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Our First Quince Harvest

Hello friends,

We have finally have had our first quince harvest. We planted a quince Smyrna tree back in the winter of 2022, and we've been waiting impatiently for a harvest since then.

The first year after sitting there as a stick over winter, the leaves budded, and then it flowered. But nothing became of the fruit, and we weren't worried because the tree was too small to bear the big quince fruit anyway. Over the spring and summer it grew slowly, which was fine with us, as it needed to develop it's root system.

Winter came again, and once more it became a stick. And then the spring of 2023 the leaves unfurled, and the tree flowered again, but this time little quince fruit began to form. At the start there was about 10 fruit, but over the following weeks they started to drop off. Eventually 4 quince fruit remained.

Over the spring and summer the fruit began to grow bigger on the tree. I was realistic in the fact that strong winds could knock them off, so I left them all there. By the time this autumn came, the 4 fruit remained, and they began to ripen to a pretty lemon colour.

Ever since then we've been impatiently waiting for them to be ready to pick. I tested the fruit regularly to see if they were ready to harvest, by gently holding them and tipping them sideways. At first all four did not budge, so they were not ready. But then one day the two smallest fruit dropped into my hand when tested.

We had a couple of weeks more wait for the two biggest fruit to be ready to harvest. Luckily quince store well in the fridge, so when the last two quince were finally ready, it was time to poach the quince. We used our poached quince recipe, which you can find in a blog post here. This year we chose the vanilla and cinnamon combination for flavoring.

And the long wait for our own quince fruit was totally worth it, the poached fruit was aromatic and very tasty. And as a bonus we have lots in the freezer to enjoy over the year. And our quince tree is only a small tree, as it gets bigger much more fruit will ripen. My plan is to share them with family and friends and neighbours, and hopefully swapping them for other fruit we can't grow in the garden.

Have a wonderful day


Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon or Bluesky.

Grandad Bob's Christmas Cake Recipe

Hello friends,

Today I'm going to share with you Grandad Bob's Christmas cake recipe, which is a big favorite among our family and friends. Each Labour Weekend in October when I was a child, I used to go over to his home and help him plant out his vege garden, and then after that assist him in making the Christmas Cake. His house would smell amazing as it baked, and he'd spoil me with all sorts of treats as we waited for the cake to be ready.

When hubby and I got married, he made this cake for our wedding cake, so it's a really special recipe for us. Before Grandad Bob passed away he passed his recipe onto me, and now each year hubby and I make his Christmas cake, and then on Christmas day we cut up the large cake into many pieces for all the family to take home with them.

Please feel free to try making Grandad Bob's Christmas cake yourself.


2 Cups of Water

2 Cups of Brown Sugar (We used some of our own sugarbeet sugar that we made this year.)

225 grams of Butter

1 Teaspoon Mixed Spice

1 Teaspoon of Baking Soda

1 - 2 kg of Mixed Fruit

2 Tablespoons of Citrus Peel (I make some from our citrus peel)

1 Tablespoon of Golden Syrup

1/2 Cup of Brandy

2 Eggs

3 Cups of Flour

2 Teaspoons of Baking Powder

1/2 Teaspoon of Salt

2 Tablespoons of Apricot Jam

2 Tablespoons of Boiling Water to dilute the apricot jam

750 grams Premade Almond Icing

750 grams Premade Royal Icing


1.  Place water, brown sugar, butter, mixed spices, baking soda, mixed fruit, citrus peel, and golden syrup into a sauce pan and heat slowly.

2.  Stir occasionally until the butter melts, and then increase the heat and bring to the boil. Boil the mixture for 3 minutes. Cool to room temperature (we place the pot in   a sink of cold water to help cool the mixture faster).

3.  Beat eggs lightly, and then add to the fruit mixture, along with the brandy, and mix well.

4.  In a separate bowl sift flour, baking powder and salt. Fold the flour, baking powder and salt into the fruit mixture until mixed well.

5.  Place cake batter into a greased and lined 23 cm square cake tin.

6.  Bake in an oven at 150˚C for around 1.5 hours, or until a skewer comes out clean when testing the cake.

7.  Allow the cake to cool, and then remove from the cake tin.

8.  Flip the cake over so that the bottom dries out. Then store the cake in a sealed container in a cool, dark place until a week before Christmas.

9.  Dilute 2 tablespoons of apricot jam with 2 tablespoons of boiling water, and mix into a thin paste. Brush half over the cake.

10. Roll out 750 grams pre-made almond icing, enough to fit over the cake, cut off any excess. Place over the top and press down lightly so it sticks to the apricot jam.

11. Repeat this process with the royal icing, using the other half of the apricot jam mixture between the two layers.

11. Store the iced cake in a dark, cool place until Christmas Day. Decorate, and enjoy.

I hope you enjoy Grandad Bob's Christmas Cake, if you decide to make it. Do you have any family baking traditions? I'd be keen to know.

Have a wonderful day


Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon.

    Making Sugar from Homegrown Sugar Beet

    Hello friends,

    As you may know by now I like growing new varieties of fruits and vegetables, and the more unusual the better. Over the past couple of years I've grown Sugar Beet, with the hope to try and process my own sugar. Here in New Zealand we get all our commercial sugar from sugar cane grown in Queensland, Australia, but elsewhere in the world (including the USA) sugar is made from sugar beet.

    Up until this year it was possible to buy sugar beet seeds from Kings Seeds, but they no longer sell any at this time. Sugar beet are very closely related to beetroot, and are grown in the same manner. It's best to sow them in later winter/early spring directly into the ground. Each "seed" in the packet is actually made up of 8 seeds, which grow very close to each other. After the seeds have germinated and come up from the soil, it's a good idea to pull out any that are too close together, and replant them further apart to maximise your sugar beet crop.

    After that, the sugar beet plants are very easy to take care of. I watered them infrequently over the hot summer months, and come autumn, after the first frost, they're ready to harvest. As with parsnips and carrots, sugar beet are sweeter after a frost. With a garden fork it's pretty easy to pull them out of the ground. The top of the plants look like beetroot plants, and the roots of the plants look similar to parsnips.

    Once in the kitchen, the first step is get all the dirt off the roots by washing and scrubbing, and after that it's time to peel the sugar beet roots themselves. We just used a regular vegetable peeler, and then cut the tops off the sugar beet roots with a sharp knife.

    The next step is to prepare the sugar beets for grating using a food processor. We cut them into smaller chunks that would be easy to feed down the shute of the food processor. With a food processor grating the sugar beet on a rough setting took only minutes, but doing it the old fashioned way by hand took an hour (I did this in previous years). At this stage of the process we had 2 kg of sugar beet roots.

    With this done, it was time to cook the sugar beet. The first year we made sugar from sugar beet we used this blog post as a guide. But this method is very labour intensive, and we burnt the sugar from the sugar beet while drying it down.

    However, this year, we had a secret weapon, our brand new, handy dandy, steam juicer. Before the harvest, I had spent weeks coming up with this idea of extracting the sugar from the sugar beet using the steam juicer. Steam juicers are great for extracting juice from fruit and veges using the power of steam. You put your fruit or vegetable of interest in the top compartment of the steam juicer, add water to the bottom compartment of the steam juicer, and turn on the stove. The water heats up in the bottom compartment, and the steam rises up to the top compartment through a whole in the middle compartment. The steam cooks and softens the fruit or vegetable in the top compartment, and the cooled juice drops into the middle compartment to collect. From there, there is a spout to siphon off the collected juice at the end of the steam juicing. It's an ingenious system of juicing a big range of fruit and vegetables, and I use it a lot for making blackcurrant juice in summer, and apple juice in autumn. If you're interested in buying one in New Zealand, Netropolitan sells them infrequently when they bring them into the country. I had to wait over a year to get our one.

    The steam juicer guide suggested that 1 hour of heating was good for extracting juice from beetroot, so I used that as a guide for steam juicing our grated sugar beet. The sugar beet went into the steam juicer, and an hour later the sugar beet juice had collected in the middle compartment of the steam juicer. After checking the sugar beet in the top compartment, is was soft and cooked.

    After siphoning off the sugar beet juice in the steam juicer, we filtered it through some cheese cloth to remove any solid bits of sugar beet. The left over sugar beet in the top of the steam juicer was still quite wet, so we also put that through the cheesecloth and squeezed as much juice out of it as we could get. Hubby mumbled something about getting a cider press at this point to make the job easier, but that seemed a little extreme to me...

    The thing about sugar beet juice is that it isn't the nice pristine white colour you would be expecting from sugar. Normal sugar is highly processed to remove all the impurities in order to get pretty white sugar that looks the most appealing. Sugar beet juice is a brownish colour, similar to molasses, and without a centrifuge and other commercial processes, it's just not possible to get sugar that is pure white. Since we use our sugar beet sugar in baking and cooking, the brown colour doesn't bother us at all.

    The next step in processing the sugar beet to get sugar, is to decrease the volume of liquid in the juice. All the sugar beet juice was transferred into a pot, and it was brought up to a simmer. The more water that comes out of the juice, the more syrupy the juice gets. You need to pay attention to it, otherwise you could remove all of the water, and burn the sugar beet molasses (I know this from experience last year).

    When you get the sugar syrup to a stage you are comfortable at, it's time to take it off the heat. There are two methods at this stage to remove the last of the water, either pour it into shallow trays to dry slowly over time, or bring out the dehydrator, and get it to do all the work for you in a much shorter period of time. I decided to bring out the dehydrator. The aim in the drying is to try and get sugar crystals to form, and the best way to do this is to actually seed the cooled sugar syrup with a sprinkling of sugar crystals. I haven't figured out this step totally yet, so I just got a small amount of sugar and sprinkled it on top the sugar beet syrup.

    The dehydrator doesn't have an exact setting for dehydrating sugar syrup, so I chose the fruit leather setting which is set to 70˚C. The sugar syrup was poured onto dehydrator silicone sheets with a lip around the entire edge, and put into the dehydrator. After a total of 5 hours, the sugar beet sugar in the trays had dried enough to lift the sugar from the flexible silicone sheets.

    The sugar was still sticky in the middle and bottom layers at this stage, so I broke the sugar up into smaller pieces and spread them out evenly over the silicone trays to dry further. After a further 5 hours, the sugar was completely dry. When broken, the sugar cracked.

    The last step in making sugar from sugar beets is to break the shards of sugar into smaller pieces. At this stage I brought out my Breville Coffee and Spice Grinder and filled it up with the sugar shards, and broke them down into smaller pieces. I use the grinder all the time to process all of our dried herbs and spices, and it has a handy removable stainless steel bowl for cleaning. It is quite often on sale, so no need to buy it at full price if you're after one for yourself.

    I repeated grinding all the sugar into smaller pieces until all the sugar shards had been turned sugar.

    The final weight of the sugar extracted from our sugar beets was 162 grams from 2 kg of roots, which equates to a sugar content extraction of 8.1%. Sugar content extraction in sugar beets can vary anywhere from 12 - 21% according to Wikipedia using commercial processes, so I think that 8% is good for us as home growers. I think we could have gotten the number higher if we had a fruit press like hubby had mentioned, but that is a bit extreme I feel for the average home grower. The other thing to consider is when to harvest the sugar beet. Due to health issues this year, we harvested it later in the season compared to other years. It's possible that some of the sugar beet had been used up already by the plants prior to harvest.

    And what does sugar beet sugar taste like? Well, it tastes like sugar, it's nice and sweet, but it has a taste reminiscent of barley sugar. Our plan is to use the sugar in baking our Christmas Cake this year. We did this last year, and no one who ate the cake noticed anything different from previous years.

    As for the coming growing season, what is our plan sugar beet wise? Well thanks to some lovely people in some Facebook NZ seed swapping groups, I've been given some sugar beet seeds from their Kings Seeds packets that they still had spare in their stashes. Our plan is to grow these seeds on to develop our own big stash of sugar beet seeds for growing on in years to come. I'll also pass on some of these seeds to other people want to do the same. As sugar beet plants are biennial, it will take two seasons to happen, from there we can grow sugar beet every year and collect more seed.

    I hope that you have enjoyed this in explanation of growing, harvesting, and processing of sugar beets to turn into sugar. Feel free to ask any questions on my social media about this, and I'll try to give you answers. I'm also interested if anyone has any suggestions to streamline this process any further.

    Have a wonderful day


    Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon.

    Winter Solstice Hot Spiced Apple Juice

    Hello friends,

    And happy Winter Solstice to those of us in the Southern Hemisphere. It's a day for wrapping up warm in your winter jacket, hat, gloves,and scarf, and going for a walk in the chilly air, followed by coming home and cuddling up in front of a cozy warm fire (or putting one up on your TV if you don't have a fireplace).

    And what better way to defrost from the cold than to make a pot of my favorite Hot Spiced Apple Juice, and then toasting with your loved ones to the coming of light. From this point on the days will slowly get longer, and eventually spring and summer will be on their way. I love the idea of the wheel of the year, and the perpetual cycle of winter followed, by spring, summer, and eventually autumn.

    My spiced apple juice recipe is very easy to make, and because of the citrus and spices, your home will smell wonderful afterward, let alone the lovely taste of the spiced apple juice. Another wonderful thing about this recipe is that the slices of orange and lemons in the pot while cooking remind me of all the sunny days to come.

    Spiced Apple Juice Ingredients (makes 3 liters, but I usually only make up 1L and cut back on the spices)

    1 x 3L container of Apple juice

    1 Orange

    1 Lemon

    1/2 Cup of Sugar

    1/2 a Cinnamon Quill

    4 Cloves

    8 Allspice Berries

    Spiced Apple Juice Recipe

    1.  Wash and then cut the whole lemon and orange into 1/2 cm slices. Remove all seeds before adding to the pot.

    2.  To a medium sized pot add all the ingredients.

    3. Heat the ingredients until simmering. Let the spiced apple juice continue simmering and taste test until it reaches your preferred taste. If you leave it too long the cinnamon, cloves, and allspice berries may get quite strong. I usually find 5 minutes simmering is enough.

    4.  Take the pot off the stove and sieve all the ingredients from the hot spiced apple juice.

    5.  Serve in cute mugs, sip, and enjoy.

    6.  If you have any left over spiced apple juice, let it cool and store it in the fridge. It doesn't take long to heat back in up in the microwave for enjoying later.

      I hope you love my recipe as much as I do, it's become a winter solstice favorite over the last couple of years. This recipe would also work wonderfully while celebrating Matariki, after waking up early to try and spot Matariki before dawn.

      I find it hard to celebrate winter-themed Christmassy things in summer—when hearty food and drink are much more appreciated when the weather is colder. In our household we celebrate the winter solstice with hot spiced apple juice, a roast dinner, followed Christmas pudding with custard and ice cream.

      Have a wonderful day,


      Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon.

      Our Poached Quince Recipe

      Hello friends,

      Today I thought I'd share our poached quince recipe with you. It's the perfect autumnal dessert to eat with vanilla ice cream on a cool night. And if you have any poached quince left over, just freeze it away to eat at a later date. Quinces are an acquired taste, just like feijoas, but once you've tried them, their wonderful aromatic taste will stay with you all year, as you impatiently wait for their autumn harvest once again.

      The hardest part of the recipe, is probably finding quinces. When we lived in Wellington our local New World stocked them for a few weeks each autumn, so we bought them when we could, and made up a big batch to last us over the year. Now we live back home in Dunedin, it's a bit harder to find quinces, as local shops don't stock them. Luckily this year, I had an excess of pumpkins, and I swapped a big crown gray pumpkin for a box of quinces with an online friend, but this excess pumpkin harvest swapping adventure is a whole other story.

      For this recipe you'll need:

      3 - 4 ripe quinces

      750 mL of water

      1.5 cups of sugar

      1 cinnamon stick

      1 vanilla pod (or 1 - 2 star anise if you can't get a vanilla pod)

      The recipe:

      1. Peel and core the quinces, chopping off any damaged sections. The fruit are quite brittle and hard, so it's a bit of a job to do. The fruit are unpleasant to eat raw, so I wouldn't advise trying it.

      2. Chop the quinces into slices or cubes depending on how you'll want to eat them. The fruit will start to oxidise quickly (turn brownish), but don't worry about that, it'll all turn out okay in the end.

      3. To a pot add the water and sugar, mix, and begin to heat to a simmer.

      4. Add the quinces to the pot, and add the cinnamon stick and vanilla pod. You can swap out the vanilla pod for star anise if you want, but personally I prefer the vanilla pod.

      5. The next thing to do is to make a paper cartouche for the quince mixture. A cartouche is a parchment paper lid, and it covers the surface of the poaching mixture. It traps the steam, and keeps the components submerged in liquid. We just cut off a section of grease proof paper, and folded it so it fitted on top of the quince mixture. It is important to mold it to the mixture so it keeps everything wet.

      6. With the lid of the pot off, heat the mixture up, and then let it simmer for an hour. Over time the quinces will slowly change colour, changing from a creamy yellow, to a dark rose pink. This is the colour at the 30 minute mark, it hasn't changed to a pink shade yet.

      7. This is the colour at the 60 minute mark. The quinces now are a rose pink, but not quite dark enough. If you do a taste test you'll find them still slightly bitter, but the quinces will be soft like cooked apples.

      8. What you are looking for is a slightly darker shade of rose pink, and the quinces will taste highly aromatic. When you're happy with the flavor and taste, remove the cinnamon stick and vanilla pod (or star anise) from the mixture. Remove the pot from the heat.

      9. The only thing left to do is eat it, storing any left overs in the fridge or freezer. I recommend having it while still warm (or re-heating in the microwave), with some good quality vanilla ice cream. The vanilla ice cream really brings out the aromatic quince flavor.

      I hope you get a chance making our poached quince recipe yourself over the autumn season, they really are a wonderful fruit. We currently have a fresh batch stored in the fridge to eat this week, and also a couple of frozen batches stored away for later on in autumn and winter.

      Please let me know if you give this recipe a go, and tell me what you think of it.

      Have a wonderful day.


      Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon.

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