Sunday, November 4, 2012

wild yeast and lavender jelly

This October the Crop & Swap began its 2nd season, with over 80 swappers attending, spirits were high and produce was bountiful. Rhubarb champagne, home-baked triple choc cookies, raspberries, broad beans, oranges, lemons, home-made calico print bags, muesli, sourdough and heaps of seedlings were on show. In the lead up to the opening of season 2 we wanted to kick off the swap with a bang. As well as our regular garden produce we decided to try our hand at lavender jelly and sourdough. They were a hit!

our crop & swap produce, silver beet, broad beans,seedlings, potatoes, eggs, sourdough and lavender jelly

A few weeks ago, on an otherwise busy Thursday, I ignored the breakfast dishes with half eaten bowls of porridge, I strode over the unswept morning tea picnic left overs under the kitchen table and confidently donned my martha stewart-esqe apron, declaring to my 4 month old "mummy is making lavveeeennnndeerr jellyyyyy! That's right, you heard me, now don't interrupt, its all in the timing!"

Lavender Jelly Ingredients:

3 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup dried lavender flowers
1 50g box powdered pectin
4 cups granulated sugar

1/4 cup lemon juice

I successfully started the process using the lavender from our garden that I had dried out and stirred it into boiling water to get the oils and colour out of it. Then I left it to steep for some time, strained it and then added the lemon juice and pectin and continued to stir. Bringing the mixture to the boil and I then added sugar,  and when it reached a hard, 'rolling' boil, I left it for 3 mins, stirring occasionally.

The way to tell if your jam is going to set is to have a glass of iced water, place a metal spoon in it, then put it in your jam mixture and let it cool. If it is thick when cool, it is ready.

Pour your jelly mixture into prepared hot and sterilised jars.

our lavender jelly

I thoroughly enjoyed making lavender jelly but have to say I was disappointed with the lack of lavender colour. Other lavender jellies that I had seen were shades of lilac, deep purple and even a gorgeous pink. The initial mixture after steeping the flowers is quite greyish, it is after adding the lemon all of a sudden your greyish mix turns a brilliant .... orangey pink...not quite the purple hues I was planning.
After a little more research I have discovered that ppl sometimes put other ingredients in their lavender jelly to provide the colour, or they use a really rich long dried lavender that must retain its colour much better... either way I have a plan for making more and adding a mulberry or two next time, I figure that will do the trick, Martha and I and even bub (who did interrupt me a lot by the way, thank goodness I have mastered the art of stirring a pot, burping a baby, singing to a toddler, chatting on the phone, making vegemite sandwiches and monitoring glass jars in the oven, all at once ;)...go make some lavender jelly, you'll love it!

Chasing Wild Yeast

after our first season at the Crop & Swap, we came to know a couple who made the most amazing sour dough bread. the crust was crunchy, the inside was soft and the flavor kept us coming back for another slice. We realised that making our own sour dough was something worth doing, and so, we made our own sour dough starter.

date, caramel and coffee sour dough

Making your own Sour dough starter

Sour dough starter is used instead of regular bakers yeast to make the bread rise. It is simply  a mixture of flour, water and wild yeast. The process is very simple. mix together about 200g of flour with 300 ml of water and take it for a walk while whisking, for a couple of minutes. We took ours for a walk in the front garden to make it a truly home made sour dough starter. As you whisk the mix, wild yeast from the atmosphere settles on the mix and begins the fermentation process. As a result, every starter will be unique.

once you have finished whisking, cover the bowl with cling wrap and leave on the kitchen bench over night. By morning, you should notice some bubbles on the surface of the mix. If so, give yourself a pat on the shoulder, you've successfully started your own sour dough starter. for the following week, feed your starter with a cup of flour mixed with water each day. After a week, the yeast culture is strong enough to be used in bread making.

Each day or two, feed your starter with a cup of flour mixed with water to keep it healthy. store it at room temperature, or in the fridge if you are going on holidays... some psycho's take it with them. by the way, yes, you can pour some out when you have too much... you don't have to keep it all.

Making Sour Dough

You can make it as fancy or as simple as you like by adding other ingredients to spice up your bread.

Step 1
add 250g of flour, 350ml of water and one cup of your sourdough maker, mix, cover with cling wrap and leave overnight. Alternatively, you could make it in the morning and leave it until the afternoon.

Step 2
add 300g of flour and a teaspoon of salt. kneed the mixture for 15minutes, sprinkling flour on it as you go if its too sticky. there should be enough dough for 2 loaves. split the dough, shape it, slash the top with a very sharp knife, and leave to rest on a baking tray for an hour or more. we cover ours with a plastic bag. Somewhere warmish is best. If its freeing cold, heat some water in a pot and lay the tray on top of the pot. Just make sure its warm, rather than boiling hot.

Step 3
place in a hot oven (160 - 180 c) for about 45 minutes. to make the crust nice and crusty, place a bowl of water inside the oven also. once cooked, allow the loaves to air, so that they don't sweat.... or, just eat them hot out of the oven. deeeeelicious!

olive sour dough...mmm...mmm

So there you have it, our top secrets for lavender jelly and home-made sourdough. In our next blog we will get grubby with our composting and give the ladies (with feathers) a new chateau...


  1. Hi Jo & Joe,

    Just wanting to say how much I'm enjoying reading your blog. Its so lovely to find a local family online, inspiring me in the garden. So much so I've just joined diggers!!Rockmelon and zuccini this week I think.

    I might see you at the crop and swap in the next few months if all goes well.

    Thankyou so much for sharing your sourdough recipe. I've been wanting to do this for ages, I've got a lovely bag of organic spelt flour from the co op that I'd love to turn into some delicious sourdough bread!

    Best wishes
    Mel in Winmalee

  2. Hi Mel, thanks for having a read. We would love to see you at the swap one day soon. MAke sure you come up and say g'day. DIggers has a god range, but check out Eden Seeds as well - they are super fast with delivery.

    We have been meaning to head up to the co op and purchase some lovely grains for our bread. Let us know how your sour dough comes along.

    Lovely to hear from a local!

    Jo and Joe