Friday, 25 February 2011

Foraging crabapples

Man o'the woods foraging fallen crabapples in January :~)
I thought I'd add a post about last month's crabapple find while I'm on a bit of a roll ... in this house you have to make the most of opportunities when they arise as they evaporate pretty fast and the chaos takes over again!

On a walk through the woods last month (January), we stumbled across alot of fallen crabapples nestling in the leaves. We only had one jar of crabapple jelly left from the previous batch in 2009 so more needed making pretty quickly!
Crabapple hiding in the leaves
Crabapple jelly recipe
4lb crabapples
2 pints water
6 cloves

It's such an easy recipe so don't be put off thinking it's tricky! Wash and quarter the crabapples, cutting out any bruised or damaged parts. Don't bother to peel or core the fruit. Put the fruit in the pan with the water and cloves. Bring to the boil and simmer until soft. Mashing with a regular potato masher helps to break them down too.

When the crabapples are completely mushed, strain them through a jelly bag (or tea towel/muslin tie between the legs of an upturned chair). Don't squeeze of hurry the juice or you'll push some of the solids into the jelly which will make it cloudy.

Measure the juice. For each pint of juice add 1lb of ordinary sugar. Place in a pan and heat gently until the  sugar is completely dissolved. Boil it hard to setting point then pour into small hot jars and cover. 
The finished jelly

Sourdough adventures

Lively sourdough starters
I finally bit the bullet over Christmas and tried sourdough! It's one of those things that's been on my to-do list for so, so long :~) I chose to buy a starter in the end so I would know that it should work. I bought it from ebay (Link to seller) and it took off really quickly and hasn't let me down yet! As you can see from the pic above, it's pretty lively! The seller said they started it from the yeast naturally found on organic grape skins.

When it was growing really well, I divided it into three separate jars. The two small ones shown above (but slightly less full!) are my backup starters in case my everyday one goes funny, gets emptied out and washed up or gets dropped or something ... the usual sort of things to happen in a house full of Little People ;~)  One of the small jars is in the fridge and gets fed once a week and the other is in the freezer and should need feeding once a month or so.

Everyday starter
My everyday starter lives in this tall jar so it can grow and expand all it wants. I feed it every day, usually using the excess to make a "sponge" for bread the following day. In the picture below, you can see the little proving basket I treated myself to ... so much nicer than a plastic bowl :~)

What you need
Sourdough-making is lovely and slow and needs plenty of time. It's also very simple and forgiving. To begin, you need to source a starter (or start your own, plenty of info around on the internet if you fancy giving it a go), a jar to keep it in and flour. Measuring cups are handy too but not essential.

Feeding the starter
Roughly every 24 hours (48 at a push) you need to feed your starter with fresh flour and water. Take 1 cup of flour (I use white bread flour but it's fairly easy going about which type you use) and 1 cup of water (cold or tepid but not too warm or you'll kill the yeast) and mix it with 1 cup of the sourdough starter.

Making a sponge
Before you can make bread, you need to use your starter to make a "sponge". This is basically a larger amount of separate starter to use in place of the dried yeast you would usually use when making bread.  

When you feed your starter, you will have a cup of the starter left over. You need to use this to make the sponge. On days when you don't want to make a sponge, just put the excess down the sink.

Put your cup of starter in a mixing bowl and add 1 1/4 cups of flour and a cup of water. Stir these together, cover and leave for 12 to 24 hours. You'll see it frothing a little. 

Dough rising

Making the bread
Mix together 1 1/2 cups warm water, 2 tablespoons sugar or honey, 2 teaspoons salt and 2 tablespoons oil or melted butter. Stir it until the sugar and salt has dissolved.

Stir the liquid into sponge and then add enough flour to make a dough you can handle - soft but not sticky. Generally this takes 6 - 6 1/2 cups of flour or just under a 1kg bag. Malted seed flour or granary flour work brilliantly.

Knead the dough for a good 10 minutes and then place into a proving basket or mixing bowl and cover with a fairly damp, clean tea-towel. Leave for a couple of hours until doubled in size.

Knock it down and knead again. Place back in basket or bowl, cover again and leave for a further two hours.

Knock it down and cut the dough in half. Shape each half into an oval loaf, place onto a greased or lined baking tray, cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise for an hour or so. Brush with beaten egg and bake at gas 5 for 50 minutes. You may need to turn the loaves over and bake for a further 10 minutes or so just to finish them off. 

Note: You can omit the second prove if you're push for time. Also, any of the provings can be slowed down and done overnight in the fridge if it fits in better with your routine. I often do this. Don't be tempted to do it twice though (eg. first prove in the fridge overnight, second prove in the day then when your routine goes to pot, leaving the loaves to rise in the fridge overnight again) as the resulting bread will be sour, vinegary and pretty grim!

Making sourdough bread every day or two is a fair bit of work. It's fine if you can get into a routine with it but I'm still finding mine. Recently I did wonder out loud if I should carry on doing it as our main bread or just cut it back to every now and then ... the resounding answer was to do it every day which is nice to hear :~)

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Super strong homebrewed cider :-)

You will need:
5 litres of cheap 100% (unsweetened) apple juice, or equivalent. Last autumn we scrumped apples and bought a cheapish juicer (around £20) to juice them which was much more satisfying than buying the juice!
1 cup of sugar, any type. I use a mug to measure (half a bag)

1 heaped tsp brewing yeast
1 gallon demijohn with airlock

1. Pour 3 litres of the apple juice into a demijohn, make sure you dont
add it all straight away as it froths quite a bit at the start of brewing,
due to the action of the yeast.

2. Add a heaped teaspoon of yeast into the demijohn, super yeast or turbo
yeast is better, as it makes the alcohol content higher. Normal brewers
yeast is fine as well.

Give it a good stir or shake around
so the ingredients get mixed

Place it somewhere warm and after several hours it should start to bubble
or froth up.

3. Bung in the airlock and place it in a warm place. It should start to
get quite active and start to bubble away, sometimes even frothing. When
this stage has calmed down, normally after a couple of days, add the rest
of the apple juice until the demijohn is nearly full.

4. Now just leave it until it stops bubbling, which means fermentation has

5. Let it clear for a day or so, then it can be put into other bottles
(racked off) or poured straight into a mug and drank :-)

The turnaround for this brew can be a week, or a bit longer, depending on
how much sugar content there is in the apple juice. Some people add a
couple of teaspoons of honey to each demijohn at the start of bre
cinnamon sticks, or cloves. Last time we added 15 whole cloves and 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half which worked very well.

Other recipes advise to gently warm a cup of applejuice, then add the
teaspoon of yeast to that, just to get the yeast started, then after an
hour or so tip the whole cupfull of mixture into the demijohn.

Just remember that if you use the turbo yeast, it will make a very strong
brew!!!!!!! Some of ours has come out at 18%! If it is too strong, just dilute it with lemonade :-)

Enjoy xxx

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Tomato ketchup

10lb ripe tomatoes sliced, 12 medium onions sliced, 2 1/2lb demerara or white sugar, 2 1/2 pints vinegar, 4oz whole peppercorns, 2 oz salt, 1 1/2 oz cloves and 5 tsp cayenne pepper

You can also add crushed or chopped fresh garlic or dried garlic granules or flakes, fresh or dried chillis and paprika if you  wish.
Bung it all in a pan, stir and simmer for two hours until thick and soft, stirring occasionally. Seive and return puree to the pan.
Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Pour into hot bottles and seal. Sterilize for 30 minutes in a water bath.

ETA: August 2015 - We've just finished off the very last bit of ketchup from the very last jar and it was still fine 4 and a half years later! It would have been finished off much sooner but one jar got forgotten about at the back of the shelf :-) It had matured from the rich red in the pan pic above, into a really deep dark brown rather like HP sauce.