So where's the snow?

Muddling through in Austria; God, life and a small black dog

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Garden time – Apples and Plums, Jam and Wine

It was when I was out to photo the apple trees, I noticed that the Plum trees have next to no flowers on them at all. I had to check back at my photos over the past few years and there are definitely less flowers than in earlier years and they look scraggy, not full blooms, just a couple of petals.  Another effect of last year, or just the trees having one of their rest years?  We’ve had so many plums the past two years we’ve got sick of the sight of them!  The cherry trees locally have had a great flowering, missing the Ice man, unlike the apples which did get zapped, but with so many flowers I guess it’ll still be a great crop.  My ornamental cherry has also had a pathetic flowering this year, nature’s cycle?

Especially with the fiasco of Paggy’s plum jam making. I’ve never managed to get it to set properly, as he wont let me add enough sugar as he’s a diabetic, but even with the gel zucker – it has extra gelatine and pectin in it I understand, it wont set. Then it goes moldy!  It seems we need to reduce it at least by half before adding the sugar, which  will do this year, if we get any fruit!

Very few people make home-made wine here, which is a surprise, Schnapps and jam yes. Maybe it’s because wine is so cheap! I can’t think why as there are so many soft fruits in  any garden, and jam making or cordial uses maybe more sugar.  Maybe its due to the beer drinking!   I’ve also got at last my own elderberries going, so now its do I make juice and then maybe jam from th flowers, or wait to make jam from the fruit??? Such dilemmas!  We’ve also just planted our first Blackberry, they seem not to be Lungau hard, which is a shame as they are like weeds in the UK.

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Cooking I enjoy when I have guests, but normally I like to chuck something in the oven and eat – lazy I know!  But what I do like is jam making, maybe stemming from my year in Switzerland where we made many lovely varieties.  These were eaten with Zupfe sweet bread on a Sunday morning with hot chocolate – amazing!  Since we’ve been here I’ve been experimenting and as marmalade here is only a sweet jam rather than the sharp English stuff, I’ve created my own recipe, but maybe someone else does this too. Equal quantities fruit and sugar. Jam in German and French is marmalade, which causes some confusion, so how did we get to Jam in English?


3 kilos oranges

2 kilos sugar

500g 3:1 gelling sugar or another kilo ordinary

Water enough to cover the fruit

Wash fruit and put entire in saucepan, cover with water and cook on a low heat until soft – anything between 1 and 1 1/2 hours.

Remove fruit and leave to cool a bit.  Leave water reducing on heat.  When fruit cool, chop,removing pips, then put in blender with a little of the water and reduce to a pulp.  When all done, return to pan with sugar and reduce further – till water about half original level – or just chuck half water away before hand but you lose flavour.  Bring to boil, and hard boil until set.  Sometimes it does take a while, but I don’t worry as I prefer a softer set.  The finished product to some eyes may look grainy but I think this just improves it!

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Paggy’s Plums!

Scene from the LungauerVolkskultur festival, tons more to follow!

The making of the plum jam has become an annual event here as Paggy  has a huge tree   in his garden.  It all started our first year, when we weren’t working and we spent a slightly tipsy afternoon, plucking, stoning and cooking. Paggy being diabetic means he doesn’t like too much sugar and uses a very thick aluminium saucepan which makes it difficult to get the stuff hot enough to set. Heavens knows how tainted it is, I take my own stainless steel pan over now!  However,while the first year was great, but we havent succeeded since.  A couple of years there haven’t been enough due to bad weather in spring, but last year there was loads but we had huge trouble with the jam going mouldy. I’ve since heard it’s just something in the weather at the time of the picking, or we included too many mouldy ones or just that he left the jars in the sun in the kitchen – but my own made with different plums was just the same.

This year we went and harvested the day before, kept the mouldy ones away but we boiled and boiled and boiled the flipping stuff for hours and it wouldn’t set, despite my sneakily adding extra sugar when his back was turned.  Too much water in the fruit he later informed me and we should have reduced it by half before trying to get it set.  Quite honestly, next year he can get his cleaning lady to do it as I never seem to get it right for him!

I loved making jam when I was working on the farm in Switzerland and maybe its some form of nostalgia that makes me enjoy it here – especially as Dave rarely eats it!