Monday, 18 September 2017

Monday night preserves - rosehip syrup, cucumber and onion pickle and free tomatoes

Tonight has been a mix of lots of different things which wasn't my intention, but you know how things go. There's so many things in season at the moment, I can't stick to one thing.

At the weekend we foraged for rosehips which I wanted to turn into rosehip syrup as I've read good things about its health benefits. The most commonly talked about benefit is that the hip is loaded with vitamin c. It was hugely popular during the Second World War when the whole berries were added to jams, jellies and casseroles. The syrup was taken as a tonic to ward off winter ailments. My Mam has fond memories of foraging with her dad after getting the local bus and walking some distance to pick the bright red jewels.

Although it's not proven to ward off these winter nasties, there's more belief that they can reduce aching joints.  Something we could all do with in the winter!

I followed Pam's recipe which calls for 500g of picked over, rinsed rosehips. I popped them in the food processor on the chopping blade as she states they need to be minced. 

Then add the minced hips to 800ml boiling water, boil for a few seconds or so (mine was most likely a minute or 2 by the time I realised!) and then and bring off the heat to sit for 15 mins.

Scald a jelly bag and drip the hips and juice through, leaving them for an hour.

Whilst they were resting I thought I'd take a photo of the Aga at work. 

The aga really does come into its own in autumn and winter. Only last night did I put the chicken bones in with some (raw) veg that my Mam kindly chopped up for me after Sunday lunch. I left it in for 24 hours in the simmering oven. Sounds extreme but it produces the nicest stock ever. To be fair I've only ever tasted mine, so the bar may not be set very high!! Above, the stock is in the cream cast iron pan waiting to be strained and frozen.

After an hour, I brought another 800ml of water to the boil and added the pulp from the jelly bag and repeated the quick boil then drip process. This time I will leave it to drip overnight. I've stored the first lot of juice in an air tight tub in the fridge in the mean time.

The second lot of juice will be added to the first in a pan with 650g sugar. Pam says there should be around 1 litre of juice in total to add to the sugar. Then warm it through, boiling and stirring for 3 mins to dissolve the sugar and then bottle into sterilised bottles. Water bath if wanting to keep for longer than 4 months in the fridge. I'll be taking a daily dose from tomorrow so I will keep you posted!

I was gifted 1.5kg of tomatoes tonight by my lovely neighbours parents. So I made it up to 2kg and washed the tomatoes, chopped them in half and put them cut side up in the roasting tin with some bashed up cloves of garlic. They were sprinkled with sugar and seasoned then olive oil drizzled over before roasting for an hour. This has to be my favourite flavour of summer.

I pushed the roasted tomatoes and garlic through a sieve and puréed them so everything except the seeds went through the sieve.

After it cooled it went into a used butter tub and labelled with the couples name who gifted me them. How kind!

Finally I started prepping a fridge pickle as Louise calls them. Using the food processor again, I had 1kg of cucumbers and 3 small onions sliced in seconds. 

I put them into a bowl with 250g sugar, 1 tbsp salt and 200ml cider vinegar. They'll soak overnight and I'll update this post tomorrow to show the next stage. I can't wait for these to be ready!

I hope you're finding my preserving posts interesting or possibly even useful. I am really enjoying doing them each week.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Fun at the country fair

Saturday started something like this.

We spent time together early morning getting the kids models ready for the country show we were going to. Our first time we've ever been to one was last year when we came 3rd in the pumpkin class.

This year we went into the same class and look what happened!!

We were so pleased! We then went on to get 2nd place for the below items too which we are over the moon about.

The kids models came 3rd and highly commended which is simply great as they did them in their own.

Then today I made a Sunday roast for our family and grandparents.  All home grown except the broccoli which is a very satisfying feeling. 

So just a quick update for today as it's late and I'm ready to put my feet up for an hour before bed! H

Monday, 11 September 2017

Monday night preserves - chillis

Tonight saw myself and my daughter Grace sat at the kitchen table for two very different reasons. She has come down with a rotten blocked up nose and tonight has a cough that's hurting her chest. Whilst I started the preserving, she sat with her head over a bowl of hot water that I'd added a good few drops of eucalyptus oil. It helped somewhat but she still looks like Rudolf and is feeling sorry for herself.

It's ironic that I was preserving chillis which can make your eyes and nose run more than any cold does! Tonight's recipes are super quick and easy which were just what I needed as I had also pencilled in weeding the veg plot. 

Starting with chilli oil I washed about 16 or so chillis and dried them off. I put them into 2 sterilised jars with a teaspoon of black peppercorns. I heated up 1 litre of olive oil to 40C and then poured it over the chillis.

Turns out I only needed 1 jar so it all got tipped into 1. Looks pretty. I'll leave it 2 weeks then decant into small clip top bottles for the Christmas hampers.

I am probably going to freezer the chillis after the 2 weeks and use them in cooking maybe? Any ideas?

The next quick preserve I did was to freeze the chillis. Apparently they hold their heat very well but maybe not their shape however as they'll go on pizza or pasta dishes, it doesn't matter. I also froze some runner beans as they're coming thick and fast. I didn't blanch them as I've read people doing it successfully without blanching. 

Instead of open freezing them I just threw them all in the bag and I'll keep scrunching it up when they're freezing so it'll be easy to use them as needed.

Finally I put 3 trays of chillis in the dehydrator. Apparently you only need to pierce the skins a few times and let them dry out so let's see. Once they're dry they should keep for a good while and some people even use them to decorate the kitchen at Christmas!

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Being ruthless

September lends itself to thoughts of the next season growing. As the days grow cooler and shorter, my thoughts turn to the greenhouse and polytunnel and how we can keep things going in there for as long as possible. Hopefully some items will go right through to next year. In all honesty, I am not as prepared as I had visioned I would be back in the New Year when I was planning for 2017. The year seems to have flown by and sometimes the days are just getting away from me. 

What am I doing about that then. Firstly, it's time to sort the greenhouse out. Any tomato plants that were questionable have gone. All the yellow leaves on the other plants stripped and any leaves below the fruit taken off too. In some instances, the fruit is all that is left and it's being left to ripen and then the plant will go.


The chilli and pepper plants have had a tidy out, dead leaves removed and those that seemed to need it have gone into the bigger pots now the tomatoes have freed up some space. The temperature here went down to 10c last night which isn't ideal for peppers or chillis from what I've read. 

I've got the seedlings doing well and they are in the back of the greenhouse which gets closed up after an hour or so of airing.

The piquant peppers Dawn sent me at Christmas have come up lovely and are starting to colour up. I picked my first along with lots of different varieties.

Grace turned part of the barn in to an art studio  whilst Ste was making a new fence and I was in the greenhouse.

We finally got round to turning the temporary fence in front of the polytunnel into a picket fence . To buy ready made was very expensive so Ste bought the wood and cut it himself. I'm really pleased with how it looks. We're getting there with this area. More to do but one day at a time.

This fence separates the growing area and keeps the chickens out. After a hard days graft I'm pleased with the outcome. We took our onions into hang and had a home grown tea. All in all, a great weekend.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

September seed status and the finished picalilli 

Steven went through a cupboard tonight that hadn't been looked into since we moved in!! Anyway it's nice and tidy now and a couple of things that were in there are now up around the Aga. The fork and spoon is from Ste's Gran's house when she was alive. The clock is from our old kitchen. 

What do you think?

I also wanted to give you an update of what seedlings I have growing. Please bear in mind that these are trials as I want to know what I can grow through the autumn and winter and what I can make use of the polytunnel for.

There's the different calabrese that claimed they could be late planting.

Different lettuce and perpetual spinach varieties. These will be for the polytunnel.

More winter salad varieties and the cauliflower that simply won't germinate well.

Cut and come again salad varieties, Kale and pak choi I think here.

There's some other seedlings that are outside that I didn't photograph that are ready to go in the ground so that's a job for the weekend.

I managed to get the picalilli done tonight. I never knew you didn't cook the veg, or if you do I missed that step! Another month and I'll taste the first jar. I'll make some more in the mean time now I know how easy it is.

I'm going to invest in a label printer I think, to give the jars a professional finish. 

Today's been a long day at work but we got out for a nice walk with the dogs as a family and I had an hour in the kitchen so I can't complain.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Monday night preserves - the start of the picalilli and some questionable runner bean chutney

I've got a load of courgettes at the moment and I am fully aware that it's September and Christmas is creeping up. So what better way to use them than make picalilli for the Christmas hampers and to use through the autumn and winter.

I've made a start and decided to use Pam's recipe with the following choice of veg: courgettes, cauliflower, carrots, green beans and green tomatoes. Only problem is it starts off with 24 hours of salting!

School girl error, always always read your recipe in good time so you're prepared. 

So I quickly moved on to see what else I could preserve. Now something we have by the bucket load is runner beans. I found some recipes for chutney pickle online but they weren't suitable for one reason or another so I loosely followed a combination of some I found online. I chopped up 3 onions and a kilo of green beans. 

The onions were simmered for 10 minutes in 275ml of cider vinegar as that's all I had, whilst the beans were boiled for 5 in salt water.

I drained the beans and added them to the onions and took them off the heat to sit as the vinegar had burnt off and I didn't want to risk the pan drying out.

In a jug I added another splash or two of cider vinegar to 2 tbsp cornflour, 1 tbsp mustard powder and 1 tsp ground turmeric and mixed to a paste.

Adding it to the onion mix and another 500ml cider vinegar. It stinks the house out but it actually tastes delicious already. It's currently simmering away in the Aga and I think it'll be a while before it's ready to jar up. It'll be November at the earliest before we can taste it as it'll need to mature but rest assured I'll let you know how it tastes.