Venison Jerky

It’s autumn here in Hobart, though you could be forgiven for thinking it’s still summer at the moment! The sun is shining and the tomato harvest seems to be stretching on and on this year. The deer season opened in Tasmania a few weeks ago and, while I object to shooting a living creature just because you can, I have no problem with hunting if the animal is killed humanely and all the carcass is used.

I was gifted a shoulder of venison last week by family members who hunt. One deer provides a lot of meat shared throughout the clan, including mince and home-made sausages as well as the usual roasts and stewing pieces. I took my my shoulder home and wondered how I was going to use it.

As I walked in the kitchen, I spotted the dehydrator (it’s hard to miss!) still out on the bench after drying all the prunes this year, and made up my mind to try some jerky. I haven’t made jerky in a dehydrator before (only on a Weber barbecue) so this was quite an experiment for me!

Here’s the recipe:

Venison Jerky

1.2 kg (2 ½ lb) venison, sliced into thin strips

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup Worcestershire Sauce and Mushroom Soy mixed together

1 ½ teaspoons salt

4 cloves garlic, minced finely

1 teaspoon dried chili flakes (optional)

2 tablespoons brown sugar

Boning out the shoulder took some time, but with a good knife, some fine music and podcasts to listen to, I was pretty happy. The trick is to cut with the grain of the meat and remove as much of the sinew as possible along the way, but the end result is worth it. Also, instead of wasting all those bits of sinew, I got a stockpot out with a head of garlic, a roughly chopped onion, a few bay leaves, my homemade Tuscan seasoning and some dried celery leaves. Once I finished boning out the shoulder, I added the bones, covered it all with cold water and wine and let it simmer for hours. The next day I skimmed off the fat and let it simmer again for a few more hours. Once it had cooled, I strained the remaining liquid and it was absolutely wonderful. I’ve potted it up and frozen it for rainy day soups, casserole and risotto bases.

In the meantime, back to the jerky. I peeled the garlic and started chopping it. Once it was reasonably small, I sprinkled the salt over it and, using the flat of the blade, really started the mash the garlic. I got out my biggest plastic lunchbox with a tight sealing lid and put the salty garlic mash in the bottom with the sugar and chili flakes. Then I added the wet ingredients and carefully mixed the whole thing. Adding the venison strips was a messy business, you really need to use your hands to massage the mix into the meat. Finally, I covered the container and put it in the fridge overnight. I did squish it around some more before I went to bed, but it isn’t really necessary.

The next day, I put thin strips of marinated venison on the dehydrator trays and lovingly placed them in the machine. The smell was gorgeous and I think this marinade would make a wonderful stir fry or slow casserole too. Using vinegar and the high salt content of both the soy and Worcestershire sauce did a great job and really drew out a lot of the moisture content from the meat as well as flavouring the strips.

To start, I put the temperature up high on the dehydrator (74 C/165 F) for the first half hour. This is recommended because I don’t use a nitrite “cure” for the jerky and it is necessary to kill off potentially nasty bacteria before drying proper. Botulism is dangerous and I take food safety seriously. Then I brought the temperature back to 63 C/145 F and processed it for just over 6 hours. This will vary with different dehydrators.

The results were excellent – chewy, delicious, dark and spicy! I’ve bagged it into little packs and for extra safety, will keep it in the freezer and pull out some as needed.  I’m going to try this with other meats (especially cheaper cuts of beef and rabbit) but the cider vinegar and salty soy combo is certainly worth repeating.

I hope you’re all well and happy wherever you are on this beautiful planet ❤

Let the Madness Begin! – Day 19 NaBloPoMo

I had a really good day today.

Because I’m back on schedule for my uni assignments, I decided to make the most of the lovely spring weather and spent most of the day in the yard.

There were rabbit hutches to muck out, chickens to talk to and (at long last!) tomatoes to start planting, and later, I did quite a lot of work in the greenhouse.

Around this time every year, life gets a bit crazy for me with lots of summer vegetables that I start from seed. These either need to be either planted out in garden beds (like tomatoes, beans and salad greens) or potted up for growing in the greenhouse (primarily basil and chillies).

This year is no exception, and this afternoon I potted up one of my favourite summer herbs, Shiso (Perilla frutescens), also known as Beef Steak Plant.

img_20161119_170300

I use it shredded in salads and when the leaves are full size, as a wrap for sashimi and even for pickling and drying. I love it’s spicy, fresh flavour. I have a really good and simple pickling recipe here if you’re interested.

To have enough for fresh and preserving, I usually grow about two dozen plants in small pots and keep them in the greenhouse. I use a weak home made liquid feed once every couple of weeks

There was also a punnet of Bergamot (Monarda didyma) that I’m planning to use to attract bees, and add flowers to salads and for tea that yielded a dozen plants, more tomatoes and a punnet of five very healthy Jam Melons (Citrullus lanatus).

img_20161117_162344

These very old fashioned fruit are a real blast from my childhood, when my mother would use a melon to make autumn fruits go much further for desserts such as pie fillings, tarts and of course, Melon and Lemon Jam. The melon is fiddly to seed but once cooked, the translucent flesh takes up other flavours beautifully. I was given the seed by a lovely woman in northern Tasmania and I’m really pleased these grew. I intend to grow the strongest two but don’t have large enough garden beds left to put them in! So, I’m planning to put them in big tubs and let them spill out across what used to be the corner of shame – now well tended pine bark around the plum tree.

It’s a little bit of forward planning (and maybe wishful thinking) but I’m hoping to have at least a couple of melons to use for making the last of the berries stretch that little bit further at the end of the season ❤

Tomorrow I’m potting up the first of the basil – the official start of “basilapocolypse” – and more tomatoes. Next week, some of the chillies will be ready to go. Then things will get really crazy!

Rainy Day Self Care – Day 13 NaBloPoMo

I’ve been really struggling today, feeling physically unwell but also quite inexplicably sad since I woke this morning.

Perhaps it’s the weather. It’s been very wet and bleak almost all day, so I didn’t have much chance to be in the yard. I’ve become very aware of how sensitive I am to such things. So I decided to remain as positive as possible, do things that made me feel better and generally engage in some self-care.

I got out my uber-fabulous rain jacket, found a beanie and went to splash around, feeding the hungry hordes and finding little things to photograph – something that always makes me feel good.

First stop after feeding was to check the greenhouse. Usually by November I need to water fairly thoroughly in there but today it was so damp it wasn’t necessary. I did find breakfast though 😀

img_20161113_095718

I only picked the one on the right and while it was lovely, we really haven’t had enough sunny days to encourage fructose production. I’m concerned the raspberries will be the same too but it’ll be at least a couple of weeks before they start producing significantly. And surely the sunshine will be back by then!

Of course, the best way to cheer me up is to see new things happening and I was very pleased to discover several flowers on the Cayenne chillies this morning. I really love these long, thin skinned chillies. They are great fresh but dry easily and they have a light and bright flavour, that lifts all manner of dishes.

img_20161113_095923

Meanwhile, I decided to make a really hearty slow-roasted organic chicken for tonight’s dinner so I headed for the French Tarragon patch, which is booming at the moment.

This is my take on Tarragon Roast Chicken.

I had some chestnuts left in the freezer that I dry roasted and shelled back in autumn. They were chopped up finely with a couple of the small garlic heads and the Tarragon and thrown in a bowl. I beat in an egg and a little olive oil, and mixed in about half a cup of fine sourdough breadcrumbs to help bind it all together.

In the slow cooker I made a trivet of a halved onion, some small carrots, a few celery sticks from the garden that were too big for using in salads, a few more little garlic heads and the rest of the Tarragon. I put the stuffed chicken carefully on top of the vegetable trivet, seasoned it and poured over about a cup of white wine. Then I put it on low and forgot about it for a few hours.

After some quiet time reading, watching trashy Sunday afternoon television and a long luxurious shower, we prepared potatoes, parsnips and carrots for roasting. Now, this is totally decadent but it was a household decision to add some home made garlic butter to the roasting pan – because fresh garlic!

After the veggies were starting to brown, the chicken was carefully lifted and finished off in the oven with all those lovely vegetables. I decanted off about 3 cups of rich liquid from the slow cooker as a sauce base and made a cornflour roux. A tablespoon of homemade mushroom ketchup and a dash of cream finished off the sauce.

img_20161113_191814

This was utterly fabulous. The Tarragon and garlic shone through without overwhelming, the chicken was succulent but cooked through, vegetables crisp on the outside and fluffy inside, and the stuffing was nutty and rich but not stodgy.

I’m now going into a food coma – but feeling much better than I was earlier in the day 😀

And to finish, here’s Bernard Black Bunny, telling me to “go away woman, can’t you see I’m eating?”

img_20161113_101116

Take care friends, and don’t be shy about looking after yourselves ❤

Making Room – Day 10 NaBloPoMo

This will be a short post as I’ve got to get ready for an early set tonight as I mentioned here a couple of days ago and I’m still not absolutely certain what songs I’m going to play. Something short and vitriolic feels kinda right at the moment.

While the world seems to be coming to terms with the US election, I gardened hard this morning. I picked heaps of snow peas, and there’s loads of new flowers and peas coming on. It’s been a wonderful crop and hopefully with last another month or two.

I also ripped out a couple of giant Italian Parsley plants that are going to seed and stripped them for use in the kitchen over the next few days. Then I got stuck into the broad beans in the next bed and picked the largest pods I could find and shelled them into a bowl while the chickens looked on. Again, there’s still heaps of flowers and new beans forming, so this is going to be a good crop. All the parsley heads and bean husks got chopped up and fed straight to the chickens, who are giving us loads of eggs this year.

img_20161110_110020

I’m the only one in the house that likes broad beans as a fresh vegetable but they dry very well, and we go through a lot of dried beans each year in curries and stews to make meat go further. I’ve laid out what I imagine would be a meal’s worth and I’m going to see how long it takes for them to dry out. It could end up being a dehydrator job but at least these will have a start.

Also, I gave up waiting and decided to lift the rest of the garlic. Some of it is a little small but it is what it is – and with the parsley, I want to make that other great Italian garnish – gremolata.  I’m going to experiment with reconstituting some of my dried lemon zest and adding that instead of buying fresh lemons. My lemon tree is flowering but no fruit until next year.

And the big reason to harvest these plants is the amazing realisation that I’m running out of bed space! I really need the room to plant out more beans, tomatoes and zucchinis. It’s hard to imagine that I’d ever run out of space in this yard. When I arrived here (7 years ago next month) the back yard was a huge mess. Many of the fruit trees were diseased and some were dying. What is now the greenhouse was an overgrown shed that had suckers from a cherry tree growing inside and most of the yard was a jungle, with weeds almost as tall as me.

This year’s garlic was in the first bed I made. I remember the soil was impoverished, dry and hard, with little worm activity. After all my layers of compost, mulch and crop rotations, today it’s black, rich and alive. When I first started here it was easy to get overwhelmed by all the mess and everything that needed to be done, but over the years I’ve created 6 more beds plus the greenhouse and got it to the point of producing almost all our vegetable needs and some of our fruit year round. One is dedicated just to asparagus, another just to raspberries and one is in the permanent home of rhubarb and acid-loving berries.

Now I go down the yard and still get overwhelmed by everything that needs doing – and because of all the rain the weeds are out of hand again and the grass is tall – but that’s good for the rabbits and there’s food to pick while I consider my options 😉

Today’s cute bunny pic is a double feature. Bernard Black has undoubtedly grown

img_20161110_090146

But this is my British Giant doe, Boudica. She is a lovely girl, very good tempered, but HUGE – especially when compared to BB!

img_20161110_090200

I love the “one ear up” pose from both of them 😀

I’m off to get ready to play music. Go gently and be well friends ❤

Greenhouse Action & Musings – Day 8 NaBloPoMo 2016

Today, I’ll start with an apology – there’s no gratuitous cute bunny pic in this post. In truth, I forgot to take one today. To Bernard Black Bunny’s fans, I promise I’ll make it up in tomorrow’s post!

I went into the city today for lunch, catching up for coffee with a dear friend and calling into my favourite bookshop, but this morning after I fed the animals, I had a little bit of fun in the greenhouse.

I grow strawberries in pots so I can move them around the yard throughout the year and I’ve been picking fruit steadily for the last few weeks. But one poor plant really wasn’t looking great a couple of weeks ago, so I took it into the greenhouse, fed it some of my home made worm juice fertiliser and promptly forgot about it. What a lovely surprise this morning when I discovered this luscious beauty and more on the way 😀

img_20161108_103138

A few weeks ago, I planted my precious stash of chilli seeds for the coming summer. While I usually keep a few Cayenne and Rocoto in the greenhouse to overwinter, most get treated as annuals, so this is a big deal for a chilli-lover like me. I was thrilled to see the first of this year’s crop poking their heads up this morning. The weather has been downright cold at times in recent days, so I was worried that I wasn’t going to get any to germinate, not uncommon if temperatures are too low. I’ll post some pictures in the next couple of days.

This winter was so mild, there’s more chillies than usual held over from last summer, including a few Poblano Ancho and I’m really pleased the Cayenne are starting to flower already.

After, I went into the city and (not for the first time) I was quite astonished at the difference between my oasis here and being in town. All the more so that it’s a 10 minute drive or a 25 minute walk from here to central Hobart – it’s not like I like in the bush or even an outer suburb.

I had a great time with my friend but my last stop was the best – catching up with Richard and Mike at Cracked & Spineless New and Used Books. I love bookshops but this one is really something else. It’s not uncommon to bump into friends there, it can be hard to navigate around the shelves depending on how many boxes of books have arrived that day, sometimes you’ll even see the shop’s stick insects fornicating in their tank (I have photographic proof of this!) and for me it’s almost impossible to keep track of time once I set foot in the door.

And while I always come away poorer in monetary terms, I’m always enriched by the books I buy. Today I picked up a new sci-fi thriller, The Tourist by Robert Dickinson, and a very important book from my early adolescence, Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.

img_20161108_180053

My father gave me a copy of this same printing when I was probably 11 or 12 and it quite literally changed my life. It caused me to think about making a smaller footprint on this fragile planet, something I still strive to do to this day but above all, it brought me even closer to my father. I’m looking forward to re-reading it and remembering my dad ❤

Finally, for those of you in southern Tasmania, I’m playing a short set Thursday night at the Waratah Hotel in Murray Street. I’m opening the wonderful UNLOCKED show that, now the days are getting longer (and sometimes warmer), is back to being a weekly event. I’m really looking forward to playing 😀

unlocked-9th-nov

A Month of Blog Posts – Day 1 NaBloPoMo 2016

Hey everyone,

It’s that time of year again! November means my annual writing challenge – a month of daily blog posts, otherwise known as NaBloPoMo. With the year I’ve had, it would be very easy to rehash the sadness and grief but I mean to focus on the many positives that surround me.

Having said that, I’ve recently been quite seriously ill, but with support from those closest and my GP providing the right medication I’m feeling much, much better.

Also, today has started out especially wonderful. Early this morning, our new (and rather dashing) black British Giant buck arrived. He’s only 8 weeks old and impossibly cute. Like most British Giants, he’s also very affectionate and loves being held and petted, but if he gets to the size of his parents he’s going to be a handful to cuddle! In keeping with the household tradition, we wanted a “B” name for him. And given our love of the iconic comedy series Black Books there was only one thing to do.

Meet Bernard Black ❤

Bernard B Bunny

Bernard B Bunny

There’s heaps of good things happening in the garden, a bumper crop of broad beans and snow peas as well as the the usual forest of kale, silverbeet and various salad greens that produced right through winter. This is despite a very wet spring that’s kept the soil temperature quite low and of course the chickens are in full laying mode at the moment. But at the moment I’m focusing on university and my current unit, Writing for Children and Young Adults.

Because I’ve been ill, I’ve fallen behind with the work but I have a fabulous tutor and I’ve been granted an extension on a major essay. It’s not an area I feel particularly comfortable with despite teaching music to young folks as well as adults. I think it’s because I’ve never specifically thought about writing for those audiences and I tend to read so voraciously that I make little or no distinctions about genres. For example, I think of novels such as Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Wind in the Willows or The Hobbit as great fiction rather than children’s books – and of course, all those titles fulfill both criteria. As a result I’ve learned a tremendous amount and found the unit quite interesting at many levels.

But I must get back to work, slaving over academic papers through the Griffith University online library and trying to make sense of my early notes. Then I can justify spending some quality time with Bernard, Boudica and Bella later this afternoon 😀

I’ll be back tomorrow, be well friends!

Winter, Seeds and Sunshine

Well, we’re over halfway now – past the winter solstice! As I said to the chickens this morning, that means the days are getting longer again and they should start laying a few more eggs soon. At the moment most of my girls are freeloading but one of the Isa Brown hens (affectionately known as B1) is still laying about five eggs a week, for which I’m very grateful ❤

Although we’ve had some cold weather, it’s been surprisingly mild the last week or so, with cold mornings and mostly sunny days. But this is Tasmania, and we usually get our worst weather through July and August.

Also, I’ve been sick again. There’s been some horror viruses doing the rounds and I seem to have caught most of them this year! Nevertheless, my immune system is better than it was. A few years ago I would’ve ended up with bronchitis or pneumonia instead of a cold, and I’m sure these last few years of eating mostly home grown, organic produce has contributed positively.

Today, I spent some time in the yard after feeding the animals and really enjoyed the sunshine. The mild weather has seen new (and relatively large) spears on the asparagus, heaps of growth on the cabbages, broccoli and salad greens and flower buds forming on the broad beans. Unbelievably, there’s still a few raspberries on my neglected canes but I’ll be cutting them back over the next week, weeding the bed and mulching it heavily in preparation for another summer of delicious berries.

In the greenhouse, I collected another pocketful of fresh chilies, which is incredibly impressive for July and some of my potato experiments are starting to shoot. I also did a quick check of some blueberry cuttings I did in autumn and they look very promising. Some of the chilies are starting to show classic signs of magnesium deficiency, yellowing of the leaves.

IMG_20160701_112216

This is really common in pot grown heavy feeders, such as chilies and citrus is an indication that the plants have exhausted nutrients in the potting mix. It’s also quite easy to rectify, with a foliar spray of manganese sulphate, (aka epsom salts) and feeding with a nitrogen-rich fertiliser. In the case of this particular chili, it’s been flowering and fruiting non stop since last September. I’m planning to cut it back at the end of winter and repot into a fresh, rich mix for the growing season as well. Epsom salts is easy to find in supermarkets or hardware stores and I mix two tablespoons in a bucket (about nine liters) and use a misting bottle to make sure both sides of the leaves are covered.

The rhubarb is still an ongoing project – I got sick in the middle of lifting and dividing all the crowns but the ones that don’t have new homes yet are heeled into the side of the bed until I’m well enough to get that job finished!

Wandering around the garden in the sunshine did get me thinking about what I want to plant this spring and summer and seeds arrived in the post today from Rangeview Seeds who are up in Derby in northern Tasmania.

So tonight I’ve sat on the couch and sorted through all my packets of seeds, something I do every winter. It’s a daunting but oddly satisfying task, working out what’s out of date and what to keep. This year too, there’s been an outrageous number of my own packets, particularly with chili seeds! (I will do a post devoted to propagating chili seed in the next few weeks too).

IMG_20160701_202447

I think it’s the sheer potential embodied in all those packets that intrigues and inspires me. All the possibilities of delicious salads and preserves, food shared with loved ones and flowers that occasionally grace the table too ❤

Tomorrow, Australia votes in the longest federal election campaign in something like 80 years. Frankly, I’m well over it, despite being a student of politics and having worked as political analyst many years ago! I’m not a big fan of either of the old parties and sadly, I think it unlikely that the Australian people will be winners no matter who forms government. Nevertheless, I refuse to submit to cynicism and intend to make my vote count – particularly in the Senate. And after the mandatory voting, I’ll be retreating to the garden for some more sunshine therapy 😀

As always, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing on this beautiful planet, go gently, be safe, happy and well ❤

Previous Older Entries