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 . . ."