Home-made wine - it's that time of year to get cracking with what nature has to offer.
Mind you, my frugalness is probably less than other people's frugalness, as I read someone's blog recently where they were literally just buying the food for planned meals for the week - as in one onion, one courgette, one orange etc. I couldn't live like that - I HAVE to have my well-stocked larder and freezers. To be honest, it is cheaper buying things in bulk - within reason - even if you are a singleton. If the SHTF then you don't want to be left looking at Mother Hubbard's Cupboard do you?
Take potatoes for example. My b-in-law, who lives on his own but is a wonderful cook and always has friends and family round for meals, always buys potatoes by the individual small bag from the supermarket. The sort where you have to pay a couple of pounds in money for perhaps 5 lbs of spuds. We ALWAYS buy our spuds by the sack, nearly always Maris Piper as they make good chips and roasties and aren't too bad for other ways of cooking either. Our latest sack was £5.75. That works out at about 10 pence per pound. That individual bag works out about 35p or 40p per pound, more if you are just buying 4 big bakers on a stupid polystyrene tray. My spuds from the garden weren't prolific this year - my fault from not digging and manuring well enough, and for not trenching . . . I was worn to a frazzle by the time I planted them, a little belatedly . . . but we still have a sackful of various varieties, most of which make excellent mash and good oven chips too.
My b-in-law would never DREAM of picking blackberries - yet he lives barely 100 yards from a trackway which offers splendid wild fruit for the picking. He would rather pay whatever you pay for a tray of supermarket blackberries (Oregon Thornless at silly price per pound) to make an exquisite blackberry and apple pie . . . I have one whole tray of my big freezer bulging with blackberries I have picked in recent weeks - free food and happy memories.
Rarely do we buy fruit and veg from the supermarkets (exception is bananas, which are always cheaper at Lidl and occasionally stuff from them when it is reduced to half price, especially Mangoes, which I use for Mango Chutney - or eat fresh). We go to the big fruit and veg warehouse at Abergwili. The chap there used to have a market stall but now sells direct from his warehouse. His stuff is competatively priced, much of it from Britain, and I love to get a box of use-very-quickly fruit or tomatoes or whatever for £1, for jam or chutney making or for cooking and freezing. You can get a whole sack of onions or swedes or carrots for £3 or so a sack, and in winter if you look for swede or parsnips in Tescos, you would think they were a rare breed or something, jetted from t'other side of the world and priced accordingly! This week I am jam and chutney making, so I am making a beeline for Abergwili this morning . . .
I needed to make more room in the freezer yesterday, so I have decanted elderberries, blackberries and sloes. The elderberries have made it to the first stage of Pontac sauce (finally!), some more of them along with blackberries, sloes and windfall apples from the garden, made the first batch of Hedgepick Jam, which is DIVINE, with such a depth of flavour . . . if it were wine, it would be a hundred pounds a bottle, it tastes so good! I'm making some more today.
GRANNY SNEYD'S HEDGEPICK JAM
"This recipe was given to me by a lady living at Hinton Charterhouse, a village just outside Bath. She told me it was given to her by someone instructing members of the Women's Institute on jam-making during the war. The quantities of the different fruits can be varied, but Mrs Sneyd suggests that it would be unwise to use a large proportion of sloes.!" (Taken from: the National Trust Book of the Country Kitchen Storecupboard by Sarah Paston-Williams. My copy is much-used and covered in splashes of jam and jerusalem!)
2 lb (900g) crab apples, or any apples
2 lb (900g) blackberries
1lb (450g) elderberries
1lb (450g) sloes
1lb (450g) sugar to each 1pt (500ml) fruit pulp
Peel, core and chop apples. Cook in a little water until soft. Beat to a pulp. Wash other fruit, removing any stalks from elderberries and sloes, and cook in a little water until soft. Remove from the heat and push through a sieve. Mix with apple pulp and measure the quantity of pulp together. Place in a large pan and stir in 1 lb (450g) sugar for each 1pt (500ml) fruit pulp. Heat very gently until sugar has completely dissolved. Then increase heat and boil rapidly until setting point is reached. Pour into warm jars and cover.
Making Crab Apple Jelly . . .
The finished product - the colour (and flavour) is just wonderful.
Last week on Economy Gastronomy, they had a couple who would cook a chicken, cut a bit off the breast, a bit off the leg (why not eat the whole leg?!) and then THROW THE REST AWAY! I couldn't believe my eyes. Fortunately, they were re-educated - swiftly! Obvious uses for leftover chicken are cold meat, a curry, a pie, pasties, risotto, and of course boiling the carcase up for stock for soup.
I make a cheat's pie using meat cut off the carcase, a tin of Campbell' s Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup (NOT the low fat variety - that has no taste whatsoever) or Chicken in White Wine Soup and some 'boughten' puff pastry, though you can of course make your own shortcrust pastry. Literally, make the soup up with a canful of hotwater and getting rid of the lumps, add the meat (and chopped bacon, mushrooms, peas etc - whatever you wish to add), pour into a pie dish and plonk the rolled-out pastry on top. Brush with milk and straight in a hot oven till golden brown and bubbling. Another alternative to this is to slice potatoes thinly and par-boil, use as a topping in place of the pastry by making a potato "thatch", sprinkle a little cream if wished, plus a shiver of ground nutmeg and black pepper and top with grated cheese. Cook until golden brown and bubbling again.
Home-made pasties - the fillings are infinite. My menfolk like plain mince or mince and a little potato, but you can use cheese and onion, cheese and ham/and potato, bolognese, chilli mince with spicy beans, curried mince or meat or vegetables, spicy mince 'n' rice, ratatouille, or whatever.
More recipes and ramblings tomorrow . . .