Preserving your Wild Forest Mushrooms (Pickling and Drying Methods)

Hello,

I have ventured to the forest a few times since my last post and I have noticed this year’s season has produced a great crop of wild mushrooms in our South Australian forests. The decent rain in April and warmer temperatures all throughout Autumn have certainly helped the supply, although the mushroom season did start a little later than usual. Now at the end of June, I’m still finding some Saffron Milk Caps at Mt Crawford and Kuipto Forest. I was also so ecstatic when we found our first Slippery Jack growing in our garden last week! A Polish dream come true!

With so many mushrooms about this season I thought it may be useful to share with you some of my recipes to preserve them so you can enjoy their deliciousness throughout the year. I have included two of my family pickling and drying methods that I tried recently.

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A glorious Polish bonfire: grilled kransky with sauteed forest mushrooms

The best way to enjoy foraged wild mushrooms is to consume them immediately. Sometimes we don’t even make it home, cooking them up in a pan with butter over a camp fire. Delicious! If you want to add a bit more zing to your pan-fried mushrooms the following is my go to recipe for a great balance of flavours.

 

Rustic fried mushrooms 

What you will need:

  • Saffron Milk Cap mushrooms, stems cut and sliced or keep whole (see my last post on tips to identify them correctly)
  • 1-2 tbsp butter
  • 3-4 garlic sliced cloves
  • A small handful of finely sliced flat leaf parsley or dill
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • A generous sprinkle of pepper
  • Salt to season

Method:

  • Saute the mushrooms in the butter.
  • Add the garlic and continue to saute for 2 min
  • When the mushrooms have softened take off the heat and add the herbs, lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
  • Serve with a slice of rye or sourdough bread. Enjoy!

If you have foraged more mushrooms than you can eat in the next day or two it is best to preserve them. The two common methods my Polish grandparents would use were to pickle them or dry them. Pickling suits the Saffron Milk Caps the most as they are quite mild in flavour and combined with a few spices and vinegar they make a great accompaniment to a plate of smalls goods or part of your antipasto. You can dry most mushrooms and they keep for years if you keep them stored well.

 

Pickled Mushrooms

This is a simple pickling recipe that can easily be adjusted by adding different ingredients. You can add garlic, oil, herbs and spices to your liking. Pimento/ Allspice is popular in this recipe but I did not have any on hand when pickling this batch. This recipe below compliments the Saffron Milk Cap mushrooms but you can pickle other edible mushrooms.

What you will need:

  • 1kg Saffron Milk Cap mushrooms
  • 1 litre of water

  • 500ml white vinegar
  • 50g salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 large onion finely diced
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp whole peppercorns

 

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Method:

  • Remove stuck pine needles from the caps and clean your saffron Milk Caps by soaking in some water for about 30 min. This will help eliminate any bugs that may be contained within the mushroom.
  • Cut off the stems and check the hollow cavity for bugs. If you see any, rinse again before use. Slice the mushrooms to about 1/2 cm in thickness.
  • Place in a pot with the water and bring to the boil for 10-15 min. Drain and cover.
  • Bring the vinegar, salt, pepper, onion and bay leaves to the boil for 5 minutes. Completely cool.
  • Divide your mushrooms in clean glass jars. You can pickle in one large jar or several smaller ones.
  • Pour your cooled vinegar mixture over the mushrooms right to the top. Seal the lids tight.

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The following method is important to sterilise your pickled mushrooms. There are many ways to sterilise your jars, either before you add your pickled mushrooms or after. My grandmother uses the following method and I enjoyed giving it a go!

  • Line a pot with a cotton cloth. Place a few jars on top but be sure not to cramp them too close together. This ensures your jars won’t break from rattling against each other.
  • Cover with water so that the jars are completely submerged.
  • Bring to the boil and reduce heat to maintain a steady boil for 15 minutes. It felt a little odd to sterilise my pickled mushrooms this way but it is an effective way to sterilise them.
  • Once cooled, store in a dark place and they are ready after a few weeks and can be stored for 1-2 years. When opened, store in the fridge thereafter. Enjoy!

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Drying Mushrooms

Drying mushrooms is quite simple and there are two main methods; oven drying and air drying. I recently tried the oven method as an excuse to warm up our home.

  • Preheat your oven to 50-60 degrees Celsius.
  • Remove pine needles and gently clean your mushrooms using a damp cloth. Remove stems.
  • If drying spongy mushrooms like the Slippery Jack variety (Suillus Granulatus), it is useful to remove excess moisture using some paper towels or a dry clean cloth.
  • Slice and arrange slightly apart on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
  • Place in the oven with the door slightly ajar or routinely open the door to allow moisture to escape. Dry for as long as required until your mushroom pieces snap. Drying time will depend on the type of mushrooms and how thick you cut them. Alternatively you can also dry your mushrooms as the whole cap. My batch pictured below took approximately 4-5 hrs with the oven door ajar.
  • When your mushrooms have completely dried, store in a sealed container somewhere dry. A great tip I found online suggests to reuse those small silica packages you find in your vitamins or other dry foods, and place one amongst your mushrooms to absorb any moisture.
  • To re-hydrate these mushrooms, place a few in a little hot water and stand for 10 min before adding to soups, sauces and stews.

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I hope these tips and recipes are useful to you and you have fun preserving your forest mushrooms.

Have a lovely day,

Jacqueline

 

 

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Wild Mushroom Foraging at Mt Crawford Forest

Hello,

One of my favourite activities in Autumn is taking a trip to Mt Crawford Forest and indulging in the sport of wild mushroom foraging. Mt. Crawford, located at the north-eastern side of the Adelaide Hills, is a pine plantation forest with several areas open to the public for camping, hiking, weekend bonfires and mushrooming. Autumn is an especially popular time to go there, particularly within the Polish community in Adelaide, I have been going here with friends and family since I was very young. As Poland is abundant with majestic pine forests, such an annual pilgrimage offers an opportunity to reconnect with the familiar natural landscape and revisit the nostalgia for the motherland many have etched within their hearts. In fact, I do not recall a time I have ever visited this forest without bumping into at least one Polish family, especially in the Rocky Paddock area. I often see someone I know, or easily identify other Poles by sighting a group cooking their Kransky’s pierced through a stick over a bonfire, or a little crowd wandering in the forest with cane baskets filled to the brim with pine mushrooms. The stereotype holds quite true!

For us Poles and many other Slavic communities, mushroom foraging is one of the most enjoyable cultural pastimes. I love the opportunity for the younger and older generations in a family to spend time together, where the elder’s can pass on their very valuable foraging wisdom to the next generation. In my family, my grandmother is the mushroom guru who had the respected role in carefully checking that our collected mushrooms are safe to consume.

Our most recent trip this Autumn was quite special as it was the first time I began passing down some of my mushroom knowledge to my young children. It was such a beautiful sunny Autumn’s day. Golden light filtered through the pine trees as I breathed in the calming fresh scent of pine needles scattered across the slightly damp forest floor. I will forever cherish the memories made with them by my side, running through the forest finding and collecting mushrooms. There was a sense of bitter-sweetness though. I spent many years foraging  in the same places with my late grandfather by my side,  and felt slightly overwhelmed with a sense of longing for him yet a comforting closeness to his memory.

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The common varieties of pine mushroom quite easily found and safe to pick at Mt. Crawford are Saffron Milk Cap and Slippery Jack/Weeping Bolete mushroom.

Saffron Milk Cap ~ Lactarius Deliciosus

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The Saffron Milk Cap mushroom has a distinguishable saffron-orange cap that can range approximately 4-15 cm in width depending on its maturity. They are also commonly referred to as pine forest mushrooms. The cap is sticky when wet but otherwise dry and some of the larger ones can concave into the centre. Underneath they have light reddish-orange crowded fanned gills and green stains can occur due to bruising when handled or naturally at maturation. The stem can range approximately between 3-8 cm and is hollow inside. Found beneath conifers in well drained moist soil, usually surrounded by pine needles. They often grow in clusters so if you find one it is likely you will find more nearby. When sliced, the milk is deep orange in colour. Saffron Milk Caps have a mild taste and strong woody scent when cooked. Discard the stem before cooking.

 Weeping Bolete (commonly known as Slippery Jack) ~ Suillus Granulatus

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The Slippery Jack is distinguishable by its brown cap and yellow porous sponge beneath and when young, its underside is covered by a thin veil. As it matures the veil thins out and forms a ring around the stem. Similar looking mushrooms that fit this description without a veil can be often confused as ‘Slippery Jacks’ are from the same Bolete family, but are in fact technically Weeping Bolete as pictured above. Both are safe to eat and will be referred to collectively as Slippery Jacks by many. In fact, I previously distinguished both as Slippery Jacks prior to undertaking more research!

When young, the Weeping Bolete/ Slippery Jack cap has a conical chestnut brown to darker brown cap that later flattens out and may even concave slightly at the centre upon maturity. The cap ranges approximately 4-10 cm in width. The cap is quite slimy to touch and can be easily peeled off before cooking to avoid gastric upsets, but some do keep it on. I prefer to peel it off. Like the Saffron Milk Cap, these too are found near the base of conifers and often in clusters, the stem should also be discarded before cooking.

When you have identified a mushroom confidentially as either the Saffron Milk Cap or Slippery Jack or Weeping Bolete, take your small knife and cut through the stem, leaving the roots and partial stem behind. This ensures the mushroom will regenerate and leave opportunity for others to forage for many years to come. It is considered very disrespectful and poor sustainable practice to pick mushrooms with their roots attached. It is also very important to note that always check with credible sources that a mushroom is safe to pick. I’m not a mushroom expert and my advice is based on my family knowledge and personal research, so please take your own precautions and remember “When in doubt go without” as some mushrooms can be very poisonous. It is also wise to become familiar with mushroom varieties that are commonly confused with the ones you want to pick and find out if the confusions are safe or poisonous.

Where to find useful resources:

  • Inquire at the Mt. Crawford Information centre for specific guides on local mushroom varieties.
  • There are several useful apps with detailed taxonomies of many varieties, use with caution.
  • Search for credible online sources, particularly from local governing and educational bodies.
  • It is very useful to find someone with experience and knowledge to accompany you on your initial mushroom foraging adventure. Extra points of confidence if you can take a Polish grandmother or grandfather with you! (That’s a potential business idea! Hire a Polish Babcia hehe).

While great caution needs to be taken, foraging for your own wild mushrooms is such a wonderful experience and a great way to get back in touch with nature and enjoy how food was once commonly acquired. I hope you have found some inspiration to give it a go and take a trip to Mt. Crawford* for a great weekend of adventure. Stay tuned for my next post which will include ideas and recipes on how to prepare your foraged wild mushrooms.

Stay warm and have a lovely day,

Jacqueline

* Or alternatively the more southern Kuipto Forest in South Australia.

Harvest Mylor Cafe

Hello,

recently I was on going for a country drive through Mylor and stumbled upon the Harvest Mylor Café. Tucked underneath some majestic oak trees, this charming cottage has been transformed into a vibrant modern café, whilst retaining it’s rustic charm. The outdoor dining area is a lovely cosy set up; with wooden tables and chairs accompanied by inviting colourful crocheted blankets, to keep toasty on those chilly mornings. Such a lovely location in a leafy and peaceful setting, certainly a way to experience the slower-paced lifestyle up here in the Adelaide Hills.

The menu is full of healthy wholefood options, ticking most dietary boxes. Harvest emphases their use of locally sourced seasonal produce, mostly made fresh in house. One of the things you will notice when exploring local cafes in the Adelaide Hills is the frequent warm personal service, Harvest is certainly true to this.

When we arrived late morning, my daughter already had a little breakfast at home earlier but was slightly peckish. We were served by Danielle who went out of her way to chat to my little one, suggesting to make her a custom mini egg and bacon slider to satisfy her little craving, at a smaller cost than the larger one on the menu. She kindly also made her a babyccino on the house which was not expected but a lovely gesture of her warm hospitality.

I ordered the buckwheat waffles topped with Harris smoked salmon, a softly poached egg, creamy hollandaise, dressed in a generous amount of sprouts and garnishes. It was delicious, nourishing and plated well, providing a lovely harmony of textures. My husband ordered the breakfast Brioche bun filled with fried eggs, crispy bacon, greens and served with a house made spiced relish …. and he certainly enjoyed every mouthful of this comforting breakfast, particularly the relish! We also enjoyed a coffee with our breakfast and I must say it is worth the trip up just for their amazing espresso, their crème was perfect. They also had an additional sweet waffle menu (not pictured) that will certainly satisfy those with a sweet tooth with several decadent options.

A trip to Harvest Mylor Café is a perfect way to start your weekend if you are keen on a little country exploring, and a great alternative stop on your annual pilgrimage to Hahndorf this Autumn (Mylor is only 10 min away). Visiting Mylor also offers the opportunity to check out the local Strawberry Farm ‘Walker Family Farms’ or go for a hike on part of the Heysen trail. Harvest Mylor Café is located on the main road of town, with plenty of parking next to the café and across the road at the main oval.

Harvest Mylor Café

240 Strathalbyn Road, Mylor

Opening hours: Thursday to Sunday 8:30am – 3:30pm

 

I hope you enjoy some lovely adventures in the hills this Autumn.

Have a lovely day,

Jacqueline

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Zesty Lemon and Lime Curd

Hello,

Recently I have been quite keen to make some homemade preserves, as there are many times during the year where we find a temporary oversupply of delicious fruit and vegetables. Making my own condiments with local produce has been a little dream since the beginning of our whole tree change adventure, a rite of passage for the country life! The funny thing is I have returned home many times with large quantities of strawberries, plums and tomatoes, intending to preserve them. However, they have always magically turned into cakes or soups!

I had a few lemon and limes remaining from a cocktail night, so today I would like to share with you how I turned them into the most delicious and zesty Lemon and Lime Curd. What I love about citrus curd is the harmony between sweetness, sourness and creaminess of the egg and butter. I have refined this recipe a few times to find the right balance between zesty citrus and that lingering creaminess.

This Lemon and Lime Curd can be used as a spread on toast, pancakes, pavlova and tart filling. I find it most ideal as an accompaniment with light and buttery scones topped with a dollop of cream.

Lemon and Lime Curd

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What you will need:

3 eggs

2 egg yolks

170g caster sugar

Juice and Zest from 2 lemons

Juice from 4 limes

150g salted butter (chopped)

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Directions:

  1. Separate egg yolks, finely grate lemon zest and extract juice  from the lemons and limes.
  2. Whisk together the eggs, the two yolks and sugar until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is well combined.
  3. Add the juice and zest and further combine.DSC_6133
  4. Place a double boiler or a bowl over a post of simmering water. Ensure the base of the top pot or bowl is not touching the simmering water.
  5. Add the egg and lemon mixture and cook using low to medium heat, stirring continuously for 10-15 min or until thickened.DSC_6135
  6. Add the chopped butter individually and whisking the mixture in between further additions.DSC_6134
  7. When thick and glossy turn off the heat and cover to cool aside.DSC_6138
  8. Serve when slightly cooled or store in a sterilised jar and refrigerate.
  9. Test the lemon curd regularly with a little spoon when no one is watching, just to check if still delicious!

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I hope you enjoy this recipe and have some fun making your own zesty curd preserve. Please note that I forgot to label the jar with ‘lime’, the featured curd is made from this recipe!

Smacznego and have a bright and zesty day,

Jacqueline

 

 

Reflections of our Tree Change

Hello again,
Today I’m  reflecting on our tree change journey over the last 18 months. We dreamt of a more nature-centred lifestyle when moving to the Adelaide Hills, and living amongst the peace of nature has certainly been fulfilled. However, we did not anticipate this leading to such an intense journey in personal growth, and finding such meaning in living with more intention and simplicity.

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” Lao Tzu

We have enjoyed the change to slower-paced living up in the hills. I start my day with breathing in the fresh forest air outside, sometimes with a wander around the garden or town. Rain is an event. We determine what needs to be done to secure our property if it’s stormy, and enjoy the steady rain that can sometimes persist for hours, rarely experienced when I lived near the coast. Foggy mornings are my favourite. There is something so ethereal and comforting being surrounded by a blanket of fog,  encouraging a calm and creative mood! Despite the busyness of family life, I have tried to make a habit out of intentionally scheduling in some quiet time to pause in the garden everyday. Often this means rocking in the hammock, listening to the meditative sounds of birds singing and the wind sweeping through the tops of our pine trees. While I like ‘strive’ to live in a clutter-free interior to maintain inner calm, ironically, I also find peace in our wild and rustic garden. Scattered pine needles, fallen camelia blooms and ivy wrapping itself where it can is so soothingly homely. It’s funny how nature’s cycle of untidiness is actually quite beautiful. We celebrate fallen withered leaves in autumn, but I cannot say the same for my children’s LEGO scattered in their bedroom!

We have learnt to embrace life and it’s opportunities with the changing seasons. Learning the art of letting go has provided such inner peace that I could not have imagined a few years ago. Letting go of stubborn frustration with the weather has totally changed my daily attitude. Living in Australia, warm days can seem endless in summer, but less so up here (well at least for this current strange spring and summer we have had!). We now understand why many Europeans seize warmer weather to enjoy the outdoors, hike, explore and garden. The weather determines our schedule nowadays. This new perspective has also revealed the opportunities of cold rainy days; allowing us to slow down and relax, indulge in baking, getting creative with new hobbies and wonderful family time around the fireplace. I also have started to truly love all of the seasons. However, the heat of summer still remains a little difficult, a true mountain girl lies within my heart.

Living in the hills has certainly invited vulnerability to our lives. In these past 18 months, we have experienced; two significant storms, multiple power outages, flooding within the community, local fire threats and a tree falling narrowly missing our home! This has taught us wise lessons in developing greater situational awareness within our environment. The cold up here is harsher, the fire risk greater, but being prepared living with these risks has in some respects provided more comfort, confidence and resilience. One example was the blackout the entire state experienced late one afternoon last September. Certainly a rare event like this is difficult to anticipate and prepare for. Hundreds of thousands of people returned to dark, cold homes for many hours and up to a few days. Some even experienced flooding while the blackout continued. We were also impacted but fortunately with much less discomfort as we have a fireplace and a plentiful stock of wood.  We are also less likely to be blindsided by such events. Living with greater risk motivates you to keep constant awareness of risks and situations nearby through the CFS alerts and communication within our small community. We lost power 5 times over 4 days but we were always prepared for the next outage due to the likelihood of another tree falling nearby. Despite these risks we feel comfort in a close knit community where neighbours are checked on and help is offered during these events.

Inspired by the simple living movement, we are focused on moving away from unnecessary material consumption and waste. Mainly due to environmental considerations, and the associated time wasted in the buying/ disposing cycle. As a family, we are learning to be more mindful and intentional about the little and big decisions we make everyday. One example is our decision to make Christmas decorations from garden gatherings that you can read about in the previous post here. I stumbled upon Marie Kondo’s  book about a year ago, and found her decluttering principles very effective and maintainable until now. I no longer need to reorganise storage areas periodically as her system prevents a slow build up of disorder and clutter. Buying less, having less and better storage habits has resulted in a more peaceful home with less anxiety and stress.

We feel security in using less of our resources. There is great freedom in no longer keeping up with a life of accumulation and disposal, and defining success and love by buying unnecessary things. I don’t believe buying material possessions is inherently wrong. However, choosing to only keep what truly adds value or serves a purpose has freed up time otherwise used in keeping up with trends, and the storing and maintenance of so many possessions. This is a continued journey of refinement rather than a prescribed end goal to simplify our lives. Things that serve a purpose today may need to be reevaluated in the future. Our current focus is to use what we have at home or in the garden and make, build or grow ourselves, reuse or borrow before we decide to purchase something new.

Additionally I have also focused on reducing digital clutter by removing audible and visual push notifications on social media. I don’t need to be interrupted because I have received a new ‘Like’, sounds so funny when I write that! I have unfollowed pages/accounts that are a source of negativity or no longer add value to my life. This includes pages that post too frequently such as news sites. I found I was unknowingly reading so many news articles throughout the day, developing an impulsive ‘just one more’ mentality. My digital decluttering has also included unsubscribing from email spam, deleting unnecessary digital photos, documents and apps. It is surprising how much head space digital clutter and social media can take up. When I do go online, I want to be more intentional and balanced. I really recommend you try these things if you struggle with online habits. You will see how much more time and positivity you will have in your day!

“The opposite of intention is impulse, which accurately described my former relationship with my smartphone: I acted primarily on impulse, always reacting to what my phone instructed me to do. I wasn’t using the phone—it was using me.” ~ Joshua Fields Milburn

Social media and the accessibility of our smart phones and devices can bring so much value yet burden to our lives. I certainly feel this is an area I can further refine but it is empowering to have begun this process to create more time to pursue a more meaningful life.  This new mindset is not just about having less, but more importantly removing what doesn’t hold much value to make room for things that do. I was inspired by friends who have younger children than we do, yet find time for themselves through living more intentionally. Recently I have been able to find time for more creative hobbies such as painting, learning to sew clothes and knit, baking more, plus most importantly, more engaged family time.

There is a real sense of pleasure gained from creating something for ourselves, even if we do not need to. Despite us living in this technology generation, I truly believe we still have this instinctive primal urge to make things with our hands, learn survival skills and have a connection with our natural environment. Escaping to the comforting pleasure of creating something with my hands has become a coping mechanism to life’s stress. Part of my journey living up here has relied on frequent reflection to how my Polish ancestors would have lived and survived where we live. I’m interested in developing some ‘granny skills’ that are being lost in our current generation. My goal is to develop the basic skills in DIY such as growing food, making my own cheese, cutting wood and other handy skills. I often reflect on the simple living philosophy of my late Grandfather, Dziadzio Jelek. He is the original nature loving minimalist in our family and I think he did have a very peaceful and purposeful life. He used to ride his foldable bicycle to the Belair National Park, collect berries and return home to make lovely jam. My childhood was filled with hikes in the forest with my cousin, with little more than a few boiled eggs and some smoked sausage to keep us going. They were always great adventures and I now appreciate more than ever the lessons I was taught by him.

Our last 18 months have been such a wonderful time of discovery and adapting to our new lifestyle in the hills. This year I hope to focus more on creating and learning these ‘granny skills’ which I will be sharing with you.

My goals for 2017 are to:

  • bake more
  • developing my hobbies; painting, knitting and sewing
  • gardening more and setting up a vegetable patch
  • learning better woodcutting techniques from my husband
  • organising a chicken coop
  • spend more family time outdoors such as camping and hiking
  • continue simplifying our home and lifestyle
  • read at least 1 book per month
  • share more frequent posts on my blog

We also will continue our journey living more intentionally and consciously making choices to create a life where we are surrounded by only what adds value to our life. I’m hopeful the time we gain from consuming and having less, will pave the way for these goals to become achievable plans.

Have a lovely day,

Jacqueline

The tree that fell during the storm, narrowly missing our home

The tree that fell during the storm, narrowly missing our home

My favourite rose was remarkably unscathed

My favourite rose was remarkably unscathed

Our first crop of strawberries

Our first crop of strawberries

Christmas Decorating with Forest Gatherings

 

Hello,

We are nearing the finish line with our Christmas preparations and during this busy time of year many of you are busy finishing your shopping, baking, cooking or perhaps already starting to enjoy the festivities. I’m currently in the midst of Christmas baking and preparing for our Christmas Eve dinner. While my poppy seed is soaking and my dough is proofing, I have taken a moment for a little rest and would love to share with you a decorating idea for your Christmas gathering.

During our first Christmas living in Stirling, we decided to decorate using mostly elements of nature, which initially was a fun celebration of our new forest life. Rustic wooden decorations are inadvertently trending recently, so I thought you may find value in seeing how easy they are to make yourself. My aspiring lumberjack husband made a few wood slices using pine logs lying around our garden, using a simple handsaw. A chainsaw can speed up the process, but a handsaw does the job just fine. 

I went for a little forage into our garden and collected some pine needle branches, pinecones and a few Hydrangea blooms. Naturally I extended my foraging for an excuse to wander around town and I was excited to discover Christmas Holly growing in the wild. This was the first time I had ever encountered real Holly, realising it’s not just a mythical plant featured on Christmas card illustrations. I found some thin burlap ribbon that I had saved from a previous gift, to wrap the pine needles around the napkins.

I find store-bought Christmas bonbons always so wasteful and lacking any real value, so our children handmade them for a fun Christmas craft project. We found some plain gold wrapping paper and my son wrapped them around cardboard rolls and filled them with hand-written jokes. I personally found these jokes more sweet and funny than what the standard bonbons contain! They also added some chocolates and sweets and wrapped them in foil ribbon. We loved these so much and I hope making these will continue to be a very special tradition in years to come.

To decorate I used a plain white table cloth, cloth napkins and candles that we already had and arranged all our garden gatherings on top in a rustic style. Christmas Holly is very prickly so I didn’t want to use too much on the table. I made a simple hanging wreath wrapped in this Holly to hang above our table which looked quite pretty and kept fresh for a long time. Be sure to use gloves though, as those leaves can be quite sharp. Also, I found a gold sleigh that was the packaging for an old gift and reused it to display some pinecones. For our Christmas tree I purchased a few wooden decorations and mixed them with some golden glittery ones for a unique look. Ideally I would love to make my own wooden Christmas decorations from the garden in the future!

Our family really enjoyed the creative process of gathering and making these simple nature inspired decorations. This little decorating project became a talking point with family during the festivities. The decorations were appreciated for being environmentally friendly and a sustainable alternative during a time of year where excess and waste is often paramount. What started as a celebration of our new garden has now become a new tradition that we all are eager to continue, for many Christmases to come.

 I’m yet to forage for our table decorations this year. Perhaps tomorrow morning I will go for a wander when the weather is cooler. If you don’t have a garden then perhaps as a suggestion you could go for a nature walk somewhere locally. The idea is to look around your own natural environment and use what inspires you. For those living near the coast; frangipani and palm leaves would be so lovely too. I hope you have found some value in our idea that Christmas can still be wonderful with less excess. For us it presents an opportunity to express personal values, such as our journey to a more sustainable and mindful lifestyle.

Wishing you all a wonderful and peaceful Christmas,

Jacqueline

  

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Pear and Raspberry Streusel~ Placek z Gruskami I Malinami

A streusel (or ‘placek’ in Polish) is a 31 delicious light yeast cake baked with seasonal fruit and topped with a rich crumble ‘kruszonka’. Apples, plums and cherries are commonly used as the fruit filling in the Polish kitchen. My version draws inspiration from my travels in France, using the complimenting flavours of sweet juicy pear, the delicious tartness of raspberry with bursts of buttery cinnamon crumble scattered on top.

What I love about the humble streusel is how fuss-free and forgiving it is to bake. A staple for a gathering with friends or family, and easily transportable for a casual picnic or a trip to the forest. I have many wonderful memories of my grandmothers turning up at a family gathering, with a large tray of  warm freshly baked placek. Wafting in the air would be the delicious scent of yeast cake and the sweetness of baked fruit . Like the common Australian-style banana bread, the ratios of ingredients can be varied according to taste and there is no need for stringent measuring to produce a great bake. The only imperative step when baking a yeast-based cake is to ensure that the yeast is not combined with milk warmer than 50°C otherwise the dough may not rise. A slightly cooler milk is ok, though you may need a little more time for it to grow.

Other suitable fillings include: plums, peaches, apricots, cherries, apples, strawberries and blueberries. Alternatively, a poppy seed filling is also very delicious and quite popular amongst Poles.

Recipe for Pear and Raspberry Streusel~Placek z Gruskami I Malinami

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For the yeast cake you will need:

2 cups plain flour

2 eggs

1/3 cup milk

1 cup caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla paste

170 g melted butter (cooled to room temperature)

1 sachet dry yeast

Pinch of salt

4 pears

250 g frozen raspberries

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Crumble topping ~ Kruszonka

3/4 cup plain flour

1/2 cup sugar

125g cold butter

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

Directions:

1. Heat milk  and allow to cool down to 50°C.

2. Combine the yeast, 3 tbsp. plain flour and 3 tbsp. sugar to the milk, cover with a tea towel and rest in a warm area for about 15 min. You should see the mixture bubble up and double in size. Leave longer if the mixture has not doubled in size.

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3. Preheat your oven to 180c or 170c fan-forced.

4. When the yeast mixture has grown and doubled in size, add it to your mixing bowl preferably using the dough hook attachment and a medium speed setting. Add the eggs, sieved plain flour, remaining sugar, vanilla paste and melted butter. Knead the dough using the mixer or by hand until the dough becomes elastic and slightly glossy.

5. Butter a 33x 24cm rectangle baking tray or use baking paper and distribute the dough evenly.

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6. Peel, core and slice the pears and arrange on top of the dough with the raspberries. (I prefer to arrange the pear slices in clumps and fill in the spaces with the  raspberries for a rustic look, but feel free to decorate to your preference).

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7. Combine the dry ingredients for the crumble topping then work in the cold butter with your fingertips until combined.

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8. Sprinkle the crumble topping on top of the streusel.

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9. Bake for 50min or until the crumble is golden brown. Serve warm or cooled, on its own or with a dollop of double cream. Enjoy!

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Happy baking and Smacznego!

Have a wonderful day,

 

Jacqueline

Building our Cosy Stone Fireplace

Hello again,
In Autumn we made one of the best decisions since moving to chilly Stirling, we built our very own fireplace. This cosy little corner has become central to our daily lives throughout this past winter. I’ve been so drawn to its soothing radiant warmth and it has become a refuge where I plan my day, make phone calls, read, knit and kick back with a night cap when the children have gone to sleep. The fireplace has also become very useful to leave yeast dough to rise for freshly baked breads and my Polish cakes.

I have had several friends and family ask us how we built the fireplace, especially after our recent storm where the fireplace was our savior during several blackouts! I thought it may be useful to introduce a DIY section to this site, since we have many more projects we are working on. Part of my absence from blogging recently, has been due to getting stuck into various projects and renovations, that have been keeping us busy. So I will endeavour to share our experiences and provide any tips or lessons we learn along the way.

It is quite common to renovate and customise properties here in Stirling. I love how individuality is celebrated in the unique culture up here. No home or garden looks remotely similar to the other. Century old heritage homes sit next to modern architectural designs, with quaint cottages and partially renovated country homes in between. Such an electic mix, with the only similarity being the abundance of majestic trees wrapped in vine, weaving these homes together. Our dream is to achieve a harmony of rustic and modern, in natural tones with a subtle elements of mountain culture, that we fell in love with on our last trip to the Alps in Europe.

When we decided to build our fireplace, we took a while to decide on the perfect location in our home. We currently have ducted heating upstairs, but not downstairs where we have our bedroom. Fortunately, we also inherited a significant amount of firewood with our property, so we wanted to use the opportunity to reduce heating costs in the cooler months. My clever husband devised a plan to have the fireplace installed in the corner of our lounge room, where the main bedroom sits directly underneath. We did this so we could direct some of the heat downstairs from the fireplace through a floor vent using a ducting system and fan. This has maximised the use of heat energy we have produced, without the need so a secondary heating system. A smaller fireplace in our bedroom was considered, but our concerns were the possibility it may produce too much heat for a bedroom, and the space required for the installation.

The fireplace  was an opportunity to add style to our lounge room,  so we decided on a mix of natural grey stone tones and rustic timber for a cosy Alpine chic feel. My husband Mark built the hearth himself using a simple timber frame, topped with a fibre cement sheet and durable tiles. We chose modern large grey stone tiles in a matt finish and matching grey grout. To achieve that stone-wall look we used stack-stone tiles that were easy to install using a tile adhesive called tile mastic. This adhesive is more suitable for heavy wall tiles and allows some flexibility compared to other tile adhesives. For a natural look, Mark offset the tiles so the end point of the tile did not line up and reveal a line along the wall.

We chose a wood heater by Ultimate and have been very happy with the design and quality of the heater. There are three fan settings and the flue was included in installation price organised by the store.  My favourite feature of the fireplace is the timber shelf that Mark carved from a log laying around the garden. He used angle brackets recessed behind the stone wall to hold it in place. It is so nice to have a hand made element and token of our garden inside our home, it has become a great mantel piece for displaying garden gatherings and candles.

We are really happy with the result. The new fireplace has brought a new homey cosiness to our home. Mark’s clever idea worked and we have managed to heat our bedroom through the offset heat upstairs by about  5-6 degrees more during winter .  We are also happy with the location we decided on as it is lovely having a window nearby to wander off and daydream while siting around the cosy warmth of the fire.

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I hope this has been helpful and would love to hear feedback on whether it would be useful to continue to share some of our DIY and renovation projects with you. Please don’t hesitate to ask any further questions you may have
Products we used:

  • Ultimate Wood heater, in Champagne / Adelaide Woodheaters & Gas Log Fires
  • Hearth tiles and stack-stone wall tiles / National Tiles
  • Hearth timber and  fibre sheeting / Bunnings
  • Tile mastic (adhesive) / Bunnings
  • Dunlop grout in grey / Bunnings
  • Angle brackets recessed in wall / Mitre 10

Have a lovely day and stay warm,

Jacqueline

 

 

Exploring Roadside Farmer Stalls in the Adelaide Hills

Hello again,

Autumn is coming to an end here in the Adelaide Hills and the cold crisp air has arrived! Wanting to get out of the house last weekend, we decided to jump into the car and explore the towns surrounding us. My little boy has been sick at home for a few days, and I wasn’t prepared to risk extending his illness in this cold. Our solution was to go on a little family adventure searching for the best roadside farm stalls while he remained rugged up in the car.

We decided on our route by simply choosing the prettiest and most scenic roads at each intersection, enjoying the charm of discovering new places and views along the way. Our first find was in Uraidla, where we found such a cute roadside stall filled with seasonal autumn produce such as pumpkins, cabbages, oranges and rhubarb to name a few. We bought some cabbages, leeks and beautiful bunch of beetroot that will be perfect for making one of my favourite Polish soups called Barszcz (Borsch). As we were taking some photos of the stall, a farmer on a giant tractor drove right up to us from nowhere and with a cheeky grin said “Hello there, I see you are admiring my golden beets?” A little embarrassed, we were unsuspecting of anyone watching us, and felt like such city folk with our SLR camera taking photos of vegetables on the side of the road.

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Several windy roads took us through lush green meadows dotted with gum and pine trees, stopping briefly to say hello to some grazing cows. Our little adventure led us to Summertown, Piccadilly, Balhannah, Oakbank, Woodside and Bridgewater. Fields of apple orchards and endless bare grapevines stretched across these country towns. I loved seeing the old rustic farm equipment displayed near the roadside as an ode to the past, and the afternoon sun peering over the gentle rolling hills; quite iconic for the Adelaide Hills!
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The excitement of being the first the spot the next stall along the road made a great afternoon and we were spoilt for choice spotting several little stalls on the outskirts of towns. The Apple Orchard shop was a small store that sold some delightful Fuji apples, so fresh and crisp, it was not hard to imagine them being picked the previous day. Some great fruit preserves from seasonal local fruit can also be found throughout the Adelaide Hills.  We particularly enjoyed a delicious combination of rhubarb and raspberry jam by Naturally Nice Jams that we found in Lenswood, perfect on toast!

Springwood Farm in Summertown was also a great find, they grow raspberries, figs and other berries and produce Granny May’s Jams. Their raspberry jam has such a perfect balance of sweetness and tartness with such a juicy raspberry flavour, that is well worth the trip over!  Friendly farmer David spotted us leaving his stall and chatted to us about his farm and told us that during the peak season in summer, they sell their own ice cream made with their fresh raspberries and blackberries! Find more details about Springwood Farm here.
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DSC_4185On our way back we found some gorgeous flower stalls, and one cannot end a trip around the hills without stocking up on some horse manure for the garden! The kids found it quite amusing we were searching for bags of horse poo and the trip was such a nice family adventure with many laughs all afternoon.
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In our busy lives it is nice to take a step back sometimes and spend a day like this just wandering and exploring with no real expectations and schedule. It was lovely experiencing good old country values such as farmer’s trusting our honesty to pay at unmanned stalls, and knowing we are still able to make a difference in supporting local farms. Additionally it was a good educational lesson for our children in understanding seasonal farm production and essentially where our food comes from.
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So if you are looking for something different and fun to do this weekend with friends, family or even a cool date idea, head up to the hills and explore a little. You will create some fun memories, meet some inspiring country folk and collect a bounty of goodies along the way!

Stay warm and have a lovely day,

Jacqueline

 

Strawberry Pierogi ~ Polish Strawberry Dumplings

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Hello again!

Today I will be sharing with you something very close to my heart, my Pierogi recipe that I have tweaked into my own over the years. Pierogi are delicate little dumplings filled with a variety of delicious fillings ranging from meat and cabbage, mushroom, farm house white cheese and onion, to berries and cherries for a sweeter version. Every Polish grandmother has their own Pierogi recipe that of course is the best (but not as good as my Grandmother’s!) Such a simple yet mouth watering dish that has become one of the national dishes of Poland.

My beautiful Grandmother Babcia Zosia is one of the most brilliant cooks I have ever known. She can cook the simplest or most difficult dish with such perfection without ever using a recipe, and will leave you with a lingering food memory for years to come. She could cater for our entire extended family in her tiny little kitchen with ease, and prepare excessive amounts of food and dishes Every Single Time. However, her everyday simple cooking left me most mesmerised. Her way of cooking humble chicken drumsticks or a crumbed mince-filled crepe would leave me in awe likened to an experience of a good restaurant.

Sadly, my Kochana Babcia (loving Grandmother) is currently very unwell and in honour of her, I would like to share my version of my absolute favourite dish she cooked for me as a child; Strawberry Pierogi. Many summers ago, Babcia would make these beautiful Pierogi filled with strawberries and she would serve them boiled, with copious amounts of melted butter or cream drizzled over the top and finished with a generous sprinkling of sugar. This would be a dessert after a long day of feasting or even better, this dish would be made for me as an ordinary lunch during a sleep over as a young child. To be given such a sweet and delicious treat as a meal is certainly a highlight of my childhood!

Strawberry Pierogi

For the Pierogi Dough you will need:

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  • 800g Plain flour
  • 100gm Butter (softened at room temperature)
  • 2 Eggs
  • 400ml Water
  • Pinch of salt

*Makes approximately 100 Pierogi. Simply halve the ingredients for less dough

  1. Sift flour over a bowl (or over your kitchen mixer bowl). Gently rub the butter into the flour until you have a coarse crumb texture. By hand (or using the kneading attachment on your kitchen mixer), slowly knead in each egg individually until completely incorporated.
  2. Add the water slowly by pouring in a steady stream whilst continuously kneading the dough. Once incorporated, knead for a further 10 min by hand (or knead with your kitchen mixer for 15 min on a low to medium setting). Kneading the dough for sufficient time is very important in achieving a smooth and pliable dough.

DSC_27473. Cover and refrigerate the dough for a few hours, and leave out in room temperature for a further 20 min before required. I have discovered this process over the years of making Pierogi and it helps so much with the ease of roiling out the dough later on.

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4. Once the dough has rested, sprinkle a dusting of flour over a wooden board or a clean surface. Roll out the dough until about 3mm thick. Using an inverted tumbler or cookie cutter dusted in flour, cut out circles approximately 7 cm in diameter. Cover with a tea towel to prevent them from drying out before you fill each one.

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For the Strawberry filling you will need:

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  • 1 kg Strawberries washed and halved
  • 3 Tbs caster sugar
  • Juice from 1 lemon

To serve you will need:

  • Pouring cream (or any cream you prefer, or melted butter)
  • Sprinkle of coarse or Demerara sugar for each serve

 

  1. Mix the halved strawberries with the sugar and juice until combined.
  2. Hold a circle of dough and place 1 1/2 teaspoons of filling in the centre of each circle. Carefully fold the dough in half and press the edges together with your finger tips. If there is a noticeable gap in the dou before closing, add some more filling as too much air inside could cause them to fall apart during the cooking process.

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3. Boil a large pot of water and cook about 7-10 dumplings at time for about 2-3 minutes (they should float to the top). Take them out and drain separated so they don’t stick together.

4. Serve immediately with a sprinkling of coarse sugar and a lovely drizzle of cream.

Note: You can freeze the unboiled Pierogi for about 3-6 months. Ensure you freeze them separately, before sealing them in a freezer bag or container to avoid them sticking together. I prefer to make them in advance and boil them frozen as they tend to keep their shape better.

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Please let me know how your Pierogi go, and please don’t hesitate to ask any questions. They are so much fun to make together with friends and family, and they taste so delicious.

Smacznego and happy cooking!

Jacqueline