up with water to around 3/4 of the jar’s height. Then bring it to the boil on the stove. Once boiling, turn the heat down to a healthy simmer for around 40 mintues.

After this you’re finished! Take them out of the pot and keep the clamps on for another 12 hours or so to make sure the heat seal has worked.

Remove the clips and add them to your shelves/pantry/kitchen cupboards. Only once our pantry shelves are full do we feel like we can enter winter with our heads held high.

And I’ll just leave you with a photo of our daughter with one of our home grown toms (unknown variety), because – well, love.

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Farming Insects For Food

I recently interviewed Louise Morris from *almost launched* Rebel Food Tasmania who farm (and will soon sell) a range of insects as delicious and nutritious food. Read on to find out what she and Rebel Food are up to…

Who is Rebel Food and what are you up to?

Rebel Food Tasmania is a new enterprise farming insects as human food. We’re doing things our way and a bit out of the ordinary as we’re working to a local food economy vision. We grow small herds in small spaces that we hope will have a big impact on food, reducing food waste, provide a new business in regional Tasmania, and bringing a new premium product to the Tasmanian food scene.

Farming and eating insects isn’t a new thing. Right now insect products are being sold in supermarkets in Europe, the USA and are starting to take hold in Australia. And of course, let’s not forget that 80% of the global population eats insects as a normal part of their diet. While most of our processed food stuffs like store bought bread, have insects just from the realities of factory and kitchen processes plus food regulations allow some trace insect in commercial foods.

We are in the minority overlooking this source of nourishment.

This past year we’ve been taking a fair bit of time to test our theories, learning about the best feed stocks and testing our insect end products with people who have expertise in nutrition, taste and what works out in the world. It’s a big adventure, and so far we have been overwhelmed by the interest of other people and businesses who are interested in putting bugs on the menu.

Mealworms with native pepperberry and coffee

When it comes to protein production, how is farming insects better for our landscapes than farming larger livestock? 

There is a lot of media going around about insects being the super sustainable protein source of the future. The ability to farm these little critters in small spaces with minimal water, and on food waste is an amazing opportunity.

That said we are also very mindful that what is used to power the temperature control systems is a major component of the energy and financial sustainability equation. It also needs to be named upfront that vertical farming systems can become intensive farming systems if done just for money, which does not do any favours to the animals being raised or those of us eating the food

includes using fairly run of the mill feed sources, such as commercial chicken feed and other highly processed commercial cereal mixes to get them fat and fried as quickly as possible. This flies in the face of producing a nourishing or sustainable insect based food, so we’re doing it our way – with fresh food, a bit of extra time and attention to learnings.

Part of the reason for doing a long period of research and development is to make sure we can actually grow and breed insects from farm and food waste. Housed in temperature controlled systems that are viable and run on renewable energy, and that we are sure of both the quality of the insects on the plate, and that insect farming in Tasmania is a long term viable addition to the Local Food Economy.

Crickets in a tub

What insects are you farming and which one’s your favourite to eat at the moment?

The primary focus is on the domestic cricket (Acheta domesticus), for a flour product that can be included into foodstuffs in the longer term, and also to supply some early adopter restaurants in here Tasmania and Sydney for bespoke bugs on their menu.

To add a bit of interest and variety, mealworms (Tenebrio molitor) and wood roaches (Parcoblatta pensylvanica) are also being grown because, well – why not?! Not to mention they all taste pretty great.

As part of the research and development period, we are fact checking whether it’s true that the insects take on some of the flavour profiles of what they have been eating. Short answer, yes they do.

During pumpkin season and the apple season there was a detectable sweeter edge. Wine marc was an absolute winner for plumper, sweeter crickets (maybe a bit drunk too, who knows) while coffee grounds with mustard leaf is still a reliable foundation feed for giving a spicy edge. Not to mention carrots and root vegetables, they love the carrots as a moisture and food source.

In terms of cooking them up: I’m really enjoying whole crickets as part of dishes, and doing a lot of cricket flour inclusions into baked goods. I’m loving the cooking experiments with mealworms as they have a slight cheesy end taste to them which rounds off dishes beautifully. The surprise of the cooking experiments has been using woodies, they are umami powerhouses. A little bit goes a very long way.

Do they really taste good or do you have to drown then in soy sauce before eating them?

One of my bugbears (excuse the pun), is seeing insects served up that have just had the S#*t fried out of them. This means you lose all the taste profiles, not to mention much of the nutritional benefits of eating insects. I’ve had a few examples of insects presented as a dish where it was just texture and oil. Cook anything like that and it all tastes the same, fried.

An easy introductory way to cook up your first batch of crickets is a bit of sesame oil, in a pan. Throw them in there for a quick fry, add some sesame seeds, and after a minute or so add them to a good salad or Asian veggie type dish, squirt with a bit of lemon and you’re away. They’re also good with avocado, as the crispy savoury element bounces off that creamy avocado base.

What type of environment are they grown in?

Good time to ask as we’re in scale up and future planning, so this is in flux. One system is a shed that is temperature controlled, the other of our test systems is a strawbale room that is not heated, but uses the polished concrete/window/insulation warmth as the temperature control. This is going remarkably well.

Living quarters for crickets consist of large tubs filled with places for them to hide (mostly egg cartons and large brassica leaves at this stage of the season), and as they get older the boys make lots of noise as they chirp and flirt…crickets are mad flirts!

Tasmanian native Pepperberry infused crickets

What’s the role of the Insect Protein Association? 

The IPAA is the industry representative body for those involved in the insect protein business either as food or animal feed producers. We’re working to develop strong industry standards and frameworks to build a long-term viable insect industry for human food and animal feed. Industry wide standards in labelling, practice and transparency that people can trust, produces quality products and has a voice in legislative and regulatory areas to advocate for the little herds that can make a big impact on how agriculture is done.

When can people start buying your product?

We’re looking to be on menus at select Tasmanian and Sydney restaurants early 2018 with bespoke insects grown for their needs. We will be doing targeted events where the importance of flavour and how the insects are grown is part of the story, while scaling up our systems to be making clean, green Tasmanian grown cricket flour as a key ingredient people can incorporate into their everyday dishes.

Will you ship nationally and internationally through your website?

We are pretty focused on making sure we do things right, and that means not getting too big too fast. We will have national distribution options via our webpage and as our production systems grow, we will grow with that. A key for us at this point is not trying to take over the world, but to have a viable farming system that creates a meaningful and viable addition to our food system, is an efficient use of food waste to make more food, and above all produces a delicious high quality product.

Baked tapioca & cricket flour crackers with sesame seeds

Where to from here?

One of the big jobs for the next 6 months is to secure funds to scale up to larger facilities and fine tune our climate control systems, and of course the renewable energy mix supplying them. As we grow, and the bugs grow, we will keep trialling new options of feeding them with veggie farm and food waste to see what is the best food source available for each season. This is one of the most fun aspects of the whole entoprise (pardon the pun), finding new feed sources and new options for increasing efficiency and quality of the insects.

Oh, and did I mention insect frass (their poo)is a great addition to compost?! I am using the frass as part of the compost and veggie patch at home to see how it works on all the seasonal crops we grow and our fruit trees. So far it’s been a winner, with the frass compost tea being a pungent and powerful brew. The insects also get the fruits of their work back from our vegetable patch system. They have many a leafy green, broad bean, apple, squash, and whatever else is in season incorporated into their feed.

Early Adopters

We have some early adopters on the mainland and here in Tasmania including Meru Miso who are trialling fermenting our insects, Quartermasters Arms who have used all three of our insects species in pop up events and some of our state’s best restaurants ready to incorporate insects into their menu – as soon as we are public and launched. It’s all a bit exciting, and a bit overwhelming!

Keep an eye out for Rebel Food and their launch in late 2017. You can follow them on Instagram, and see a bit of the behind the scenes functions of insect farming, some of their foody experiments in using the insects in food (not deep fried) and general entomophagy goings on.

  • You can also listen to Louise on ABC Radio talking farming and eating insects here. 
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Hey Pesto! Winter Greens Pesto Yum

While the winter crops come to an end and the spring crops are busy growing, one of the biggest crops coming out of the garden are around a hundred different types of green things. Coriander, rainbow chard, rocket, silverbeet, kale and the leaves from brocolli, cauliflowers (yes, you can eat them too). Plus a plethora of wild greens like dandelion, fat hen, chickweed, nettle, to name a few – they’re all delicious and nutritious.

There are a couple of ways I like to make sure I eat as many as possible – kale chips are a big winner and so is pesto. Contrary to what some people might think, you don’t need basil and pine nuts to make pesto – in our cool temperate climate, things things don’t often come in abundance. We make vegan pesto out of any greens that happen to be thriving in our garden – here’s how.

IMG_6330Rainbow chard, curly kale and coriander – a few of the greens in our pesto

Pick a range of greens from your veggie beds (or some of the edible weeds growing on the edges) chop them up nice and fine and pop them in a large bowl.

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When you make pesto – garlic is your best friend, we’re firm believers that more is better. So get as much garlic as you can, chop it up roughly and add it to the same bowl as the greens. Our garlic has the vague name of Tasmanian purple garlic – we’ve got a whole bunch left over from two seasons ago and it’s only now just sprouting. Perfect for pesto.

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The only other ingredients we use are olive oil, sea salt and sunflower seeds. We also use almonds or pepitas – whatever is more available at the time.

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Add all the ingredients into the bowl and find a way to pulverise it – we use a bar mixer thingo which works ok. Other people use a food processor or smash it up in a mortar and pestle.

You may need to add more olive oil as you go to get the right consistency – don’t bother skimping on the oil and no, water is not a good replacement for oil – I’ve tried that and it just isn’t pesto.

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I like my pesto a bit chunky and “stiff” so it holds its own shape on a spoon (see below). If you want yours more runny, add more olive oil. You’ll notice we don’t add any cheese, we’ve found that its the garlic that really gives the ‘pesto’ taste and that cheese is just a bit of ‘bling’ that you don’t need – in our humble opinion.

IMG_6344That’s it, pop it in a jar and store it in the fridge or eat it fresh. I like to eat it with carrots, on home made pasta or olive oil crackers. Right now I’m just eating it with a spoon for a late breaky, it’s darn tasty.

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How To Dry Cure Olives In 3 Weeks

Once upon a time I lived in Adelaide where olive trees grow like weeds. Every winter we’d go foraging and preserve a good stash for eating. One year the very awesome Annemarie Brookman from the Food Forest taught me how to dry cure olives and I’ve never looked back. It’s infinitely easier and just as tasty as pickling, in short it’s life changing – here’s how we do it.

You’ll need

  • Salt: All recipes we’ve ever seen specify using non-iodized salt, we use coarse rock salt – but I don’t think it actually matters.
  • Olives: Only use black, fully ripe olives for this method. For 10kg of olives, you’ll need approximately 5kg of salt.
  • A bucket: To put the olives and salt in. We use 10 or 20 litre “food grade” buckets.

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Step 1

Pick your olives! Choose only the blackest and leave the green ones on the tree to ripen or use them for pickling. Give them a good wash in fresh water to get any dirt/bird poo off them.

Step 2

Get comfy as this step takes a while. You need to break the flesh of each and every olive so it can absorb the salt. If you don’t do this step then it will not work and you’ll cry. Most people recommend using a knife to put a slice in each olive, however we use a fork and prick each olive a few times. This is soooo much quicker than using a knife, plus you can watch a movie at the same time without fear of stabbing yourself.

FYI – your fingers will turn a black/purple colour from the olive juices which will take a few days to fade.

IMG_6266A pricked olive!

Step 3

Once all your olives are nicely punctured, pack them in a jar or bucket with salt. We add the olives gradually, mixing in the salt as we go to ensure it’s spread evenly. We then put a thicker layer on top knowing that it will sink down with gravity.

Once you’ve done this, either pop a lid on top or some cheesecloth to keep the bugs out and leave it to start doing its thing

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Step 4

Check on your olives every few days, they should be literally swimming in their own liquid within one week as seen below. This is a good sign. Strain the liquid off and keep going for another two’ish weeks.

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IMG_6278The excess liquid we strained off our olives after one week in salt. 

Even after only one week you’ll see the olives have shrivelled up considerably, if you want to, you can stat taste testing them now – just wash one in fresh water and taste away to see how they’re evolving.

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Step 5

Once the liquid has been strained off, make sure the original salt is mixed in evenly and let it continue to do its thing. Some people add in fresh salt at this stage if some of the salt was lost in the straining process.

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Step 6

After three -four weeks your olives should be ready. To test, wash some in fresh water and taste them. Once you’re happy with the taste, rinse the whole lot in fresh water. From here you can either let them dry on some cloth towels and store in a jar or, put them in jars of olive oil with rosemary and garlic – the choice is yours. They’ll taste awesome either way.

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What finished dry cured olives look like. Image from here

That’s it folks, you’ll never be scared of preserving olives again!

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Will Borowski + Gourmet Mushroom Cultivation

Will Borowski from Forest Fungi is one of Australia’s leading pioneers and specialists in growing gourmet mushrooms and teaching others to do the same. We caught up with him to find out how he got started, what makes him tick and admire some of his fungi…

r0_89_4000_2338_w1200_h678_fmaxWill with River Cottage Australia host, Paul West eating something mushroomy. Image from here. 

What got you started growing mushrooms?

Back in my Uni days, I started growing fruit and veggies, and like most gardeners, I discovered that fresh, home grown food is so much tastier than anything from the shops. Gardening also allows a glimpse into the incredible nature of life, the inter-connectedness of things, the seasonal cycles.

Naturally, I was fascinated with what appeared in my garden, and the ephemeral mushrooms always intrigued me. I tried growing some button mushrooms from a kit, with limited success. Then one day I discovered that my surname (Borowski) means “forest mushroom”!

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For years I had a recurring dream of picking wild mushrooms in a forest, with women in scarves, but I had no idea why, as I hadn’t been foraging.

I decided to try and grow as many edible mushrooms as I could, but no one in Australia offered supplies or courses. So I taught myself, collected various edible fungi from Asian markets, and within a short time I was growing loads of delicious gourmet mushrooms, at home, with some very basic equipment.

What’s one of your favourite things about growing mushrooms?

Hard to choose one, but eating them is very satisfying.

What types of mushrooms do you grow?

I grow lots of wood loving mushrooms – over 20 species, but there are a few I focus on including:

  • Pholiota nameko – Nameko for the best miso ever,
  • Agrocybe aegerita – Pioppino , my favourite flavoured mushroom,
  • Lentinula edodes – Shiitake, which is very different fresh compared to dried, and
  • Pleurotus eryngii – King oysters, which have the texture of abalone or calamari.

Some species are very easy to grow, such as grey, white, pink, gold and blue oysters of the Pleurotus genus, and although they’re not my favourites, I grow them because other people love them. Some species I’m trying to grow are a bit harder, like mycorrhizal fungi such as birch boletes, truffles and morels.

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Why do you think other people should grow their own mushrooms?

Because nothing beats fresh, home grown food. You can use “waste” products, such as coffee grounds, spent brewery waste, sawdust etc., to grow delicious mushrooms. You can use the spent substrate in your garden, it makes great compost, and you can feed it to livestock – chooks love it!

Do people need a special lab to grow mushrooms in their own home?

No, a clean kitchen will suffice for most aspects. If you want to do tissue culture, your lab can simply be a box! If you want to grow your own spawn, then a pressure cooker is the way to go. If you just buy dowels or spawn, then you can do all your inoculating outside.

10330240_1213173658710812_6085014387933248450_nA collection of homegrown mushroom greatness including pink oyster mushrooms, king oyster mushrooms, nameko, pioppino and shiitake. Image by Will Borowski.

Can people live in tiny units/houses and still grow mushrooms?

Yes, that’s why mushroom growing is now so popular, because you can grow indoors in small spaces, in places without direct sunlight (although they do like some sunshine). Growing and nurturing something, be it plants, animals or fungi, is a good way to connect to something outside of ourselves.

There are some amazing terrariums featuring fungi, so they can be a feature. Long lasting mushrooms, Ganoderma  species such as Reishi (Japanese) or Ling-zhi (Chinese), which can live for decades, are revered for the tea you can brew from them, as well as being decorative works of art.

What should people expect from a one day workshop with you?

I try to pack as much info into a one day workshop as I can. I want people to leave knowing just how easy it can be to grow mushrooms.

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I don’t keep any secrets, and I show people how to grow through all the aspects of mushroom growing – from cloning a mushroom, making a lab, making spawn and then using that spawn to grow mushrooms on eucalyptus logs and pasteurised straw.

Cloning mushrooms and working with petri dishes isn’t for everyone, but it is easy, and once you know how to, you can save money and make your own spawn. Some people prefer the easy way, which is to just buy dowels or spawn. We’ll teach you how to use both, we want more people to grow mushrooms. They can help reduce waste going to landfill, can be grown in recycled containers, are packed with protein and nutrients, can be grown by almost anyone almost anywhere.

I’ll do my best to answer all questions, and demystify the world of mushrooms. You’ll leave with living fungi, some which I’ve had for over a decade.

You can join Will on our How To Grow Mushroom workshop this August 20th in Hobart – it’s going to be awesome!

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