|This is double depth to the wall and one of Ste's favourite places!|
We are Tracy & Steven and along with our 2 children we moved to the countryside in the North East of England in 2016. On our smallholding we strive for a more self reliant life by growing our own food, raising our own meat, cooking, preserving & foraging all whilst working full time.
Tuesday, 30 May 2017
Maximising our outside space
Monday, 29 May 2017
Monday night preserving - dehydrating fruit
We recently bought a Andrew James dehydrator and have been using it to preserve different things but it's all just trial and error for now.
Now most of the slicing and dicing requires a thinner cut than I can achieve with a knife. Safely at least! So we decided to trial a food slicer. It was £28 from Argos and we hope it'll be a good addition to the preserving tools we're building up. Of course there were really expensive models of the dehydrator and food slicer but we decided to go for budget on both and see how much use we get of them. Then it'll help us decide in the future if we ever have to replace them.
So today we've used it to slice fresh pineapple which it could do to a thickness of 5mm and I was very impressed with it.
We dried it out for the recommended time and it came out a treat and it's absolutely delicious. The dehydrator takes 4 pineapples so we know this for next time they're on offer.
We will use it for snacking on instead of biscuits and also if I need to add it to any recipes. Healthier too!
It's not seasonal, which is what I intended to use the Monday night preserving slot for, but it's on offer and I feel the two things go hand in hand as pineapple isn't something I've managed to grow yet!! Not to mention that there are no additive or preservatives in this, which there are in the shop bought ones.
Next week i will be posting more about rhubarb. We're fast approaching June and the season will be over shortly after that as I'll let the plants rest and restore themselves for 2018 season! Incidentally, we're moving the rhubarb when it is dormant later in the year, as we've had an idea to use some space at the front of the house.
Spring bank holiday
|Rhubarb and currant area|
|Onions with catch crops in between|
|The start of direct sowings coming through with quick crops interspersed. Chamomile is closest here, to make tea with.|
Wednesday, 24 May 2017
Rip Big Bertha
We have had chickens pass away for one reason or another and I usually don't mention it each time as it is part of running the small holding. However today we lost Big Bertha seen on the left here.
We have had her for 7 years. We got her when Grace was 3 and I was expecting Jack. She will have been at least 8, most likely older. I thought she was around 10 but whatever the correct age is, she's had an amazing innings and I am really pleased that she made it to the small holding with us and spent her last days here. She died peacefully in the orchard today, basking in the sun and enjoying her girls around her.
We only have Jess left out of the original clan that we named. We've not named the latest lot, but these were the ones that opened up the love of keeping chickens to us.
Monday, 22 May 2017
Monday night preserves - Asparagus in oil
Tonight I was going to do asparagus and also leathers. However the asparagus was such a faff on that I am keeping the leathers for another night.
We cut the asparagus that has flew up since we had the rain just a couple of days ago and I set about trimming them to fit the jar size stated in the recipe. 500ml. There was my first mistake, my jar is more short and fat than tall and slim (sounds familiar 😂) so I had to trim the asparagus a lot shorter than I would have liked. I kept the cut offs to make a soup or such.
I boiled vinegar and water then set aside and kept warm. The asparagus I charred in the frying pan as I don't have a griddle and plunged into the vinegar and water whilst I chopped 2 shallots. Placing the shallots and a tsp of peppercorns in the sterilised short, fat jar I set about fishing the asparagus out of the vinegar. This in itself was a task as I didn't want to pour it out. Then you're supposed to stand the asparagus up in the jar. This takes patience and I was losing mine.
Once it is stood up, in a fashion, I put 75ml of lemon juice in and topped up with olive oil and added some home grown herbs.
It looks nice and now needs to sit for 6 weeks before we could use it. It'll keep for 4 months in the pantry and then once open will last another 6 weeks. So in theory we could wait until winter to use these up, which will be a nice treat.
Although it was a faff on, it's done now and looking back, it wouldn't be as hard the second time. Incidentally, the oil it's preserved in wkill be used for cooking once the asparagus is used. It is however fairly expensive unless you have olive oil and cider vinegar in bulk.
Friday, 19 May 2017
What to do with this
|The conker tree in the far left is very pretty|
|Access to the field is past the sheep, round the corner of the trees.|
Thursday, 18 May 2017
Cherry tree protection
This cherry tree was really productive as were some others we have. This tree however is smaller and easier to pick than the others, so we have claimed this one and we'll just have to see if the birds beat us to the other ones!
The tree before and after netting was put in place. I hope we get a decent crop again this year, one we can actually harvest though!
Tuesday, 16 May 2017
Monday night preserves - Rhubarb
I have decided to dedicate Monday nights to be preserve nights. I'll post about it each week, showing how I am preserving the 'in season' products or those which simply come my way that I can't make use of at that time.
So for my first post I am using rhubarb as it's well underway now. We've been harvesting it for a while now as we have early and regular rhubarb. You may remember back at Easter I used some of the early rhubarb to make cordial? I alluded to it and said I'd do a write up on it at a later date. Well I made some more last night and tonight. It's a simple recipe and the previous batch was used quickly, but I hope to preseve some of this latest batch to see how well it keeps.
I gathered around 6kg of rhubarb and that wasn't taking anywhere near as much as I could have, so I'll get more when I have time but making sure I don't take too much that it harms the plant.
Firstly I chopped up a kilo and added it to the jam pan with 900g sugar and 100g crystallised ginger. I covered it to stop the flies getting to it and left it for 24 hours to steep. Apparently leaving it like this forms a syrup, which it did, and helps keeps the shape of the fruit chunks.
Then I sterilised my jars in the Aga and brought the jam to setting point. It only took 10 mins max. I poured the jam into 4 small and 1 medium jar with some left over to use as the tester. If the jam sets and tastes nice then I will keep some for Christmas hampers. I've some tiny jam jars to use too so I can do a selection for people meaning there's less waste if they're not keen.
The rhubarb cordial I also started last night by roughly chopping 2kg rhubarb and adding 250ml water then stewing until tender.
Once tender I left it to drip into a bowl through a sterlilised jelly bag for 24 hours.
Tonight I had 700ml of juice which I thought was disappointing from 2kg fruit so I topped it up with water to make 1 litre. Then I added 700g sugar and dissolved it making sure the syrup reached 88C on the thermometer. Once done I poured it into sterilised bottles and put the 2 full ones into a water bath. Note to self, get smaller bottles as even the tallest pan wasn't big enough.
If the water bath had worked then they would keep for up to 12 months according to my book so I'll do another batch using smaller bottles that are appropriate gift sizes too.
The remainder of the rhubarb is going to be open froze and bagged up in the freezer to use as I fancy it.
Thanks again to Patty Pan (Tricia) for her kind gift showing me how to do this and for the wise words of Dawn, Louise and others last year helping me learn what I need to do to stay safe preserving.
Next Monday will be making fruit leathers from the left over rhubarb pulp which I've frozen for now and also preserving asparagus.
Last few days in April
Welcome to the last few days in April. Here in the NE of England it continues to be changeable weather, raining again as I type this, and ...