Monday, 3 October 2011

Rosehip Jelly recipe

Wartime recipe for rosehip syrup

Pick 2 lbs rosehips. Wash and put them in a large pan whole.
For modern ease, you can whizz them up in a blender. Either way, cover them well with water, cover and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes. If whole, crush when soft. Strain and keep liquid. Put rosehips back in the pan, cover with fresh water, bring to boil and simmer for around 10 minutes again. Strain and keep liquid.

 Pour both lots of liquid through a jelly bag (or clean tights!) to remover any of the little irritating hairs. Place strained liquid into a clean pan and simmer until reduced to around 1.5 pints.

 Add 1lb 2oz sugar and slowly dissolve over a low heat. When completely dissolved, bring to the boil and boil for 5 minutes. Pour into clean, hot bottles and seal.

A great source of vitamin C and good for preventing winter colds :~)

September's catchup ...

Toadstools in the woods
 (Belatedly) September saw everyone heading back to school and one to college and us getting used to a different, quieter routine with plenty of work in the day and family time squished into busy evenings.

We scrounged medlars from a friend which are now happily maturing on the driveway ...


Canned green beans and a token egg :~)
 I had another go at canning allotment produce, this time it was green french beans. I tried raw packing them and it was so easy! Basically, just heat the clean jars in the oven, wash and chop the beans straight into the hot jars. Fill with boiling water and process in the canner. Simples :~) I haven't tried them yet but they look wonderful ... every time I look at them I think of winter stew and dumplings.

I'm really pleased about the beans after the goldengage (not-quite-a) disaster because this was exactly what I bought the canner for ... to preserve our allotment gluts cheaply, easily and not worry about it taking up precious freezer space. Have you ever frozen homegrown beans? Bleugh ... the canned ones look far better!

Next year, I'll be growing about five times the amount at least!

September seedhead

Blue sky and autumn sun
 We've had plenty of woodland walks and foraged plenty ... one walk saw two buckets filled to the brim with crabapples! If you fancy trying out some crabapple jelly, look here.

So, far there have been about three lots of crabapple foragings and about 11 or 12 jars of jelly. The last lot was combined with rosehips in a beautiful autumnal mixture of goodness :~) The recipe was baed on the usual crabapple one (mentioned above) but just used part rosehips weight for weight.
Rosy crabapple

Crabapple nibbled by a grateful mouse ... so sweet!


 We've had some splendid autumn storms with rainbows, the tail end of a hurricane and torrential rain.
Rainbow after the storm

Stormy sky

Stormy sunset

Rain-drenched lane

Watercress soup
 I visited a local farmshop to buy ten bunches of watercress (yes, ten) and found that they sold raw cream ... wonderful, so buttery.

We've also been frantically seed saving ... peas, borlotti beans and wartime heirloom beans. There's something deeply satisfying and soul-pleasing about seed saving and generally squirreling the harvest away :~)

Wartime heirloom beans ... love the colour!
 We also scrounged a fair few damsons off a friend to make damson jam. It took many hours to make but was so worth it! Perfect in rice pudding ...
New young lettuce plants

August's catchup ...

Home-produced eggs
 (Belatedly!) August was so hectic! It was the Summer holidays so we had all five children at home which was wonderful ... the best time of the year :~) This year, were decided not to go away as such but to have lots of days out, spread out over the holidays which were interspersed by mornings of swimming and a few days at home and the allotment. We did our work in the evenings, sometimes stretching into the night and we all fell into an easy rhythm. I must admit, we were all pretty sad when school and college came along in September and broke our happy little routine!

Dragon cloud in a woodland lane

Golden wheat field

Eyebright ... note the allotment fingers!

We celebrated a special birthday :~)

Picnicky days out ...

Printing with inks

Creating a printed bag

Wild juniper berries
Allotmenty lizard :~) A rare find!

Allotment slow-worm ... a long one!

Allotment harvest

The heavens opened on a day out!
Wow! What a fantastic summer! It was the best ever :~) Thanks kids!

Harvests of golden and green ...

Beautiful goldengages
 (Belatedly!) July saw wonderful harvests of the goldengages and so, so many broad beans along with the usual seasonal crops.

I tried to can the goldengages by following the instructions for plums but I'm pretty disappointed to be honest. It's the first time I've tried canning any allotment produce so a bit of a learning curve! I chose to hot pack them because I read that the look of the fruit/veg is far less likely to deteriorate but based on this experience I'm inclined to disagree! Basically, the instructions said to par-boil the plums (goldengages) in the prepared syrup, then to put them in the jars, fill with the syrup and pressure can them. By the time I'd got them to the boil they were starting to disintigrate so you can imagine the mush by the time they'd been in the canner :~(

Honestly, they're not even worth a photo (unusually for me, I'm known for photographing everything!) but I've kept them with the plan to use them in crumbles with some chunky apple or something similar ... :~/
Broad bean feast

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Allotment harvest

We came back from the allotment today, suitably exhausted and laden with produce: a trug full of broad beans, rhubarb, a bagful of curly kale, a bagful of potatoes and half a dozen onions and shallots.

Lovely day!!

Crumble for pud ..

Crumble is one of those puddings which can have any seasonal filling added to it ... tonight we had rhubarb and apple. For the filling, I just simmer the fruit with water and a little sugar to taste. If it's rhubarb I add a little ground ginger too :~)

Crumble topping recipe

8oz plain white flour
8oz plain wholemeal flour
6oz butter
7oz sugar

Rub the flour and butter together until it resembles breadcrumbs and then stir in the sugar.

Variations: You can swap (weight for weight) the flour for oats or chopped nuts although it's best not to go below 8oz flour as it acts to bind the crumble together. 

Double chocolate and Vanilla & Butterscotch cookies

Basic cookie recipe
Makes 24 medium - large cookies

8oz plain white flour
8oz plain wholemeal flour
1oz baking powder
8oz butter
8oz sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 fl oz (or just over) milk

Preheat the oven to Gas mark 4 (180 C)

 Place the flour and baking powder (unsifted ... it really doesn't need it!) and butter in a large mixing bowl. Rub together with fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs then add the sugar, vanilla essence and milk. Mix together until the ingredients come together as a dough - you may need a drop more milk.

Bring the dough together into a ball and cut in half. Divide each half into four and each piece then into three. Flatten each piece onto a lined baking tray and bake for around 15 minutes until golden brown. Don't overcook them as they're better slightly soft and chewy.

Leave to cool on a rack.


For double chocolate cookies, add 1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder to the mixture and omit the vanilla. You may need a splash more milk. I also added half a pack of butterscotch pieces.

For Vanilla & Butterscotch cookies, simply add a packet of vanilla fudge pieces and a packet of tiny butterscotch pieces (from the supermarket).

Needless to say, they're delicious and, even though I made enough to last the week for lunch boxes and school snacks, they're going down super fast! Even A is taking a big handful at a time!!

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Meet the girls ...

 Yes, we gave in to temptation and now have two chooks and a bantam. The white one on the left (above) is called Polly and she's a Sussex Star, on the right is a Speckledy called Holly. They're both aged 16 weeks.

Below, you can just spot our little bantam chick, a Pencil-tipped Pekin called Molly. She's 12 weeks old.

Tucked up for the night :~)

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Foraged woodland jam

Wild redcurrants
 We live near an ancient woodland which has such an abundance of wild food ... every year I'm making a big effort to learn to identify new plants for both medicine and food, new uses for the plants and also making sure I try more and more wild foods.

We stumbled across a patch of wild redcurrants recently. A says there are several known Roman villas around the area so it's completely possible that these are the decendants of a two-thousand year old fruit garden ... who knows? I don't suppose we can ever really be sure.
Wild raspberries
 The woodland lanes are lined with brambles, bursting with flowers and embryo blackberries and also with wild raspberries which are full of fruit. Today, we spent two and a half excellent hours strolling through the lanes gathering all the ripe raspberries we could find. We added a handful of cherries we passed and then headed off to the redcurrant patch.
Wild strawberries the size of redcurrants 
 A usually has an excellent sense of direction (unlike me, I just follow him!) but today he had real trouble finding the redcurrants whereas yesterday we walked straight there! After two attempts to find them I wondered if something was telling us not to pick them after all. We decided to give it one more try and then, if we still didn't stumble across them, we'd give up. We walked up a path we wouldn't usually and found a wild strawberry plant ... the redness of these tiny little berries can't be exaggerated and the taste explosion they give is amazing! This find was followed by another and another and soon the path was lined on both sides with the plants ... We realised we'd been spun about and Faery-led to the strawberries :~)
Handful of wild strawberries
 After gathering handfuls of the strawberries, we discovered the redcurrants easily and added those to the pot aswell. When we arrived home, I washed and weighed the berries ... 1 1/2 lbs! Definitely enough for a woodland jam.
Woodland berries in the weighing pan
 Foraged woodland jam recipe

1 1/2lb mixed wild berries (though you could of course use bought or grown ones) such as raspberries, redcurrants, strawberries and cherries with the stones removed
1 lb 14 oz jam sugar (with the added pectin)
Knob of butter

Wash plenty of jars and place on a tray in the oven at gas mark 1/2 - 1 to heat through. Place the washed and drained berries in a large pan and crush with a potato masher. Add the sugar and heat gently until completely dissolved. Add a knob of butter. Increase heat and slowly bring to a rolling boil (it will continue boiling even when stirred) and boil for 4 minutes. Pour into hot jars and seal immediately. Leave to cool.
Finished woodland jam

Redcurrants and raspberries

Allotment blackcurrants
We have been swamped with the most delicious berries from the allotment this week .. blackcurrants, raspberries and redcurrants. The blackcurrants are now in the freezer waiting patiently to be make into crumbles and goodness knows what and I'll tell you about the redcurrants and raspberries below :~)

Redcurrants in the pan ready for jelly-making
Redcurrant jelly recipe

3lb redcurrants
1 pint water

Strip the redcurrants from their stems. Put the fruit and water into a large pan and simmer gently until the berries are very soft. Strain through a jelly bag and measure the juice. Allow 1lb of sugar to each pint of juice. Stir the juice and sugar together over a low heat until completely dissolved. Increase the heat and boil hard to setting point. Pour inti small hot jars and seal. Great with meats.

Garnet-coloured jelly

Finished redcurrant jelly

Raspberry jam made this week and going down rapidly!
Raspberry jam recipe

1 3/4 lb raspberries
1kg jam sugar (with the added pectin)
Knob of butter

Wash plenty of jars and place on a tray in the oven at gas mark 1/2 - 1 to heat through. Place the washed and drained raspberries in a large pan and crush with a potato masher. Add the sugar and heat gently until completely dissolved. Add a knob of butter. Increase heat and slowly bring to a rolling boil (it will continue boiling even when stirred) and boil for 4 minutes. Pour into hot jars and seal immediately. Leave to cool.

Sunday morning cake baking
This week's cake baking session led to a big batch of fairy cakes ... I used the recipe kindly posted by Ren at the Fairysteps blog and it's the easiest method ever. Completely foolproof too. Thanks Ren :~)
Fairy cakes before ...

... and after