Friday, 18 September 2015
Gathering in the harvest
"It was a fine autumn. The blackberries were ripe, and the nuts were ready, and the mice of Brambly Hedge were very busy. Every morning they went out into the fields to gather seeds, berries and roots, which they took back to the Store Stump, and carefully stowed away for the winter ahead. The Store Stump was warm inside, amd smelled deliciously of bramble jelly and rising bread, and it was already nearly full of food." Jill Barklem: "Autumn Story".
I love autumn, and I am just like the mice of Brambly Hedge here at the moment! Several "spare" hours have been spent blackberrying down the track (I have found that my old favourite spots are finally full of fruit) and collecting Elderberries from the bottom of our stable yard. The latter have been strigged and frozen, ready for turning into winter medicines for coughs and colds, or adding to pies or jams. Some of the blackberries have been turned into Bramble Jelly and the rest flash frozen and then bagged up and tucked away in the small freezer down in the larder.
Now the tyranny of the runner beans is dieing down, I have the tyranny of the jelly bag replacing it!
I usually stew up the fruit late afternoon and then put it in the jelly bag overnight. This particular haul made 4 pints of juice. The rule of thumb is then 1 pound of sugar (preserving is better for jellies, as you want them clear) to one pint of juice. I'll put the methodology up at the bottom of this post.
I finally got out into the garden yesterday to continue with the autumn clear up. There are always barrowloads of detritis. As you can see, the Monbretia has gone over.
Afterwards. I just need to rake the gravel and take out any stray weeds and unwanted Welsh Poppies.
This is the overwhelming bit in the paddock plot. Planted for the bees (and the teasels for the Goldfinches) but the wild bees who were here in the spring must have swarmed and gone elsewhere as there are very few around now, and the Goldfinches came in late spring and haven't been seen since (they weren't here in the winter when I put out Niger Seed feeders for them).
Here is the end which is supposed to be the herb garden (note the sprig of Rosemary - everything else is buried!) I removed all the dead leaves and flower stems of the tall Elecampane which has been growing here for over 20 years now and yanked up armfuls of spent grass.
Afterwards - all the "thugs" removed and I have decided to take a mattock to their roots and remove them completely. My husband just wants it grassed over for ease of maintenance so I will dig up and move anything of interest there, just leaving the fruit trees, Elecampane and the Potentilla. The other side of the "path" is a soft fruit area which will stay, although I desperately need to try and find the Raspberry plants again, it is SO overgrown. The grass ALWAYS gets the upper hand over there - it's never forgotten it was a paddock before it was a garden plot! I think I took about 10 barrowloads of leaves and stems away yesterday!
Here's some I made earlier! I picked some of the last Sweet Peas and also last Purple Loosestrife and a couple of broken Dahlias to make this little jugful. I love having picked flowers from my garden.
2 lb (1 kg) blackberries
2 lb (1 kg) cooking apples
2 lemons, sliced
2 pts (1.2 lirres) water
approx. 2 lb (1 kg) preserving sugar
Rinse the blackberries and place in a large pan. Wash the apples, cutup into pieces and add to the pan with the lemon slices. Pour over the water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 - 40 mins or until the fruit is very soft.
Strain through a jelly bag and leave to drip for at least 2 hours or overnight. Measure the juice, pour into a large jam pan or saucepan and bring to the boil. Add 500 g (1 lb) sugar for every 600 ml (1 pint) juice. (Note: I always warm the sugar first (oven) so that you don't have a sudden reduction in temperature in the pan when you add it.) Heat gently, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil, then boil rapidly until setting point is reached. Remove the scum immediately (I have a flat slotted spoon) and pour into prepared jars. Cover and label. Makes about 4 lbs. (Taken from the St Michael Preserves Book by Jackie Burrow - publ. 1979!)
Sterilize your jars and lids by washing in hot soapy water and rinsing, and then put on a tray in a low oven (140 deg C, 275 deg. F, Gs mark 1). After filling jars, placed a small waxed disc to cover the surface of the jam completely and press gently to exclude all the air. Put lid on whilst jelly is still very hot.