Monday, 15 September 2014

I'm on a roll! Bringing out the inner cook . . .

It is "that" time of year again, when daily gluts from the garden need to be dealt with - and I hate waste - so I have been stringing and cutting and freezing runner beans and French beans by the bucketful.  I take my favourite books on preserves off the bookshelf in the "Library" (well, Junk Room really!) and plan all sorts of jams, jellies, chutneys and preserves.  Some I will never make, but it's the planning which is fun.  Perhaps this WILL be the year when I try my hand at fruit leathers.  Perhaps I will finally be brave enough to try my hand at bottling fruit. . .

I cannot resist picking blackberries to freeze or make jam with.  It's the call of the primitive in me, a nod to my ancestors who felt impelled by necessity to make the most of nature's bounty.  I read a blog post the other day, when I was idly blog-hopping, and the lady said she had picked a kilo of Blackberries, made a crumble with half of it and froze the rest.  So that's just ONE POUND of Blackberries in the freezer to last her a year!  Is she quite mad?!  Perhaps I just have totally different urges when it comes to saving food, especially when it is free.  I am only just finishing the end of last year's frantic picking, and I like to have plenty to look forward to in case next year is one of those years when you are reduced to picking the tiny fruits you would normally pass over, because they are all that is on offer.

First, I chose to make Piccalilli from some of the garden produce (well, courgettes and green beans anyway!) and put it in my wok overnight, with salt sprinkled over to draw out the moisture.   I used the recipe from Pam Corbin's book on preserves, which is one of the excellent River Cottage series.

But I fell back upon my old favourite "Farmhouse Fare", which I bought about 40 years ago now - for the recipe for Damson and Apple Jelly.  I did it in two parts, cooking up the damsons and apples first, and leaving them overnight to cool so I could remove the stones (by hand) the next day.  I hope you can read the recipes if you want to use any of them.  The preserves in this book - as most of the recipes - are simple and straightforward and from our grandmother's and great-grandmother's time.

Meanwhile, outside my husband was splitting the ash tree logs ready for winter.  It is a diseased tree which we felled back in June, and has languished amongst the Nettles and Himalayan Balsam, waiting for a friend with a tractor to come and heave it out.  This finally happened last week.

A job well done - they have had just over a week in hot sunshine to take the final moisture out of them.  Ash always burns quite well from a short period of seasoning.

Meanwhile little Banshee sunbathed on a slate flag by the wildlife pond, and her eye slowly healed - she had to go to the vet last Monday again after her eye was obviously sore and painful - vet reckoned undergrowth had sprung back and hit her in the face.  Anyway, a week on she seems to have healed.

The well-scalded jellybag was brought into action and hung from the main kitchen beam overnight so that the juice could be collected in the bowl beneath it.  I love this bit!

It made a fair quantity of jelly, set aside as gifts for friends, and to use myself, although I am not a great jam eater.  However, I HAVE to make it each year.  It is an absolute necessity to me.

It was a busy day.  I was also bread-making, enough for two loaves and some bread rolls, and my bread dough proved beautifully.

Sunflower-seed bread rolls.   I will admit to eating two still warm from the oven!

Plus two loaves, one to eat and one to freeze.

Meanwhile, the Piccalilli mixture was heating up and thickening.

And the finished product.

A £2 box of tomatoes from Abergwili.  Perfect for chutneys.

River Cottage "Glutney" under way . . .

The finished chutney.

Elderberries, picked when we went to help a neighbour with clearing a fenceline.  Plus I have offered to halter break one of her donkeys . . .

This is George, with his pal Ned in the background.

Elderberry Chutney in the making.

And in pots. . .

Then there were just the Greengages and Nectarines to deal with . . .

At long last, I did bottled fruit - with the Greengages - and I turned the Nectarines into Blackberry and Nectarine Jam.

I slept well last week!!  Sometimes my mind goes back to the visitor who asked me, "Just what do you find to do here all day long?"  (This when I had three horses and was also nursing my mum . . .)  I think my reply was along the lines of "I manage to keep busy . . ."

Phew! What a week . . . Part II of Builth, finally.

My apologies for not having finished the second part of the Builth post.  Life got in the way.  A couple of photos and then on to a round up of what we've been up to here.

Four little maids from school are we . . .  Aren't they lovely?  Not sure if they were meant to be small mannikins originally, to show off dresses, or what?

A reflection of me in the picture I would have liked to buy, had he not had a silly price on it.  This is the Thoroughbred racehorse "Othello" who had several of the pillars of the TB stud book running in his veins., but notably the Byerley Turk.

A bevy of cats.  I SO WANTED the little ginger Royal Doulton cat in the front.  She was so pretty and whimsical, but at  £28 not for me as I was all spent out by this time.  One day . . .

Beauatiful things on the other side of the same stall.  I had a lovely chat with the stallholder too and hope she had a good weekend.  Aren't those hares adorable, and the Whipetty-dog, and the lady of Godiva . . .

I'm not normally a glass person, but some of the pieces here were delectable - especially the ones on the left top.

This was more me though.  These stallholders had really invested massively in stock.  Some delectable horses there.

Of course, the one I REALLY liked was this Arab  bust. . .

I preferred the first darker colour.  My Fahly to the life, only he didn't have quite such a pronounced dish to his face.

I struck lucky when I found a stall holder with a great selection of Torquay pottery pieces, going cheaply.  So I bought . . .

and I bought . . .

and I bought . . . (already had the middle vase, a rare and early one) . . .

and I bought. . . .  All these pieces cost just £4 or £2 each.  I spent under £20.  And then I had to take down all the old stoneware huntsman pottery I had on this shelf and put my new goodies on it (the stoneware stuff to be sold/got rid of).

Just to show you the entire row, one back from the above photo is . . .

A lovely big jug I bought recently (£5) and the unusual/rare Violet jar without a lid cost me the same price (too much truth be told as no lid) at Malvern, but the chap wouldn't budge, and it IS unusual.

Finally, I bought two beautifully=pieced quilt tops to make up, hand-quilt, and then sell on.

I prefer the first one, colour-wise, but this is bright and pretty, and has curved seams too.

Lots of work there for me this winter . . .

I shall try and do another post today or tomorrow, to show you what has been keeping me busy in the kitchen.

Monday, 8 September 2014

A day out at Builth Antiques Fair

"Say Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. . . ."

Miriam had difficulty in getting the right size knickers in the sales . . . and even more difficulty trying them on for size!

"Oh I do like to be beside the seaside . . ."

He was no longer a Knight in Shining Armour . . .

. . . and his horse wasn't up to much either!

You've all heard of pop-up shops - this is the pop-up man. . .

Some things just have style . . .

More photos to come later - but I must away to my jam-making.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Setting up in business!

This week I finally achieved a long-held dream, to start trading in a small Unit as part of a bigger Antiques Centre.  Here are a few photos to show the first few things we have put in.  A rocking chair here, nearly obscured by a pretty patchwork quilt, and a lovely hand-crocheted bedspread, both late 1960s/early 1970s.

We have an eclectic mix - from Roman legionary helmet, to Clarice Cliff bowl, Welsh blankets to the lock off a church or chapel, and in the corner, one of the signal cannons my husband has been collecting for a while, and a recent upgrading has released this one for sale.

Anything from a Shelley vase to a ship's wheel, from a stool to a horse's hoof, from an old butter churn to a Victorian railway lantern.

We have some good wall space to fill up.

I don't carry very much china - plenty of others doing that.  Just a few pieces which I have enjoyed at home for a couple of years, and now time to move it on.  The bells are an ARP bell (front) and a town crier's bell behind.

This shows one side, with the Militaria side of things in the glass display cabinet.

It's early days yet.  We give it a tweak and rearrange things to look better each time we go in.  It's hard to concentrate only on what you would like to sell when you have things which need to go to make room for new stock, so I think it will gradually evolve.  I have two lovely horse sculptures to go on display when there is room.

Anyway, we had an enjoyable day in Builth Wells today, at the big Antiques Fair there, so I shall post some photos of that tomorrow.